We move into round 4 of the competition and some teams have already open a gab in their respective conferences.
The Emirates Lions have gone clear in the African conference and even if we are only in week 4, other teams will have to work hard to catch up with them for that conference title.
South African Log
We have the Stormers and Bulls on tour this week, Stormers with their last game on tour and the Bulls with there first.
We have another jam-packed weekend lying ahead for us with seven matches fro Friday to Sunday in the early hours of the morning.
Here is this weekend schedule
||Forsyth Barr Stadium
||Kings Park Stadium
||Emirates Airlines Park
||Estadio Jose Amalfitani
We start the weekend with the Highlanders hosting the Stormers
The Stormers comes off a disappointing lost against the Waratahs and a huge lost against the Crusaders, whereas the Highlanders had and great win against the Blues at home in week 2 with a bye last weekend.
What we did pick up from the Highlanders in their first outing this season is that they have explosive runners in the back and will punish defensive systems that is not on par.
This is exactly where the problems can start for the Stormers. They have not been great in defence and let through 99 points in three matches more than what they have scored.
We know that the first 15 minutes for New Zealand teams are crucial when they come out and score as many points as possible to create an gab which opponents normally can not catch-up to.
They are one of those high-octane teams and will be coming out guns blazing so the Stormers defence must be 100% to not have them lose the game like last weekend in the first half already.
The Stormers record in New Zealand is not great and with already 2 losses in Australasia this weekend will be crucial for their campaign.
Last weekend was the Stormers ninth lost against New Zealand teams in New Zealand.
The Highlanders have also won their last two matches against the Stormers so things not looking good for the men from Cape Town this weekend.
With the return of Willemse at ten they might be able to counter the Highlanders.
Lock Salmaan Moerat is set to make his Stormers debut off the replacements bench against the Highlanders.
There are five changes to the tem and a further four on the replacements bench for the encounter.
The only change to the backs sees Dillyn Leyds move back to wing to make way for the returning Damian Willemse, with Seabelo Senatla ruled out due to a groin strain and JJ Engelbrecht providing cover among the replacements.
Kobus van Dyk will start at blindside flank in the absence of Cobus Wiese, there is an all-new lock pairing in Jan de Klerk and Chris van Zyl, with JD Schickerling having returned home injured and both Pieter-Steph du Toit and the 20-year-old Moerat set to provide impact off the replacements bench.
Stephen Kitshoff replace JC Janse van Rensburg at prop.
Prediction: Will be high scoring with Highlanders winning by 18 points.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Nabura, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Shannon Frizell, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Josh Renton, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Dean Muir, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit (George Whitehead), 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22 Justin Phillips, 23 JJ Engelbrecht
Our second match this weekend is an all Australian derby when the Rebels host the Brumbies and will be looking at a third consecutive win this year.
The Rebels will take hart from their opening two wins as well as the fact that they beat the Brumbies the last time they played.
The breakdown will be an highly contested area in this game and one would almost want to say the winner their may take the points at the end of the day.
Between the two sides the Rebels have been the most exciting of the two and last week dull performance for the Brumbies against the Reds will not sit well with their fans.
The Rebels had made four changes with Hardwick, Koroibete and Daley earning their first appearances for the team.
The Rebels will be without their captain Coleman but hopefully just this week.
Ross Heylett0Pett will join his brother Dane in the starting line-up for this weekend.
Teh Brumbies only made two changes to their starting line-up with Sio back in the front-row and Fakaosilea at flank.
Prediction: The Aussie derbies have become such dull affairs but with the Rebels playing a bit more attractive rugby and the Brumbies capable of the same we should be seeing a better game. For me Rebels by 8
Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Tom English (c), 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Will Genia, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Angus Cottrell, 6 Lopeti Timani, 5 Ross Haylett-Petty, 4 Matt Philip, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Jordan Uelese, 1 Tetera Faulkner
Replacements: 16 Anaru Rangi, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Colby Fainga’a, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Billy Meakes, 23 Marika Koroibete
Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Lolo Fakaosilea, 6 Lachlan McCaffrey, 5 Sam Carter (c), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Folau Faingaa, 17 Faalelei Sione, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Tom Cusack, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Andy Muirhead
If there is one team that got a roar deal with the draw this year then the prize must go to the Hurricanes.
They started their season with the Bulls at Loftus, a week later against the Jaguares in Argentina just to fly all the way back to face last years champions, the Crusaders at home.
They have a one win and one loss on their two week tour which they can be happy about but this weekend they will have to step it up even higher against the Saders.
Any New Zealand derby is something special normally and we can expect much of the same on Saturday morning.
The Saders have started well again this year with two wins but will feel they could have done better against the Stormers last week.
All Black Beauden Barrett will be welcomed home to play in his 100th match for the Hurricanes.
He will be a key player for the Hurricanes and is normal the man that plays a huge part in their success.
Ben May will also celebrate his 100th match in Super Rugby making his debut in 2012.
The Hurricanes have kept their side the same as the one that outplayed the Jaguares last week.
The only changes are on the bench where two-game All Blacks hooker Asafo Aumua is set to make his Hurricanes debut if called upon.
The other change is West that retirns after starting against the Bulls in week one.
The Crusaders are already without play-maker Mo’unga at flyhalf had to go to Todd to play flank despite a broken thumb.
He will be up against All Black Adrie Savea in the Cake Tin.
Hunt has been named the number ten in the absence of Mo’unga.
Pete Samu is also sidelined with a shoulder issue adding to the list of REad, Dagg, Moody and Franks for the Saders injuries.
Heiden Bedwell-Curtis takes Samu’s place in the run-on side, while Todd’s return sees Billy Harmon move to the bench.
Prediction: Always tough but I tend to lean to the Hurricanes here with a 7 point win.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields (c), 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Ben May, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Chris Eves
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Fraser Armstrong, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Michael Fatialofa, 20 Blade Thomson, 21 Richard Judd, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Vince Aso
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Chris King, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Billy Harmon, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mike Delany, 23 Manasa Mataele
The first tour match for the Bulls will be a huge deal for their coach and players. This normally set the scene for the rest of the tour so it will be very important that they walk away with a win on Saturday.
The other aspect on their minds will be to continue the good progress they have shown in their first two matches in building this team to be a champion side again.
All the early signs shows that Mitchell has made a huge difference in these players and they way they approach the game which is important not just for Bulls rugby but also South African rugby.
The Reds have not shown too much although they won a dull affair against the Brumbies last week and it is there for the Bulls to take an away win.
Handre Pollard will return to flyhalf this weekend with Johnny Kotze going to the midfield to partner with Kriel.
This make way for Springbok Warrick Gelant to return to fullback and Rossouw dropping to the bench.
Pollard will retain the captains armband for this match in the absence of Burger Odendaal.
The Reds made one change and a few positional changes to their team for the clash
Samu Kerevi shifting from outside to inside centre, Chris Feauai-Sautia moving from the wing to outside centre and Filipo Daugunu earning his run-on debut on the wing.
Upfront the team stays the same as the one that beat the Brumbies last weekend.
Surely a match to look forward to this weekend.
Prediction: I am going to go Bulls by 10.
Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Filipo Daugunu, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jono Lance, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Caleb Timu, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Adam Korczyk, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 James Slipper (c)
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Sef Fa’agase, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Hamish Stewart, 23 Duncan Paia’aua
Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Johnny Kotze, 11 Duncan Matthews, 10 Handre Pollard (captain), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Nick de Jager, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans van Wyk, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Lizo Gqoboka, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Divan Rossouw
After such a disappointment from the Sharks team last week we can only hope that the real Sharks team will pitch up on Saturday.
The match against the Waratahs was at times brilliant but for most of the time just plain hard to watch.
That worst part is that we know and can see that this Sharks side have quality and can be up there with the best but they have shown so many times over the years that names on paper means nothing on the field.
From the coaches to the last player in this squad needs to stand up and be counted for and must take the responsibility upon each one self to up the game.
Calls already from frustrating fans came to get rid of the coach, but that will not help at all and also it not the problem here.
At the end of the day one can see that they have some great plans on attack but the players are unable to execute it 100%.
They need to take 90% of the responsibility to get this team better from what we saw this past two games from them.
Although the Sunwolves look better this year in some way the Sharks should put them away easily but that is so difficult to say these days with the Sharks.
From the forwards to the backs the Sharks are better than the Sunwolves and this should reflect on the score board as well.
Curwin Bosch will finally earn a start at fullback with Mvovo moving to the bench. Bosch have all the talent and in his second season needs to step up to the grownup table now.
With backline players like Nkosi, Am, Esterhuizen, Du Preez and Mapimpi we expect them to score tries aplenty.
The combination between Esterhuizen and Am has become a deadly one with Esterhuizen having a blinder last week.
He is back to his best and the go forward gets every time he touch the ball has been brilliant for the Sharks on attack.
Upfront we need the Sharks to become more dominant and they have to dominate teh Sunwolves in the set pieces.
Lineouts have been a problem for the Sharks and is one aspect no top team can be without these days.
All in all we needs to Sharks to step-up own-up and give supporters a win they deserve.
Prediction: Maybe just my expectation of the Sharks but give this game to him with 18 points.
Sharks – Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Wian Vosloo, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha(c), 3 John-Hubert Meyer, 2 Akker van der Merwe/Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe/Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Sunwolves: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Lomano Lemeki, 13 Sione Teaupa, 12 Michael Little, 11 William Tupou, 10 Harumichi Tatekawa, 9 Keisuke Uchida, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Kazuki Himeno, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Craig Millar
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Shintaro Ishihara, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Wimpie van der Valt, 20 Lappies Labuschagne, 21 Yutaka Nagare, 22 Ryoto Nakamura, 23 Robbie Robinson
The Lions have gone about their job and are with three wins out of three and looking like a top team yet again this year.
Allot has been said in pre-season about the lost of Ackermann as the head coach but that was quickly put to bed as De Bruin men has been the same great team so far as in the last two years.
The domination of the forwards has been the Lions stepping stone to their success and nothing has changed.
With moving Mostert to the side of the scrum last week against the Bulls they even added another option for them at lineouts.
Their scrum has been brilliant yet again and the Blues will know that they will be on the backfoot in this department comes Saturday.
Jantjies has also been back to his best controlling the backline and has been the play-maker in this team.
His vision and speed he does this in Super Rugby has been great again and one hope he can build on this and then take it to the Springboks as well where he has struggled last year.
With Janse van Rensburg back in the midfield the backline looked dangerous last week evertime they touch the ball.
This is a well balanced well coach team and the Blues will be 100% to stand a change to beat them specially at home.
Predictions: This is a home game for the Lions and gives it to them with 13 points.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacobus Adriaanse, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Ashlon Davids, 23 Harold Vorster
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Antonio Kiri Kiri, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16 Ross Wright, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Mike Tamoaieta, 19 Scott Scrafton, 20 Jimmy Tupou, 21 Murphy Taramai, 22 Jonathan Ruru, 23 Stephen Perofeta
It has not been an happy start for the Jaguares losing all three of their first matches so far this year, one on tour and two at home.
The Waratahs have been lucky in my books but have bagged a win against the Stormers at home and a draw against the Sharks last week.
This should be an interesting match for those who want to stay up late on Saturday.
The Jaguares are a much better team than what they have showed not just this year but last two years.
They are losing me as a fan with all this negative play and sure there are plenty of people like me.
The Waratahs seems to be playing on luck at the moment, but as it goes, you make your own luck in sport.
This can be the upset of the weekend but then we need a Jaguares team that actually try to play positive rugby, if they stick to the negative crap they have been playing the Waratahs will hammer them.
Prediction: Jaguares by 5, I am positive for some positive rugby from Jaguares
Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera (c), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Felipe Arregui
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Santiago Botta, 18 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Juan Martin Leguizamon, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 23 Sebastian Cancelliere
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