It’s almost a little cruel … Three classic Super14 encounters this weekend will make for some serious couch, relationship and liver denting, but to then to follow them up with a little Sunday morning rugby to totally destroy any inroads you were making with the lady in your life is tough.
But who said it was easy being a sports fan? Below the way I see the Super14 weekend panning out …
Friday, February 27, 2009
Crusaders v Hurricanes, Christchurch 08:35
Wow – what a start to the weekend!!! Classic Super Rugby stuff. And this week my beloved Canes have not made the same error they made last weekend! Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu are back in the starting XV and they also have Rodney So`oialo back in the side to make them a pretty formidable unit! A lot will depend on whether McCaw plays but home ground advantage will count massively for the Crusaders, who have struggled to get their cohesion right after many personnel loses. Even so, they came within a grasshopper’s hamstring of pipping a good Brumbies side last week, while the Hurricanes looked better against the Highlanders last week when they had their centre pairing back in the mix. Brutally tough to call, but I will go with the home side and call the Saders to win by less than 5.
Waratahs v Highlanders, Sydney 10:40
A bit of a breather for us Saffers, me thinks. The Waratahs have surprised me after losing so many players, and a coach, for various reasons, and based on the two games seen this season, should be too good for the perennially rather dull Highlanders. Tahs by 10 or more points
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Chiefs v Sharks, Hamilton 08:35
Sharks on tour, and starting for the first time without John Smit! They were good at times against the Lions, but failed to score four tries for the second week running. On paper, the Chiefs look pretty damn good with the likes Brendan Leonard, Stephen Donald, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Sione Lauaki in the mix, but they seem to struggle to get it together. Even without the power of john Smit, the Sharks' forwards should do the business, unleashing the likes of Ruan Pienaar, Frans Steyn (who was just earth shattering in his directness last week), Adi Jacobs, and JP Pietersen on the home side. Ryan Kankowski and Rory Kockott have not been half bad either. Always tough to call an away win, but going with Sharks by around 5 points.
Brumbies v Western Force, Canberra 10:40
One never knows what will happen in a derby! A win against the Cheetahs is not going to dispel all the doubts I am afraid, though. And even though they seem to have the personnel out back, they are unlikely to beat the Brumbies who have two wins from two starts and are currently third place on the log. Brumbies by between 6 and 10 points.
Lions v Bulls, Coca-Cola Park 17:00
Speaking of derbies! It does not get a whole lot better than this. But I fear that the citing commissioner has already ruined this game as a spectacle. Without the suspended Heinke van der Merwe, who together with fellow strongman, Willie Wepener, has reinforced the value of a good scrum, this Lions side will wilt a little. Andre Pretorius pulling a poepstring in his sleep will not have helped matters either.
This as they take on a Bulls side that positively flourished last week, albeit against an inexperienced, under-strength Blues side. An 8, 9,10, 11 consisting of Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn, Fourie Du Preez and Pierre Spies is always going to be pretty damn hard to stop. But it is a Derby … Bulls by 14!
Stormers v Blues, Newlands 19:10
Last week the Stormers played some of their best rugby ever. Trouble is, they also played some of their worst rugby! And for a side this talented, to have scored only five tries in two matches is a bit of a worry. In Gcobani Bobo and De Villiers, they have one of the best centre pairings in world rugby, let alone Super rugby. And then throw in the fire cracker attacking power of both Tonderai Chavhanga and Sireli Naqelevuki, two Springbok halfbacks, and a more than impressive loose trio, and you would think they would be unstoppable … I do not buy the weak front row thing, either. Yes they lack depth, but in JD Moller and Brian Mujati you have two top class props. Schalk Brits is no scrummager, that is for sure, and he is a liability in the very physical games, but against the Reds last weekend he was excellent. But he and Andries Bekker, another forward not shy to spend time with the peacocks out back, do need to do a little more of the hard graft up front. Ricky Januarie is also going to have to up the anti (and speed of service) against what is a much better Blues side than the one which got crushed by the Bulls. Tony Woodcock is back to form an All Black front row, Joe Rokocoko is back on the wing which means the ever dangerous Isaia Toeava moves to fullback. Together with the elusive Anthony Tuitavake, that is some serious firepower. But I will go with the mountain goats this time round. Stormers by 4 points.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
Reds v Cheetahs, Brisbane 08:00
Sunday rugby to go with the giant orange juice, coffee and fry up made necessary by the day before’s over indulgence! It can make an entire weekend. Just a pity the game is so low key, though. These are the real journeymen of the Super 14, with neither side possessing the personnel to really punish the opposition or finish off a match. The Cheetahs' forwards, with Juan Smith and Heinrich Brussow to the fore, will be up against it give the presence of Daniel Braid, surely the best buy of the season, Hugh McMeniman, and Van Humphries, but should hold their own. But out back, where Danwel Demas kind of epitomises the Cheetahs effort – sometimes brilliant, sometimes appalling, the South African outfit will come unstuck against the Berrick Barnes led home side. Reds by 8 points.
Polish the Weber, stock the coolerbox, plan your trip to the stadium, buy the biltong, bacon, eggs, OJ and tjoppies, get your SuperBru predictions in, and be prepared for a three day rugby extravaganza.