We move into week 12 of this years Super Rugby as teams will have to do their bit to secure that play-off spot.
With most of the South African and Australian teams struggling it is yet again the New Zealanders that dominate the competition as expected with the exception of the Blues who has been struggling.
The Crusaders are on top of the overall log although they have not been at their best but the important part was that they have kept on winning matches.
The Hurricanes, Highlanders and Chiefs are chasing the current champions in the New Zealand conference.
The Waratahs are at this stage the top Aussie team with the Lions clear in front of the South African conference.
With some teams with games in hand the overall log is a bit lopsided at the moment but as they say it will all come out in the washing at the end.
Here is the current log standings….
First up this weekend sees the Chiefs hosting the Jaguares who has been on a winning streak since starting their Australasian tour.
The Jaguares got their first win over a New Zealand side last week when they beat the Blues and will want to keep on with the improvement they have shown over the last couple of weeks.
This week they face one of the top New Zealand teams, the Chiefs, and this will not be an easy task to get one over them.
The Chiefs are still in the hunt for that top spot in the New Zealand conference which will secure home playoffs which we have seen to be crucial in winning this competition.
The Chiefs will try and get a bonus point win in this game as they have a game in hand over the New Zealand conference leaders the Crusaders.
Their will be nothing easy to achieve this against a Jaguares side that will have allot of confidence but more than that the Jaguares are playing some good rugby as well.
Gone are the days were we just see a bunch of good Argentinian players play negative rugby and it is not just great for the competition but also for Argentinian rugby as well.
This game could be one of those classic games which we have been longing for this season.
Both teams have great attacking players and it will be a great contest between McKenzie and Sanchez as they are the play makers in their sides.
The Chiefs made four changes to the side with Allardice that come in for Retallick who is earning a well earned rest this weekend.
Messam will start at number 8 with Pulu that is back after injury at wing.
Nankivell will come into the midfield as Faauli earns a rest as well this weekend.
The Jaguares made five to their team with Ramiro Moyano and Gonzalo Bertranou replacing Bautista Delguy and Martin Landajo on the right wing and at scrum-half respectively.
Ledesma has also shuffled his pack with Tomas Lezana starting on the blindside flank in place of Javier Ortega Desio, who shifts to number eight where he takes over from Leonardo Senatore.
The final alterations are at lock, where Tomas Lavanini comes in for Matias Alemanno, and at hooker with Julian Montoya in place of Agustin Creevy.
Prediction: The Jaguares have played some great rugby over the last few weeks but teh Chiefs will be that one step to many for them Chiefs by 13 points.
Chiefs: 15 Charlie Ngatai (cc), 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Alex Nankivell, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Liam Messam, 7 Sam Cane (cc), 6 Lachlan Boshier/Luke Jacobson, 5 Tyler Ardron, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Liam Polwart, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Luke Jacobson/Jesse Parete, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Levi Aumua
Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet (c), 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Orlando, 12 Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Tomas Lezana, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Javier Manuel Diaz, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Matias Alemanno, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Juan Cruz Mallia
It will be another difficult weekend for the Rebels as they come home from two losses against the Bulls and Stormers on tour.
They will have to face a Crusaders side that will be ready for the challenge when they face each other on Friday.
The Rebels was quickly out of the blocks this season with four bonus points wins but has faded in recent weeks and looks like and easy draw was the only reason for their place on the log.
They are a team with good players and can cause an upset but their negative play have not helped them the last couple of weeks.
They seemed to be low on confidence when teams put early pressure on them and they have also struggled to play for 80 minutes.
This will be another huge task to fly all the way back from South Africa to face the current champions who have been winning games.
The Crusaders have had a weird season so far to say the least but have still manage to win some ugly matches but at the end found themselves on the top of the log.
When things are tough they seemed to find that extra bit to win games and when they are on song they can demolish any team.
One thing is for sure with the competition entering the final straight in the pool matches the Crusaders will be going out hard this weekend to try and take advantage of a Rebels side that have been struggling.
The Rebels will welcome back Aussie scrum-half Genia as one of six changes by coach Wessels.
The other changes sees Fereti Sa’aga and Sam Talakai replacing Tetera Faulkner and Jermaine Ainsley as the starting props.
Also in the forwards, Geoff Parling makes his first start since the Jaguares match, as Angus Cottrell moves to blindside flank with Colby Fainga’a starting at number seven.
Jack Maddocks returns from injury and Sefa Naivalu’s earns him another start on the wing after a good performance against the Stormers last week.
The Crusaders has also made some changes with Seta Tamanivalu shifting from the left to the right wing.
The matchday 23 includes three players – Richie Mo’unga, Jack Goodhue and Mitchell Dunshea – who make their return from injury this week.
Mitchell Drummond will wear the number nine jersey, while Mo’unga returns at fly-half.
Tamanivalu move from the left to right wing this week in place of Israel Dagg, and George Bridge comes on to the left wing. Goodhue is also set to make his return from injury and will slot in at centre.
Wyatt Crockett comes into the starting team to replace the injured loosehead prop Tim Perry while at hooker Andrew Makalio and Codie Taylor rotate for this game.
At blindside flanker, Melbourne-born Pete Samu earns a start this week, and Heiden Bedwell-Curtis has been named in the reserves.
Prediction: The Rebels have struggled the whole season so far against the top teams and we cannot see them pull a win over the Saders in this one Crusaders by 18.
Rebels: 15 Jack Maddocks, 14 Sefa Naivalu, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Will Genia, 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Geoff Parling, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Fereti Sa’aga
Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Jermaine Ainsley, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Tom English, 23 Semisi Tupou
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Pete Samu, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Mitchell Dunshea, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Mitch Hunt, 23 Manasa Matael
This could be one of the games this weekend which you need to hold on to your seat.
The Lions was as poor and disappointing last week against the Reds as they brilliant against the Waratahs the week before.
A game most would have predicted as a bonus point win for Swys team ended in a lost and giving away their top spot on the overall log.
The Hurricanes has been the form team since week two and are looking like the team that can take it all at the end of the season.
This is not good for a Lions team who now needs to win as they are being chase by the Bulls who is playing the Stormers this weekend.
The Bulls also have a game in hand over the Lions so it puts that added pressure on the Lions not to give the South African conference away in the last stages of this competition.
The Lions will have to be up for this challenge otherwise it could turn real ugly really fast against the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes with the two Barrett brothers as play-makers in this team have been scoring tries from everywhere and they will want to get fast out of the blocks to put pressure on the Lions early on.
The Lions has been struggling early in matches and will have to put their mark down from the start. Points on the board is very important and they will have to take it when it is offered.
The tight five will play a huge role in this match and it was something the Lions have struggled with last week.
We can be assured that the Hurricanes will come out firing to get early domination in the set pieces.
The one things Lions fans will be hoping are that their team will pitch up from minute 1 and not only in the second half.
The Lions need to put in a team effort and cannot only depend on Marx to have a man of the match performance every week to secure them wins.
The combination at 9 and 10 will have a huge impact on the Lions team and hopefully De Bruin will get it right this week.
Prediction: This is a game the Lions are able to win but they need to be on par. Jantjies have not been great of late and needs to put on his big boy pants this weekend for the Lions to stand a chance to win. At the end we have to give it to the Hurricanes by 9.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Julian Savea, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields (c), 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ben May, 19 Sam Lousi, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Nehe Milner-Skudder.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Franco Mostert (captain), 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Ashlon Davids, 22 Rohan janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza
The Waratahs have been leading the Australian conference the last couple of weeks and this game will help them get a bigger lead on the other Aussie teams.
Against a struggling Blues side this a great opportunity for the Waratahs to get even a bonus point win this weekend.
The Blues will be hurting from the current state of their game and it may be that they want to use this game to get things right.
With the Waratahs who have a history of not being able to keep form it may be a game that will surprise the Aussie team.
It seems the Blues just have not been able to put together what they train in the week into their games over the weekend.
That they have talented players is not the question but for these players now to step up and show it in the remaining games of the season.
They are playing with no real confidence and the only way to get that back is to go back to the basics and do that 100% before you try and play an expansive game.
It will be a difficult game for them to win but it is possible.
Prediction: We have the Waratahs to win by 11 against the Blues but anything is possible when Aussies teams face New Zealand teams.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Cam Clark, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Will Miller, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Curtis Rona, 23 Bryce Hegarty.
Blues – 15 Matt Duffie, 14 Tumua Manu, 13 Orbyn Leger, 12 Rieko Ioane, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Augustine Pulu (c), 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ross Wright.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Mike Tamoaieta, 19 Ben Nee-Nee/Lyndon Dunshea, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Dan Kirkpatrick, 23 Terrence Hepetema.
It is round two for the North v South derby between the Stormers and Bulls with the Bulls ahead 1-0.
There will be no love lost between the two sides as they clash in Cape Town this weekend.
The Bulls have been the most improved side this whole season and have been playing some good rugby as well.
It has been a huge improvement week after week from the Bulls and they now need to settle down and play as a team who is not under pressure just to score tries at every cause but concentrate on game management now as well.
They had plenty of opportunities against the Highlanders to kick some points bu opted to overtime go for tries.
That at the end was part of the reason they lost the game and will need to be cleverer in managing their game from here on end.
The Stormers got a win finally last week against the Rebels which will give them some believe for this game.
It was not perfect but it was a win which Fleck’s troops will take hear from after some poor performances in recent weeks.
It will be a huge battle upfront this weekend and it will be something to look forward to as the set pieces will play a major role in the outcome of this game.
The Stormers still seemed more about 15 individuals rather than a team on the field and that makes their defence being questioned by teams.
The Bulls on the other hand have been brilliant in combining their forwards and backs to attack and have scored some great tries from set pieces and broken play.
They have a dangerous backline and with Pollard getting back to form they have someone that can control the game at 10.
Willemse has been brilliant to say the least this season for a man who is still learning his trade at this level but he has come under huge pressure and his decision making have not been good all the time.
In the midfield De Allende have had the best season we have seen from the Springbok in years and has even improved in his defence which was always been a question mark in his game.
We still waiting for the brilliance that the Stormers do have out wide to get in the game. Most of the times the back three had to be happy with scrappy ball or play from turnovers.
The Stormers will have to play as a team to get one over the Bulls this weekend otherwise they will again have to be happy with second best on the day.
This will be a huge clash this weekend.
Predictions: Bulls have been the more consistent team this season and they would have worked on their game management. Bulls by 12 point.
DHL Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain – 100th DHL Stormers cap), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni (50th DHL Stormers cap), 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Seabelo Senatla.
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal (c), 11 Divan Rossouw/Travis Ismaiel, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 André Warner, 8 Thembelani Bholi/Marco van Staden, 7 Jason Jenkins/Thembelani Bholi, 6 Marco van Staden/Roelof Smit, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements (TBA): Jaco Visagie, Frans van Wyk/Nqobisiwe Mxol, Conrad van Vuuren, Hendre Stassen/Roelof Smit, Ivan van Zyl,Manie Libbok, Divan Rossouw/Travis Ismaiel.
The last game of the weekend sees the Sharks hosting the Highlanders in Durban.
This will be an interesting encounter with the Sharks that have not played to half of there potential this year but did win against the Stormers in their last outing.
It was nothing pretty against the Stormers but it was a win which the Durban outfit desperately needed at the time.
The Sharks has been like the French this year, with one week giving us hope and the next week just being as poor as they could be.
With high expectations in the beginning of the season the Sharks have come close to many winning a few games which would have put them much higher than they current find themselves on the log.
Questions have been raised by frustrated fans about the coaching staff and the players.
This weekend will be a difficult task for the Sharks as they will have to step it up against one of the better teams in the competition this year.
The Highlanders have not been brilliant all the time but they have manage to keep on winning even when they were down and out of certain games.
They are a team that feeds on the mistakes of other teams. The Sharks worst aspect of their game has been poor decision making and handling errors.
If they have not corrected that aspect of their game then it may be another long day for Sharks supporters this weekend.
The Sharks consistency has also been a problem with their tight five and specially with there set pieces. They have been absolutely poor in the lineouts which added pressure on their backs to deal with scraps on attack.
It will be interesting to see how the scrums goes this weekend as the Bulls were all over the Highlanders last weekend.
If the Sharks can do the basics right it will create the opportunity for the dangerous back line to score tries.
The Sharks have great play makers in Du Preez, Am in this back-line and with speedsters like Nkosi can rip through teams.
It all depends if they can start with the basics and the tight five.
Prediction: We can see the Sharks win this game if they pitch up and sort out their mistakes but for now we must give it to the Highlanders by 5.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha (c), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.
Highlanders – TBA
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