29 Mar

Super 15 — Round 7 Preview
by WAJ
29 Mar 2013

Highlanders v Reds – A toughie to start the weekend. Neither team has set the world alight this season so far. The Highlanders have just been crap – and if someone read you a list of B Smith, Gear, Nonu, A Smith, Slade, Thorn, Hore, Woody, with a mix of solid Soopa players and promising youngsters around them you’d be thinking top 6 for sure. But they haven’t clicked at all so far, have been hit by injuries – just a mess.The Reds have been very up and down so far, but looked a lot better with Genia and Horwill running round, and Rocky cutting down on the mistakes and being more direct. That same sort of performance should see another win. BUT the Reds have never beaten the Highlanders in NZ, haven’t played there since 2009 so I’m going to ignore that. I can’t see where the Highlanders can improve enough to get over this Reds side, certainly not in the forwards where theyneed it.
Reds 1 – 12

Hurricanes v Kings – The Hurricanes will be all over this. With C Smith directing traffic it could get ugly.

Hurricanes 13+

Chiefs v Blues – How well are the Chiefs going. Gutsy win last week and they change 6 and arguably look even stronger. They are equipped with players who make a difference and change a game (Highlanders take note) – Cane, Cruden, Afeaki and Messamare just some who make a difference. And some very clever coaching bringsexactly the game plan required. They should be too strong for the Blues. The young Blues side is starting to struggle. thereis definitely plenty of talent but they are struggling to maintain the intensity and accuracy across the team and across the 80 minutes. There does remain a degree of uncertainty about whether the Blues will get "excited", butagainst the week to week consistent performances of he Chiefs, even if they did get ‘excited" it probably wouldn’t be enough.

Chiefs 1 – 12

Brumbies v Bulls – A weakened Bulls side on the way home against a Brumbies team that will be freshened in some positions after the long trip back from SA. The Bulls don’t win out of turn in Canberra, withjust the one win, and that was when they were at their pomp, and they are a bit away from that these days. The Brumbies will have too many options for the Bulls, who, with so many out,may try and give the ball some air. But then Morne may decide to play his way, and we can all nod off without the need for a sleeping pill.

Brumbies 13+

Cheetahs v Rebels – The Rebels are a rabble! What a week – pathetic really!! They couldn’t win against this Cheetahs team of surprises and surprising class.

Cheetahs 13+

Stormers v Crusaders – Two big outs for the Crusaders, really big outs, really really big outs. And against a Stormers side that has rediscovered its mojo with consecutive wins against the 2 top sides this year so far, this will be tough. The Stormers haveimproved most up front and this game is set for a huge tussle in the forwards. Without the edge that Read gives them here I fear the Stormers may have the advantage. Carters accuracy and goalkicking another telling factor not in thisgame. Though the Crusaders have a good record at Newlands this might be too much with the team they have bought.

Stormers 1 – 12

Waratahs v Force – The Force are rightin this, and with the likes of Mathewson and Eberson driving them around the park very competently, and a forward pack that has surprised many, if they can maintain their intensity against a less than stellar Waratahs side, Foley will get his revenge. The Waratahs are yet to convince that they are anywhere near good enough to make their mark on this years comp some great players but still working on the team and game planconcepts. Having said all that I think the Force are maybe a couple of backs short of really being able tobeat the Waratahs.

Waratahs 1 – 12
Fight hard Jessie
Regards Waj
23 Mar

Super 15 — Round 6 Preview
by WAJ
23 Mar 2013

Chiefs v Highlanders – So the much fancied Highlanders will be win-less after a third of the season has gone and with a minimal chance to make the play-offs. I can’t see them improving enough to beat the impressive Chiefs, sure Nonu in is a plus, but he looked out of sorts in his first game and hasn’t played since. But they have problems in the looseand lack combinations in the backs still with an ever changing midfield.The Chiefs continue to impress, still won well enough last week whilst being sucked in to playing a lose untidy game by the Chiefs. The short turn around and travel are a concern but Rennie has rotated his players well enough, and has a strong bench.
Chiefs 1 – 12

Crusaders v Kings – The Kings have been quite competitive to date.Good opportunists, they have taken all scoring chances pretty well. No fear at this stage. This could be a step up, away from home and against a side that is starting to get its shit together. Big improvements seen in a lot of the Crusaders forwards the key. If the Crusaders stick to their business and play straight and direct this could get ugly.
Crusaders 13+

Reds v Bulls – The Bulls look to have conceded here, plenty of changes with numerous Boks now in the reserves. Whereas the Reds have a stronger teamwith the inclusion of Horwill and Diggers, and Genia better for the run last week. Both teams put in disappointing performances last week, the Reds probably the worst when out thought and out passioned by the Force. Doubt whether McKenzie will let that happen again.
Reds 13+

Force v Cheetahs – On displayed form this game should be a beauty. Two lowly rated teams are not afraid to give it a red hot go. Really impressed by the Force last week, they were goodin all aspects and Foley has turned them into a really good team, who don’t have many outstanding individuals but do their rolls brilliantly and have enough size and speed out wide to take advantage of any opportunities. The Cheetahs have lost Goosen, their talisman, for the season – a big blow and how well they get around that will be interesting. They have confidence now though and that will take them a long way. Big battle in the lose to decide this, but the Force at home for me.
Force1 – 12

Sharks v Rebels – Aaaaarrgh don’t know where to go here. The Sharks were so disappointing last week, hardly fired a shot, and Plummers has made changes accordingly. They have to be better thanthat and will have the motivation of wanting to show their real worth etc going forthem. SO you’d expect improvement, but how much. The Rebels have been playing at the level pretty much expected of them, and need to be able to put in an extra5 – 10% to get them over the line. Three big ins, Delve, Vuna and Woodward on debut, may be the difference as all are a step up on the players they replaced. Hoping, hoping, hoping!!!
Rebels 1 – 12

Stormers v Brumbies – The Brumbies are a bit of a bogie side for the Stormers. Only 3 losses ever against them and are the form team of the 2013 competition without a doubt. They play such a simple game and execute so well. It will be tough against the Stormers defence. And the Stormers – well a tough start to the year no question. A hard fought win over the Chiefs will have their confidence up, but they do look down on the ruthlessness they showed lastseason. But a more attacking mindset helped against the Chiefs and they will need it against the best defence so far this year. Going with form here.
Brumbies 1 – 12

Waratahs v Blues – If the Blues front with the same attitude and commitment they showed in the Hurricanes and Crusaders wins, they will win easily. The Waratahs are a rabble and have too many self doubts.
Blues 1 – 12

Regards Waj

15 Mar

Super 15 — Round 5 Preview
by WAJ
15 Mar 2013

Highlanders v Hurricanes – With the NZ conference looking to be an even affair a win here is a must for the bottom 2 NZ sides.A few changes for both teams, but the Highlanders are a team with a lot of question marks, and with 8 AB’s in the starting XV they should be performing better than they are – perhaps not together as a team yet. The Hurricanes were bloody lucky to get the win last week, but showed enough in staying with the Crusaders that they are coming right.And they more than any other NZ team need to have all facets working well to be competitive, and with the likes of Perenara, Barrett and Savea having more influence over a game, all marshalled by the wonderful Conrad Smith, a strong bench, and with Dunedin holding no fears,I fancy they will be too strong. What do the Highlanders need to do – get on top up front with a bit of mongrel needed by some perhaps, or, dare I say it, are they too old in the T5. Slade needs to find form straight away, andI wonder if Ben Smith shouldn’t be at centre, with Poki at fullback – would give them more strike weapons. But I just don’t think the Highlanders are playing well enough. Mmmm could be win-less after 5 rounds – JJ who. So that will come back to bite me no doubt.
Hurricanes 1 – 12

Waratahs v Cheetahs – Plenty of changes for the Waratahs after a pretty woeful performance last week. Wouldn’t want to be the Waratahs coach under any circumstances – they just lack heart;something is not right. They look like they need a Hurricanes/Blues type clean out. But they will need to beswitched on to beat this enterprising and opportunistic Cheetahs outfit. Boy dothey give it a go and they upset the Waratahs here 2 years ago with a 4 trys to nil spanking, and I certainly wouldn’t say they couldn’tdo it again. In fact so woeful are the Waratahs , can anyone even work out their game plan, and how accomplished were the Cheetahs when in possession with Pretorius (and this guy sums up the Waratahs, discarded by them after 3 early games, he has shown what a good player he is given the right circumstances or perhaps better environment)and Goosen great at making play, you’d have to back the Cheetahs. The latter also a dead-eye dick.
Cheetahs 1 – 12

Kings v Chiefs – Well the Kings havebeen a bit of a surprise package so far, 8 out of 14 available points is not to be laughed at. But the Chiefs will present a different challenge thanwhat they have faced to date with their running game,and especially what Cruden brings to the table, especially against a less than top class team. With their ability to score plenty of tries the Chiefs should win this relatively easily.
Chiefs 13+

Crusaders v Bulls – The game of the round for me. And absolutely crucial for the Crusaders, last year 10 wins was required to get into the play-offs. If the Crusaders lose this weekend they will have to win 10 of 13 probably to qualify, 11 of 13 to be sure and more if they want to be top 4. So tomorrow will be all about the forwards, well you know how the Bulls are going to play and the Crusaders are not going to stand around and let them do what they want. they willreally have a go at taking them on at the breakdown I reckon. And expect to see the Crusaders move the ball around as well, hopefully not that across the fieldcrap of a few weeks ago but plays that will run the Bulls around, they tired a bit last week, the Blues were just not good enough to take advantage of it, the Crusaders should be. At home, and with more to play for, and with players having more game time under their belts, the Crusaders by not many.
Crusaders 1 – 12

Reds v Force – The Force can’t take a trick – injuries and travelare against them here. And who is the person who scheduled them to play in BrisVegas after returning from South Africa, very stiff. The Reds are slowly building, Geniaback this week is a huge in, and you would think would be too strong all round for the Force. Mind you the Force don’t give in, they just aren’t good enough yet, and any slackening in attitude by the Reds will be used by the Force – ask the Bulls. Like the Reds industry in the forwards, hardworking and hard running loosies and midfield, and if Rocky comes right it could get ugly. McKenzie is not going to allow any minds to wonder I reckon.
Reds 13+

Sharks v Brumbies – Can’t pick this one. Two teams unbeaten so far, but in contrasting ways. The Sharks have been very dour, there last two wins on the back of penalties. The Brumbies are very much a pressure side as well but have been able to score a lot more tries using their outside backs. But Durban has been a hard place for them to win in, only once so far, and the Sharks will look to grind them down again with their narrow game and kick the inevitable penalties.
Sharks 1 – 12

Regards Waj

8 Mar

Super 15 — Round 4 Preview
by WAJ
8 Mar 2013

Hurricanes v Crusaders – Critical game for both teams even at this early stage of the comp. The Hurricanes cannot afford to let so many chances go to waste this week. Plenty were saying they should have won last week, and yes Hollywood was a problem, but you still have to be good enough to take opportunities and the Hurricanes weren’t. Still too many players not at the required level. The Crusaders were just out and out horrible last week, apart from the set pieces. No go forward, no sharpness in their play, or thought. Some changes in the back 3 give the backs a better look, but they need some of the experienced players to step up and play to the level required, Carter, Ellis, both starting Whitelocks. You would have to back them in doing this. And then getting the defence right, because the Hurricanes will give it a go.
Crusaders 13+

Rebels v Reds – Again the Rebels are not quite getting the job done. The forwards are holding up well enough, butthey lack consistent penetration and finishing fromthe backs and someone who can hoof the ball a mile as well.. Too much reliance is put on JOC and Kurtley, there is no real speed in the outside backs…….. The Reds too are not yet playing as well as they can, and the 2nd half that the Hurricanes put in last week will offer some encouragement to the Rebels.Mmmmm – the Rebels are better at home, no Kurtley might encourage more from the other backs, like JOC at 1 5/8 more than fullbackthe changes in the backline for the Rebels offer more pace. But is this enough??

Reds 1 – 12

Highlanders v Cheetahs – This should be a straight forward win for the Highlanders. They will want to get their game going a bit more convincingly than a fortnight ago, though a swag of changes may make that a bit more difficult. Good to see Slade named in the reserves, he needs aq change of luck that boy. The Cheetahs are brave but underwhelming, not enough class across the paddock and Goosen still finding his form.

Highlanders 13 +

Brumbies v Waratahs – The Brumbies continue to impress with their no nonsense game. And they have namedtheir strongest team this year. And they rarely lose at home to the Waratahs. And, lets face it,the Waraths are still shit!

Brumbies 1 – 12

Stormers v Chiefs – Hard to pick this oneI reckon. On displayed form the Chiefs should be all over it. But they don’t win too often in Capetown. And the Stormers have turned their home ground into a bit of a fortress over the last couple of years where they rarely lose. This will be by far the Chiefs toughest match up front this year, and they have gone for a pretty experienced 8, no doubt with that in mind. But it is in the midfield that the Chiefs will have too be strongest with de Villiers and co bound to test TNW’s defence. I think the Stormers will be a bit too strong in defence themselves, and that is a real strength of theirs, and win a close one.

Stormers 1 – 12

Kings v Sharks – Has a bit of interest from the point of view of seeing howcompetitive the Kings really are. They were the best of 2 average sides a fortnight ago, but face a different kettle of fish in the Sharks. The Shrks will be wanting to prove a pointto their neighbours. Could get ugly!

Sharks 1 – 12

Blues v Bulls – Don’t often see a Sunday arvo game these days. Just going to mention the one stat here. The Bulls have never beaten the Blues in NZ. Never ever!! And a swag of changes looks like they aren’t backing themselves too much this round either.

Blues 13+
1 Mar

Super 15 – Round 3 Preview
by WAJ
1 Mar 2013

Blues v Crusaders
Can’t wait for this. Ithink it might be a bit of a wake up call for the Blues, but they surprised everyone last week and at home, hopefully in front of a big crowd, they will be keen to prove they really have turned things around. Last weeks win has been well documented, but the Blues are still a very young team and were exposed in areas the Crusaders will have noted, and with the master manipulator controlling things that makes me a little afraid. I reckon the Crusaders will look to dominate up front early, expecting some real niggle in the forwards, Carter to exploit the defensive issues exposed last week – the Blues can’t wait for the Crusaders to come to them, you can’t be on the back foot with Carter, Readand co running at you!!! And despite all the noise coming out of Chch about a wider, more expansive game plan, they will do whatever it takes to win. Though I would have though they were always a pretty good attacking side, a little down defensively compared to the noughties maybe. But then Prickle retiring will do that.The Blues have to hang in there, kick their goals and try and stay in touch in what will be a fairly torrid opening half hour. They won’t get as many counter attacking opportunities, but need to be as accurate and look to support the ball carrier when they do run. Really looking to the clash of the mid-fields and hope the Blues can use their greater speed out wide. A bonus point, even 2 would be nice, but not very optimistic! As usual I will pick the Blues but………..
Blues 1 -12

Waratahs v Rebels
So can the Waratahs end their 9 game losing streak? I can just imagine the shit flying if they were to lose this one. But they will need to step it up from last week, where they didn’t do enough in the first half. Izzy needs to be switched on, he has a league habit of drifting behind play once his part in a move is over – he needs to get back into position to contribute in the next phases – that is when he will cause real damage. And I wonder whether Carter is the right guy to have in that back=line, too much of a roadblock to those outside him. The Rebels look to be still a little off the pace required to really challenge. A solid T5 works very hard, but struggles to dominate, the loosies tend to get sucked into help out, and the backs lack depth. Defensively they struggle as well and can be too easily manoeuvred out of position to create gaps. I hope they can get themselves right but think the Waratahs will be too strong up front and that will get them home
Waratahs 1 – 12

Reds v Hurricanes
The last game of three for a big Friday night. The Reds looked very good at times last week and will improve further with the run. Their loosies were the key, 3 relative unknowns who were everywhere whether on defence or attack. Rocky looked more settled and brought his backs into the game more, and they have benched the donkey and brought some real pace in at fullback. And against a Hurricanes team who got worse as the game went on last week they will win easily enough. The Hurricanes were average, too many down on form, no attention to detail and I bet the tackling bags got a work out at practice this week. Can’t see them winning (so but your life savings on them quick, because this is the one game I could see a real upset).
Reds 1 – 12

Chiefs v Cheetahs
It must be great to be able to make 4 changes to a winning team, and a convincing win at that, and improve tha team. Certainly the addition of Elliot and Masaga will improve the Chiefs, and IMHO so will Pulu – better service to those outside wins every time. The Chiefs looked uncommonly good last week – the feature was the quick consistent ball the forwards delivered, and with the scrum a bit of a work on still they can get better – scarey!! The backs need to tighten up defensively, but have such an array of runners they are going to be hard to keep in check themselves. And with the whole thing orchestrated by the like of the very classy Cruden and Messam – look out Cheetahs. The Cheetahs do tour well though and are the one SA team who really give the ball an airing. But class wins out here.
Chiefs 13+

Bulls v Force

The way the Force are going so far this should be a good old fashioned dicking. The Bulls are such good points accumulators at home with there tried and true methods it is hard to see the Force getting within 20
Bulls 13+

Sharks v Stormers
Will be a close one for sure. The Sharks only did what they needed to last week and looked like they needed the run. The Stormers were disappointing last week, failing to get anything going and looked out of sorts. Jantjies was below his best for sure, but they looked too reactive. Why they don’t throw caution to the wind a bit and use the class of the Flash, Aplon and de Villiers more is a puzzle – the South African conservatism at work perhaps. But they won’t win this comp unless they use their best players to their full capabilities!!
Sharks 1 – 12