Tank Lanning - Sport24 Editor
So it’s a full seven games of Super14 rugby this weekend, with all fourteen teams taking to the green stuff. Throw in an IPL game or 4, an ODI against the Ozzies, an F1 GP in China and a few games of footie, and one understands why you have to book a seat with a therapist on a Monday!
I will focus on the Super14, though. Rhino skin firmly in place, my predictions for the weekend’s games …
Friday, April 17, 2009
Blues v Highlanders, Auckland 09:35
One hell of a start to the weekend … A Kiwi derby that will see the winners remain in touch with the teams chasing a semi final, while the losers seem set for mid table mediocrity. The Blues mauled the Lions last weekend while the Highlanders got one over the Reds. The Highlanders have a tight five that is doing a fair amount of damage, but with Tony Woodcock back in the mix, the Blues should get parity on that front. And then I see a fair amount of carnage from the likes of Joe Rokocoko, Anthony Tuitavake, Isaia Toeava, and Rudi Wulf. Blues by 8.
Brumbies v Bulls, Canberra 11:40
OK, I am going to the casino with the person who feels 100% confident of predicting this one! The Wild Horses from Canberra held out for a turgid win against the Stormers last week while the Bulls got their tour back on track with a very convincing win over the Waratahs. But the 8 trilliion dollar question is how are they going to cope without Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield? No worries about Danie Rossouw heading back into the engine room, and I reckon that probably also makes their lose trio better balanced with Pedrie Wannenburg and Dewald Potgieter back in the mix. JP Nel is back outside Wynand Olivier, no doubt to keep Stirling Mortlock awake, but watch for Jaco Pretorius to add a little spark at the death. The bookies have the home side to win, but I am going with the Bulls by 3.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Hurricanes v Stormers, Wellington 07:30
The attacking flair of the ‘Canes vs the lawn mowing inducing defence of the Stormers! The visitors have been diabolical this season, and I was scathing in a midweek column, but they never lose by much – this because of a water tight defence. And this will no doubt frustrate the hell out of the likes of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith. Amazingly, Sireli Naqelevuki remains in the side, but three key changes see Dewaldt Duvenage, Hilton Lobberts (at lock for the first time) and Tiaan Liebenberg move into the run on XV. It really is about time Rassie Erasmus made a few changes. Fundamental is Brian Mujati, who is being given time to recover from concussion. If he does not pass a fitness test and Rassie goes with Wicus Blaauw at tighthead, the Stormers might as well not even run onto the field. The bookies have the Hurricanes by plenty, but for some unexplainable reason, I am not so sure. Hurricanes by 2.
Reds v Lions, Brisbane 09:35
A fantastic time to practice your walking on hot coals routine or visit that senile aunt you last saw in June 2007. Thirteen plays twelve on the log with both sides having lost their last two matches. The Lions have lost their kingpin, Jaque Fourie, while Louis Ludik and Baywatch Grobbelaar are also on their way home. So the rest of the side will be galvanized by these setbacks, pull together and “Make it happen”? Look, I suppose it might happen, especially given the lack of resistance the can expect from the Reds, but I think not. Reds by 8.
Waratahs v Western Force, Sydney 11:40
Both sides will be looking to bounce back from defeats last week, but none more so than the Waratahs, who took a hiding from the Bulls on their own turf. They, of course, also have the carrot that is a semi final place dangling in front of them. The Force have blown hot and cold this year, while the ‘Tahs had been fairly consistent until last weekend. I see the damage being done by the big boys up front, with Wycliff Palu and Phil Waugh enjoying the platform, thus giving the likes Lachlan Turner and Lote Tuqiri a little space in which to dance. And of course, the home side’s rock solid defence to be back in place, annoying the hell out of Ryan Cross and Scott Staniforth. Waratahs by 7.
Cheetahs v Chiefs, Absa Park 15:00
So have the Cheetahs played their final of the year, or was last week’s awesome display against the Sharks a sign of things to come? The Chiefs have had a week off, but they have also had to spend a night in a business class seat travelling across 9 or 10 time zones. The bookies seem to think that the Cheetahs have shot their bolt with most of them offering better than 2 to 1 odds on a Cheetahs win, while only offering 8 to 15 on a Chiefs win. Heinrich Brüssow and Hendro Scholtz were earth shattering in their excellence last weekend, and without doubt set up the win with the turnovers they forced. Can they do the same again against Sione Lauaki and Liam Messam? I am thinking not, but I do not see the visitors having it all their own way. Chiefs by 6
Sharks v Crusaders, The Absa Stadium Durban 17:05
A pretty spicy finale to the Super 14 weekend it has to be said. Like the Chiefs, the Crusaders have had a week off, but have had to travel, and while they will have savoured their win against the Bulls two weeks ago, it must be the worst possible week to take on the Sharks. Oh how the boys from Durban must be smarting after that pasting in Bloem! Steven Sykes, Waylon Murray, and Beast Mtawarira are back in the squad for the Sharks, while Bismarck du Plessis is back at hooker after a shocking lineout display from the Sharks last week. BUT, and this is a big but … One Richie McCaw is back at skipper for the Crusaders while Isaac Ross is the form lock of the tournament at the moment. It’s a Bata Toughie, but I am going with the home side. Sharks by 7.
So that is a pretty brutal Saturday of rugby watching – basically a full 12 hours if you skip the walking on hot coals routine during the Lions game. Best you stock the coolerbox, make sure there is enough Blitz and charcoal for the Weber, and prepare the divorce papers …