This is the Super Rugby Ultimate Preview, your one-stop shop for everything you need to know for those all-important tips or fantasy transfers. As always the Brown Hornet is on board, providing his well thought-out tips for each fixture.
Friday 1st April
Highlanders v. Brumbies @ Rugby Park Stadium, Invercargill 5:35pm AEDT
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh. Reserves: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Halani Aulika, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Tony Brown, 22 James Paterson.
IN: Poki, Slade, Soakai, Mackintosh, Rutledge, Aulika
OUT: Paterson, Veainu, Brown, Robinson, Bekhuis, Te Moana, Schwalger
After the bye the Highlanders side features the return of key men Kade Poki and Colin Slade from injury. Mackintoshcomes back to the front row, with Bekhuis going to the bench after a back row reshuffle.
Brumbies: 15. Matt Toomua, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Andrew Smith, 12. Christian Lealiifano, 11. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 10. Matt Giteau (c), 9 Josh Valentine, 8. Ita Vaea, 7. Julian Salvi, 6. Peter Kimlin, 5. Mark Chisholm, 4. Ben Hand, 3. Salesi Ma’afu, 2. Huia Edmonds, 1. Ben Alexander. Reserves: 16. Anthony Hegarty, 17. Dan Palmer, 18. Colby Faingaa, 19. Michael Hooper, 20. Patrick Phibbs, 21. Tyrone Smith, 22. Francis Fainifo.
IN: Toomua, Kimlin, Ma’afu, T. Smith
OUT: Fainifo, Faingaa, Palmer, Coleman
A few changes to the Brumbies, the most prominent being a reshuffle at the back that see Matt Toomua coming in at fullback and AAC moving to the wing at the expense of Franky Fainifo. Peter Kimlin comes in for Colby Faingaa to add some bulk to the pack.
Recent History: Highlanders 1 – 4 Brumbies. The Ponies have had the wood on the Clan in recent years, with the Highlanders last winning back in 2006. Last year’s result was a comfortable 31–3 win to the Brumbies at home.
Last 5: Highlanders WWLLx, Brumbies LLLxL
Hornet’s Tip: The Tartan Army are looking great, despite being knocked off by the Cru in their last start (they aren’t Robinson Crusoe there). They’ve got a dominant and settled pack and one of the best back rowers in the competition in Adam Thomson. Their backs aren’t too shabby either. The Brumbies on the other hand are sinking further into the mire and look a pretty uninspired team at present. Playing at Invercargill is pretty daunting for most teams (just ask the 2010 Tahs), and even more so the Ponies of 2011. Highlanders by 12.
Odds: Highlanders $1.50, Brumbies $2.64
Waratahs v. Chiefs @ SFS, Sydney 7:40pm AEDT
Waratahs: 15. Lachie Turner 14. Afa Pakalani 13. Ryan Cross 12. Tom Carter 11. Drew Mitchell 10. Kurtley Beale 9. Luke Burgess 8. Wycliff Palu 7. Phil Waugh (c) 6. Ben Mowen 5. Pat O’Connor 4. Dean Mumm 3. Sekope Kepu 2. Tatafu Polota-Nau 1. Benn Robinson. Reserves: 16. Damien Fitzpatrick 17. Paddy Ryan 18. Sitaleki Timani 19. Dave Dennis 20. Pat McCutcheon 21. Brendan McKibbin 22. Daniel Halangahu
IN: Pakalani, O’Connor, Robinson, Ryan, Halangahu, Polota-Nau
OUT: Barnes, Douglas, Baxter, Fitzpatrick, Ulugia
Plenty of changes for the Tahs after losing Berrick Barnes and Al Baxter to injury. Kurtley Beale shifts to five-eighth with Turner dropping back in his place. TPN comes back in to take the hooking spot, while Pat O’Connor makes his NSW debut in place of Douglas.
Chiefs: 15. Tim Nanai-Williams, 14. Lelia Masaga, 13. Richard Kahui, 12. Dwayne Sweeney, 11. Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10. Mike Delany, 9. Brendon Leonard, 8. Liam Messam (c), 7. Tanerau Latimer, 6. Scott Waldrom, 5. Isaac Ross, 4. Craig Clarke, 3. Nathan White, 2. Hika Elliot, 1. Toby Smith. Reserves: 16. Aled de Malmanche, 17. Sona Taumalolo, 18. Callum Retallick, 19. Fritz Lee, 20. Taniwha Kerr-Barlow, 21. Tana Umaga, 22. Save Tokula.
IN: Sweeney, Smith, Kerr-Barlow
OUT: Umaga, Taumalolo, Moa
Just a couple of changes for the Chiefs, with Sweeney and Smith coming in for Umaga and Taumalolo respectively.
Recent History: Waratahs 2 – 3 Chiefs. The Waratahs have won the last two clashes, but before that it was all Chiefs. The NSW boys will still have fond memories of last season’s 46–19 away win, which kick-started their run to the finals.
Last 5: Waratahs WLxLW, Chiefs LWLWL
Hornet’s Tip: The Tahs got back on the board last week against the Brumbies, though they weren’t hugely convincing in doing it. With a slight backline reshuffle mainly in the form of Beale going to 10, they will be keen to get some solid front-foot ball to release the pacy and skilful players they possess out wide. The Chiefs lost a tight one in the wet against the Blues last week and have been competitive this year, but are in danger of losing touch with the NZ teams above them. I think this will be close and am tipping the Tahs, just, by 4.
Odds: Waratahs $1.42, Chiefs $2.90
Saturday 2nd April
Blues v. Cheetahs @ Northland Rugby Stadium, Whangarei 3:30pm AEDT
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Rene Ranger, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Kurtis Haiu, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock. Reserves: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 James King, 19 Matt Luamanu, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Lachie Munro, 22 Benson Stanley.
IN: Lowrey, King
OUT: Kaino, Paulo
Just a couple of changes, the main one being Chris Lowrey coming in for the injured Jerome Kaino.
Cheetahs: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Philip Burger 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Corne Uys, 11 Wilmaure Louw, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Davon Raubenheimer, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Kabamba Floors, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp (c), 4 Francois Uys, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen. Reserves: 16 Skipper Badenhorst , 17 Lourens Adriaanse, 18 Izak van der Westhuizen, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Barry Gee.
IN: Burger, Pretorius, Floors, Raubenheimer, F. Uys, van der Westuizen, Gee
OUT: Snyman, de Bruyn, Johnson, Brussow, Muller, Juries
Another week, another ten changes for the injury-prone Cheetahs. The main loss is talismanic breakaway Heinrich Brüssow, who is replaced by the able Kabamba Floors.
Recent History: Blues 4 – 1 Cheetahs. Last year’s 36–32 home win was the first time the Cheetahs have got one over the Blues. Before then the Aucklanders were dominant, especially at home.
Last 5: Blues LWDWW, Cheetahs LLLWL
Hornet’s Tip: The Blues are just rocking along nicely and playing some good footy while doing it. They’ve got a good balance of solidity in the pack and flair out wide. The Cheetahs couldn’t repeat their heroics against the Tahs when they met the Reds in the heat of Brissy and got spanked (though they got the rough end of the pineapple from the ref, I thought). You’d have to think the Blues will have too many big guns for them this week and should win comfortably. Blues by 18.
Odds: Blues $1.02, Cheetahs $14.50
Hurricanes v. Bulls @ McLean Park, Napier, 5:35pm AEDT
Hurricanes: 15. Cory Jane, 14. Julian Savea, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Hosea Gear, 10. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 9. Chris Eaton, 8. Victor Vito, 7. Serge Lilo, 6. Jack Lam, 5. Jason Eaton, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 3. Neemia Tialata, 2. Andrew Hore (c), 1. John Schwalger. Reserves: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Jacob Ellison, 18. James Broadhurst, 19. Mark Reddish, 20. Tyson Keats, 21. Aaron Cruden, 22. Charlie Ngatai.
IN: Gear, Lilo, Reddish, Ellison, Ngatai
OUT: Taylor, Levave, Perenise, Hayward
Brutish winger Hosea Gear returns from injury at the expense of Andre Taylor. Serge Lilo is pumped to be selected at openside and Levave leaves the 22.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Dean Greyling. Reserves: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Derick Kuün, 20 Francois Brummer, 21 Gerhard van den Heever, 22 Jaco van der Westhuyzen.
IN: Kirchner, Hougaard, Botha
OUT: van der Westhuyzen, van den Heever, Ralepelle, Russouw
This week sees the return of Springboks Kirchner, Hougaard and Botha to the starting lineup for the Bulls.
Recent History: Hurricane 3 – 2 Bulls. The Bulls have won the last two matches in tight encounters, with just a point separating the sides in Durban last year. Before that the Hurricanes won three on the trot.
Last 5: Hurricanes DxWLL, Bulls WLxLW
Hornet’s Tip: The Canes were brilliant for about 20 minutes last week then completely dropped their bundle in the most inexplicable manner. They are overtaking the Chiefs as the hot-and-cold team across the ditch. I never thought I’d say this about a Kiwi team, but I reckon they’re a bit soft and didn’t look up for the fight when the Rebels got on a roll last week. The Bulls seem to be chugging along in third gear at present, but they’re still winning. This will be their first game on the road and it will be interesting to see if they lift their rating away from the Republic. They’ll need to I think, but I’m tipping them by 5.
Odds: Hurricanes $1.62, Bulls $2.32
Force v. Rebels @ nib Stadium, Perth 10:05pm AEDT
Force: 15. Cameron Shepherd, 14. Alfie Mafi, 13. Nick Cummins, 12. Gene Fairbanks, 11. David Smith, 10. James O’Connor, 9. Brett Sheehan, 8. Ben McCalman, 7. Matt Hodgson, 6. Richard Brown, 5. Nathan Sharpe (c), 4. Sam Wykes, 3. Tim Fairbrother, 2. Nathan Charles, 1. Pek Cowan. Reserves: 16. Ben Whittaker, 17. Kieran Longbottom, 18. Tom Hockings, 19. Tevita Metuisela, 20. James Stannard, 21. Matt Brandon, 22. Pat Dellit.
IN: Fairbanks, Charles
OUT: Sefanaia, Whittaker
Just a couple of minor changes for the Force, with the hookers switching and Gene Fairbanks returning to the side after overcoming his food poisoning.
Rebels: 15 Mark Gerrard, 14 Richard Kingi, 13 Lachlan Mitchell, 12 Stirling Mortlock (c), 11 Luke Rooney, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (vc), 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Alister Campbell, 4 Kevin O’Neill, 3 Greg Somerville, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson. Reserves: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Laurie Weeks, 18 Hugh Pyle, 19 Tim Davidson, 20 Sam Cordingley , 21 Peter Betham, 22 Afusipa Taumoepeau.
IN: Gerrard, O’Neill, Henderson, Cordingley
OUT: Vuna, Pyle, Blake, Byrnes, Du Plessis
Four key Rebels return from injury this week: Mark Gerrard, Kevin O’Neill, Nic Henderson and Sam Cordingley. Cooper Vuna is out with injury.
Recent History: None.
Last 5: Force xLDWL, Rebels WLLLW
Hornet’s Tip: An intriguing battle this one. The Force split their games on the short tour to South Africa, but got humped by the Stormers last week. They are better than their record suggests so far. The Rebels were terrific last week after going behind 17-0 at one stage and piling on the points thereafter. They’ve surprised a lot people this year, me included. They are a bunch of unfashionable scrappers (that’s not a criticism, by the way), but they’ve won over a lot of people. I think this will be very close, but am tipping the Force by 3 (heart over head).
Odds: Force $1.24, Rebels $4.15
Sunday 3rd April
Lions v. Reds @ Ellis Park, Johannesburg 12:00am AEDT
Lions: 15 Michael Killian, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Doppies La Grange, 11 Deon van Rensburg, 10 Andre Pretorius, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe (c), 4 David Bulbring, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg. Reserves: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Derrick Minnie, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Jaco Taute
IN: Pretorius, Strauss
OUT: Jantjies, Minnie
A couple of switches for the Lions, with Andre Pretorius coming in to take the reins at 10 this week.
Reds: 15. Mike Harris, 14. Rod Davies, 13. Digby Ioane, 12. Anthony Faingaa, 11. Luke Morahan, 10. Quade Cooper, 9. Will Genia, 8. Leroy Houston, 7. Beau Robinson, 6. Scott Higginbotham, 5. James Horwill (c), 4. Adam Wallace-Harrison, 3. James Slipper, 2. Saia Faingaa, 1. Greg Holmes. Res: 16. James Hanson, 17. Ben Daley, 18. Rob Simmons, 19. Radike Samo, 20. Jake Schatz, 21. Ian Prior, 22. Ben Tapuai.
IN: Harris, Morahan, Wallace-Harrison, Holmes, Prior
OUT: Lucas, Tapuai, Simmons, Daley
A few changes for the Reds, with Ben Lucas having sustained an injury in the Cheetahs game. Mike Harris comes into the side in his place, while Digby Ioane switches to 13 with Morahan coming onto the wing. Simmons and Daley go to the bench; AWH and Holmes get starts.
Recent History: Lions 2 – 2 Reds. These two teams have been very evenly matched, with a 24–all draw back in 2008 the best example of this. Last year the Reds won 41–26 away from home, which should give them some confidence coming into this game.
Last 5: Lions LLWLL, Reds LWxWW
Hornet’s Tip: The Lions lost narrowly to the Bulls last week and have shown some real improvement this season, thanks to a solid pack with a quality back row and locks in particular. La Grange has been excellent in the backs too. Their assignment in Jo’burg this week gets no easier. The Reds were at times electric against the Cheetahs last week, reminding us of the brilliant footy they played in 2010. The pack supplied a veritable surfeit of good ball and Cooper led the backs on a merry dance around Suncorp. They’ll need to tighten up a bit this week, but if anything they look more dangerous out wide, especially with Ioane lining up at outside centre. Reds by 13.
Odds: Lions $2.90, Reds $1.42
Sharks v. Stormers @ ABSA Stadium, Durban 2:05am AEDT
Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik , 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche (c), 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: 16. Eugene van Staden, 17. John Smit, 18. Gerhard Mostert, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Conrad Hoffmann, 21. Adrian Jacobs, 22. Lwazi Mvovo
IN: Pietersen, Mtawarira
OUT: Mvovo, Smit
Just the two changes, with Beast and Smit rotating and Mvovo and Pieterson doing the same.
Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (c), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Wicus Blaauw. Reserves: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Juan de Jongh.
IN: Burger, Elstadt, Reynecke, van Aswegen
OUT: P.Louw, Steenkamp, van Zyl, Ntubeni, Cronje
Inspirational leader Schalk Burger and dominant lock and spelling-bee nightmare Rynhardt Elstadt return to make the Stormers look even stronger.
Recent History: Sharks 5 – 0 Stormers. The Sharks have been surprisingly dominant over their Saffa counterparts, though the last four encounters have been tight. The Sharks won last year’s game 20–14 at home.
Last 5: Sharks WWWLL, Stormers WWWWW
Hornet’s Tip: The Sharks are coming off that momentous and brilliant game at Twickenam last week. All great games need two equal participants and the Sharks measured up last Sunday. Their job is just as hard against an undefeated Stormers team this week, who flogged the Force at Newlands last week. I don’t think they’ll have it anywhere near as easy against the Sharks and I think it will be fairly tight, as these Saffa derbies often are. With all that said, I reckon they’ll win, but by 5.
Odds: Sharks $2.11, Stormers $1.74
Note: All of the teams are listed in convenient table form on our Ruggapedia. Add it as a favourite, as it will be updated as teams are released and late changes are made.
The Bet: Pissing rain and a below-par Blues effort combined to stuff us royally last week, and now we are sitting on a $12 loss. But not to worry, we will have that back in a flash. This week I have two selections that will combine for a decent dividend. The Lions are at longish odds and while I don’t expect them to win, I do think they will get fairly close to the Reds at home. The second bet is the Stormers, who are looking sensational and are facing a Sharks outfit coming off a tri-continental travel stint last week. Expect them to win comfortably. So all things considered:
Take a multi of the Lions +12.5 and Stormers -4.0 at $3.05 with Centrebet
Whom are you tipping?