31 May

Super 15 — Round 16 Preview
by WAJ
31 May 2013

Crusaders v Waratahs
An interesting match to start the weekend off. Two teams who aren’t playing all that well despite the calibre of player available. The Crusaders have been doing well up front, but the spluttering efforts of the likes of Carter, Fred and Fruean has seen little attacking venom from the Crusaders, whose avenue to the tryline is mainly through the forwards. The Waratahs returned to their bad old ways last week, got lazy, failed to adapt to the ref, and failed to shut the game down when they were ahead. What is interesting, well I think so anyway, is that they consistently get more players in the Wallabies squad than any other Aussie team – perhaps explains why the Wallabies are all over the place at times! Anyway if the Crusaders stick to the pattern that has worked so well at home then they will get up, but don’t think there will be much in it. Would like to see the Crusaders show a bit more enterprise, they will need it if they are going to ultimately win the ntitle.
Crusaders 1 – 12

Brumbies v Hurricanes
This is the last chance saloon for the Hurricanes. Lose this and their chances of a playoff berth are all but gone. The Brumbies are a tough nut to crack in Canberra and the Hurricanes will need to find a way to beat the structure and territory game that the Brumbies are playing under Jakey boy. THe main problem for the Hurricanes will be up front, and only top class efforts from the likes of Franks, Coles and Vito will see them get up. Actually it is again interesting that the Hurricanes can get so many forwards in the AB squad from a pack that has never really been consistently dominant – 6 AB squad members should give you some clout in a game! Results have been pretty even between these two teams but I would expect the Brumbies to win reasonably comfortably at home.
Brumbies 13+

Highlanders v Blues
Ha! Very bullish here. Just the type of set up the Blues need to show once and for all where they stand this season. Indoors, average opposition, the knights bollocking still ringing in their ears – they should win it in a canter! Some great match ups in the backs – Piutau v Smith, Halai v Gear, Weepu v Smith, the midfields. And we have the two (supposedly) senior AB hookers both on the bench! I am looking forward to the spin from Hansen to justify both getting picked for the French tests, if that happens. If the Blues play with the mind set we have seen from them in their better performances this year (ie not last week) then they should win. How can the Highlanders win??
Blues 13+

Reds v Rebels
What to make of this one? Heart v Head again here, and I gotta say the head is in front. Though who could say the Rebels won’t get up again against the odds? They have become extremely resiliant, better in defence, though far from perfect still as individuals drop off too many one on one tackles still, but they keep scoring points themselves from multiple avenues – Higginbotham (what a player he is turning into), Woodward, English, Inman are all shining in attack and Bieber back in adds another dimension. And against an out of sorts Reds, who have made a lot of changes, maybe, just maybe they can win, and the MR have shown little fear away from home in recent weeks. Genia and Cooper are of course the key and defending against the long flat passes that both throw. Study the tape of how the Stormers and Cheetahs bottled them up, copy that, win the game???
Rebels 1 – 12 (the heart won in the end)

Stormers v Kings
Yawn of the week. Might even get to see a try if you are willing to put yourself through the torture of watching how ever long that will take.
Stormers 13+

Cheetahs v Bulls
Could be a game worth watching – the contrast of the adventurous Cheetahs against the pragmatic Bulls. Think the structure of the Bulls will win it, though the Bulls are developing an interesting centre combination as well, great match up in the centres between the two pairings of up and comers.
Bulls 1 – 12

Regards Waj

24 May

Super 15 — Round 15 Preview
by WAJ
24 May 2013

Chiefs v Crusaders – What a bugger both Franks and Afeaki are out. It would have been great to able to compare them to see where Afeaki is. Still a great game in prospect. Or is it? I reckon this will be a real battle of attrition. The Crusaders have certainly tightened things up in recent weeks, relying on their forward strength and Carter’s nous to get them home. The early season side to side crap has been shelved and they are back on track – who’d have thought! And with the Chiefs only doing what is necessary to win of late the Crusaders should go into this as deserved favourites. Injuries and the constant changes Rennie has made have taken there toll and the Chiefs look to have gone into their shell a bit, their defence in particular is letting them down. And why is Cane on the bench – strange!! So for me the Crusaders pack and the guidance and all round play of Carter to get the win.
Crusaders 1 – 12

Rebels v Waratahs – Never say never with the Mighty Rebels, but this one might be a bit too much. The Waratahs have been in bloody good nick of late, scoring plenty of tries on the way to generally outscoring the opposition, as they have let in a few themselves. And that is the key for the MR here, score plenty of points yourselves and you might just get up. But the greater class through the Waratahs will be the difference and they are unlikely to have a second half fade out as other Rebels opponents have had recently.
Waratahs 1 – 12

Blues v Brumbies – This is a must must must win game for the Blues. A loss will probably seem them drop out of the Top 6 and some tough games ahead won’t make it easy to get back. That said who would have thought they would be where they are at the moment. So the Blues have proved to be a good defensive side, have struggled a bit at the set pieces and have shown a good attack, though lacking in consistency in this area as well.. The Brumbies will challenge them through their disciplined game – solid at set piece and they then play the percentages well so are always making progress when in possession and with a couple of jets on the wing conjure tries very quickly. But the Blues showed last year that they have the runners to trouble the Brumbies who have not beaten anyone of note recently, and rarely win at Eden Park.
Blues 1 – 12

Force v Highlanders – Wow 14th v 15th. This one should pull in the viewers! What new depths can the Highlanders fall to?
Force 1 – 12

Kings v Cheetahs – Good comeback from the Kings last week after their Waratahs nightmare. But then the Cheetahs are a much more formidable opponent than the Highlanders. When the Cheetahs attack gets going they are a real menace and they showed signs last week of that happening after the bye put them off their game. And the Kings don’t defend well against a good running team.
Cheetahs 13+

Stormers v Reds – The Reds will still be trying to work out how they lost to the Cheetahs. Lots of possession put through plenty of phases, but no penetration. So a good test of the Reds brains trust to get the attacking spark back, because the defence will be no less intense this week. Plenty of injuries for the Stormers to contend with – and they showed some touches of real class last week, but they can’t finish off games this season and even the games they have won have been close affairs. Backing the Reds to get it right this week with a big game from Genia.
Reds 1 – 12

Sharks v Bulls – An out of form team v an in form team. Simple really.
Bulls 1 – 12
Regards Waj

17 May

Super 15 — Round 14 Preview
by WAJ
17 May 2013

Hurricanes v Chiefs – Don’t really know what to make of this game. On results it should be a comfortable Chiefs win, but they are stumbling along a bit, and have a heap of injuries – and the confidence that the Hurricanes will have gained last weekend will make them very dangerous. Or did they just meet a flat Cheetahs team. And some really good match ups in this – Afeaki v Franks, Cruden v Barrett, TKB v TJP. The latter two could be the deciding of this game, though I still think the Hurricanes forwards are les than top class. An 80 minute performance from the Chiefs will be enough.
Chiefs 13+

Rebels v Stormers – Not holding out a lot of hope here for the Mighty Rebels. They are down to their 4th string 1st 5/8, and in such a key position that is a worry. They will also struggle to hold the Stormers up front in what looms as a bit of a maul fest. The Stormers will look to shut them down and with a rearranged backline and the loss of the x-factor that Beiber and Kurtley bring I think the MR will get whacked.
Stormers 13+

Force v Sharks – A bit of a nothing game. Sharks crap, Force very average.
Sharks 1 – 12

Crusaders v Blues – Gotta be the game of the weekend. And a few things to factor into this game. 1) Scrum – a huge Crusaders strength and they will exploit it and . 2) Lineouts – Again a strength of the Crusaders with there attitude of competing at most. The Blues have to be accurate here. 3) Defence – the Blues have had the best NZ defence all year until last week and they need to get the intensity right up. Carter will send a runner or two straight at Noakes (the comp leader in missed tackles!!) and the Blues have to watch this. 4) Attack – Expect the Blues to get the ball wide when able to use the speed and size of the back four. Saili not staring will cut back a bit of the attack, but equally Willison will bolster the Noakes channel a bit more. 5) Goalkicking – Carter can have a huge influence here, it is not a strength of the Blues with far too many points lost to date with missed shots. I think the Crusaders extra forward grunt will see them win a close one.
Crusaders 1 – 12

Waratahs v Brumbies – A good old Aussie derby. And another close result expected. Two very strong sides have been named, big forward packs and great match ups for Dingo to keep an eye on. The Waratahs have kept up their improvement and look a much better side of late, if they can keep this up against this well drilled and disciplined Brumbies side the could well pull off a win. The Brumbies don’t make a lot of mistakes though and I fancy will exert the greater pressure. Will be very close.
Brumbies 1 – 12

Bulls v Highlanders – This could get ugly for the Highlanders. Dominated by the Kings last week, so what are the Bulls going to do to them. Still hard to believe they are so bad this year.
Bulls 13+

Cheetahs v Reds – This should be a good game. And though it is a bit of a cliche I think this is a game that will be won by whoever gets it right on the day. Both teams have been a little out of sorts, though it was a good 1st half by the Reds last week, but previous to that they had 2 draws and a 1 point (undeserved :-) win over the Blues. The Cheetahs were well beaten by the Hurricanes and lacked intensity last week, so expect a big improvement. They are the most improved SA team in the comp and need to be contained in the backs or they will get away. But sides are on to them a bit more now and this good Reds outfit has plenty of weapons themselves. Most will be on Rocky watch again as he continues his bid for a Wallaby recall. WIth the addition of Horwill the Reds should get the points, but…..
Reds 1 – 12

Regards Waj

10 May

Super 15 — Round 13 Preview
by WAJ
10 May 2013

Chiefs v Force – The Force get up for 2 opponents each year – the Reds and the Crusaders, (there is some something in there about showing a red rag to ……….) apart from that forget it. Rennie has made his usual multiple changes,injuries a part of that, but is so much change helping? The big gamble this week is Anscombe at 1 5/8 and how he gets the bits and piecesChiefs back-line working. There should be few problems however as you would expect a dominant performance up front – looking forward to seeing how the revampedChiefs front row goes – in particular Afeaki.
Chiefs 13+

Reds v Sharks – What to make of the Sharks? Hit by a huge injury toll they are really battling to get anything going, and looked quite dysfunctional at times last week. So more changes this week will do little tohelp them.Their opposition though are not exactly in vintage form themselves – a lot of huffing and puffing but very little scoring action. Perhaps typified by Diggers – wonderful runner with the ball, butnever gets much of it on the wing, instead he seems to be always "taking it up". They need to get back to some basics, quick ball spun wide quickly perhaps a starting point.
Reds 1 -12

Cheetahs v Hurricanes – The Cheetahs should be far too good here. Am not liking the look of this Hurricanes side at all, and now with C Smith out, and they have benched one of their tough nuts in Shields, they look under powered up front still and may lack organisation in the backs . A comfortable Cheetahs win
Cheetahs 13+

Blues v Rebels – The Blues will look to regain there try scoring touch here. A more attacking back-line should give them every opportunity against a sometimes fragile Rebel defence, especially early. I distinctly remember last years game between these two with very mixed emotions – the local team you support vs the team you have supported since the comp began. The latter will always be "my team" and I struggled to watch the debacle unfold that night. Fortunately the Blues are back on much more solid ground this year showing real character. They are adapting well to each challenge, and a few changes this week will hopefully see more tries scored. Particularly like Ranger back at centre were he can get his hands on the ball more often. And great to see Boric starting a game for a change, and he has a lot to live up to after the great form of Retallick recently. And yes Tracey I see your boy O’Connoris starting as well, little will be lost as a result as he too has impressed. The Rebels have improved, but still lack time a team needs to really gel as a club I reckon. And are a top player short in both backs and forwards to make them a real threat – friggin’ Kurtley not helping at all either.
Blues 13+

Waratahs v Stormers – This is probably the hardest game to pick this week. After the unopposedtraining run the Waratahs had last week, it is back to reality against the toughest defending team in the comp when it comes to tries. The Stormers have a lot of good, clever players and will be right in this. The Waratahs also have to deal with the travel factor, and in a tight game that may be the one per-center that makes the difference. Izzy to be held on the way to a close Stormers win.
Stormers 1 – 12

Kings v Highlanders – Yawn. Are they really going to play this game? And will anyone watch it?
Highlanders 1 – 12

Regards Waj

3 May

Super 15 — Round 12 Preview
by WAJ
3 May 2013

Blues v Stormers – Danger Will Robinson, danger! I will be so bold as to say that this is the most important game of the season for the Blues. A tough opponent, a ground that has not always been the Blues best friend, and the need to keep winning to push for a play-off spot that must now be in everyone’s sights. Can they keep up the intensity? Their defence has been their real strength, the least points against of all teams!! But then the Stormers are no mugs on defence either. Ha – so probably a 6 – 3 scoreline. Just as long as the Blues win.
Blues 1 – 12

Rebels v Chiefs – After a really encouraging performance against the Crusaders, the Mighty Rebels are forced to back up 5 days later against the champions – terrific piece of scheduling. And on top of the inconsistency of the Rebels it doesn’t augur well. But they have been better defensively of late and are not far off an upset. Not in this game I would have thought. But with all the changes Rennie makes each week it can’t be easy finding a rhythm. Looking forward to seeing the Chiefs play live.
Chiefs 13+

Highlanders v Sharks – One day the Highlanders will win a game of rugby, pigs will fly and politicians will tell the truth.
Sharks 1 – 12

Force v Reds – This could get ugly. The Reds are due and a big win would not surprise. Some front foot ball from the Reds forwards and she’ll pretty much be all over I reckon. Not the strongest team the Force and yes though they won in Brisvegas in round 5, I can’t see the Reds letting that happen again.
Reds 13+

Kings v Waratahs – The Waratahs showed a fair bit in their loss to the Bulls and have definitely improved on previous seasons. They should be too strong here as they cling to their chances of still making the play-offs. The Kings I fear have reached their peak and whilst they are gutsy and have some interesting players, the Waratahs, with big Izzy starting to shine, and some confidence in a running game thus taking hold will come through.
Waratahs 13+

Bulls v Hurricanes – An interesting game this. The Hurricanes are only going to get up if they run it. They don’t have the forwards to cause the Bulls any problems up front. So they will need to be accurate, not a strength of late. The Bulls and Morne to march on here with a relatively comfortable win.
Bulls 13+

Brumbies v Crusaders – Taken on their relative seasons to date this should be a straight forward win to the Brumbies. They have had their ups and downs, but still have only lost the one game. But they do look a bit vulnerable when taken on up front – they were lucky not to lose to the Reds a fortnight ago when dominated by the Reds eight in the 2nd half. So you think this will be where the Crusaders will take them on, and they have the front five to do it. Fred benched I see – bloody good, hopefully he gets a couple of weeks on the pine! Carter is the key for me, he needs to dominate, not play pass the friggin’ parcel all day, but run and take the game on. If he does the Crusaders win.
Crusaders 1 – 12

Regards Waj