Sooper Selections for Round 7
15 Mar 2007
What gives with the amount of injuries we see in some teams, yet not in others. The Chiefs, Brumbies, Reds and Waratahs all have shocking injury records this year, yet the other teams have the odd one or two. Is it luck or is there more to it? And if they are not top class players and have a history of injuries should you in fact pick them? We have a real treat in store for us this weekend – no SA refs are in action in the S14. Kappers is fronting in the 6N, but we are blessed over here is Oz in that tourney not being broadcast. And does anybody really rate the 6N teams for the WC, and though I haven’t seen any coverage I have read plenty and they all seem mediocre. France can’t score tries, Ireland very inconsistent, England ditto, with both of the last 2 lacking depth as well. The less said about Wales, Scotland and Italy the better. Finally what does Stephen Brett do in the upcoming years – he will always be 2nd string to Carter – so he will get a few NPC games but not much else, is that the best option for such a talented player – Waikato and Wellington (and their S14 franchises) should be chasing this guy hard.
So where do the 48 points come from this week:
Chiefs v Lions – well this was going to be very straight forward until I saw the Chiefs backs – bloody hell! Flaky Donald, then flaky Lavea (and when was the last time he played 2 5/8) and finally Tu’ipulotu, who is a 2 5/8, at centre! I hope Foster knows what he is doing with a completely untested combo, mind you if these guys can hold on to the ball then all may not be lost. Fortunately he has a very likely looking forward pack to get them on the front foot, might miss the hardworking Bates though and one of Messam or Lauaki will have to play tight, perhaps not either’s strength. The other thing in their favour is that the Lions have turned into pussycats in NZ. They were shocking last week, the Blues should have beaten them by 50 but for their 2nd half snooze, and I don’t see them improving this week. If you shut down Pretorius by crowding his space and limiting his ball they offer very little. So flaky backline and all the Chiefs should still get home reasonably comfortably for the seasons 1st win, they haven’t lost to the Lions in NZ yet either.
Force v Reds – this game is all about the weak getting weaker and a win at last getting the monkey off a back or 2. The Reds injuries keep coming, though admittedly Rodders the Larger could have played if not directed by the ARU to be knifed. The Reds were exposed big-time by a limited Highlanders team and are really battling to get a win. With their playing roster and injuries they are going to struggle for the rest of the season. Now that the Force have finally won at home and get that huge gorilla off their back they go and lose Henjak and Giteau. The former not critical as O’Young is not bad as a replacement, but the loss of Giteau is huge with his game breaking abilities. Again Hilgendorf is no slug, and was very good at times last year, and he may actually run the game better, but Mitch would still be happier with Giteau playing. The confidence gained from the win last week will really boost this side and I would expect the likes of Shepherd, Cross and Mitchell to really open up now.
Crusaders v Bulls – well bugger me! You are on 3 game winning steak, with 2 excellent wins away, winning set pieces with ease, especially your opponents ball at lineout. So let’s rest our key lock, who also happens to be the best lineout jumper in the world, and give a Crusaders lineout, which isn’t a strength let’s be honest, a real chance of breaking even. Deans and co must be laughing nearly as much as Meyer last week when he saw Turunui matched against Habana. This will still be a tough game for the inexperienced Crusaders, especially up front against a big and tough Bulls eight. Again a lot goes on the likes of Flynn, Fillipo and Tuali’I to lead the way, and they have been superb in doing just that this year. Senio has been picked to do a job on du Preez clearly. The Bulls have won only twice in NZ, both times against the Hurricanes (note for round 9) and I expect that poor record to continue against a side who rarely lose at home these days. This may well be the last game, certainly to start, for a lot of Crusaders, and they will want to impress the new 2008 coach. So in the match of the weekend the forwards to win enough ball for the better Crusader backs to win the game.
Crusaders 1 – 12
Waratahs v Stormers – How bad are the Waratahs? Questions need to be asked of McKenzie I reckon on the suicidal team he put on the field last week. I have mentioned Turunui, but he picked a team to counter the Blues up front rather than beat them with their own game and then a lightweight backline totally bereft of any skill. And woe betide mollywoppy, this week he picks an openside flanker and makes 5 changes in the backline, that introduces some guile (Turunui) and strength (Tuqiri – who is definitely not worth the 1.2 mil, and shows how desperate the ARU are to retain any depth in player ranks they can – I mean would he make the AB’s) and pace(Valentine and Turner). I suppose the supporters should be thankful for that at least. The Stormers returned to the sort of form we expect from them last week after the aberration of Palmerston North, utter crap that is, and though they have a 50/50 record in Sydney, the crap will continue against the better structured Waratahs.
Cheetahs v Brumbies – Tough one this. A much better Brumbies got their shit together for the 1st time in a long time last week, the senior players were to the fore and they won comfortably despite a last 30 min slumber. Can they do it 2 times in a row is the question? Mortlock gives them so much direction and guidance that I think they probably will. The Cheetahs hung in bravely last week to be just ahead at half time but the extra class of the Sharks took over in the 2nd half. And that is the problem with the Cheetahs, with all their endeavour they lack that real edge in the backs that the good sides have.
Brumbies 1 – 12
Sharks v Hurricanes – The Sharks had a good win last week and continue to impress in SA. They have good depth in all positions and have players shining all over the place. A solid T5, good mix in loose, some real skill in midfield and 2 young stars in Steyn and Pienaar. They have made Durban a real fortress these days with 8 wins in a row. The Hurricanes are battling at the moment – 6 AB’s down, injuries to Nonu and Umaga, and the lack of a decent 1 5/8 (how would Ellison go there I wonder) see them on a 2 game losing streak, neither of which they should have won either. Some players will be playing for future selection with the 6/22 due back next week so that will be some motivation, but this weeks team just plain aren’t good enough to beat the Sharks at home.