SuperBru S15 Week 1 preview

    2015-02-11 11:27

    Jamie Hosie

    Cape Town - The circus that is Super Rugby returns this weekend, and of course this year's tournament has particular intrigue surrounding it thanks to the presence of the Rugby World Cup in a few months' time.

    It means international players will be heavily managed by their unions, which could lend an even greater air of unpredictability to proceedings than usual.

    The first round is always a bit of a lottery, but here's our stab in the dark at what might occur this weekend. 

    Click HERE to challenge the Sport24 'experts' on SuperBru!


    Crusaders v Rebels, Christchurch - 08:35

    On paper this is easy - the Crusaders came within a last minute penalty of winning the competition last year, while the Rebels were left languishing at the bottom of the table. However, the Crusaders have endured a torrid pre-season in which they haven't won a game and were most recently pumped by the Reds. They are also without several of their All Blacks, as they are gradually introduced into the season over the coming rounds. The Rebels have no such issues - but also don't have anywhere near the level of depth. Surprisingly, the winning margin in this fixture has never been higher than six - that probably won't change this weekend.

    Prediction: Crusaders by 5

    Brumbies v Reds, Canberra - 10:40

    The Reds had a bitterly disappointing 2014 season, finishing third from bottom on the overall log. Their pre-season suggests things might change this year, but you can never really tell until the season proper starts. They are without play-makers Quade Cooper and returning pantomime villain James O'Connor, so much responsibility falls on the shoulders of Will Genia. The Brumbies have pretty much a full roster to choose from, and much intrigue will surround David Pocock, who seems to have come through pre-season unscathed. Can he remain injury free? He could be the man to push the Brumbies from a nearly team, to actual champions.

    Prediction: Brumbies by 6

    Lions v Hurricanes, Johannesburg - 19:10

    In contrast to other Kiwi franchises, the Hurricanes are expected to have most of their All Blacks available to them in Johannesburg. The likes of Conrad Smith, Beauden Barrett and Ben Franks are likely to start, which will give them a much stronger line-up on paper. The game isn't played on paper, however, and Ellis Park is as intimidating a venue as they come. The Lions love to cause an upset there, led by Warren Whitely and with the consistent Marnitz Boshoff ready to punish any indiscretions. They are a tough nut to crack, but the Hurricanes do have an excellent record against them, having not lost since 2007 in this fixture. It'll be immensely close but that should remain the same this weekend.

    Prediction: Hurricanes by 3


    Blues v Chiefs, Auckland - 08:35

    The Chiefs have become something of a bogey team for the Blues, having not beaten their New Zealand rivals since 2011. Both sides will be without some of their New Zealand contingent, although Sonny Bill Williams is expected to start for the Chiefs with Hosea Gear also likely to feature in a super-sized back-line. The Blues have a younger but no less threatening back-line, with the precociously talented Ihaia West directing a back-line that includes flyers like Tevita Li and Frank Halai. No doubt it'll be a typically high-scoring derby game, of that we can be sure, but picking a winner is much more difficult. Despite their poor record in this fixture, home advantage might just swing it for the Blues.

    Prediction: Blues by 2

    Sharks v Cheetahs, Durban - 17:05

    Two years ago the Cheetahs stunned the Sharks with a smash-and-grab 12-6 win in Durban - can they pull that off again? They play them at a good time, with key individuals like Frans Steyn, Ryan Kankowski and JP Pietersen still out in Japan, and a handful of other big names out with injury. The Cheetahs themselves face a rebuilding season with captain and inspiration Adriaan Strauss now at the Bulls, and fly-half Johan Goosen plying his trade in France. It will be a tight game, but the Sharks' greater strength in depth will likely shine through.

    Prediction: Sharks by 7

    Bulls v Stormers, Pretoria - 19:10

    The Stormers will be looking to get off to a fast start and erase memories of last season, which saw them stutter out of the blocks with six losses in their first seven games, a sequence that left them rooted to the foot of the table until round 14. The Bulls fared marginally better, but in the end managed only the same number of wins as their opponents. Both sides were amongst the lowest try scorers in the tournament (neither averaged more than two per game) so don't expect fireworks from this one. It will likely come down to whose behemoth pack is in bigger beast mode, and whose kicker is in better form. The Loftus factor might decide it in the end.

    Prediction: Bulls by 3


    Waratahs v Force, Sydney - 07:05

    The weekend is rounded off by last season's champions, who face a tricky season of everyone gunning to knock them off their pedestal. They have their squad intact and, crucially, Wallaby coach Michael Cheika still at the helm for one last season. The Force were brilliantly unpredictable last season, led by inspirational figures like the Honey Badger and captain Matt Hodgson to finish just two points off a play-off spot. In reality, it's highly unlikely they'll do so well again, but you can be certain the Waratahs won't be underestimating them. The Badge isn't back from Japan yet, and Hodgson is sidelined until late in the tournament with a hamstring injury. Against the Waratahs and their array of Wallaby superstars in Sydney, this could be the biggest margin of the weekend.

    Prediction: Waratahs by 15

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