Preview: SuperBru Super Rugby Quarters
Cape Town - What do the quarter-finals of this year's Vodacom Super Rugby
tournament hold? Time to get your SuperBru campaign back on track!
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FRIDAY, JULY 22
Brumbies v Highlanders, Canberra - 10:00
The Brumbies did just enough to finish atop the Aussie
conference in the end, which gave them a home semi-final against the
Highlanders, who actually finished with nine more points on the log. In fact,
the Highlanders had the joint second highest total of anyone, and yet they have
to travel away for their qualifier - just another point of madness within this
Canberra is far from a happy hunting ground for them. They
have not beaten the Brumbies at GIO Stadium since 2006, although they did
register a comfortable victory on home soil earlier this year. The Brumbies'
record against Kiwi teams this season, however, has been atrocious - their only
win in five games coming way back on opening weekend. The visitors have too
much class and should overcome the injury-riddled Australian outfit.
Prediction: Highlanders by 6
SATURDAY, JULY 23
Hurricanes v Sharks, Wellington - 09:35
On paper this looks like the easiest game of the weekend to
pick, but there's an important caveat - the Sharks steamrolled the Hurricanes
in Durban earlier this season, registering a 17 point win which is by far their
most impressive of the season. The Canes, however, appear to be peaking at just
the right time, their astonishing dismantling of the Crusaders last weekend a
case in point.
Along with other results it meant they snatched an unlikely
home qualifier, and to be honest it remains difficult to see how the Sharks can
win at the Cake Tin. The South Africans have managed a try bonus point against
just one team this year: the Kings. Five-pointers have been hard to come by;
conversely if there's one thing the Hurricanes do well, it's get over the whitewash.
Even if the Sharks can dominate up front as they did at King's Park earlier in
the season, the Canes should have too much firepower to let this one slip.
Prediction: Hurricanes by 12
Lions v Crusaders, Johannesburg - 16:30
On a weekend of tough picks, this is probably the most difficult
of them all. The Lions were the form team in the second half of the season,
racking up an amazing five bonus point wins in a row before sending a second
string side to Argentina to snap that run. Ultimately, that decision cost them
a vastly more winnable game against the Sharks this weekend, but the flip side
is that their big name players will be fresh.
What of the Crusaders? They were hugely disappointing in
home defeat to the Canes last weekend, but with several last minute changes to
their line-up due to illness and injury, it's understandable. They have most of
their first team players back this weekend, but Nemani Nadolo leaves a giant
hole on the wing. The Kiwis won a pulsating encounter at Ellis Park earlier
this season, but given the Lions have been in such good form, and have
essentially had a week off resting, if they can keep their nerve then they can
claim a famous victory.
Prediction: Lions by 3
Stormers v Chiefs, Cape Town - 19:00
The final game of the weekend is an intriguing one. The
Chiefs were very much the early pace-setters, losing just one of their first
nine games, but three defeats in the latter half of the season - including to
the Highlanders last weekend - saw them slip out of the home qualifier spot. It
means they face a gruelling trip to South Africa to face a Stormers side in
The men from Cape Town have four wins in a row to their
name, three of them coming with try bonus points. There is a major caveat here,
however - the Stormers haven't faced a Kiwi side this season. Will they be able
to live with the pace that the Chiefs will undoubtedly bring with them? That is
the major challenge that faces them, and with the loss of Jean-Luc du Plessis,
who has so impressed in his debut Super Rugby season at fly-half, you fear it
may be one that is beyond them.
Prediction: Chiefs by 9Click HERE to follow Jamie Hosie on Twitter