4 Apr

The Moving Week – Round 8
by WAJ
4 Apr 2008

A chance for the sides 4th to 9th, those still in contention that is, to make up some ground on the top 3 in some crucial matchups – a loss for the Brumbies, Chiefs, Force, Hurricanes or Waratahs would put real pressure on a top 4 spot in what looks to be a tight battle for 4th at the moment.

You can see who has embraced the ELV’s and who hasn’t now the season is half way through. Of the 22 4 try bonus points 13 have gone to NZ sides, and only 5 to the SA sides (3 of which are to the Stormers), and only 4 to Aust. You can understand this from SA, but to see Aust sides with so few try’s from a country renowned for the back play is surprising and perhaps shows the work that Deans has in front of him.

To the games:

Highlanders v Lions: Can the Highlanders finally win one? Against another struggling side who have not won since round 1, this will be the game they break their 8 match losing streak. The Lions have it all in front of them having to overcome the travel factor but also the fact they have never won at Carisbrook in 5 attempts. Should be a good tussle in the forwards, I mean when has a SA team not been confrontational up front, but the Highlanders will have more penetration in the backline and win accordingly.

Highlanders 13+

Brumbies v Chiefs: Mmmm toughie this one, or is it? The Chiefs haven’t won in Canberra since 1999 but come into the game on the back of some improved and have been able to name an unchanged starting XV for the 1st time in a long time. Lauaki’s form improvement has been important on the back of an improved T5 and the best structured backline they can field, though the midfield defence is suspect. And this against a returning Mortlock and a tyro in Smith is a problem. The return of Shepherdson and Campbell up front allows them to field a very strong pack. The Brumbies don’t lose many at home (80% success rate) and that will continue here.

Brumbies 1 – 12

Force v Bulls: The Force were terribly disappointing last week hwen well beaten by the Stormers. They have a problem winning at home having only won 4 of 15. There previous area of dominance, the loose forwards, was targetted by a VG Stormers trio and they struggled to find a way out.You can guarantee Mitch(and doesn’t he remind you of one of those aliens from long ago TV shows with the big bald heads) will have cerebalised his way through last week and it will all be about execution this week.The Bulls showed up at last on Saturday, hugely competitive in the forwards, destructive in the backs with the Flash running around causing havoc. Fortunately they had an All Blacks moment, didn’t take the drop kick opportunity late and were unlucky losers. Can they back up with a similair effort? Consistency has been a problem!In a close one.

Force 1 – 12

Hurricanes v Sharks: 1st game of a good Saturday night double header.Hurricanes were awfully competitive last week scrapping it out all the way with the Crusaders. They have improved all through the season with some consistency of performance at last. Especially liked the look of the forwards last week and if Weepu and Gopperth can fire they will be very tough with their undoubted try scoring ability. The Sharks have had an unbeaten start to the season, but only one of their six wins has been by 13+, that of course against a 14 man Bulls team in the last 10 minutes. They are very good at applying presure to the opposition with a very good defence, and closing them down but then struggle to get the ball wide with any fluency, to use their undoubted pace in this area.They also use the Durban conditions well and on a more level playing field in that regard will come back to the field. If the Hurricanes can repeat last weeks intensity they should win, but in a close one.

Hurricanes 1 – 12

Waratahs v Blues: The try hard Waratahs v the try harder Blues. Both sputtering along on 2 cylinders with their attackes in particular out of sorts at the moment. Hard to see how the sacking of the Coach will affect the Waratahs, some say it will be good for them as they all know there will be change next year, but that in it itself may be a problem with ltoo much unknown, Don’t know whether it affects players too much when they get on the field anyway. I for one am hoping they recruit Nucifora. But to the actual game – the Waratahs have a strong defence, hard running loosies, and a good lineout. Can this offset an average scrum, and their inability to string an attack together through pooor passing or option taking. The Blues on the other hand have a strong scrum and use plenty of ball carriers in the forwards to try and wear sides down, before going wide. Don’t like this – they need to use their backs more and not get caught in this static ruck crap they insist on using. If they can get the ball wide and use the undoubted running talents of Toeava, Rokocoko and Tuitavake they can win convincingly. Ever the optimist I am picking this week as when that will happen

Blues 13+

Cheetahs v Reds: a who cares game if ever there was one. Both teams are pretty horrible, but the Reds have shown the most promise and will be desperate to get a win on the road. Cordingly back will help to get the backline going and with Latham returning to some sort of form, Cooper showing a glimpse or 2 of what he is capable of they will be in this all contest. Hard to know what to make of the Cheetahs, a poor tour with no wins and if fact are winless so far this season, though 5 of the 7 losses have been by 6 points or less, so competitive but not good enough to win – they just don’t have a real weapon. Will be pleased to be home but also have the travel factor to overcome.

Reds 1 – 12

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