Super 15 — Round 15
27 May 2011
Four rounds to go and with 8 sides vying for the 6 spots available there are 3 games of crucial importance over the weekend.All sorts of questions going into this round – Can the Sharks bounce back from a pretty demoralising loss, which of the Waratahs teams will show up,can the Bulls continue on their impressive run, how will the Cheetahs go againstthem after 4 consecutive wins, and inthe match of the round- how will the Reds andCrusaders play it?
Hurricanes v Force
Mmmm 11th plays 12th – could be quite a good game though with nothing to lose from both sides – though the weather might have the final say. Twinkle Toes out reduces the appeal a bit.And with Ripia also out Stannard becomes the makeshift 1 5/8! Most interest is probably in the performance of the Hurricanes back line – but again the weather could be the spoiler here. A few of them need to start showing some form to ensure a World Cup spot, with Jane probably under the most pressure from the improving Smith from the Highlanders. The Hurricanes have won 4 of the 5 games played between the two and will make it 5 out of 6 here. Interesting choice ofHurricanes captain!
Hurricanes 1 – 12
Highlanders v Lions
Should be a straight forward win for the Highlanders as they push for a top six spot. Sitting in 6th spot now, a bonus point win is a must and with a virtual full strength team lining up should run over the top of the Lions. Tom Donnelly out injured is further putting his World Cup spot in jeopardy – I still puzzle how a 1st choice AB lock can fade to abit part reserve in less than a year. The Lions are the real battlers of this comp with only 2 wins in their last 27 games and just do not have the cattle to challenge here.
Brumbies v Stormers
Again this should be a straight forward win for the Stormers. The Brumbies were improved last week, but were certainly no world beaters. Again it is issue of not having the cattle available, and the ongoing loss of players, and the sacking of the coach, and the outburst of his replacement, and the constant changing of the team….. The Stormers should have too much class all over the paddock and win comfortably
Sharks v Waratahs
This really holds no attraction as a viewing spectacle, but of course is crucial to both teams Top 6 aspirations. If results go as they should the loser of this is in real dogfight for the last spot in the 6. Form is pretty similair for both teams – up and down like the proverbial whore’s drawers. I fancy this then to be a pretty dour struggle, and with the Sharks slightly better ability to gather points, they should win in a close one. As an aside it is fascinating to watch the circus that isSouth African rugby. Where else would you get thenational captain relegated to prop, holding up his major rival, who is arguablya better player, though far less disciplined. The captain has to be hooker at the WC – so game time would be fairly important you would think- all bizarre really.
Sharks 1 – 12
Bulls v Cheetahs
The old bull v the young bull.There could be an upset here! Of course this a South African derby so it will begin and end in the forwards and any chance the Cheetahs have will depend on their young forwards fronting against the onslaught that was the downfall of the Sharks last week – Triple B and his mates on the front foot is nigh on impossible to counter. Having had the better of the Crusaders a fortnite ago the Cheetahswill have the confidence to give this a red hot shot. They will need to start well and get some points early agaisnt the great accumulators of the comp. I fancy this mighht be close but ultimately the Bulls will have enough smarts to pull through.
Bulls 1 – 12
Reds v Crusaders
It is time for McCaw to bring that imperious form we all know to the fore as the Crusaders will need all hands on deck to defeat this very good, but also adaptableReds team.But I figure this game will come down to one aspect – thescrum. You know the Crusaders are going to target this area, and with Iron Man backtheir scrum becomes a truely formidable weapon. With play then generated from this phase they should get on the front foot and there is no better player to exploit this than DanThe Man. This also means the Burglar is not going to receive a lot of good ball to generate momentum for the Reds. Combine this with strong defence on the inside channelsagainst the likes ofDiggers. Link is a clever man though and the Reds will have to watched.
Crusaders 1 – 12