Super 14 Preview – The big NZ push
17 Apr 2009
With one side in the top four and the other four sides running 5th -
8th, NZ teams are poised to make a real charge at the top 4.
Top spot is all but decided despite the Sharks playing like the dogs bollocks. But the Bulls and Waratahs have tricky draws over the next 5 rounds and it makes for a fascinating 5 weeks as teams jockey for position, hope that injuries are minimised, form stays solid and coaches maintain sanity.
1 5/8 ranking: Lavea, Berquist, Ripia. If only Lavea could kick! Ripia looked underdone understandably.
Gordon Hunter Cup
A cracking match up to start with, and a must win for both teams. The Blues have been hot and cold all season, very little consistency with selection has not helped, and again this week there are changes at halfback and 1 5/8. Great to see Woody back, but am uneasy with a rookie tighthead against this behometh pack from Dunners. The Highlanders have stuck with the tried and true – a team of provincial veterans mixed with some very promising youngsters is making every post a winner after a slow start. This is a huge game for the Highlanders, a real opportunity to thumb their nose at all and sundry and say – we know what we are doing with our rebuilding plan. And current form says they can win, but if the Blues can remain steady at set piece then the backs should win this game with their greater line breaking ability. History also backs the Blues with a 6 – 1 winning record in Auckland – good enough for me surprisingly
Blues 1 – 12
Brumbies v Bulls
This trip is turning out to be a bit of alright so far for the Bulls, they would be happy with a 2 win – 2 loss scenario, and they will fancy themselves here as well especially with the very influential Gerrard out. Losing their two top locks offsets that, but they will still field a huge pack, and that kick and chase game plan combined with the odd backline excursion will see them go close here. Are the Brumbies up for this game after another emotional week. And a complete backline shuffle has Mortlock back on the wing adding more drama. The Brumbies have proved to be a resiliant lot, but with a few key players missing, or out of position, I think the Bulls could sneak thisif they back up with last weekends form.
Bulls 1 – 12
Hurricanes v Stormers
A good match up of the SA under achievers v NZ under achievers. Probably a little harsh on the Hurricanes as they are still very much in the Top 4 hunt, but they have struggled like hell at times and were extremely fortunate to win in injury time last week. But they backed themselves. My concern is with the game plan, if you have the talent in the backline that the Hurricanes possess why go for the forward bash all the time. Nonu and Smith always look likely with the ball in hand, and they have some very good finishing talent out wide – friggin use it! Ripia has held his spot and he should be much improved on last weeks outing – his first for a while – and hopefully get the back line working a little more fluently. The Stormers have been very average this year, down on talent and experience in the tight and with a backline that has failed to fire despite some very talented players – crap really.
Reds v Lions
A who cares game. No Fourie – the Reds will kill ‘em.
Waratahs v Force
Well the chickens finally came home to roost last weekend for the Waratahs – out attacked by the Bulls on your home patch – a bloody disgrace. But the writing has been on the wall for a while as they try and get their sputtering backline moving. Changes throughout in the midfield backs has had little effect so now they drop the test halfback. I think they are trying to play a game that does not suit the make up of the backline, or perhaps vice versa, but the likes of Norton-Knight and Carter pull it down, whilst the likes of Turner and Tuqiri are wasted. It is all very well to have fab forwards but them do nothin’ wi’ da frick’n ball. Gotta score more points guys. Something which the Force has not had a lot of trouble doing over the last couple of weeks and they will be extremely dangerous here. The key for them is whether the likes of Pocock and Hodgson can win some breakdown ball and get the backs away. But I think the Waratahs will be too controlled and win a low scoring game.
Waratahs 1 – 12
Cheetahs v Chiefs
The Cheetahs will think they can win this – great win last week, no Sivi of Masaga to deal with, jetlagged opposition – what more could you want. Well some talent of your own to start with would be good! And they didn’t have to beat a lot last week really – the Sharks were pretty horrible. They need to get the basics right early but the multifaceted attack that the Chiefs have will be too much – hard running loosies, variations from the inside backs and the best running fullback around will see the Chiefs have a comfortable win.
Sharks v Crusaders
This time Crusaders if you are leading and the siren goes – KICK THE BLOODY BALL OUT!! Have no idea about this game as the Sharks form is all over the place and the Crusaders only do enough to win of late. But a pissed Sharks team would seem to have too much experience for a developing Crusaders outfit
Sharks 1 – 12