6 SA Super clashes … but 3 wins?

    2016-04-28 17:40

    Sport24 chief writer - Rob Houwing

    Cape Town – Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing, in the next of his regular South African-focused Vodacom Super Rugby previews this year, tips the Africa conference-leading Lions and Stormers to make further progress over the looming, jam-packed weekend.

    He believes they will do enough from tight battles to respectively down the visiting Hurricanes and Waratahs, in a round which for the first time sees all six SA franchises involved in separate matches.

    Four of the half dozen SA-relevant games taking place on foreign soil, however, is a strong reason why he envisages only a 50 percent victory strike rate for our collective cause – the Bulls might pip the Force in Perth, but there is likely to be angst by his calculation for all of the Sharks, Cheetahs and Kings.

    *Rob lies 11,727th out of about 194,000 contestants for Super Rugby predictions on SuperBru, with a current win success rate of 74%.


    LIONS v HURRICANES, Johannesburg

    When: Saturday, 17:05

    Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (SA)

    TV: M-Net, SS1

    SuperSport commentators: Unavailable

    Weather outlook: Partly cloudy, mild, light breeze

    Background: The Lions are a fast-learning outfit, among their expanding other attributes, and ought to have banked much wisdom from their home loss (after a top-notch tussle) to the ‘Canes compatriots, the Crusaders, a few weeks ago. There were occasions when they tried to be that bit too fancy from the wrong situations or areas of the park, and they paid a price that night. They must guard against things getting too unstructured and loose against these opponents, and if they strike a suitable balance I believe Warren Whiteley’s merry men will prevail narrowly. They will be out to erase memories, also, of last season’s Big Smoke defeat to the Wellington-based visitors in the opening round of the competition.

    Key head-to-head: Yes, Elton Jantjies v Beauden Barrett at flyhalf is a mighty match-up, but that’s already been debated a fair bit this week. Personally, I’m looking forward to Bok-aspirant and bang in-form Lions right wing RUAN COMBRINCK testing his mettle – no doubt Allister Coetzee will be an interested onlooker too – against All Black dynamo JULIAN SAVEA if he is picked for the Hurricanes, as expected at time of writing. Combrinck’s finishing qualities and creativity are increasingly apparent, but this is a timely, acid examination of his defence against the 109kg bundle of muscle on the Hurricanes’ left.

    Last result between sides: February 13, 2015: Lions 8 Hurricanes 22 (Johannesburg)

    Sport24 staff predictions: Rob Houwing: Lions by five; Garrin Lambley: Lions by three; Herman Mostert: Lions by three; Lloyd Burnard: Lions by eight.

    SA GAME 2


    When: Saturday, 19:15

    Referee: Mike Fraser (NZ)

    TV: M-Net, SS1

    SuperSport commentators: Unavailable

    Weather outlook: Clear, cool, moderate wind

    Background: The Stormers, you’d like to believe, got a bit of a wake-up call as their last game against the Reds teetered dangerously at times. A more clinical, less error-prone display against the Waratahs, who have under-delivered this season, should nevertheless see them over the line again. That said, there are several “mega” names still in the ‘Tahs ranks; you don’t just expect to pitch up and win every time against Messrs Beale, Folau, Hooper, Dennis and company. They have some earthy, bulky forwards, too, so the Stormers pack will have its work cut out at the set-pieces, still minus their own colossus Eben Etzebeth. Considering the clever way they disposed of the Brumbies a few weeks ago, however, it is reasonable to anticipate a home win on what might be a chilly, windy night. The Stormers, of course, won pleasingly in Sydney last season, a game memorable for Cheslin Kolbe’s near 70-metre try. 

    Key head-to-head: Given the dizzy standards evidenced from DAMIAN DE ALLENDE for both “club” and country last season, you would expect the big centre to hit his straps sooner rather than later, following his injury layoff. He still looked rather alarmingly rusty against the Reds, but if he can produce a significant improvement and snuff out the major KURTLEY BEALE threat in the rival No 12 channel, he should simultaneously close the pipeline to a certain Israel Folau at outside centre.

    Last result between sides: April 11, 2015: Waratahs 18 Stormers 32 (Sydney)

    Sport24 staff predictions: Rob Houwing: Stormers by four; Garrin Lambley: Stormers by six; Herman Mostert: Stormers by three; Lloyd Burnard: Stormers by 12.

    SA GAME 3

    CHIEFS v SHARKS, New Plymouth

    When: Friday, 09:35 (SA time)

    Referee: Chris Pollock (NZ)

    TV: M-Net, SS1

    SuperSport commentators: NZ panel

    Weather outlook: Partly cloudy, cool, moderate breeze

    Background: The Chiefs are rampant leaders of the entire competition, with 33 points and seven wins from eight starts, so why wouldn’t you pencil them as clear favourites, alas, against the Sharks? Any thought of complacency in the “Mooloo” ranks would have been erased, into the bargain, by knowledge of the KZN side’s ground-out victory in Dunedin last Friday. It’s going to be fascinating to gauge whether the Sharks plan a more vibrant approach this time, or simply try to repeat the sapping defensive heroism against the Highlanders. Gary Gold has wisely freshened up more than half of his pack, although whether this actually strengthens the eight remains to be seen; the back division has a slightly more settled look. Tough day at the office for Keegan Daniel and company, though?

    Key head-to-head: There will be some pivotal, bruising battles much closer to the coalface, but if the respective fullbacks – DAMIAN McKENZIE of the Chiefs and the Sharks’ talisman WILLIE LE ROUX – were boxers, the promoters would be wringing their hands with glee about all the pre-fight hype you could generate. Simply, these are two of the most mercurial players in Super Rugby and the broader world. What makes their duel especially appealing is that both are relative lightweights, if you extent the pugilistic analogy, who do not rely on brawn to beat defenders … it’s all about the wiles and trickery. Hopefully Le Roux is suffering no prolonged after-effects from his much-publicised little brush with a horrible neck injury in Dunedin and is ready to give it another full tonk here.

    Last result between sides: March 21, 2015: Sharks 12 Chiefs 11 (Durban)

    Sport24 staff predictions: Rob Houwing: Chiefs by 11; Garrin Lambley: Chiefs by seven; Herman Mostert: Chiefs by seven; Lloyd Burnard: Chiefs by 15.

    SA GAME 4

    FORCE v BULLS, Perth

    When: Friday, 13:05 (SA time)

    Referee: Jaco van Heerden (SA)

    TV: M-Net, SS1

    SuperSport commentators: Australian panel

    Weather outlook: Partly cloudy, mild, moderate wind

    Background: Some of the Bulls personnel have optimistically, publicly targeted a three-from-three tally on their Australian adventure. I am more cautious. Put it this way: if the Bulls fall at the first hurdle against a Force team winless since March 5 – and their lone triumph came against the Reds away, not even in Perth – then it sets a bleak tone for what’s left for the Pretoria franchise abroad. With the hosts injury-plagued and weak-looking, frankly, in certain positions, the Bulls ought to be capable of squeezing this one out. Still, they only beat the Force by one point at Loftus last year and had to rely heavily on the now-absent Handre Pollard’s seven-out-of-seven record off the tee. Expect this one to be a real nail-biter, too?

    Key head-to-head: It’s good to see HANRO LIEBENBERG, the powerful No 8 and 2015 SA under-20 captain, back in the starting mix for the Bulls. His career stalled last season when he suffered that ruptured small-intestine scare in the Currie Cup, and there were briefly fears for his rugby future. This will be his first start this year, and sixth in Super Rugby. The 110kg Liebenberg comes up against a similar physical specimen in the shape of BEN McCALMAN, a near 50-game Wallaby who plays his rugby in much the same abrasive way …

    Last result between sides: March 21, 2015: Bulls 25 Force 24 (Pretoria)

    Sport24 staff predictions: Rob Houwing: Bulls by one; Garrin Lambley: Bulls by six; Herman Mostert: Bulls by three; Lloyd Burnard: Force by three.

    SA GAME 5

    REDS v CHEETAHS, Brisbane

    When: Saturday, 11:45 (SA time)

    Referee: Ben O’Keefe (NZ)

    TV: M-Net, SS1

    SuperSport commentators: Australian panel

    Weather outlook: Partly cloudy, warm, light breeze

    Background: Their limitations in true quality on paper exposed again by the Rebels in Melbourne, don’t get your hopes too high of the Cheetahs breaking their Aussie tour duck at Suncorp Stadium. The best hope of an upset by Franco Smith’s charges is that is that the Reds are travel-weary after their SA trek. Then again, they were dangerous enough among the three-quarters at times at Newlands – and the Cheetahs’ defence is traditionally no great shakes -- to suggest that this date won’t unnerve the 2011 champs too much. Don’t forget they pipped the white-jerseyed foes in Bloemfontein last year, courtesy of Nick Frisby’s 74th-minute dropped goal.  

    Key head-to-head: Strand-born, bearded grafter UZAIR CASSIEM on the blindside flank has been one of the most consistent individual figures in the Cheetahs’ ranks this year, and another yeoman shift from him would help enormously in Queensland. His direct rival for the Reds will be HENDRIK TUI, who hails from Auckland but sports 36 caps for Japan – including starting (albeit at No 8 then, up against Schalk Burger) in the seismic  Brighton triumph over the Springboks.

    Last result between sides: April 18, 2015: Cheetahs 17 Reds 18 (Bloemfontein)

    Sport24 staff predictions: Rob Houwing: Reds by eight; Garrin Lambley: Reds by five; Herman Mostert: Reds by three; Lloyd Burnard: Reds by 10.

    SA GAME 6

    JAGUARES v KINGS, Buenos Aires

    When: Saturday, 23:40

    Referee: Stuart Berry (SA)

    TV: M-Net, SS1

    SuperSport commentators: TBC

    Weather outlook: Partly cloudy, chilly, light breeze

    Background: I must sound like a stuck record in suggesting once again that somebody is finally going to cop it soon from the embattled Jaguares (one win from eight) … a scenario particularly likely in Buenos Aires. That’s where they are now after an exhausting, barren spell on the road and it could spell danger for the similarly vulnerable Kings, who have no previous experience of playing in South America and come off a 35-point home hammering from the Lions. Expect the Kings to offer customary staunch resilience in the first 20-30 minutes. But thereafter, it will be asado time as long-suffering Jaguares fans get that meat sizzling in anticipation of an overdue triumph …

    Key head-to-head: Neither starting line-up was available at the time of writing.

    Last result between sides: No prior meetings

    Sport24 staff predictions: Rob Houwing: Jaguares by 10; Garrin Lambley: Jaguares by 24; Herman Mostert: Jaguares by 13; Lloyd Burnard: Jaguares by 15.

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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    Friday, 15 February 2019
    • Chiefs v Highlanders, FMG Stadium Waikato 08:35
    • Brumbies v Rebels, GIO Stadium 10:45
    Saturday, 16 February 2019
    • Blues v Crusaders, Eden Park 08:35
    • Waratahs v Hurricanes, Allianz Stadium 10:45
    • Sunwolves v Sharks, Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium 12:55
    • Bulls v Stormers, Loftus Versfeld 17:15
    • Jaguares v Lions, Estadio Jose Amalfitani 23:40
    Friday, 22 February 2019
    • Highlanders v Reds, Forsyth Barr Stadium 08:35


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