Cape Town - It may be Round 2 of Super Rugby this weekend, but for most teams it is their first outing of
the season with everyone bar the Crusaders in action. Here’re some previews to
help you make your SuperBru picks...
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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22
Highlanders v Chiefs, Dunedin - 08:35
kicks off in Dunedin on Friday when the Highlanders host the Chiefs. This
has the potential to be an epic encounter, with last year’s winners taking on a
team many are tipping for great things. New signings and internationals
Ma’a Nonu and Tony Woodcock will be keen to make an impression for the
Highlanders, and will have to be shackled by the Chiefs if they are to win.
outfit will be without centre Richard Kahui, who has been ruled out for up to
the first four games of the season. They face the pressure of being incumbent
champions this season, and it will be fascinating to see how they deal with
that pressure. Tim Nanai-Williams is rumoured to have been earmarked for a spot
in the centres, and with his quick feet and acceleration that could be a
frightening prospect. A slight man, it will be interesting to see if he is
targeted in defence.
It will be
a close game, but home advantage should see the Highlanders through.
Prediction: Highlanders by 3
Rebels v Brumbies, Melbourne - 10:40
teams to win the Australian derbies last weekend face off in Melbourne. The
Rebels, despite the distraction of James O’Connor’s hair, battled to beat the
Force by seven points, and the Brumbies recorded a comfortable if ugly win over
the Reds. This weekend the Rebels will have to up their game if they are to
beat a Brumbies team who define efficiency under coach Jake White.
David Pocock will, you suspect, be key, and his battle in the back-row with
fellow Wallaby Scott Higginbotham will be fascinating. The Brumbies won last
week without getting out of second gear, and should have too much for the
Prediction: Brumbies by 9
Bulls v Stormers, Pretoria - 19:10
South African derby comes from Pretoria as the Bulls take on the Stormers. Both
teams have already named their line-ups, and they are packed with international
quality. The battle between young pretender Elton Jantjies and out-of-favour
Morne Steyn could decide the game, while the likes of Bryan Habana, Gio Aplon and Bjorn Basson
will provide pace and excitement out wide.
Spies against Duane Vermuelen in the back-row is a bruising match-up, while
captain Schalk Burger and young enforcer Eben Etzebeth will be huge losses for
the Stormers. The Bulls will be without Springboks Akona Ndungane and Jacques
Potgieter, but can nevertheless name a very strong team.
very close call, but pre-season favourites the Stormers could edge it.
Prediction: Stormers by 2
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 23
Hurricanes v Blues, Wellington - 08:35
wing Cory Jane has been ruled out for the whole season and his presence will
be missed for the Hurricanes, while young openside flank Ardie Savea has been
banned until the end of March. Stalwarts Victor Vito and Conrad Smith will be key
to the chances of the 'Canes.
are not being given much of a chance this year, despite the experience in their
line-up with the likes of captain Ali Williams and Piri Weepu - a lot will
depend on his level of performance. Kevin Mealamu is on a Richie McCaw-style
sabbatical until March and will be missed, but they carry some good pre-season
form into this game with them.
Wellington, it is tough to see past a Hurricanes win.
Prediction: Hurricanes by 14
Reds v Waratahs, Brisbane - 10:40
For a team
that won the competition as recently as 2011, the Reds will be very
disappointed with their level of performance last weekend. If Quade Cooper can
get his head right he can be a match winner - if not he can be a liability.
Whichever way that goes will be vital to their chances, and they will once
again sorely miss the leadership and physicality of skipper James Horwill.
Waratahs are the only Aussie franchise not to have played last weekend, so may
lack a bit of match sharpness. Their chances in this game will come down to how
quickly they can adapt back to the rigours of competitive rugby. Wallaby Rob
Horne will be missed in the centre, while NRL convert Israel Folau will be
targeted (as has been openly admitted by Reds coach Ewen McKenzie) in defence.
were sluggish last weekend but should bounce back at home against rivals the
Prediction: Reds by 6
Cheetahs v Sharks, Bloemfontein - 17:05
retirement of Springbok flank Juan Smith so close to the new season will have
rocked the Cheetahs, and a lot will depend on how they cope in his absence.
Young international flyhalf Johan Goosen will play a big role in any success
this season, while hooker and captain Adriaan Strauss will lead from the front.
With a win against the Stormers in pre-season under their belts, Cheetahs fans
can be quietly confident.
blow was dealt to the Sharks this week when it was reported that Springbok hard
man Willem Alberts would miss the first month of Super Rugby action, while
returning flyhalf Butch James is also absent. Pat Lambie will be ready to step
in, though, while much responsibility will fall on the shoulders of stand-in
captain Frans Steyn.
Cheetahs are looking good, but the Sharks will still be smarting from losing
last year’s final, and will kick-off their season with a win.
Prediction: Sharks by 6
Kings v Force, Port Elizabeth - 19:10
Southern Kings get their Super Rugby existence off to a start against the
Force. They failed to win any of their warm-up matches despite playing teams
that weren’t of the standard they will face over the season, leading many to
predict they will face a tough time of things. Fans will be hoping they are
saving their best for the actual season, while controversial figure Luke Watson
will have a big job on his hands to galvanise a team not many are giving a
put in a spirited display against the Rebels last weekend and will be confident
of getting their first win this weekend. They could welcome back international
lock Hugh McMeniman, while Wallabies Matt Hodgson, Nick Cummins and
Salesi Ma’afu are all also in the squad.
It is never
easy for Aussie teams in South Africa, but it is difficult to see anything
other than a win for the Force here.
Prediction: Force by 20
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HAVE YOUR SAY:
How do you see the big SA derby between the Bulls and Stormers panning out - as well as the other Super Rugby matches in Round 2? Send your thoughts to Sport24