26 Apr

Super 15 — Round 11 Preview
by WAJ
26 Apr 2013

Wellington hosts the first AFL game for competition points ever outside Australia onANZAC Dayevening. Should be a good game, though Sydney will be too good for the Mighty Saints. And there is even a link to the All Blacks as a Sydney player, Mike Pyke, used to play for the Canadian rugby team and scored a try against the All Blacks playing on a wing – it is a great story!Hoping for great weather and a good crowd on what is a special day for New Zealand and Australia. 93,000 at the MCG today for Essendon v Collingwood – amazing!!!

Hurricanes v Stormers – Intriguing game this. Heaps of changes for the Hurricanes – Savea a big out (though a good decision on his part to stand down) but perhaps offset by the inclusion of Vito. They will need to be on their game as the Stormers have as good a record as any SA sides in NZ and are just the type of team to beat these Hurricanes. Strong defensively and good enough up frontto cause problems, they will want a close scrap, and with the game breakers they have in the backs, in the likes of the Flash and de Jong, though not used with any real enthusiasm, arestill a threat. I reckon the Stormers will be absolutely desperate and winin a close one.
Stormers 1 – 12

Reds v Blues – Probably the game of the round. And a big test fora developing Blues team. Thought the Reds blew it last week, the decisions to keep on attacking from all the penalties awarded to them ultimately cost them the game. They were totally in control up front and would have won if they had backed themselves and taken the kicks.Horwill blew itin what seemed to become a "me mightier than you" contest.But an excellent T5, really hard working loosies, and of course the terrible two working their magicthey are really hard to beat at the moment. TheBlues will need another big defensive effort as you feel they will struggle with possession. And they must treasure what possession they do get a bit more in the unforgiving Suncorp – and they are maturing. Needbig games from Ranger, Weepu and the loosies, and some defence from Noakes!
Reds 1- 12

Chiefs v Sharks – Both teams had unsatisfactory losses last week in games they would have expected to win. So this clash of last years finalists is one where they need to get their respective mojo’s back. And boy have the Chiefs made some changes to try and get going again. Plenty of pace and flair in the revamped backline,Cruden needs to take charge, and the forwards need to get back to supplying the quick ball that backline needs. And against this depleted Sharks line up, pace is going to be the deciding factor. The Sharks look down on pace out back and light on experience up front. Not going to that easy of course but still comfortable for the Chiefs.
Chiefs 13+

Brumbies v Force – Should be a reasonably comfortable win for the Brumbies. This is a pretty settled Brumbies team now, they showed all sorts of character, and no little skill in staying with the Reds last week – Mogg is a star! They just have too much for a willing but limited Force.
Brumbies 13+

Bulls v Waratahs – Huh, I see one of the Waratahs forwards is talking himself up in the week before they hit Pretoria – FOOL!! It is still one of the toughestplaces to win at, and the Waratahs haven’t won there since 2002. Though I do have to say it was a gutsy win last week against the Chiefs, something the Waratahs are not known for!Can their rediscovered running game overcome the patented altitude rugby that the Bulls play. The Waratahs back 3 are going to field a lot of bombs, a whole new experience for big Izzy and what are going to pretty inexperienced wingers. The Bulls will have too much.
Bulls 13+

Cheetahs v Kings – Should be a good old fashioned arse kicking.
Cheetahs 13+

Crusaders v Rebels – Should be a goodold fashioned arse kicking.
Crusaders 13+

Regards Waj

19 Apr

Super 15 — Round 10 Preview
by WAJ
19 Apr 2013

Hurricanes v Force – This should be a straight forward win for the Hurricanes. They have played them 4 times in NZ and won convincingly each time, so a repeat can be expected. Interesting team named for the Hurricanes – Barrett still at fullback after making such a success of it last week – not. Ditto with Pisi. Will a change of halfback make any difference – Perenara found wanting in defence and dumped – a good thing I reckon. More shuffling in the forwards as well, where it will be competitive, especially in the loose. The Force don’t roll over but the Hurricanes back at home will be pissed after that limp display last week.
Hurricanes 13+

Waratahs v Chiefs – Don’t know what to think here. Plenty of changes for the Chiefs – perhaps a freshen up after last weeks dropsies! And the vagaries of rugby selection/form sure are interesting. TNW, after being touted by all and sundry after 2 or 3 early good games now can’t get a starting role – behind Charlie Ngatai and Masaga it now seems. So two big sets of forwards going at it here and the Chiefs will need to be on the ball against the Waratahs at set piece time, all the Waratahs eight played test rugby last year, so the Chiefs will know they are in a battle. Actually on paper the Waratahs should win this every time, but some inbuilt flakiness comes over them when in the light blue jersey, and wrong options and mistakes become the standard fare. They look a bit more solid this year, but still some way off turning the various parts into the finished product. Folau a real danger as well. The Chiefs need to eliminate some of the mistakes from last week, defend well against the tricky and strong running of the likes of Foley, Mitchell and Folau.. They should win, but I suspect it won’t be easy as it once might have been.
Chiefs 1 – 12

Crusaders v Highlanders – This promises to be a huge clash. Plenty in it for both teams as the Crusaders struggle without there superstars, and the Highlanders just plain struggle. I reckon the Highlanders will have a real crack at the Crusaders up front, chuck everything at them. Hore, Thorn & co to really get in their faces and try and scrap it out. This is not a vintage Crusaders team, the style of rugby they are playing is not working, or maybe it’s the execution, but they don’t look like the Crusaders teams of old. I’d expect to see intensity here from go to whoa and a close result. Waiting still for the Highlanders team to be named – friggin annoying – but doubt that will change things.
Crusaders 1 – 12

Reds v Brumbies – The game of the weekend for me. Lots of build up for this, and plenty riding on it, as it serves as a good trial for Lions Series test spots, and is a shoot out for top spot. And two very good teams fronting as well, sound packs, efficient qat set piece with an edge in the loose from the likes of Gill and the legend that is George Smith. Probably the difference here will be in the inside backs where Genia and Rocky are starting to bring the game that won the Reds the title two years ago. Genia is a brilliant halfback/tactician/organiser, rarely takes the wrong option, and is even less likely to make a mistake. His partnership with Rocky is up there with the best going around, and with the added edge that Horwil has added to the Reds forwards they are a much better team than the one that lost to the Brumbies in Round 1.
Reds 1 – 12

Sharks v Cheetahs – Well another Saffa derby – and a bit of a contrast with this Sharks of late being very dour, the complete opposite of the Cheetahs. The latter lost there way last week, the defence of the Bulls probably the deciding factor. Expect the same this week – substituting the Sharks for the Bulls.
Sharks 1 – 12

Kings v Bulls – Can’t get interested in this one. My mind says the Bulls will kill them, reality probably has them much closer!
Bulls 13+

Regards Waj

12 Apr

Super 15 Round 9 — Preview
by WAJ
12 Apr 2013

Highlanders v Brumbies – Some interesting team selections here. Smacks of a bit of desparation from JJ getting rid of both Slade and Smith. Sure Slade, he has looked out of touch all season, but then considering the amount of rugby he has played in the last couple of years that is understandable, but Smith is a bit hard done by considering the crap going on from those in front of him. Is Hore next? He sure needs to be. Anyway another tough challenge awaits them in the top of the table Brumbies. Changes for them up front as they continue to rotate their players, this has started to look a bit worrisome of late with the edge falling off the Brumbies. A steadier backline and their first choice front row returning should help, and they have a good recent record in Dunners. So they should be too strong in a close battle.
Brumbies 1 – 12

Chiefs v Reds – Probably the game of the round. And how close have these sides been over the years – 17 games played and a points differential of 3 and a try differential of only 2. This should be no different. I think the key will be who out of Rocky and Cruden gets the better ball and can influence more. Rocky has been a lot better of late now that the jet called Genia is back on the field, and the Chiefs selecting Cane and Latimer is a horses for courses thing you feel to give them more defensive mobility to help snuff out the danger that the 2 Reds play-makers can deliver. The forwards look pretty even with Retallick v Horwill a great match up, Cane v Gill another. If Cruden can get some time on the ball, and in turn get Kahui running with his outsides so dangerous as well – so many angles to this game. Really hard to pick. Probably the Chiefs at home.
Chiefs 1 – 12

Blues v Hurricanes – Though this will hold plenty of interest as well. The Blues need to get off to better starts, try and retain the ball more early and not cut loose so much until things have settled down a bit. Noakes needs a better game all round and the T5 need to consistently nail the set pieces. Tough for this young side to maintain that consistency, but they are 2 months in now and have seen what happens when any flakey shit enters their game. Because you don’t want to give the Huricanes too much of a sniff, and certainly keep those turnovers to a minimum, the real Achilles Heel for the Blues. I suspect the Hurricanes will alternate Barrett and Pisi at 1st receiver and this will mneed to be watched as for all Barretts defensive frailties of late he is a master at setting up play. And am looking forward to watching the Savea boys in action again, you can’t complain when class is on show whoever they play for. Picking the Blues but not with any real confidence.
Blues 1 – 12

Rebels v Kings – A who cares game really. I’m going so have plenty of interest. It is all about which side can back up from the previous weeks display the best. Think the Rebels, of course, with JOC running the show. Showing some real class at times, he is starting to build some good understanding with his fellow backs. The Kings are going to be dangerous with their no fear approach. Probably be close.
Rebels 1 – 12

Force v Crusaders – Should be a straight-forward win for the Crusaders. Though the Crusaders have had a bit of trouble in Perth previously, the Force lack any real fire power to test the injury affected Crusaders. They will meet a team of far less intensity and defensive prowess than last week. Want to see a big game from Fred, he is due that’s for sure. The only concern is the number of 1st choice players that are out, especially in the loosies.
Crusaders 13+

Stormers v Sharks – Always a ding-dong battle. But one team has momentum and the other doesn’t.
Sharks 1 – 12

Bulls v Cheetahs - The pretenders v the old dogs. Going to be another close game, unless the Bulls get a roll on which is always on the cards at Loftus. They have never lost to the Cheetahs, never, anywhere. But this is not a full strength Bulls team, they have plenty of injuries and are thus as vulnerable as they have ever been. So you think they will go with the old pressure up front, and give it to Morne approach. If they defend well they should win at the fortress that is home.
Bulls 1 – 12

Regards Waj

5 Apr

Super 15 Round 8 — Preview
by WAJ
5 Apr 2013

Blues v Highlanders - Intriguing game this. Both teams battling away with little success, and need to win. The Highlanders pack have been well off the pace this year, that aggression at the breakdown that saw so many turnovers and momentum last year has gone – in strengthening the team with imported players JJ has taken away the edge. MacIntosh is a big in, and Tuiali’i an interesting addition. Are they enough to turn it around? Slade too a key in getting those backs flowing. The Blues need to tear into this. Eden Park has been a pretty good hunting ground against the Highlanders for the Blues. A Highlanders win last year can be simply offset by a better Blues team against a lesser Highlanders side, that easy for me.
Blues 1 – 12

Brumbies v Kings – Gunna be a hidin’
Brumbies 13+

Sharks v Crusaders – Can the Crusaders do it again? Huge game last week and you wouldn’t bet against them with much confidence. Some Crusaders really stood up, now consistency please. There is an article in the Herald today about Nonu and it makes mention of some of the top players not being at their best during the Soopa rugby season or parts of it. They need to get over themselves and perform all year round, that is why they are All Blacks. So Whitelock S, Davey Earp et al time to resume normal business. The Sharks have been a bit hot and cold this year, and are coming off the bye but I’m backing hot here. They have been changing a lot of players around trying to find the best mix, they looked to have found that last time, sure it was against the Rabble’s but you still have to front and they did. Weather could also yet play a part in this. I hope for Justin it is a Crusaders win, assuming he is in Durban as well this weekend, but I think the Sharks will have a little too much at home. And a question: when was the last time the Crusaders starting XV had only 7 AB’s?
Sharks 1 – 12

Hurricanes v Waratahs – These 2 have been pretty evenly matched over the years, the home side with usually the edge. Recent results would suggest they may not be far apart currently as well, as the Waratahs look to be improving – yeah big statement I know! Still struggling to score a lot of points and they don’t win away much at the moment, in fact the last time they won outside of Australia was May 2010 in the Tron!! So that record alone speaks volumes. And an improving Hurricanes team is picking up momentum nicely. Franks has stiffened up the T5, Shields is showing why he is rated so highly, and the danger the outside backs possess is well-known. I’m looking for a big game from Vito and some consistency through the 80 from Barrett and Perenara.
Hurricanes 13+

Force v Rebels – Both teams are battling, but none more than the mighty Rebels. Some improvement last week but something still missing – recognisable game plan, penetration in the backs, defensive capability all round, team harmony – yeah Ok a lot still missing. And it is interesting (well probably not for most) that Higgie gets the captaincy ahead of JOC with Delve out. Something smells a bit there!! The Force battle continuously with player strength and depth, but look to have some good recruits this year. The halves especially have been invaluable and the big outside backs have benefited. Even up front the Force will win it in this area.
Force 13+

Cheetahs v Stormers – Mmmm toughie this one. The Cheetahs have been fantastic of late. The loss of The Goose has seen them play even better and consistently better. No slip in form they are well drilled in the basics and attack with variety and accuracy. This is going to be tough against the defence of the Stormers, who have a good record in Bloemfontein, in fact the Stormers have won the last 7 times these two have played. That is a telling stat! But most have been close games, and with the improvement seen from the Cheetahs, with Brussow, Labuschagne and Strauss in excellent nick. The Stormers – sigh. How a team with so much talent in the backs continues to look so ordinary on attack is a travesty really. This inability to use that talent to back up a good set of forwards is seeing this team fail (in a word). The are great competitors but the style is straight out of Pretoria and wastes their talent. What might be if they threw caution to the wind??? Still think they will probably grind out a close win.
Stormers 1 – 12

Regards Waj