It is week 11 of Vodacom Super Rugby and we have a few match-ups that should be interesting coming up this weekend.
By: Jacques Nortier
One of the highlights this weekend is the old North versus South derby at Newlands between the Stormers that will host the SA Conference leaders the Bulls on Saturday night. This match could help decide the SA Conference winner but I am sure some Sharks and Lions supporters will have something to say about that.
Other match-ups to look forward to will be the Brumbies versus the Highlanders on Friday and also just for the sure pleasure of it the Crusaders versus the Blues on Saturday morning.
Friday 24 April
Chiefs vs Force
First up this weekend is the Chiefs taking on the struggling Force on Friday morning. McKenzie has been given the 10 jumper in place of All Black Cruden who will be out for the rest of the season for the Chiefs.
Cruden picked up a torn ACL last week and will even struggle to get back to the field in time for the World Cup. Even without Cruden the Chiefs still looks like a championship team and will want to put a big performance in against the Force.
Messam is also being rested and will be replaced by Symons on Friday.
The Force have never won away against the Chiefs and it will be a hard core gambling man to bet for that stat to change this weekend. The Force did get some good news this week with the return of Matt Hodgson who returns to the team.
The Force is one of that teams that can spring a surprise onto the bigger teams as they proofed last season with a win in Perh over the Chiefs.
Prediction: Even with the win of last season which can as a huge surprise, one cannot see the Force beating the Chiefs at home, Chiefs by 20 plus points.
Brumbies vs Highlanders
The second game on Friday should be one of the weekend’s matches as the Highlanders travel to Australia to take on the Brumbies.
With some great wins behind their name and some brilliant rugby being played by the Highlanders this year one would not be surprise to find a Highlanders win after eighty minutes. The Highlanders has become a very dangerous team and in most of their games this season has built an early lead against the other teams.
The Brumbies comes of some poor games the past few weeks and need to get back to winning ways soon not too miss the playoffs. The Brumbies could just have found an opening to beat the Highlanders as they will be resting Aaron Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and Ben Smith.
The Brumbies will also be without some star players as Matt Toomua and Nic White will not be playing. Between the two teams they have scored 43 tries so we are in for a try-fest.
Prediction: This pure guessing but I give this one to the Brumbies as I believe that they will miss Smith, Fekitoa and Smith more than the Brumbies will miss White and Tooma, Brumbies by 6 points.
Saturday 25 April
Crusaders vs Blues
This has all the making of being a great local derby with the Crusaders struggling after the big win over the Sharks a couple of weeks ago and the Blues playing some better rugby.
The Crusaders need there senior players to step up this week as much have been said over the performances of All Blacks Carter, McCaw and even Read. The Blues is busy building from the worst start they had in the competition and are getting better and better each week.
A local derby against the Crusaders can just be the medicine they need to get another win for the season.
The Blues have no made no less than eight changes for this week’s match with the Crusaders making four changes. Taylor comes in for the Crusaders at hooker as is Franks at prop. Drumming will start at scrum-half and Crotty is back in the midfield.
Prediction: Not an easy one to call but one has to believe the Crusaders will come right at some stage and this could just be the game to do so, Crusaders by 10 points.
Waratahs vs Rebels
We stay with local derbies as the Waratahs will host the Rebels in the second match of the weekend.
After the disappointing match against the Stormers at home two weeks back the Waratahs showed why they became champions last weekend with a great win over the Hurricanes. This was the first lost for the Hurricanes and the Waratahs will want to build on that for this week’s game.
Australian games have not been great this year but this could be one were the Waratahs can show that they are in this to defend their title.
The Rebels as the Force have not had a great season but this will have to be a perfect performance against the Waratahs if they want to win this one.
Prediction: Waratahs by 20 points…
Lions vs Cheetahs
Saturday afternoon sees the first of two South African derby’s with the Lions and the Cheetahs kicking it off in Johannesburg.
The Lions is on a high since coming back from three wins on tour as they beaten the Sharks and Bulls in recent weeks. They will be looking forward to make it three out of three against South African opposition comes Saturday.
The Cheetahs is sitting on the opposite side of the window as they have lost narrowly against the Reds last week at home after coming back from a disappointing tour. To add to the Cheetahs misery, they also lost two of their star players in Brussow and Le Roux for a couple of weeks.
One find it difficult to think that the Cheetahs have any change to upset this Lions team but then again stranger things have happened before.
One of the exciting inclusions in the Lions team will see Armand van der Merwe getting a start at hooker and Dreyer who will start at prop.
Things could get very interesting come Saturday afternoon at five o clock when these two team take each other on.
Prediction: Just cannot see the Cheetahs upsetting the Lions, Lions by 20 plus…..
Stormers vs Bulls
Now this is one for the weekend as the number one and two in the South African conference take each other on at Newlands.
Through the years, does not matter how good or bad these two teams were, one would almost always get a nail bitter when they play each other. This weekend they can do so with almost both teams at full strength and one just hope that they can live up to the hype that is the Bulls vs the Stormers derby.
The Stormers came back from a not too bad tour but did not have a too much time to prepare for this big match. Too add a bit of spice they have lost both their wings and will have to face this Bulls sides with two new speedsters.
Great news for the men from the Cape is the return of their captain and Springbok Vermeulen and he will pair up with the ever great Burger and Kolisi on Saturday.
If one think that they will take on Spies, Steggman and Du Plessis one can expect some fireworks upfront and on attack.
The Bulls have a new combination behind the scrum with Van Zyl coming in for Paige at nine pairing up with the Springbok Pollard. One would expect Pollard to step up to the plate after last week’s disappointed performance.
Kolbe and Kriel will be great to see as would the returning Serfontein against De Allende in the midfield.
This has all the making of great one come Saturday evening.
Prediction: This is here were the gambler needs to step in because one would find is difficult to pick a winner when these two teams walks onto the same field, but one has to think the Stormers may have the edge upfront and that could just be the deciding factor, A very causes win to the Stormers by 6 points…
Sunday 26 April
Reds vs Hurricanes
The last game of week 11 sees the Reds hosting the Hurricanes after their tour in the Republic the last two weeks.
The Reds will take allot of heart from there win against the Cheetahs last week but they will have to face a Hurricanes team who came of their first loss of the season last week against the Waratahs. The lost will not have sit very nicely for the Hurricanes and one can expect them to hit hard to get back to winning ways.
As much as winning becomes a habit so does losing, and the Hurricanes will want to be very careful not to lose another one in Australia.
With so many great game breakers in this Hurricanes team one finds it very hard not to see them taking this one over a struggling Reds side.
As with the Stormers the Reds had to travel along way to get back home and that could just add to their misery in facing this Hurricanes team.
Predictions: One can only see one result here and that will be a Hurricanes win and it should be with more than 25 points.