Home > Rugby, The Drawing Board > The Drawing Board (06/07/2012)

The Drawing Board (06/07/2012)

Welcome to Who’s Playing Who?’s weekly rugby blog. This week saw the return to action of Super Rugby after the first ever break in the competition.  It is still really close in the competition, with 8 or 9 teams still in the hunt for the playoff spots. The Chiefs are the only team that have secured their spot in the playoffs.

Super Wrap

This was an intriguing round as the New Zealand teams were the ones to spice up the rounds as they were the ones causing the upsets. The log is still really tight; with a victory giving most teams a massive jump up the table.  Praise needs to be given to those who have made this competition as this is an ideal situation to have in the competition.

Highlanders 21 – 27 Chiefs

The Chiefs booked their place in the Super Rugby play-offs with a win over the Highlanders. Showing no ill-effects from the international break, the Chiefs flew out of the blocks and crossed the line after just one minute through Tim Nanai-Williams and added a further try before half-time through Robbie Robinson.

Chris Noakes’ boot kept the Highlanders in the mix with All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore going over early in the second-half. But Aaron Cruden, fresh from his impressive showing against Ireland last weekend, kept the Chiefs out in front with his boot with Hosea Gear crossing late on for the Highlanders to secure their losing bonus point.

Rebels 17 – 32 Reds

On Friday, the Reds eased past the Melbourne Rebels. The Reds stormed into a 24-3 lead at half-time thanks to tries from Chris Feauai-Sautia, a stunning team score from Dominic Shipperley and a score from Adam Wallace-Harrison.

The Rebels rallied in the second-half, in what was Stirling Mortlock’s last game at home for the Melbourne franchise, and chipped away at the Reds’ lead with Kurtley Beale and Lachlan Mitchell going over. But the Reds secured the four-try bonus point through Nick Frisby’s score.

Crusaders 22 – 23 Hurricanes

The Crusaders slipped to a one point defeat to the Hurricanes. Tyler Bleyendaal’s last-ditch penalty attempt dropped short to hand the visitors a priceless victory that keeps them in the hunt for a play-off place with just two rounds of the regular season remaining.

The Crusaders won a penalty on half way with seconds remaining and skipper Richie McCaw handed the ball to Bleyendaal, who had been on the pitch for just nine minutes, but the replacement fly-half’s long-range effort fell well short. The hosts had led 22-17 with 15 minutes remaining but two penalties from Beaudan Barrett, to add to his penalty and two conversions earlier in the match, proved enough to edge a thrilling encounter.

Force 17 – 28 Brumbies

Young fly-half Zack Holmes scored 13 points as the Brumbies beat the Western Force to return to the top of the Australian Conference. Holmes secured his side’s try bonus point with a score three minutes before the break as the Brumbies built a 22-0 lead. Fullback Jesse Mogg, prop Ben Alexander and winger Henry Speight also crossed for the visitors in a strong first-half display against a porous Force defence.

The Force hit back with two tries from winger Nick Cummins and one from Toby Lynn in the second half but Holmes landed two penalties – adding to his first-half try and conversion of Alexander’s score – to confirm the Brumbies’ win.

Stormers 27 – 17 Lions

The Stormers sit second in the overall standings and in control of the South African Conference following a victory over the Lions. The match was in the balance in the early stages of the second half with the Lions, the basement side in this year’s competition with just two victories, more than holding their with a try from No.8 Josh Strauss all but cancelling out an earlier effort from the Stormers’ Gio Aplon.

However, the title-chasing Stormers found another gear when it mattered most with replacement Jebb Sinclair and winger Gerhard van den Heever putting them on course for victory with Franco van der Merwe grabbing a late consolation for the visitors.

Bulls 40 – 24 Cheetahs

The Bulls currently sit in the first wildcard spot thanks to a six-try over the Cheetahs. The game was over as a contest by half-time with the hosts powering their way to a bonus point thanks to tries from No.8 Pierre Spies, prop Dean Greyling , fullback Zane Kirchner and scrum-half Francois Hougaard.

Springboks fly-half Morne Steyn rediscovered some form with the boot to land three conversions and added a further two after the break as tries from prop Werner Kruger and winger Bjorn Basson carried the Bulls into a commanding 38-0 lead. Four tries in the last quarter from replacement WP Nel (2), fullback Willie Le Roux and flanker Heinrich Brussow added some gloss to the scoreboard but could not disguise the Cheetahs’ shortcomings.

Tips

CHIEFS v CRUSADERS –  The Crusaders have Dan Carter, Israel Dagg and Kieran Read back in the team for this game, and all of those are very influential players, particularly Carter, who makes such a difference to the alignment of the backs. The Chiefs by contrast have effectively sewn up the New Zealand conference and although they will be glancing over their shoulders at the second placed Stormers on the overall log, it might be that their rivals from the south island have more to play for. Crusaders tend to get cracking in the big ones, and this is a big one.

REDS v HIGHLANDERS – The Reds were a bit rusty after the June international window when they beat the Rebels last week, but started to pick up momentum when they needed to. They need to win to keep the pressure on the Brumbies, who remain marginally ahead in the Australian conference. The Highlanders, by contrast, kissed any title hopes goodbye when they lost to the Chiefs and although they do still have a mathematical chance; it is not a realistic one. The Reds should win with something to spare.

SHARKS v BULLS – its test match footing for both teams going into this one, with neither management being prepared to give much away during the build-up week. A few weeks ago I would have said the Sharks would win easily, but they have lost three of the star players from the big win over the Stormers the last time they played in Durban – Patrick Lambie, Willem Alberts and Steven Sykes. The second row, in particular, looks vulnerable against a quality Bulls combination. Then there is also the question of rustiness, with the Sharks not having played together now for over a month. The key players at the back, Frederic Michalak, Frans Steyn and Tim Whitehead, have not played together at all. But the Sharks do have a good record when they are playing a match that amounts to essentially a final for them, and they are playing at home. That, and the fact they have a marginally better back row and front-row, is the only reason they start this game as slight favourites.

BLUES v  FORCE – Early in the year the prediction would have been that the Blues would be facing an easy game in the run-in to what would surely have been play-off qualification. It hasn’t turned out that way, and instead they inhabit the dregs part of the Super Rugby barrel, as are the Force. Home ground advantage should and the lack of quality in the opposing lineup should see the Kiwi team to victory.

WARATAHS v BRUMBIES – The Waratahs have struggled this year but they enjoy a long sequence of success against the Brumbies at home, so it wouldn’t be wise to bet too much on the top team in the Australian conference prevailing. However, the Brumbies have proved many wrong this year, so I will pick them.

CHEETAHS v STORMERS The Stormers have been uninspiring in attack this whole year, but that is what seems to be working for them.  It is when teams are duped into trying to slug it out with the Cheetahs in a try-fest that they make themselves vulnerable, and this was one of the reasons the Cheetahs were the only team to take a try scoring bonus point off the Stormers last year. If the Stormers stick to the tried and tested, they will win.

LIONS v REBELS – The face saving win over the Stormers was not forthcoming but the Lions players will be eager to show that they are a notch above the Rebels. And at home they should manage it.

Super XV for week 16: 
15. Robbie Robertson (Chiefs) 14. Nick Cummins (Force) 13. Conrad Smith (Hurricanes) 12. Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs) 11. Bjorn Basson (Bulls) 10. Aaron Cruden (Chiefs) 9. Will Genia (Reds) 8. Scott Higginbotham (Reds) 7. Jacques Potgieter (Bulls) 6. Liam Messam (Chiefs) 5. Juandre Kruger (Bulls) 4. Rob Simmons (Reds) 3. Ben Franks (Crusaders) 2. Deon Fourie (Stormers) 1. Wyatt Crockett (Crusaders).

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