Dead Set Certs for Round 8
23 Mar 2007
How come Goddard and Bowden are so poor at controlling scrums. You can guarantee a match that they referee will have double figure resets. And yet another SA team hits NZ and their form goes out the window. The Bulls, Stormers and Lions win all over Australia, get to NZ and fall flat on their faces – weird. What are the odds all the returning AB’s get through the weekend unscathed – I must admit I’m with Robbie Deans in throwing them all in now they are available – they are rugby players after all -and the only way to harden up is to play and with post match recovery so good these days get em out there! And things lurch from bad to worse on this side of the ditch – the Reds and Waratahs are truly woeful, the Brumbies gone for all money without the talismanic Mortlock, thank god for the Force they say. Mitch has done a hell of a job in Perth though, a new team on the verge of making the top 4 in its 2nd year is solid, though with the Sharks, Crusaders and Blues still to play it isn’t going to be easy. Assuming those 3 aforementioned teams move away from the field now, the scrap for 4th is a going to be a humdinger with 7 teams sitting outside the current top 4 all within a win of 4th and the Chiefs not completely out of it either.
48 points up for grabs this week – this is how to get them.
Blues v Waratahs – well looking at current form, and positions on the table, this should be a good old fashioned thumping. The Waratahs have been woeful of late – the forwards have been OK, but no more than that, with a pretty stilted approach, the backs have been woeful however with constant changes of personnel and positions both a symptom and an outcome. They need to decide on a No.8 and halfback combo and stick with it, Beale has talent but needs time in a lower grade to develop and learn (a season in the ANZC would be perfect), they have rotated 5 or 6 players through the midfield, and Hewatt at fullback is erratic to say the least especially with the all important goal kicking. The result is they can’t score tries, averaging 1 try a game over the last 5 games they have played, whilst leaking 12. The Blues are on a role, players in all positions in good form, with a strong bench and 4 AB’s returning. Nucifora and Flavell have them all well focused on a game plan which suits them down to the ground.
Highlanders v Bulls – amazingly the Bulls have beaten the Highlanders only once in the history of Super rugby, and also of note is they have only won twice in NZ at all, both against the Hurricanes. They have made a few changes with Big Vic back being the critical one, and his match up with Ryan will be a beauty, and a few other rotations which won’t make a lot of difference. They forgot to play rugby last weekend and were pretty woeful in all aspects. This won’t be any easier but if last weeks performance doesn’t provide some motivation what will? With Evans ready to hit top form in a team of few stars, but plenty of team players, they will be too good at home, especially after freshening up with the bye last week and the Bulls on week 4 of a 5 week overseas tour.
Highlanders 1 – 12
Crusaders v Stormers – plenty of interest in this game. 6 players with plenty to live up to after excellent games from those they replaced last week. This should be a training exercise for the Crusaders and it will give the 6 AB’s a good blowout in preparation for some harder games ahead. The Stormers are hanging in and around the race for 4th. They have some talented players but plenty of dross as well and Watson cannot win them games every week. The battle of the loosies should provide some interest but all eyes will be on the 6 returning AB’s.
Reds v Chiefs – Another 2 AB’s straight in for the Chiefs, but I would have benched Kinikinilau before Masaga, speed over power for me every time on the wing. I still have doubts over the flakey inside backs, though the extra bit of time Lavea gets is certainly helping him in his decision making. The Reds I fancy will test the inside back channel a few times with Johansson’s bulk, but apart from that they don’t offer much that would frighten anyone. The packs on paper look pretty even but the Chiefs T5 went very well last week considering they lack height and the loosies are as good as anything else going around. Kelleher and Sivi will add plenty of spark against a pretty average Reds backline lets be honest.
Sharks v Brumbies – No Mortlock no Brumbies win – simple. When he plays the Brumbies are direct, follow a game plan, kick goals etc etc and it was noticeable last week that the Cheetahs pulled away after Mortlock broke his hand and left the field. Larkham being back will help, but he has played little rugby this year and now seems to take a game or 2 to get going and his return is offset by a very experimental midfield pairing of Huxley and Playford. The Sharks are on a role with selection being the biggest headache – who to leave out? With a large squad of good players from which to pick from, competition for places, rotations and injuries means these good players are all having to front week in. The Blues and Crusaders are in a similair position squad wise and these teams will be the top 3 accordingly. With the Brumbies having never won in Durban, with no Mortlock and their average overall form the Sharks will win convincingly.
Lions v Hurricanes – can’t wait for this one. Watching Jerry Collins run onto a rugby field again I know will bring a tear to my eye. The other 5 additions will also be handy, though the combination of lack of match fitness and altitude will tell at the end of each half. But the pluses these 6 bring far out weighs this and I would anticipate them being a few points up by the time they need to be replaced. The return of the 6 will also lift the confidence of those around them after some disappointing losses over the 3 weeks. A bit of a risk only 2 backs on the bench but that is becoming more and more common place these days – Gopperth now left right out (get the cheque book out Coops and go get one S Brett). The Lions are starting to find their natural place in the pecking order and with their bubble well and truly burst will struggle here again with a limited team who have also returned from NZ this week. Pretorius will be targeted again and he really struggles against good loosies.
Hurricanes 1 -12