1 Pocock, 2 Smiths: 5 Super Rugby talking points

    2019-04-11 07:13

    Sydney - Five talking points ahead of this weekend's Round 9 Super Rugby matches:

    'Best in world' Pocock back

    The injury-plagued Brumbies are set to welcome back flank David Pocock for their home game against the Lions on Saturday as they look to fix a worrying trend of second-half implosions.

    Pocock has played just 140 of 560 minutes this year after calf and concussion problems, but is expected to return along with fellow Wallabies Scott Sio, Rory Arnold and Folau Faingaa.

    The Brumbies have led at half-time in five of their seven games so far but have only gone on to win twice - in Canberra against the Chiefs and the Waratahs.

    "I think we are starting games really fast but we are not starting that second half with the same intensity," Brumbies back-row forward Locky McCaffrey told reporters.

    Having Pocock back would be a big boost, he added, because "he's the best number seven in the world".

    Highland Smiths cheer Mauger

    Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger led the tributes to veteran All Black Ben Smith who plays his 150th game on Friday against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

    "It's difficult to fully express 'Bender's' contribution to this team and the club over the years," said Mauger of the fleet-footed fullback who made his debut for both Super Rugby club and country in 2009.

    "It really is incalculable. How he conducts himself on and off the field and a great inspiration to any player."

    Mauger also revealed Aaron Smith is on track to return early from his ankle injury.

    The All Blacks scrumhalf could be fit to face Japan's Sunwolves in a fortnight despite initially being ruled out until early May.

    Jaguares turn off video nasty

    Jaguares coach Gonzalo Quesada ordered his team to stop watching TV coverage of the Sharks playing the Lions last weekend because he feared they would become "scared".

    "I instructed the guys to stop watching the match after 10 minutes because I thought what we were seeing (from the Sharks) would just scare them," he admitted to reporters.

    The Sharks, who host the Argentina's Jaguares at Kings Park in Durban Saturday, gave their best performance this season to score six tries in a 42-5 mauling of the Lions in Johannesburg.

    The Jaguares shocked the Bulls in Pretoria last weekend and can draw some comfort from the inconsistency of the Sharks, who have lost two of four home matches this season.

    Maddocks' basic instinct

    Jack Maddocks' eight touchdowns this season have put him top of the Super Rugby try-scoring list, with the young Melbourne Rebels wing attributing his hot run to basic instinct.

    The 22-year-old has been a key plank of the Rebels' scintillating form, combining with the experienced Quade Cooper and Will Genia, but he said there was no magical secret to his success.

    "Try scoring is the last thing I think about, it's all about doing your role and connecting with other players, and it sort of comes off the back of that," he said.

    "I like to just feel natural and sort of play off my natural instincts."

    Maddocks, who is in contention for the Wallabies' World Cup, will have to wait for another opportunity to build on his burgeoning reputation after being ruled out of Friday's clash against the Stormers with a minor knee injury.

    Blues turn to Blacks

    The resurgent Blues, fresh off their 32-29 win over the Waratahs last week, have brought two heavyweight All Blacks back into their starting line-up to face the Chiefs on Saturday.

    Props Ofa Tuungafasi and Karl Tu'inukuafe have been given starting roles up front for the clash in Hamilton after being used as impact players off the bench in the Auckland side's recent run which has seen them win four straight after dropping their first three matches of the season.

    The pair replace Alex Hodgman and Sione Mafileo, who drop to the bench. Dalton Papalii also replaces Blake Gibson, who has a bad cut to a knee.

    Gerard Cowley-Tuioti will start alongside Patrick Tuipulotu in the second row and the backline is unchanged. Centre Sonny Bill Williams remains sidelined and will miss six weeks with minor knee surgery.

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    Saturday, 20 April 2019
    • Highlanders v Blues, Forsyth Barr Stadium 09:35
    • Waratahs v Rebels, Sydney Cricket Ground 11:45
    • Stormers v Brumbies, Cape Town 15:05
    Friday, 26 April 2019
    • Crusaders v Lions, AMI Stadium 09:35
    • Sunwolves v Highlanders, Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium 12:00
    Saturday, 27 April 2019
    • Hurricanes v Chiefs, Westpac Stadium 09:35
    • Waratahs v Sharks, Allianz Stadium 11:45
    • Stormers v Bulls, Cape Town 15:05
    • Jaguares v Brumbies, Estadio Jose Amalfitani 23:40


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