This is the Super Rugby Ultimate Preview, your one-stop shop for everything you need to know for those crucial tips and fantasy transfers. As always the Brown Hornet is on board, providing his well thought-out tips for each fixture.
Friday 11 March
Crusaders v. Brumbies @ 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 Chris Jack, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Brad Thorn, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Tom Marshall.
IN: Jack, B.Franks
OUT: Thorn, O.Franks (benched)
Only two changes for the Crusaders, with Brad Thorn getting a rest for Chris Jack (starting his 100th Super Rugby game), while the Franks brothers swap around.
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. Colby Faingaa, 6. Mitchell Chapman, 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. Julian Salvi, 20. Patrick Phibbs, 21. Matt Toomua, 22. Christian Lealiifano.
OUT: Salvi, Hooper
Mitch Chapman returns from suspension to the blindside, with Faingaa shifting to 7 and Salvi going to the bench.
Recent History: Crusaders 3 – 2 Brumbies. A pretty close history between these two sides, although the Brumbies have always struggled playing the Crusaders away. Last year the Crusaders ran out comfortable winners 40-22 at home.
Hornet’s Tip: The Cru were fanastic last week in what I am sure was a very emotional game for them. They fronted up very well against a Tahs team that had been very physical in the weeks before. The Brumbies look like a rabble at the moment. They nearly got the points last week, but probably wouldn’t have deserved it. They need to find the tiller pretty quick or they will be blown off the paddock. Cru by 15.
Odds: Crusaders $1.11, Brumbies $6.80
Rebels v. Sharks @ AAMI Park, Melbourne, 7:40pm EDST
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 Alister Campbell, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson. Reserves: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Hugh Pyle, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 Afusipa Taumoepeau, 22 Luke Rooney.
IN: O’Neill, Davidson, Rooney
OUT: Byrnes (injury), Chaimberlain, Betham (dropped)
Kevin O’Neill returns after being ruled out late with injury last week. Adam Byrnes goes out with injury, and there are a few minor changes on the bench, with Luke Rooney coming back from injury to take the 22 jersey.
Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. John Smit (c), 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Jannie du Plessis, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Conrad Hoffmann, 21. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22. Adrian Jacobs.
IN: Smit, Mvovo, Jacobs
OUT: du Plessis (benched), Pietersen (injury)
The Sharks lose JP Pietersen with injury, and ‘Iced’ Mvovo comes in to take his place in the starting lineup. Smit takes the tighthead prop spot and the captaincy, with Jannie du Plessis getting a spell on the bench.
Recent History: None.
Hornet’s Tip: The Rebels were brave but their own worst enemies in the wet against the Chiefs last week. They defend well, but are struggling to create much in attack. The Sharks came away from a bruising encounter against the Force with a bonus point and will fancy another this week. Sharks by 10.
Odds: Rebels $4.50, Sharks $1.21
Saturday 12 March
Stormers v. Highlanders @ Newlands, Cape Town, 4:10am EDST
Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 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 Ricky Januarie, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Jaque Fourie.
IN: Aplon, Fourie
OUT: Jantjes, Bosch (both dropped)
A few big names returning from injury for the Stormers, with Aplon and Fourie coming back into the 22.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 James Paterson, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Siale Piutau, 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, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c). Reserves: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 John Hardie, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Tony Brown, 22 Telusa Veainu.
IN: Paterson, Schwalger
OUT: Poki (injury), Mitchell (dropped)
The Clan lose dynamic winger and fantasy point-scoring machine Kade Poki to a leg injury, with James Paterson replacing him.
Recent History: Stormers 3 – 2 Highlanders. The Highlanders have broken three five-match losing streaks in three rounds, and now finally get to face a team they have had more recent luck against. 2006 was the last time the Highlanders won at Newlands, although last year’s result was a sound 33-0 flogging by the Cape Town men.
Hornet’s Tip: The Highlanders are starting to make a believer out of me: unbeaten and with a very meritorious win against the Bulls last week. They are playing an unflashy but effective style of footy. The Stormers are ticking along and are also unbeaten, though they haven’t had the tough games that the Tartan army have had yet. A close one this, but I’m going with the Stomers by 3.
Odds: Stormers $1.47, Highlanders $2.71
Hurricanes v. Chiefs @ Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 5:35pm EDST
Hurricanes: 15. Cory Jane, 14. Julian Savea, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Jayden Hayward, 11. Andre Taylor, 10. Aaron Cruden, 9. Chris Eaton, 8. Victor Vito, 7. Serge Lilo, 6. Jack Lam, 5. Jason Eaton, 4. James Broadhurst, 3. Neemia Tialata, 2. Andrew Hore (c), 1. John Schwalger. Reserves : 16. Dane Coles, 17. Anthony Pereni, 18. Faifili Levave, 19. Mark Reddish, 20. Tyson Keats, 21. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 22. Charlie Ngatai.
IN: Tialata, Lilo, C.Eaton, Taylor, Hayward, Pereni, Ngatai
OUT: Bent (dropped), Reddish, Keats (benched), Gear (injured), Nonu (suspended)
Remember the Hurricanes? You know – come from Wellington, play in canary yellow. Well, they are back after a two week absence and have made a host of changes. The most prominent of these are the holes created by suspension to Nonu and injury to Gear, which have been filled by Hayward and Taylor.
Chiefs: 15. Tim Nanai-Williams, 14. Lelia Masaga, 13. Dwayne Sweeney, 12. Tana Umaga, 11. Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10. Stephen Donald, 9. Brendon Leonard, 8. Liam Messam [c], 7. Tanerau Latimer, 6. Scott Waldrom , 5. Isaac Ross, 4. Craig Clarke, 3. Nathan White, 2. Aled de Malmanche, 1. Ben May . Reserves: 16. Hika Elliot, 17. Sona Taumalolo, 18. Romana Graham, 19. Fritz Lee, 20. Taniela Moa, 21. Mike Delany, 22. Jackson Willison.
IN: Nanai-Williams, Lee, Willison
OUT: Muliaina (injured), Setephano (dropped)
I can’t believe it. Coach Ian Foster has finally adopted the revolutionary tactic of keeping the same team (almost) after chalking up their first win of the season against the Rebels. Mils is out for a month though, and his place has been taken by Nanai-Williams. Fritz Lee returns from injury to the bench.
Recent History: Hurricanes 4 – 1 Chiefs. The Canes have dominated their Kiwi counterparts over the last five years, with the Chiefs’ sole win coming in 2009. Last year was a close one though, with the Canes winning 33-27 at home.
Hornet’s Tip: The Canes disappointed in their one game so far and will need to lift their rating considerably. The Chiefs are, well, the Chiefs. You don’t know what you’ll get from one week to the next with them. If the track is fairly dry, I would expect a reasonable number of points, with the Chiefs nicking it at the end.
Odds: Hurricanes $1.54, Chiefs $2.50
Force v. Blues @ NIB Stadium, Perth, 10:05pm EDST
Force: 15. Cameron Shepherd, 14. Alfie Mafi, 13. Nick Cummins, 12. Gene Fairbanks, 11. David Smith, 10. James O’Connor, 9. Brett Sheehan, 8. Ben McCalman, 7. Matt Hodgson, 6. Richard Brown, 5. Nathan Sharpe (c), 4. Sam Wykes, 3. Tim Fairbrother, 2. Ben Whittaker, 1. Pek Cowan. Reserves: 16. Nathan Charles, 17. Matt Dunning, 18. Jono Jenkins, 19. Tevita Metuisela, 20. James Stannard, 21. Matt Brandon, 22. Pat Dellit.
IN: Mafi, Wykes, Jenkins, Brandon, Dellit
OUT: Inman, Pocock (both injured), Sidey (suspended)
A few injury-forced changes for the Force, with Inman and Pocock out for 4–6 weeks each. A backrow reshuffle is the result, with Sam Wykes and Alfie Mafi coming into the XV. New signings Brandon and Dellit look to make their Super Rugby debuts from the bench.
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Toby Morland, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino (c), 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock. Reserves: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 John Afoa, 18 Kurtis Haiu, 19 Luke Braid, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Stephen Brett, 22 Sherwin Stowers.
IN: Mealamu, Faumuina, Boric, D. Braid, Lowrey, Morland, Ranger
OUT: McCartney, Afoa, Haiu, L.Braid, Mathewson, Stowers (all benched), Saili (dropped)
Pat Lam is continuing his rotation policy, with last week’s bench all getting a run bar Stephen Brett.
Recent History: Force 1 – 4 Blues. The Blues have had the upper hand against the Force, with the Perth boys’ solitary win coming in 2008. Last year it was no contest, with the Blues winning 38-17 at home.
Hornet’s Tip: The Force are a walking wounded at present and in dire need of some luck – and a compass that points them towards the tryline. They are brave and wholehearted, but lacking in creativity in the midfield. The Blues on the other hand looked settled and dangerous. In the right mood they could put on a cricket score this weekend. Their backs are just scary and the pack no slouches either. Blues by 12.
Odds: Force $3.25, Blues $1.35
Sunday 13 March
Cheetahs v. Lions @ Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein, 2:05am EDST
Cheetahs: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Philip Snyman 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Ryno Benjamin, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Heinrich Brüssow, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Martin Muller, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst , 17 Kobus Calldo, 18 Kabamba Floors, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Naas Olivier, 22. Fabian Juries.
IN: Viljoen, Ebersohn, van der Walt, Brüssow, Muller, Juries
OUT: Daniller, Vermulen (dropped), Olivier, Uys, Floors (benched)
The big change for the Cheetahs this week is the return of Heinrich Brüssow after close to a year off the field with injury. A back-row reshuffle has taken place, with van der Walt coming off the bench to take the No. 7 jersey of Francois Uys.
Lions: 15 James Kamana, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Rory Kockott, 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 Michael Rhodes, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Michael Bondesio, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Jaco Taute.
IN: Kamana, Kockott, Rhodes, Bondesio
OUT: Taute (benched), Vermaak (injured), van Schalkwyk (dropped)
A few changes for the Lions, the biggest one being the injury to Jano Vermaak which sees him replaced by former Sharks half Rory Kockott.
Recent History: Cheetahs 3 – 2 Lions. Traditionally contesting the battle for the wooden spoon, these two sides have a history of tight encounters. If you remove last year’s result (a 59-10 drubbing to the Cheetahs) the average margin is just over four points. With both teams punching above their weight this season I think another close one is on the cards.
Hornet’s Tip: This should be a fascinating game. Neither team has won yet, but they’ve both looked better than last year. There won’t be much defence on show, but plenty of running of the pill and I’m expecting a high score. In a shootout, the Lions by 5.
Odds: Cheetahs $1.85, Lions $1.97
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: Well, it was the Brumbies who let us down last week, and as a result we are now $11 down. And to be honest I am starting to lose patience in this whole exercise. But we will nonetheless persevere to Round 4, which throws up some really hard to pick games. Sure the Crusaders, Sharks and Blues look like certainties, but their odds are very short and will not take our tenner very far. I wouldn’t touch the Hurricanes–Chiefs clash with a ten-foot pole, and I am not going near the Highlanders either, the way things have been going.
I am going to punt on the Lions to break their losing streak this week. John Mitchell has turned this lovable mob of strugglers around, and while they are yet to record a win they have pushed each of the Bulls, Stormers and Blues in the first three rounds. I am backing them to take the choccies this week in a close one against fellow strugglers the Cheetahs.
Take the Lions 1-12 at $2.85 with Centrebet
What’s your tip?