27 Feb

Preview – Round 3: Rugby Confusion
by WAJ
27 Feb 2009

Well I’m stuffed if I can work out what is happening. Some of the worst rugby imaginable was served up last weekend, especially on Friday night. Atrocious kicking, no game plan, poor execution – you name it and the likes of the Waratahs, Chiefs, Force, Hurricanes etc etc all delivered it.

Referee’s now seem to blow the whistle quicker than ever. All in all very disappointing and you would hope for better fare this weekend or people are going to start turning off and not turning up. It is fair to say that crowds are down so far – some very poor attendance at the cookietin so far this year. Bet they pack the place out for the T/20 there though. Rugby get your shit together!!

Saw an interesting interview with Peter Marshall last week. He said that the best ref’s get the highest ranked games. Nice to know and explains the Force v Cheetahs whistlathon with Leckie having his whistle glued to his bottom lip.

1st 5/8 rankings: Slade, Hobbs, Bowden, Donald, Kirkie. I refuse to rank Gopperth. But they really are a mediocre bunch.

Another big weekend up with sides still sorting themselves out – some crucial must win games for teams touted as contenders preseason.

Crusaders v Hurricanes
This is a tough one. The Hurricanes have made a heap of changes, dropped the incumbent AB tighthead prop, replaced 2 loose forwards and the midfield and installed Weepu a 1 5/8. Cooper is clearly not happy and has acted accordingly, but it also smacks a bit of desperation. Still Lowe is a likely looking lad and the loose trio offers plenty of pace, but the lack of bulk in this area is a worry against the likes of Macaw and Read. The Hurricane forwards have to give their backline decent ball so the backs have the maximum opportunity to break the line against a very good defence. Very simply the Crusaders need to win more ball – they did well with the little they had last week but in the end the lack of possession told. McCaw and Thorn will make a huge difference of course. But I fancy the Hurricanes here, they will win it with their backs.
Hurricanes 1 – 12

Waratahs v Highlanders
Oh to have the depth to be able to leave Tahu and Polota-Nau out of your starters the Highlanders are thinking – bloody hell they’d be our best 2 players. Still the one thing the Highlanders have plenty of is heart and if they could apply that to their defence for 80 minutes they might just pull this one off. But you just know it will be a 79 minute effort, so don’t get excited when they are 6 points up with 3 minutes to go, just don’t. The Waratahs have an enviable home record and haven’t lost in Sydney since 2007, and only once to the Highlanders at home. With a good forward pack based around a very solid scrum, they need to get moving in the backs where they never consistently free up enough room for weapons like Tuqiri and Horne to run. But they are point accumulators and will be too strong in the end here.
Waratahs 13+

Chiefs v Sharks
Couldn’t have the Chiefs in a million years. They are just not playing good rugby. Woeful scrum, average lineout, OK in the loose I guess, and wasteful and uncreative in the backs, well that was last week anyway, and I don’t think they can turn it around. Still no Mils or Kahui. The only spark has come from Leonard and a one man band is not enough against the Sharks. Strength in all aspects of the game, they have toured well recently with a 50/50 record in Aus/NZ over the last 2 years – as good as it gets from a yarpie team. I think they will be too strong with too many options in attack for the Chiefs.
Sharks 1 – 12

Brumbies v Force
Only in Aus, with all its politics, infighting and over the top inter-state rivalries could you have a backdrop that surrounds this game. The Force implosion over the Mitchell saga, drama all week over whether the Force will survive a player drain on the back of Giteau’s move, to where else, the Brumbies. So complete off field contrasts. The Brumbies have named an unchanged line up and only need Lealiifano to come right(nearly had him as my best NZ 1 5/8 so close to gifting the game to the Crusaders last week did he come) to win this. The Force are at 6′s and 7′s, their assistant coach said at half time that they had been instructed to kick less in the 2nd half, so what did Giteau do, kick of course. He seems to lack any combination with his backs at the moment and with Mitch making his usual raft of changes no chance for team work to build this week.
Brumbies 13+

Lions v Bulls
You have to like the Bulls after a very impressive display last week. Some good team tries interlaced with some individual brilliance from the likes of Spies they were awesome. The Lions are workmanlike but I couldn’t see them challenging this Bulls outfit even at home. The Bulls have won the last 3 times these 2 have played all by 13+. Same again please.
Bulls 13+

Stormers v Blues
Remarkably after getting walloped last week the Blues are still in 5th position, 4 places ahead of the Stormers – go figure. A strengthened Blues team will fancy their chances here, they have won 3 of 5 in Capetown and despite last weeks scoreline played some good rugby in easily the most attractive match of the round to watch. They lacked a lot of experience last week and it showed, but the likes of Kaino, Woody, the Masport Moa and Rokocoko bring much needed class and experience to this team. The Stormers were lucky to hang on in the end last week and this will provide much encouragement to the Blues. They will need to hold on in the first 20 minutes when the Stormers always start with a hiss and a roar and pressure the aging Percy and a win is on the cards here. Big question mark is whether the Lavea/Helleur combo can hold de Villiers. Ever the optimist.
Blues 1 – 12

Reds v Cheetahs
Mmmmm 14 v 13 – almost a who cares game already. But am looking forward to this as I fancy the Reds will turn it on at home. Not disgraced in either game in S.A. when below strength in the forwards, they have some real running ability in the backs, and they find the room to use this ability. Cooper and Barnes are 2 playmakers who can spark a raid from anywhere. McMenamin adds much needed grunt up front, which should allow Braid to roam and link where he is at his best. The Cheetahs – well fancy they will be there to make up the numbers, a few good individuals but not the strongest team going around – hard to like in any aspect.
Reds 1 – 12

Waj

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