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

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