11 Apr

Super 15 — Round 9 Preview
by WAJ
11 Apr 2014

SuperRugbyLogoHighlanders v Bulls – So we have one team who had a close loss last week but previously had been in reasonable form versus a team who had a close win last week and have been super competitive all year – winning or losing, well all except the Blues at EP. And the Bulls have only ever won once in Dunners!! I think this is very winnable for the Bulls, those big forwards rumbling along are a force to be reckoned with and will test this relatively inexperienced Highlanders pack. If they can shut down the Smith and Smith duo?? And the Highlanders – well they need to play at pace, use A Smiths skills in this area and they will run the Bulls off their feet. Tend to think this is how the game will go. And lets hope the ref has a better game this week, especially at scrum time – how he can penalise Woody twice for angling in, and then the third time the exact same thing happenshe penalises the opposition T/H – what the?!?!?!
Highlanders 1- 12

Reds v Brumbies – Probably the match of the round. Of lateboth havebeen up and down in their form, and have suffered surprise losses. Like the Brumbies here, they got things back on track last week, played the percentages brilliantly in the shite conditions and showed they can adapt to suit the oppositions weaknesses. And the way they were able to shut down the dangerous Waratah backs a few weeks ago is pretty significant here I reckon. The Reds are stumbling along a bit this year – the Will and Quade show is not quite firing as well as in the past and the whole team is just lacking a bit in intensity. A few injuries not helping either.
Brumbies 1 – 12

Chiefs v Rebels – This is a real test of the Chiefs much lauded depth. 1st time long time without Crudes and then they also rest Messam! Interesting to say the least. And the Mighty Rebels have a bit more about them this season. On form the Chiefs should win this with some room to spare, but without Cruden to spark their attack and Messam to provide the calmness under pressure, they would not want to give up early leads like they have recently. The great improvement for the Rebels this year has been the ability to hold their intensity for much longer. This has resulted in better defence and longer passages whilst in possession. Will this be enough? I suspect not, but it could be closer than expected, might have a sneaky look at the $5 for a Rebels win!!
Chiefs 1 – 12

Force v Waratahs – On paper this should be a comfortable Waratahs win, but who could dismiss the Force after their last month of super form. The Force are just the team to get in the face of the Waratahs and keep their winning streak going. Matthewson and Ebersohn are doing a great job controlling the play and the loosies are on fire, with enough run from the outer backs to cause real problems for any opposition defence. The Waratahs are an improved side, but still have that cloud of uncertainty hanging over them. Foley will have been watching the Sharks and Brumbies v Waratahs games and seen that it is up front where they can still be got. Do the Force have the tight five to really apply the necessary pressure, perhaps not and so picking the Waratahs but not by much.
Waratahs 1 – 12

Cheetahs v Crusaders – The two teams who have disappointed most this season. And an interesting comparison with the Cheetahs by far the worst defensive outfit and the Crusaders with the 2nd worst attacking record. Should play into the Crusaders hands as they to look to get some confidence back and resurrect some kind of running game. And don’t know how happy I would be too be “rotated” out of the playing XV – don’t like it at all – either you are fit and the best in your position and thus should be selected or you aren’t!!
Crusaders 13+

Lions v Sharks – No easy beats, the Lions have been terrific at home, well until last weeks no show against the Crusaders. But you can guarantee they will fire up for this and push the Sharks all the way. The Sharks are coming off a bye, but should be too good here. They grind teams down with their big forwards bashing away and usually win quite comfortably on the back of this. Would expect a similar scenario here.
Sharks 13+

Regards Waj

14 Mar

Super 15 — Round 5 Preview
by WAJ
14 Mar 2014

Double movement – if there was ever a case of a double movement when scoring a try it was in the Bulls v Blues game last week when the Bulls scored right at the end of the game.

Come on officials get it right – this interpretation of being able to place the ball after being tackled is fine but I struggle when the player turns it into a lunge for the line, and of course endless replays were always going to be in the Bulls favour. It was bollocks!

Chiefs v Stormers – The Chiefs have named their strongest side this year and should be too strong at home. It won’t be easy against a very combative Stormers side who were all but over the line last week against the Crusaders. They aren’t a side that scores lots of points the Stormers and whilst that also applies to points scored against them this Chiefs team has the ability to breach any defence. Any lead by the Chiefs will be very hard for the Stormers to pull back and that pressure will only play into mthe Chiefs hands as they perhaps losen up. Oh and all the rhetoric about holding in rucks will come to nothing.
Chiefs 1 – 12

Rebels v Crusaders – Will the Crusaders finally get their SHIT together? Just how good are the Crusaders, are they in a slump or are they just not that good? The big question this week – is Slade the man to get the backline going (it is a little surprising that he only gets a start at 1 5/8 now). This would be the perfect game for them to show where they are – an opposition who fire up at home, have enough good players to threaten most – and who will be keen to atone for a shabby performance last week. The key for the Mighty REbels will be the set pieces and their defence. The key for the Crusaders will be their attack. Who gets those right will come out on top. Would love an upset, but just think the Rebels might struggle too much up front.
Crusaders 1 – 12

Hurricanes v Cheetahs – Is this the first win for the Hurricanes? They aren’t a great team, at this stage anyway, a few changes this week give them a slightly better look, but that forward pack still fails to convince, and until they get more ruthless up front the backs will struggle. Mind I also think that Barrett is struggling for his best form as well. The Cheetahs have flattered to deceive so far this year, they are in a similar rut as the Hurricanes – they can’t get their game going. So not expecting a lot from this game, which could be played in less than ideal conditions, no doubt in front of another bumper crowd! Have to go with the home team but doubt there will much in it.
Hurricanes 1 – 12

Highlanders v Force – This is a great round with any team capable of a win, there are no real one sided matches, well maybe the last one, but this is another that could go either way based on the last games played by each team. The Force have won the last five times these two have played, so will back themselves here. But the Highlanders have a better look to them this year, there guns are firing, the forwards doing some good work and the midfield is very promising – they are all doing the basics pretty well. Who’d have thought?!? But then the Force looked uncommonly good for 40 minutes last week, admittedly the opposition were pretty ordinary, but confidence is a big part in any sport and they will have gained a fair bit of that from that 1st half. I’m thinking the likes of Ben Smith may make the difference in what will be another close game.
Highlanders 1 – 12

Brumbies v Waratahs – BIG game this – probably the match up of the round. The Waratahs are in terrific form with scoring options all over the place. How do you shut them down? The Brumbies will give it a good go, and will need to keep the Waratahs from getting too much possession for a start. And then defend very well in the inside channels where the Waratahs make so much ground. But keeping Foley, Beale, AAC and Folau all under control is a pretty big ask, and Hooper is another who can influence the contest. I think the Waratahs will be too strong up front, and with Phipps getting the ball quickly to those backs it will be too much for the Brumbies too handle, even at a ground where they rarely win.
Waratahs 13+

Lions v Blues – I don’t know what to think here. This is a pretty good no frills Lions team, another who are doing the basics well, don’t make a lot of mistakes and take all and any points when on offer. Boshoff kicks them from anywhere in your half so that would signal a pretty straight forward gameplan to me, oh and then the players to execute that. So the Blues bring in their two least effective kickers in the most critical positions when playing at altitude, one also the goal kicker who was anything but accurate the last time he played. So that says to me we are going to run it, further determined by the loose forward mix. If the Blues execute well then they certainly have the runners to pull it off, but the offset of that is to trapped in your halof with limited ammunition to get you out. Could be a disaster, could be a watershed moment.
Blues 13+

Sharks v Reds – Think the Sharks will be too strong again. They have an all round strength at the moment that looks tough to beat. And Steyn found his best form last week as well – ran the side beautifully. The Reds are going along OK, they outscored the Cheetahs in a pointathon last week and will always threaten with the halves they have. The Reds need to be clever and avoid too much of a forward battle, their smaller loosies will come out 2nd and I would think Cooper and Genia will have a lot of large individuals running at them this week and that may dull their attacking presence a bit. The Sharks have a couple of injuries which will make them slightly less effective, but no less efficient I would think, and such is their confidence in their game plan and the form of the likes of Steyn, Coetzee, Kankowski, Bismarck and Reinach that anything but a Sharks win would surprise.
Sharks 1 – 12

7 Mar

Super 15 — Round 4 Preview
by WAJ
7 Mar 2014

Hurricanes v Brumbies – It is hard to get a line on the Hurricanes. They were never going to beat the Sharks and were competitive against the Stormers – and the Brumbies are also a formidable opponent who have beaten them the last 3 times. They certainly have the backs to trouble any opposition but questions still remain about the forwards where they seem to lack the ability to dominate or boss another team for any length of time. A bit dour perhaps, but with Ardie Savea the 7th ranked loosie (really strange, or are they saving him – for what? Next Year!!) what would you expect. The Brumbies are still working their way into the season a bit as well, but they have some shrewd operators at this level and are pretty hard to beat. Just lacking a bit of spark at times and will miss the unluckiest man in rugby (Pocock). I think the Hurricanes can get up here, they have a pretty good record after returning from SA and after seven straight losses must come right!
Hurricanes 1 – 12

Reds v Cheetahs – Both these teams will be looking to bounce back after disappointing losses last week where they were both convincingly beaten, and really had little to offer. Think the Reds will improve a lot at home, and anyway how hot were the Waratahs! Saw the Cheetahs live and apart from a couple of forward rumbles really offered very little and will have to improve considerably to even get close here. Reds to get their SHIT together up front and give some ball for their halfbacks to take control.
Reds 13+

Crusaders v Stormers – Wow – well this is as big a game for the Crusaders as there has been for a while. Good to see they have Romano and Davey back starting – they will add plenty as they have replaced two inferior players, and Bird looks well off the pace as an AB contender – size isn’t everything!! But that backline still worries. Obviously looking for an attitude adjustment and change in game plan as the same players are basically named. For me Fred on the wing is wrong and I’d switch Slade and Taylor as the former is a bit more creative. But hey what do I know! Haven’t seen anything of the Stormers this year but imagine nothing has changed much and they continue as the most boring side in the comp. With this attitude in mind and the desperation of the Crusaders this might end up as a slugfest with penalties deciding it. Oh and I for one am not happy McCaw is injured – he needs to be playing, he is after all a rugby player!!
Crusaders 1 – 12

Force v Rebels – So the Mighty Rebels win convincingly against a difficult opponent 1st up and then the coach changes half the forwards and the 1 5/8 – go figure! They were pretty impressive and the most encouraging part for them was the different way they scored the tries and then there defence where they were determined not to let the Cheetahs get close to the line where those monolithic forwards are bloody hard to stop. Higgie great, Burgess fantastic and the likes of Woodward, English, Ellison, Pyle and McMahon hugely impressive. What to say about the Force – the true journeyman of the competition, they just lack quality and I reckon will really struggle this year. It is hard to see where they can get a win from. Think McGahan will have the Rebels firing again and should win well.
Rebels 1 – 12

Bulls v Blues – This will be all about the Blues handling the Bulls forwards and being able to defuse the barrage heading the way of the back 3. There are still question marks over this Blues team – the lineout remains a constant worry and that is one thing you need to get right in SA, and have they got a game plan that can get them over the line when the conditions are against them, which may well be the case this week. Big Kev will certainly help at lineout time with his greater accuracy and a lot is going to revolve around the kicking of Weepu and Hickey, they have to consistently relieve pressure if required. We attack brilliantly, so I am sure points will be scored. And this is not a vintage Bulls team, a fast moving game may see them struggle and they also need to kick accurately, cause Piutau and his mates will be a looking for any running opportunities and that means trouble.
Blues 1 – 12

Sharks v Lions – Mmmmm. Sharks will be all over this, well rested and in good form at home. Could get ugly.
Sharks 13+

Regards Waj

28 Feb

Super 15 — Round 3 Preview
by WAJ
28 Feb 2014

We will know a lot more about how this season is going to shape after this round as several teams look to shake off their initial game rust. The Blues, Crusaders, Brumbies and Stormers were all fancied and then put in some ordinary performances.

And can I just say I am sick and tired of so many players not being available at this stage of the season. The Blues are 4, 5, 6 down because players are easing their way in, or not back from Japan. Well that is crap. Every game is important in the round robin phase – if a full strength Blues team had shown up last week would they have won, well that is unknown of course, but you’d fancy they might have – instead too many compromises are having to be made. ‘We had a slow start to the season but finished off well’ – if I hear that from the Blues at seasons end………. Oh for a properly structured rugby year!!

Blues v Crusaders – On displayed form – what am I saying – neither of these two have displayed any form. On paper this should be a convincing win to the Crusaders, butthe Blues have delivered their fairshare of upsets against the old foe and will turn up tonite you feel. Probably aren’t good enough yet with a number of players missing for various reasons, but need to show a game plan and some defence, a good scrum and that they have improved their lineout. Like the in’s in the forwards. But this will be a pissed off Crusaders team and they will be very hard to hold up front and you would think Warwick’s boy will get plenty of opportunities tokick for goal. The Crusaders will want an improved showing from the backline however after a limp display last week – don’t know whether they have the cattle to be a real threat, but straight running and passing to people in better positions than you are good building blocks. Expecting a tight game.
Crusaders 1 – 12

Rebels v Cheetahs – The Cheetahs will go into this as favorites against a rebuilt Rebels team. With two games already under their beltthe Cheetahs will certainly look to dominate up front and use their potent back 3 to finish off. Goosen showed better form last week and is the key to keeping his forwards on the front foot and getting the ball wide. A good player he needs to have his influence minimised. The Rebels are a bit of the unknown. Good trial form has them confident of a good season. Previously they have shown to be a pretty good attacking outfit, adequate at set piece, and they finish off games well. But they have always let in a bucket load of points. To compete this has to be fixed. A new coach promises this to be the case – if they can they could win this.Big Games from Higgie and Burgo are needed. The Cheetahs travel well and are confident, but fancy the Rebels can finally get things going.
Rebels 1 – 12

Stormers v Hurricanes -After getting their arse handed to them up front by the Sharks last week they now meet a pissed off and determined Stormers team. A couple of changes up front look to have stiffened up the pack a bit,and they have plenty of talent in the backs of course. But this game will be all about field position, and again the Hurricanes forwards will be under pressure from the Stormers at scrum and maul time. A strong backline defence led by de Villiers will be hard to crack and theHurricanes must look to giving there two world class wings some room.The Sharks held themwell last week and this could be the key.
Stormers 1 – 12

Chiefs v Highlanders – Who’d have thought that the Chiefs would have the eight forwards named to start tonite! The big question here is how good are the Highlanders? Great effort last week, they were pretty efficient and took their chances brilliantly. A different prospect in front of them this week though and I think they will be put back into their box against this extremely efficient Chiefs team brilliantly controlled by the best player going around in Superrugby.
Chiefs 13+

Waratahs v Reds – This should be a cracker. Both showed good form last week, with some brilliant tries scored by both sets of backs. All begins up front of course and if the Waratahs can get their running forwards making the yards they were last week- game over. Butthis is a pretty experienced Reds squad and they will be a lot more resilient that the Force were – expect big games from Horwill and Slipper in the tight/loose to stymie the Waratahs forwards and let Quade and Genia have a fair go on their own. The Reds have won the last five and will sneak this as well
Reds 1 – 12

Force v Brumbies – Brumbies should win in a close one. The Force trouble them and it is a stronger Force team fronting this week. Still think the Brumbies have too many options.
Brumbies 1 – 12

Bulls V Lions – So what is the bet that the side who has lost the last two (Bulls)will be favourite ahead of a team that has won the last two! Expect a bit more from a rejigged Bulls team at home. But hard to get inspired about this one.
Bulls 13+

Regards Waj

12 Jul

Super 15 — Round 20 Preview
by WAJ
12 Jul 2013

Crusaders v Hurricanes – The Crusaders have finally hit top gear. In their demolition of the Chiefs last week they covered plenty of bases. The main ones were the return to form of Fred and the intensity of the forwards in all aspects. If the forward pack continue with this form then expect Carter and Fred to steer them around the paddock, and with their great ability to create pressure, and maintain it, the points inevitably come. They really need a bonus point to put pressure on the Chiefs for the top NZ spot – you’d back them to do that. The Hurricanes look to be treating it as a bit of a trial, a few of the forwards will have points to prove, like when will Vito ever dominate a game, and they do score good tries so should be a reasonable spectacle.
Crusaders 13+

Rebels v Highlanders – Mmmm much ado at the Mighty Rebels of late – new coach, Beiber given the flick, and plenty of others leaving as well – Henderson, Robinson, Delve, Phipps, Vuna…… 2014 is looking interesting already! And then I read that JJ has a clause in his contract that he cannot lose his job due to playing results – what the!! Anyway this could go either way. Two pretty average teams, but if the Rebels can start well, and maintain that intensity, they can win this. The worry is the Highlanders backs – with Slade in better nick, the likes of the Smiths, Ellison and Gear will cause problems, and with Inman out for the MR, their midfield defence is a worry. This is a toughie – the Highlanders have been utter crap but can turn it on, the Mighty Rebels have been better but are missing a few.
Rebels 1 – 12

Blues v Chiefs – Should be a bit of feeling in this between these oldest of rivals. The first meeting this year was a very intense affair, lots of good defence in a really tough encounter. And plenty on this game. The Chiefs have to get back to some form after a couple of scrappy weeks. Get their line-out right and compete better in the loose/breakdown would be high priorities. Messam is a huge in as he is a dominant player at this level with his work-rate. Is Afeaki injured? Would have thought he would be invaluable before bringing on the Incredible Hulk for the last half hour. The Blues have only pride to play for. Some will be playing for spots next year – the likes of Kerr, Barrett and Moli need strong games to convince the coaches they have a future at this level. And of course it is a farewell game for others. On top of the travel, the average form of the Blues of late and the injuries to some you fancy they will struggle. But if they get enough ball those backs are capable of anything. And I would be applying the blowtorch to TKB.
Chiefs 1 – 12

Waratahs v Reds – Plenty of Wallabies missing from both teams, which evens things nicely, but may mean this game is not as intense as usual. But this of course is the biggest rivalry in Australian rugby, so what am I saying, there will be plenty of feeling again. The big question for the Reds is whether Quade can function as well as normal without Genia’s genius inside him. Never quite looks as good, and expect Hooper and the Waratahs to be all over him. The Waratahs look the more settled combination, and with the Reds missing their two talisman in Horwill and Genia, the Waratahs should get this.
Waratahs 1 – 12

Force v Brumbies – Might be tight early, but this should be a convincing win for the Nags in the end. The Brumbies will want to put in a good performance, keep the intensity up right through the 80 and set themselves up for the play-offs the following weekend, probably against the Cheetahs. And a few will be looking to impress link after lass than stellar test performances – yes that is you Joe Tomane and Ben Alexander.
Brumbies 13+

Sharks v Kings – Yawn!
Sharks 13+

Stormers v Bulls – I reckon the Stormers won’t be going out to do the Bulls any favours and this will be another intense South African derby. There won’t be much in it, probably a kick or two, as the forwards go hard at it. These two have been very even of late, but the Bulls have plenty to play for as a win will guarantee them top spot and a home semi. They looked a bit sluggish last week and will need to lift for this, perhaps injuries/absences taking a toll with replacement players not quite up to the standard. But then it is pretty much the same in the Stormers camp. In a grind with plenty of intensity you have to back Morne’s boot
Bulls 1 – 12

Regards Waj

28 Jun

Super 15 — Round 18 Preview
by WAJ
28 Jun 2013

Chiefs v Hurricanes – And not a bad game to start with either. Both sides relatively unaffected by AB duties. In fact there are no starting Chiefs who started for the AB’s and only TKB got game time. Rennie and Hansen must be tight. So it is all in front of the Hurricanes – literally. A well rested Chiefs pack will be up for this with plenty wanting to show why they should have been playing last week. I think the Chiefs will be too good up front and provide the better ball for Cruden and co to run with. And some great match-ups for Hansen. And who would have thought Bundee Aki and Reynold Lee-Lo would be going head to head – love this side of the game.
Chiefs 1 – 12

Highlanders v Crusaders – I know that they probably need a break after the test series but it is a risk leaving Read, Romano and Davey all on the bench as well as Frank’s illness. If the Highlanders put on another performance like the last time they played then look out. Big question mark of course that!! But the Highlanders then bench Nonu and Smith – go figure?? Their last displayed form was outstanding – but then Tanaka did help Japan beat Wales B – so probably fair enough??? Anyway this is a hard game to pick, below strength Crusaders, who were only just winning at full strength before the break, against a resurgent Highlanders with nothing to lose. Might have to go with the Highlanders, with B Smith to make Fred look 2nd rate. The last 20 should be good when all the AB’s are on the park!
Highlanders 1 – 12

Sharks v Blues – Not overly confident here. Think this young Blues team will struggle with the intensity of South Africa. Though with nothing to lose they will throw everything at this game. They have to as a loss will make it nigh impossible to qualify for the play-offs. They will be fresher than their opposition as the Sharks had a few forwards in the Boks. If we can get parity at the set pieces, defend effectively at line-out time, and take advantage of any breaks from the likes of Saili and Piutau then we can get up. Though I am a bit non-plussed seeing Ranger on the bench. You know what the Sharks are going to serve – pressure rugby, they have become very conservative this year, so there should be no surprises – it is about the ability to counter this style. The other factor of course is Plumtree getting the arse, this has to be in the Blues favour.
Blues 1 – 12

Bulls v Kings – Even though the Bulls are resting a lot of Boks they will still win this easily at home.
Bulls 13+

Stormers v Cheetahs – Will probably turn into a tight grind, though no JDV for the Stormers might leave a few gaps for the Cheetahs backs.
Cheetahs 1 – 12

Wallabies v Lions – Managed to score a ticket to this and really looking forward to it. Changes in both sides make it interesting, with both sides probably stronger as a result. Kurtley at fullback adds real spark to the Wallabies and if they can get more out of their loosies and start well they are a real chance. Gatland has the luxury of being able to replace out of touch test class players with in form test class players. Thus Phillips and Croft are out and Youngs and Lydiate are in. The Lions will miss O’Connell, but Parling has been playing well. Probably the biggest risk for the Lions is the selection of that born, bred and named Englishman Mako Vunipola at loosehead. He needs a big scrummaging game as the Wallabies came at them hard in this area and the Lions will be disappointed they fell away. I can’t see the Lions fading as badly this week and think they will sneak this again for a series victory.
Lions 1 – 12

7 Jun

Super 15 — Round 17 Preview
by WAJ
7 Jun 2013

Probably not a lot of interest on the NZ side of the ditch in this round, but the Mighty Rebels are up tonight so here we go with round 17. A bit bizarre though that after this weekend the Aus sides will have played two more rounds than anyone else? But then the structure of this season is even more bizarre than ever – wonder what it will look like in Rugby World Cup year?

Brumbies v Rebels – Both teams have a lot of changes, unfortunately for theMR notall arebecause ofthe Wallaby training camp, with Saffy andGomer also injured. So who is the worst affected by the absences? Probably straight down the middle. The Brumbies havesome quality replacements with the likes of McCabe, Rathbone and Palmer all Wallabies. This depth may be a bit much for a very inexperienced Rebels line up. The halves especially are a total contrast. Can the improving Rebels get up here – playing lists, location and momentum are all against them. Not feeling the love for the Rebels here!
Brumbies 13+

Force v Waratahs – So the Waratahs havelost all eight of their starting pack and 4 backs on top of that! That contrasts to two Force players absent on Wallabies dutiesplus about half their first choice team backing up after the farce against the Lion s on Wednesday. Did anyone see that game BTW. Totally new and raw Force back fivemeant the Lions backs and loosies were always going to have a field day. So I reckon the Waratahs will brave, but inexperience and lack of combinations will mean they battle against a much more settled side who have caused more than a problem or two against the Waratahs in the past.
Force 1 – 12

Reds v Lions – The Reds are fielding their strongest available team, and it is more than capable of providing a few concerns for the Lions. Genia will of course be hugely missed, but they have a couple of experienced campaigners at lock to replace Horwill and Simmons, and 12 other Wallabies in the 23 hints at a team that will push the Lions all the way. A blinder might also see a Wallaby call up.The Lions have named a bit of a mix and match outfit. The loosies look strong with an all Welsh combo, but a T5 blend from Wales, England and Scotland could be problematical as was shown at lineout time midweek. The Reds will be targeting Farrell as he can blow up and thus reduce his effectiveness, and I fancy will try and get amongst the Lions in general and disrupt them – the likes of Robinson to to cause the odd distraction perhaps! Should be a great spectacle.
Lions 1- 12

All Blacks v France – how could you ever preview a game with France as one of the sides – you do not know what you are going to get. The All Blacks will be all about set piece accuracy, renewing combinations and hoping some players find form blah blah blah. So this game is probably more about where the French are. They look to have a strong pack and there will be little given at set piece time by either side. And the French are blessed with some genius in the backs with Fofana especially a player of rare talent. But they have an inexperienced halves pairing and the AB’s will look to get amongst these two. I wish Smith was at fullback and we had another gas man on the wing, as Smith is everything a fullback should be but lacks the extra yard of pace to be truly effective as a winger. A comfortable win for the All Blacks.
AB’s 13+

Regards Waj

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