30 Mar

Super 15: Round 6 Preview
by WAJ
30 Mar 2012

Highlanders v Rebels – A big ask for the mighty Rebels to come away with points even with Twinkle Toes and Kurtley back. Inbredcargill is a bit of a fortress for the Highlanders, the weather looks Ok though so that gives me a small hope. But the Rebels forwards have been under some ppressure the last couple of weeks and will need to front here – scrums especially have been a worry, and we gave away a truckload of ball at the breakdown, though Pocock is a freak. This is a very strong looking Highlanders side, even without Hore or their injured 1 5/8′s Treeby and Thommo are pretty good ins – how big is the Highlanders forward pack, well over 900kg. The way JJ has these forwards playing, breakdowns especially (warning signs flashing for the Rebels)and the excellent work of the likes of Ellison and Smith out back will be too much for the mighty Rebels. I hope we get to see some TT and Kurtley magic, but feel it is really the big boys bashing up the small boys,
Highlanders 13+

Hurricanes v Cheetahs – A bit of a danger game for the Hurricanes – why so many changes? The Cheetahs have been very competitive in all their games in Australasia, going right to the wire in all 3. They will be keen to keep this momentum up and in The Goose they have a player that could be the difference. Don’t like that Hammett has made 4 changes to the forwards, sureone was forced, but the likes of Thrush and Lam have been important with their workrates, and their replacements will have to really step up as the Cheetahs will surely test them up front. I would be particularly nervous at scrum time where JTA and Moran will struggle. HAmmett though seems to be pulling the right strings so we should give them the benefit of the doubt, and with so many players performing for him you would be silly not to back them. Can we in fact say they have lost their flakiness?
Hurricanes 1 – 12

Chiefs v Waratahs – Probably the game of the round. The Waraths are talking themselves up again, well the press are anyway, saying they have turned the corner and their new attitude is the way of the future. This would be the "run the ball and minimise kicking when under pressure" plan. Blah blah blah – what is the bet they will revert to type sooner rather than later. The press over here love a bandwagon, currently it ia Tom Carter as a Wallaby bolter, 2 weeks ago it was Harris – both a long way off test standard. Anyway the big question for this game is how the Chiefs will front after the bye. They are fielding a pretty good lineup with few injuries, and if they can get their backline combinations running smoothly and continue their good work at the breakdown and set oieces they should be too strong. A must watch on Wynot and the Flying Affro, if these two get a roll on they give the Waratahs huge go forward.
Chiefs 1 – 12

Brumbies v Sharks – There have been a few surprises in this years comp, and the Brumbies are one of the big ones. This bunch of no names has floruished under Jake White and with the aid of a good draw sit comfortably on top of the Aus conference. But things are going to start to heat up in the Brumbies kitchen starting with the Sharks. Slighty unlucky to lose to the Waratahs the Sharks have a strong team named with dangers all over the park. Led by the Battleship (who was interviewed on Inside Rugby last week, andwhat a nice humble guy, came across very well, still hate the prick though) I think they will be just too stron for a tenacious Brumbies team. The Brumbies need to be watched, they are very good at converting chances into points, ask the Highlanders, but with that game in mind the Sharks will be too pragmatic and should win. Only one win in CAnberra for the Sharks though -mmmmmmmmm.
Sharks 1 – 12

Force v Reds – Have we ever seen the previous years champs get walloped like the Reds were last week? What a shallacking, embarassing to say the least.They are nowhere near the potent force of last year without The Burglar and Diggers. Link will be hoping last week was an anomoly but they will find it tough in Perth where they have only won once. Injuries are playing havoc and the likes of Genia are probably trying too hard and thus the team is suffering as a consequence. Relax fellas, you still have a formidable team and if you play to give your speedy back three some space then this is very winnable. The Force are predictable, they will attacke the breakdown with Pocock and Brown and use the inevitable turnovers to get them in a position to score. Defence is the key, to be always aware that a turnover will come and defend accordingly. The reds to bounce back for me.
Reds 1 – 12

Lions v Crusaders – Did we finally see something of the real Crusaders last week? At times they were very good, scrum awesome again and some very good tries, but defensively they are still looking a bit suspect, lineouts were a bit wobbly, and some combinations are still not gelling. The Man is back this weekand you would think he will add significantly to their options, he makes those around him look so much better. Can’t say much about the Lions, don’t know where they are going to find an edge that will win them this game. I actually expect the Crusaders will turn it up a notch now, class cannot be kept down for too long and the SA grounds may be just what the Crusaders need to finally click.
Crusaders 13+

Stormers v Bulls – Wow this should be a thriller! The strong defensive mindset of the Stormers v a Bulls side bound to revert to type knowing they won’t get anywhere near the opportunities that the Reds offered. I expect this to be a close game with theStormers too strong at home.
Stormers 1 – 12

Regards Waj

26 Mar

Super 15: Fifth Round Stats
by Tracey Nelson
26 Mar 2012

Stats from the fifth round of the competition. The Chiefs had the bye this week.

Goal Kicking % Success Total attempts
Chris Noakes 100% 1
Colin Slade 100% 3
Lachie Munro 88% 8
Tom Taylor 71% 7
Beauden Barrett 60% 5

Penalties conceded Total At breakdown
Blues 3 3
Hurricanes 11 8
Crusaders 7 4
Highlanders 10 8

Total Penalties to date
Blues 43
Chiefs 45
Hurricanes 61
Crusaders 37
Highlanders 51

Breakdown turnovers Won Lost
Blues 6 7
Hurricanes 7 6
Crusaders 6 3
Highlanders 5 9

Handling Errors
Blues 13
Hurricanes 9
Crusaders 8
Highlanders 5

Top ten tacklers
Jeremy Thrush 16
Daniel Braid 13
Brad Mika 12
Jack Lam 11
Luke Romano 11
Ali Williams 11
Luke Whitelock 11
Beauden Barrett 10
Chris Lowrey 10

Top Linebreakers
Andre Taylor 2

Lineout percentages This week Overall
Blues 75 71
Chiefs - 8
Hurricanes 80 78
Crusaders 73 81
Highlanders 77 81

23 Mar

Super 15: Round 5 Preview
by WAJ
23 Mar 2012

Blues v Hurricanes – Hard to know where to go here. A lot against the Blues winning – all sorts out, trip back from SA, Weepu at 1 5/8, Comical still named. Sigh. My sympathy metre for LamB has even crept up from 1/100 to 2/100. But the overriding issue for the Blues is that they have to win, cliche yes but unfortunately true. For me it is about holding the Hurricanes backs in check, they have some great runners and BB is putting the ball in the best places fro them to use that skill. The easiest way is to disrupt them up front of course, but are the Blues capable of doing that – consistently! Not on form displayed so far. I fancy this will be a close one and have to go with the heart – of course. Oh and far from happy that Hollywood Walsh has the pea – preening git
Blues 1 – 12

Rebels v Force – Bloody hell this could be a great nite or a real stinker. I am backing the Rebels to get up here – if they can play like they did in the 2nd half of last Sunday then they are a good chance. Strangely things turned around when Cippers came on, more options to cover for the Cheetahs and thus more holes?? They looked a tad disorganised in the 1st half with Twinkle Toes still trying a bit too hard. The Force will look to come over and dominate the loose and ruck area, thus the Rebels need to be disciplinedon defence , still not their strong point, when there is turnover ball. If we can break even up front then I am backing a better looking to get us home, because whilst the Force fullback turnrd everything he touched into gold, he is slow, and thus vulnerable if played to the right way.
Rebels 1 – 12

Waratahs v Sharks – picking the Waratahs to get it right here and come away with a good win. Some important ins with Palu especially a key, his duel with Alberts could well decide this. The Sharks were gutsy in coming back to beat the Reds last week and they are a side if given momentum will roll over the top of you, they don’t win the easy way and take a while to get into the game. So if the Waratahs can start fast and keep their foot on the pedal it will become too hard for the Sharks. Shutting down the threquarters (and Horne is missing a few tackles) and not allowing them to get the forwards rumbling needs to be offset by a better controlling influence, and in Barnes they will be hoping thay have that. So on the back of a pretty good home record against the Sharks, having not lost against them in Sydney since 2000
Waratahs 13+

Crusaders v Cheetahs – I am still not convinced about the Crusaders, though this is a better looking team they have picked. They need to recapture their efficiency, so far lacking, up front. A few have been coasting, not switched on enough for me, as there is no doubting the talent. Like the look of the changes in the backline as well, hopefully this will give better ball to the outsides. The Cheetahs are on a bit of a hiding to nothing, but what an opportunity with emotionsbeing high in Chch with the Hobbs and quake factors a big part of this occasion. At their pragmatic best they can cause problems but I think ultimately their lack of class will tell but not before the likes of Brussouw and Strauss have caused a few problems. And check out the size of some of the Cheetahs forwards – small houses for sure!!
Crusaders 13+

Brumbies v Highlanders – The alarm bells are going off here. Thommo and Hardieout, Crosswell on the bench mmmmm. And who the hell is Teitjens?? And the Brumbies have been far from the easy beats their playing roster would indicate, with 2 wins at home and a hard fought loss in sunny Tauranga. Jakey boy can sure coach and he has managed to get the best out of his no names, and even a few injuries has not hindered them. They will fight tooth and nail and expect a scrappy game. The Highlanders have to keep their intensity up to win here, especially that mongrel up front, and ensure that their set pieces are accurate with no Thommo at linout time. Like Treeby back in and hopefully Slade will keep improving with the game time. This Highlandersbackline is starting to look as good as any and Hansen would be advised to keep all seven in mind. The Highlander backs to win it for me.
Highlanders 1 – 12

Bulls v Reds – Not much hope is given for a Reds win here. But they have a lot of quality in this team, are extremely well coached and will be pissed about letting the Sharks get over the top of them last week. And I am not convinced the Bulls are anything that special – I mean they lost to the Blues – convincingly! At home! The Blues! The easybeats of the comp! That is not a sign of a consistent team. Steyn doesn’t look at his best, and they rely on the rolling maul too much. I fancy the Reds to win here even with a 4th string 1 5/8.
Reds 1 – 12

Lions v Stormers – does anyone really care. It will probably be a cracking game with 10 tries and be won in the 81st minute by the Lions – not!
Stormers 13+

Bloody Japanese Yen

19 Mar

Super 15: Fourth Round Stats
by Tracey Nelson
19 Mar 2012

Some stats for the NZ sides after the fourth round of play. The Crusaders had the bye this week.

Goal Kicking % Success Total attempts
Aaron Cruden 100% 7
Chris Noakes 100% 1
Beauden Barrett 80% 5
Colin Slade 80% 5
Gareth Anscombe 75% 4
Lachie Munro 0 1
Andre Taylor 0 1

Penalties conceded Total At breakdown
Blues 9 3
Chiefs 10 4
Hurricanes 12 8
Highlanders 10 6

Total Penalties to date
Blues 40
Chiefs 45
Hurricanes 50
Crusaders (bye this week) 30*
Highlanders 41

Breakdown turnovers Won Lost
Blues 4 4
Chiefs 4 3
Hurricanes 2 4
Highlanders 4 2

Handling Errors
Blues 6
Chiefs 10
Hurricanes 9
Highlanders 12

Top ten tacklers
Jason Eaton 18
Jeremy Thrush 17
Jack Lam 15
Liam Messam 14
Charlie Faumuina 14
Victor Vito 13
Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen 13
Ben May 12
Dane Coles 12
Craig Clarke 11

Top Linebreakers
Julian Savea 2
Tim Nanai-Williams 2
Ben Smith 2

Lineout percentages
Blues 64
Chiefs 88
Hurricanes 73
Highlanders 65

16 Mar

Super 15: Round 4 Preview
by WAJ
16 Mar 2012

The passing of Jock Hobbs made this a very sad week. Everyone here at Haka joins with the whole country in paying tribute to one of the legends of the game. If it wasn’t for him New Zealand rugby would not exist in the form it does today. R.I.P. Jock. — Ed.

Chiefs v Brumbies – the Brumbies are a bit of an unknown at this point. Undefeated, they have been less than convincing with a couple of close wins over the bottom 2 teams. Lacking in star power and also injury hit they will struggle in NZ against the high flying Chiefs. They will be reasonably competitive up front but look very light in the backs. The Chiefs are expected to win here and win well. Look to the Chiefs backs toreally cut loose, Cruden to have a big nite with his running. And the one place where the Brumbies will challenge, the front row sees another good test for Junior Hulk! All in all it should be a good game of runing rugby, though haven’t checked the weather.
Chiefs 13+

Stormers v Blues – don’t know what to make of this. The Blues have stunk, then put a better performance on last week, when down on stars, and now they are even further depleted. The Stormers have been there normal phlegmetic selves, grinding away, just doing enough to win on the back of some very tight dfence. The Blues have a good record in the Cape, winning 4 of 6, and on paper they are 2 pretty evenly matched teams. If the Blues are able to eliminate some of the errors from last week, and you fancy the likes of Nonu will improve with the run, and we cut down a bit on the penalties, Jacko has the pea so can expect to want to see himself less on screen than the Peacock, then a close win will be the go.
Blues 1 – 12

Hurricanes v Highlanders – the Hurricanes have not had to beat much in their last 2 wins, andhowever impressive they were this is a completely different test. The Highlanders will come at them like no other team can with that ferocity they compete with in the forwards and hard running of the backs. They have the luxury of playing their “3rd string” 1 5/8 in Colin Slade after injuries to the others used so far this season. It will be a great match up with Barrett. The key will be how well the Hurricanes forwards handle that Highlanders 8, I fancy they will struggle a bit.
Highlanders 1 – 12

Waratahs v Force – a bit ho hum this for me. The Waratahs should kick all sorts of arse here.
Waratahs 13+

Sharks v Reds – an intriguing game. The unbeaten Reds v the battling Sharks. The Sharks have had the edge over the last few years and won in Durban last year. They look to have a better team this year and are slowly working their way into some sort of form. The Reds, though having won 3 from 3 are from the team they were last year. Link has made a few changes this week in an effort to get some spark into the backs – lots of pace and a bit of flair from Lucas. This will be a tough one but good teams win these games and I fancy the Reds have it to get home
Reds 1- 12

Rebels v Cheetahs – if the Rebels turn up with the defensive attitude they did last week, and can add 5 – 10% to their attack,they will get their first win of the season. The Cheetahs are limited but very brave, they won’t leave anything out there and thus the need for the Rebels to be on the job. Going to this and really looking forward to a game played in the daylight!
Rebels 13+

Regards Waj

12 Mar

Super 15: Third Round Stats
by Tracey Nelson
12 Mar 2012

Stats for the NZ teams after the third round.

Goal Kicking Success Total attempts
Dan Kirkpatrick 100% 1
Tyler Bleyendaal 80% 6
Beauden Barrett 63% 5
Gareth Anscombe 78% 9
Colin Slade 60% 5
Aaron Cruden 56% 9
Lima Sopaoga 0% 2

Penalties conceded Total At breakdown
Blues 17 9
Chiefs 11 7
Hurricanes 12 6
Crusaders 11 3
Highlanders 8 7

Total Penalties to date
Blues 31
Chiefs 35
Hurricanes 38
Crusaders 30
Highlanders 31

Breakdown turnovers Won Lost
Blues 6 4
Chiefs 5 2
Hurricanes 5 3
Crusaders 2 5
Highlanders 6 2

Handling Errors
Blues 12
Chiefs 9
Hurricanes 11
Crusaders 16
Highlanders 9

Top ten tacklers
Matt Todd 17
Jason Eaton 17
Jack Lam 17
Tim Bateman 17
Chris Lowrey 17
Adam Thomson 16
Owen Franks 15
Kieran Read 14
Daniel Braid 14
Liam Messam 12

Top Linebreakers
Israel Dagg 2
Andre Taylor 2
Conrad Smith 2

Lineout percentages
Blues 73
Chiefs 84
Hurricanes 79
Crusaders 83
Highlanders 87

9 Mar

Super 15: Round 3 Preview
by WAJ
9 Mar 2012

The atrocious rugby played by a certain team based in the northern region of NZ has seemingly had a huge impact on my luck, disturbed my aura, rotated my dartboard the wrong way and cracked my crystal ball. Never the pragmatist when it comes to tipping, my heart is too severely affected by the Blue malaise for me too be truly effective.

Crusaders v Chiefs – It is time for the real Crusaders to stand up! A bit more heavy artillery in this week, though can’t for the life of me work out why Fred is on the wing and Maitland at FB. Still far greater minds are in control than my pea brain. To me the Crusaders seem to lack their usual rhythm, and seem to have lost some some ruthlessness as well. World Cup hangover perhaps? The Chiefs have now laid down their benchmark and anything less than that will see them undone again you feel. There is a good mix of youth and experience in the Chiefs team and if the coaches can continue to bolster that youthful confidence well…. dark horses I tell you dark horses. Played in neutral territory, which will have a decidedly Chiefs bent, I expect another close NZ derby, with much depending on how the Chiefs front row fares?
Crusaders 1 – 12

Force v Hurricanes – Another young NZ halfback is picked to start his first game. It is amazing the amount of young players in arguably the 2 most controlling positions on the fielld that NZ is producing. Cruden looks like a grizzled veteran. Tough game for the Hurricanes this though, they may have won 5 of the 6 games played between these 2, but the travel and varying conditions is bound to take some sort of toll. They have made a few changes clearly with this in mind and will be boyed by last weeks win. But a stubborn Force team will be extremely tough – their 1st game at home andSharp’s 150th, and well they aren’t the worst team going around (that is a draw between the Blues and Cheetahs). With the Hurricanes still very much a work in progress I think the Force will be too strong. If you haven’t seen Barrett play at this level watch this game – he is very good.
Force 1 – 12

Brumbies v Cheetahs – far too early for a ‘WCG’. The most interesting thing in Canberrais whether the coach is staying or going.
Brumbies 1 – 12

Highlanders v Waratahs – Not far off being the match of the round this game. Love the way the Highlanders are playing -great intensity, hard running and a simple game plan – no faffing around for this lot (LamB watch them and learn you numb nuts). But equally the Waratahs seem to have a bit more about them this year as well. The likes of The Flying Affro, Gentle Benn and Palu are in terrific form, and with Barnes back to give them more options they will be tough to beat. I think experience will win through.
Waratahs 1 – 12

Reds v Rebels – No I am not hoping for a miracle, but to stay within 15 points would be pretty pleasing. I am hoping for some backline fluency with Kurtleys debut, and no soft tries conceded. Yeah I know!!!!
Reds 13+

Sharks v Lions – Can’t get too enthused about this game either. The Sharks have to win, otherwise season bye bye. And they should be far too strong at home against a middle of the road Lions team.
Sharks 13+

Bulls v Blues – We are moving from bad to worse it seems. Now injuries galore have struck – so between one thing and another we are without Woody, Kaino, Wulf and Toeava, that is a lot of class not fronting, and throw in a few other changes and only 7 players remain from last weeks starting XV. Not that that is maybe a bad thing after last weeks debacle! So LamB has made some changes as best he has available and the likes of Weepu, Nonu and even Kuke Braid are all good ins and the team looks Ok on paper. But jeez this is a pretty ruthless Bulls team and LAmB had better have the top 2 ‘ switched on or it could get ugly. But there stills remain an outside chance the Blues could pull one off here, certainly the talent is there, can LamB do something with that talent?
Bulls 1 – 12

Regards Waj

5 Mar

Super 15: Second Round Stats for the NZ sides
by Tracey Nelson
5 Mar 2012

Which team is making the most handling errors? Who has the best discipline at the breakdown as far as conceding penalties goes? Who has the best lineout? Can anyone kick goals? Find it out here.

Goal Kicking % Success Total attempts
Lima Sopaoga 71% 8
Aaron Cruden 67% 6
Beauden Barrett 63% 8
Tyler Bleyendaal 63% 8
Michael Hobbs 60% 5

Penalties conceded Total At breakdown
Blues 5 5
Chiefs 14 12
Hurricanes 6 1
Crusaders 7 4
Highlanders 10 6

Breakdown turnovers Won Lost
Blues 3 4
Chiefs 4 3
Hurricanes 5 2
Crusaders 4 5
Highlanders 5 4

Top ten tacklers
Matt Todd 22
George Whitelock 19
Tawera Kerr-Barlow 17
Sam Whitelock 17
Liam Messam 16
Craig Clarke 16
Adam Whitelock 13
Conrad Smith 12
Anthony Boric 11
Jerome Kaino 10

Handling Errors
Blues 15
Chiefs 8
Hurricanes 11
Crusaders 7
Highlanders 8

Top linebreakers (backs)
Tawera Kerr-Barlow 3
Robbie Robinson 2

Top ten ball carriers Carries Metres
Chrish Lowrey 15 47
Andrew Hore 15 120
Nasi Manu 14 60
Adam Thomson 13 36
Nick Crosswell 12 35
Jason Moran 11 36
Tom McCartney 9 36
Jamie MacIntosh 9 35
Ali Williams 8 23
Jerome Kaino 8 56
George Whitelock 8 35