This is the Super Rugby Ultimate Preview, your one-stop shop for everything you need to know for those all-important tips or fantasy transfers. As always the Brown Hornet is on board, providing his well thought-out tips for each fixture.
Friday 4th March
Crusaders v. Waratahs @ Trafalgar Park, Nelson, 5:35pm EDST
Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Adam Whitelock, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read [c], 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Tom Marshall
IN: Williams, MacDonald
OUT: Umaga-Marshall, Smith
SBW makes his debut for the Crusaders at 12, with Adam Whitelock moving to the wing and Tu Umaga-Marshall dropping out. MacDonald replaces Smith on the bench.
Waratahs: 15. Kurtley Beale 14. Lachie Turner 13. Rob Horne 12. Tom Carter 11. Drew Mitchell 10. Daniel Halangahu 9. Luke Burgess 8. Ben Mowen 7. Phil Waugh [c] 6. Dave Dennis 5. Kane Douglas 4. Dean Mumm 3. Al Baxter 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau 1. Sekope Kepu. Reserves: 16. Damien Fitzpatrick 17. Benn Robinson 18. Sitaleki Timani 19. Pat McCutcheon 20. Brendan McKibbin 21. Ryan Cross 22. Afa Pakalani
IN: Halangahu, Pakalani, McCutcheon
OUT: Barnes (injured), Alcock (dropped)
The Tahs lose Berrick Barnes with a mild concussion, while Pat McCutcheon returns from injury to the bench.
Recent History: Crusaders 5 – 0 Waratahs. In fact the Waratahs last beat the Crusaders way back in February 2004, when they routed them 43-19. Since then the Crusaders have won eight straight, the last being a 20-13 home win.
Hornet’s Tip: A total tipster’s nightmare this one. With all the turmoil happening in Christchurch, it will either galvanise the Cru, who are already a very formidable unit, or they’ll be distracted and thinking of home. The Tahs have been fantastic in the first couple of weeks and added a new element to their game: brute force. This game should be an absolute cracker and I’m going to go for the Crusaders riding that wave of emotion by 5.
Odds: Crusaders $1.61, Waratahs $2.34
Saturday 5th March
Lions v. Blues @ Ellis Park, Johannesburg, 4:10am EDST
Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Derrick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe (capt), 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg. Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Kevin Buys, 18 Dries van Schalkwyk , 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Burton Francis, 22 James Kamana.
IN: van Heerden, van Schalkwyk, Cilliers
OUT: Earle (injured), Buys (benched)
George Earle is out injured and the veteran van Heerden comes into the XV to replace him. A switch of props is the only other change, with Cilliers coming off the bench to replace Buys.
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino (c), 5 Ali Williams, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tony Woodcock. Reserves: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Charlie Faumuina, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Daniel Braid, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Stephen Brett, 22 Rene Ranger
IN: Stowers, McAlister, Saili, L. Braid, Haiu, McCartney
OUT: Ranger, Brett, D. Braid, Boric, Mealamu (all benched), Lowrey (dropped)
The Blues have sent Ranger, Brett, Daniel Braid, Boric and Mealamu to the bench for this match, with Chris Lowrey dropping from the 22 altogether. Jerome Kaino takes the captaincy.
Recent History: Blues 4 – 1 Lions. However if you take out the Lions’ one point victory in 2006 the history looks far more one-sided. The Blues have flogged the Lions by 42, 24, 45 and 27 in their last four encounters. Interesting to note the Lions have not won a Super Rugby game since Round 13 2009, a losing streak of 16 matches.
Hornet’s Tip: The Lions have surprised a few people so far, me included. They will give plenty but that Blues backline is fast, creative and very skilful. They’re no slouches on defence either. I’m tipping them by 10.
Odds: Lions $2.34, Blues $1.61
Chiefs v. Rebels @ Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, 5:35pm EDST
Chiefs: 15. Mils Muliaina [c], 14. Lelia Masaga, 13. Dwayne Sweeney, 12. Tana Umaga, 11. Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10. Stephen Donald, 9. Brendon Leonard, 8. Liam Messam, 7. Tanerau Latimer, 6. Scott Waldrom , 5. Isaac Ross, 4. Craig Clarke, 3. Nathan White, 2. Aled de Malmanche, 1. Ben May . Reserves: 16. Sona Taumalolo, 17. Hika Elliot, 18. Romana Graham, 19. Steven Setephano, 20. Taniela Moa, 21. Mike Delany, 22. Tim Nanai-Williams
IN: Umaga, Donald, Leonard, Moa, Taumalolo, Elliot, Graham, Clarke, May
OUT: Delany (benched), Willison, Kerr-Barlow, Triggs, Smith, Perrin (dropped)
The merry-go-round continues for the Chiefs, with a bucketload of changes. Hika Elliot, Sona Taumalolo and Craig Clarke return from injury, while Tana Umaga comes back from being dropped last week to resume his place in the starting side. Halfback Kerr-Barlow, OC Willison and lock Triggs are dropped completely from the XV that lost to the Highlanders, while Steven ‘the duck’ Donald and Brendan Leonard return to the starting lineup. Former Blues butterball halfback Taniela Moa comes onto the bench.
Rebels: 15 Mark Gerrard, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Stirling Mortlock (c), 12 Julian Huxley, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (vc), 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Kevin O’Neill, 4 Adam Byrnes, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson. Reserves: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Tom Chamberlain, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 22 Peter Betham
Just one change for the Rebels, with Peter Betham replacing Luke Rooney on the bench.
Recent History: None.
Hornet’s Tip: Ever the enigmas, the Chiefs have been typically hot and cold so far this season. They got beaten by a more desperate Highlanders last week and looked a bit directionless. The Rebels were heroic in getting up over the Brumbies and it will give them some real self-belief. If the Chiefs click, and I predict them to this week, I don’t think the Rebels have the pace or the class to go with them, not yet anyway. Chiefs by 8.
Odds: Chiefs $1.18, Rebels $4.90
Brumbies v. Reds @ Canberra Stadium, Canberra, 7:40pm EDST
Brumbies: 15. Pat McCabe, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12. Robbie Coleman, 11. Francis Fainifo, 10. Matt Giteau (c), 9 Josh Valentine, 8. Ita Vaea, 7. Julian Salvi, 6. Colby Faingaa, 5. Mark Chisholm, 4. Ben Hand, 3. Dan Palmer, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Ben Alexander. Reserves: 16. Huia Edmonds, 17. Salesi Ma’afu, 18. Peter Kimlin, 19. Michael Hooper, 20. Patrick Phibbs, 21. Matt Toomua, 22. Christian Lealiifano
IN: Faingaa, Hooper, Lealiifano
OUT: Chapman (suspended), Smith
Mitch Chapman takes an enforced week off, with Colby Faingaa stepping into the starting XV. Christian Lealiifano returns from injury to the bench in place of Andrew Smith, who was concussed in the midweek Runners match.
Reds: 15. Ben Lucas, 14. Rod Davies, 13. Will Chambers, 12. Anthony Faingaa, 11. Digby Ioane, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Will Genia; 8. Leroy Houston, 7. Beau Robinson, 6. Scott Higginbotham, 5. Rob Simmons, 4. Van Humphries, 3. James Slipper, 2. Saia Faingaa, 1. Ben Daley. Res: 16. James Hanson, 17. Greg Holmes, 18. Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19. Ed Quirk, 20. Liam Gill, 21. Mike Harris, 22. Luke Morahan.
IN: Lucas, Houston, Robinson, Wallace-Harrison, Gill, Morahan
OUT: Hynes, Horwill (injury), Quirk, Toua
Hynes and Horwill are out with minor injuries, and Link has reshuffled the pack with a 5/2 split on the bench. Beau Robinson comes in for Ed Quirk, with Higgers switching to 6 and Leroy coming in at 8.
Recent History: Brumbies 5 – 0 Reds. If you thought the Crusaders had a streak going, get this: the last time the Reds beat the Brumbies in Super Rugby was 12 March 1999! And even then it was only by a solitary point. Since then the Brumbies have racked up 12 straight victories, and most of them weren’t even close. Only four of the past 12 had margins of under 10 points.
Hornet’s Tip: What a week for the men from Canberra. Sacking your coach so early in the season is not normally a good sign and it will either see them lift immediately or finish in the bottom couple. With the the firepower the Horsies have, their results should have been better. The Reds were blown off the park last week and will be wanting to atone for that. They’ll need to, because they were poor. This will be close I think and I’m tipping the Reds by 3.
Odds: Brumbies $1.42, Reds $2.90
Force v. Sharks @ NIB Stadium, Perth, 10:05pm EDST
Force: 15. Cameron Shepherd, 14. Nick Cummins, 13. Mitch Inman, 12. Gene Fairbanks, 11. David Smith, 10. James O’Connor, 9. Brett Sheehan, 8. Richard Brown, 7. David Pocock, 6. Matt Hodgson, 5. Nathan Sharpe (c), 4. Ben McCalman, 3. Tim Fairbrother, 2. Ben Whittaker, 1. Pek Cowan, Reserves: 16. Nathan Charles, 17. Matt Dunning, 18. Sam Wykes, 19. Tevita Metuisela, 20. James Stannard, 21. Alfie Mafi, 22. Rory Sidey
OUT: Longbottom (injury)
Just the one forced change on the bench, with Dunning replacing Longbottom.
Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik , 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche (C), 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis 1. Tendai Mtawarira, Reserves: 16. Craig Burden, 17. John Smit, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Conrad Hoffmann, 21. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22. Lwazi Mvovo
IN: Pietersen, Burden
OUT: Mvovo (benched), van Staden (dropped)
A few minor changes for the Sharks, with Springbok Pietersen returning to the starting lineup in place of ‘iced’ Mvovo.
Recent History: Sharks 4 – 1 Force. The Sharks have had the upper hand in this clash, but the games have all being fairly tight low-scoring affairs. The one Force win came in 2007, where they won 22-12 at home. Last year the Sharks won 27-22 in Durban.
Hornet’s Tip: The Force were unlucky in week 1 and had a bye last week, so it’s hard to divine where they are at right now. They did, however, play a lot better than many thought they would against the Reds. The Sharks have been solid and won in reasonably good style, but it’s hard not to think that they’ve not got out of third gear yet. This will be a knock ’em down, drag ’em out fight and I think the Sharks will take it by 10.
Odds: Force $2.34, Sharks $1.61
Sunday 6th March
Stormers v. Cheetahs @ Newlands, Cape Town, 2:05am EDST
Stormers: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Pieter Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 CJ van der Linde. Reserves: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Paul Bosch
IN: De Jongh, Grant, P. Louw, Koster, Bosch
OUT: Fourie, Burger (injured), van Aswegen
The Stormers lose key players Schalk Burger (foot, out for at least 4 weeks) and Jaque Fourie (chest, one week) with injury. Peter Grant also comes into the starting XV in place of Gary van Aswegen.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Philip Snyman 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Ryno Benjamin, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Francois Uys , 6 Kabamba Floors, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Waltie Vermeulen, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst , 17 Kobus Calldo, 18 Martin Muller, 19 Philip van der Walt, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Riaan Viljoen.
IN: Snyman, Johnson, Muller, Uys
OUT: Burger, Viljoen
The Cheetahs lose inspirational skipper Juan Smith for the season, and the resulting backrow shuffle sees Johnson and Uys come off the bench, and Floors move to the blindside.
Recent History: Stormers 3 – 2 Cheetahs. The Cheetahs won the first two clashes in 2006 and 2007, but since then it has been all Stormers. There have been no floggings though, with last year’s 21-8 win being the Stormers’ biggest winning margin over their Saffa counterparts.
Hornet’s Tip: The Stormers blew out the cobwebs last week with a win and the Cheetahs gave the Bulls plenty of cheek but went down. The loss of Juan Smith will hurt the Cheetahs very badly indeed, as he is absolute class. I think the Stormers should win this fairly handily at Newlands. Stormers by 15.
Odds: Stormers $1.20, Cheetahs $4.65
Bulls v. Highlanders @ Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, 4:10am EDST
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jaco Pretorius , 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp. Replacements: 16 Derick Kuun , 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Flip Van Der Merwe, 19 Juandre Kruger, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Stephan Dippenaar.
IN: Rossouw, Kruger
OUT: Botha (rested)
For the first time in his career Bakkies Botha is getting a week off that wasn’t preceded by a trip to the judiciary. He is having a rest, with the very capable Danie Rossouw stepping into the XV to replace him.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Siale Piutau, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Kade Poki, 10 Robbie Robinson, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, Jamie Mackintosh [c]. Reserves: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 John Hardie, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Tony Brown, 22 Telusa Veainu.
IN: King, Robinson, Brown, Piutau, Veainu, Mitchell, Donnelly
OUT: Te Moana, Sopoaga, Paterson, Schwalger, Tuineau
A few injury enforced changes to the Highlanders, with young five-eighth Lima Sopoaga being replaced by Robbie Robinson after suffering a shoulder injury against the Chiefs. Former All Black Tony Brown comes onto the bench after a stint in Japan, along with All Black lock Tom Donnelly who returns from injury.
Recent History: Bulls 5 – 0 Highlanders. The Highlanders last won back in 2005, and since then the Bulls have been dominant. They have racked up a couple of big scores at home, with their last two games against the Clan at Loftus resulting in 50-35 and 47-17 wins.
Hornet’s Tip: The Bulls, despite winning both of their games so far, have been strangely out-of-sorts. Certainly not the dominant team we’ve seen over the last couple of seasons. The Highlanders have been scrappy and fantastic in the first couple of weeks, hats off to them. The clash in the pack should be immense, but I’m tipping the Bulls by 5.
Odds: Bulls $1.14, Highlanders $5.80
Note: All of the teams are listed in convenient table form on our Ruggapedia. Add it as a favourite, as it will be updated as teams are released and late changes are made.
The Bet: Thanks to the hopeless fucking Chiefs we are now $1 down. But we will turn that around this week. I am taking a multi bet that two of Super Rugby’s streaks will continue – namely the Lions’ losing streak and the Brumbies’ winning streak over the Reds. The Lions have played very well the last few weeks, pushing both the Bulls and Stormers to the limit. However, despite resting a few players the Blues are oozing with class and will no longer be feeling the effects of travel. With history on their side I expect them to take this one.
Take a multi of the Blues and Brumbies at $2.28 with Centrebet.
Am I biting off more than I can chew here? I reckon both are sure things.
What’s your tip for the weekend?