Super Rugby Preview : Stormers vs Rebels


2015 South African Conference

Team P W D L F A +/- bp1* bp2* Pts
Bulls 13 7 0 6 332 303 29 3 4 35
Stormers 12 8 0 4 269 243 26 1 1 34
Lions 13 7 0 6 256 306 -50 1 2 31
Sharks 14 5 0 9 279 368 -89 2 3 25
Cheetahs 12 4 0 8 253 362 -109 2 2 20

2015 Australian Conference

Team P W D L F A +/- bp1* bp2* Pts
Brumbies 13 7 0 6 290 188 102 5 5 38
Waratahs 12 8 0 4 266 226 40 2 2 36
Rebels 12 6 0 6 251 265 -14 3 3 30
Reds 13 3 0 10 207 369 -162 2 3 17
Force 12 2 0 10 199 285 -86 3 4 15
*bp1 = for scoring 4 tries (or more). **bp2 = for losing by 7 points (or fewer).

The Stormers must avoid a ‘bye-week hangover’ if they are to beat the Rebels at Newlands on Saturday and take control of the South African Super Rugby conference.

The Rebels have never won in the Republic but Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has been at pains to stress that his team will not be underestimating their visitors, who have claimed some big scalps this year.

Indeed, wins on the road against the Crusaders and Brumbies this term underline the Rebels’ potential for causing an upset. In fact, a win for the Australian side could take them above the Stormers in the overall standings.

As a result Coetzee has avoided the temptation of using this weekend as an opportunity to give some of his Springboks an extended break to meet the quota for rest set by SARU. Schalk Burger must still sit out two games and skipper Duane Vermeulen is due one more week off but as a sign of respect for the Rebels, Coetzee has named his strongest side.

Neck-and-neck with the Bulls – who are on tour – at the top of the SA conference, a big win for the Stormers could give them some breathing room as the season reaches its climax.

“Rebels have performed really well this season,” said Coetzee at Thursday’s press conference.

“We just have to be up for the game and be physical — that never changes in rugby. They have beaten some big teams this season and have some proper players with a good coach so we won’t take them lightly.

“The big thing for us is that being back home at Newlands is a comfort. But we have to improve on our game and start well.

“It’s the business end of the season and I want to pick my best team, after a bye you sometimes struggle. So it was important to pick the best possible team for this challenge.”

The Stormers are on a four-match winning streak against Australian opposition and with rain expected on Saturday, expect the hosts to look to their scrum, which has dominated all comers this season, to turn the screw.

Despite their poor record in South African, Rebels scrum-half Nic Stirzaker says his side won’t change their approach. They still have a slim mathematical chance to make the play-offs but must win all of their remaining games and hope other results go their way.

“We need to go back to what we had been doing well for most of the season,” said Stirzaker.

“We need to bring in a heightened level of physicality than last week because that’s important over here in South Africa.

“There’s no major changes just because it’s crunch time.”

Matches has been played between the Stormers and Rebels
16-May-13 Rebels 30 – 21 Stormers
14-Jul-12 Stormers 26 – 21 Rebels
3-Jun-11 Rebels 03 – 40 Stormers
Overall Stats Stormers Overall Stats Rebels
stormers2014a rebels1z
Games Played 3 Games Played 3
*Games Won 2 *Games Won 1
*Games Lost 1 *Games Lost 2
Games Drawn 0 Games Drawn 0
*Longest Winning Streak 2 *Longest Winning Streak 1
*Longest Losing Streak 1 *Longest Losing Streak 2
*Largest Points For 40 *Largest Points For 30
*Largest Points Against 30 *Largest Points Against 40
*Largest Winning Margin 37 *Largest Winning Margin 9
*Largest Losing Margin -9 *Largest Losing Margin -37
*Total Points For 87 *Total Points For 54
*Avg Points For 29 *Avg Points For 18
*Total Points Against 54 *Total Points Against 87
*Avg Points Against 18 *Avg Points Against 29
*Total Points Difference 33 *Total Points Difference -33
*Avg Points Difference 11.00 *Avg Points Difference -11.00
* = By Stormers * = By Highlanders


The teams:

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Dom Shipperley, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau.
Replacements: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Colby Fainga’a, 22 Luke Burgess, 23 Bryce Hegarty.

Date: Saturday, 23 May
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT, 03:10 AEST, 05:10 NZST)
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Rodney Boneparte
Television match official: Deon van Blommestein



Super Rugby Preview : Cheetahs vs Lions


2015 South African Conference

Team P W D L F A +/- bp1* bp2* Pts
Bulls 13 7 0 6 332 303 29 3 4 35
Stormers 12 8 0 4 269 243 26 1 1 34
Lions 13 7 0 6 256 306 -50 1 2 31
Sharks 14 5 0 9 279 368 -89 2 3 25
Cheetahs 12 4 0 8 253 362 -109 2 2 20
*bp1 = for scoring 4 tries (or more). **bp2 = for losing by 7 points (or fewer).

The Cheetahs will be out for revenge when they take on the Lions in a South African derby Bloemfontein on Saturday.

These side met as recently as Round 11 when the Johannesburg-based side secured a narrow win their backyard.

Although the Cheetahs are amongst the basement dwellers in the standings, there’s plenty at stake for the Lions whose chances of making the play-offs will be strengthened if they manage to win in Bloemfontein this weekend.

That gives the Lions the edge and judging from their previous performances in Bloemfontein, they will be heading to their favourite away venue in South Africa.

The men from Johannesburg have won three from six matches in Bloemfontein, which is more than in any other local derby.

Their seven wins from 12 encounters against the Cheetahs is the Lions’ best in derbies – they sit at two from 13 against the Bulls and Sharks (against whom they’ve also drawn once), and one from 12 against the Stormers.

The Cheetahs have held a half-time lead in four of their last five matches against the Lions, but won just one of these matches. And having previously lost 17 out of 18 away games, the Lions have won three of their last five encounters on the road.

Cheetahs captain Francois Uys expects a tough encounter against their visitors.

“We know we will have to meet fire with fire against the Lions on Saturday,” he said.

“If you allow them to do what they want and not disrupt them at all, it will be easy for them, as they are a good unit and play well together.

“So we will have to play well to beat them, like we did in Johannesburg earlier in the season when one or two errors in the end probably cost us the game. If we stick together as a team, we know we’re in with a chance.”

Lions head coach Johan Ackermann said his team would not underestimate their hosts despite their lowly position on the table.

“I’ve been saying since day one of this competition that any side can beat any other side and the Cheetahs proved it a few weeks ago against the Stormers.”


Last 10 Games played between the Cheetahs and Lions
25-Apr-15 Lions 34 – 29 Cheetahs
12-Jul-14 Lions 60 – 25 Cheetahs
15-Feb-14 Cheetahs 20 – 21 Lions
7-Apr-12 Cheetahs 26 – 05 Lions
25-Feb-12 Lions 27 – 25 Cheetahs
6-May-11 Lions 19 – 53 Cheetahs
12-Mar-11 Cheetahs 20 – 25 Lions
15-May-10 Cheetahs 59 – 10 Lions
13-Feb-09 Lions 34 – 28 Cheetahs
16-Feb-08 Cheetahs 22 – 23 Lions
Overall Stats Cheetahs Overall Stats Lions
cheetahs2015_h lions2014a
Games Played 13 Games Played 13
*Games Won 5 *Games Won 8
*Games Lost 8 *Games Lost 5
Games Drawn 0 Games Drawn 0
*Longest.Winning.Streak 2 *Longest.Winning.Streak 3
*Longest Losing Streak 3 *Longest Losing Streak 2
*Largest Points For 59 *Largest Points For 60
*Largest Points Against 60 *Largest Points Against 59
*Largest.Winning.Margin 49 *Largest.Winning.Margin 35
*Largest Losing Margin -35 *Largest Losing Margin -49
*Total Points For 371 *Total Points For 315
*Avg Points For 28.54 *Avg Points For 24.23
*Total Points Against 315 *Total Points Against 371
*Avg Points Against 24.23 *Avg Points Against 28.54
*Total Points Difference 56 *Total Points Difference -56
*Avg Points Difference 4.31 *Avg Points Difference -4.31
* = By Cheetahs * = By Lions


The teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Boom Prinsloo, 6 Carel Greeff, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Danie Minnie.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 BG Uys, 18 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Coenie van Wyk, 23 Rayno Benjamin.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Robert Kruger, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Harold Vorster.

Date: Saturday, May 23
Venue: Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT, 01:05 AEST, 03:05 NZST)
Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)




Super Rugby Preview : Force vs Highlanders


Super Rugby Preview : Force vs Highlanders

2015 Australian Conference

Team P W D L F A +/- bp1* bp2* Pts
Brumbies 13 7 0 6 290 188 102 5 5 38
Waratahs 12 8 0 4 266 226 40 2 2 36
Rebels 12 6 0 6 251 265 -14 3 3 30
Reds 13 3 0 10 207 369 -162 2 3 17
Force 12 2 0 10 199 285 -86 3 4 15

2015 New Zealand Conference

Team P W D L F A +/- bp1* bp2* Pts
Hurricanes 12 11 0 1 334 215 119 7 1 52
Chiefs 13 9 0 4 326 239 87 4 4 44
Highlanders 12 8 0 4 327 258 69 4 3 39
Crusaders 12 6 0 6 353 253 100 5 2 31
Blues 13 3 0 10 259 321 -62 2 6 20
*bp1 = for scoring 4 tries (or more). **bp2 = for losing by 7 points (or fewer).

The Western Force will be keen to continue with their recent dominance over the Highlanders when they host them in Perth on Saturday.

The visitors have been one of the form sides in this season’s competition but they’ve only beaten the Force on two occasions in eight previous encounters.

The Force have been victorious in the last six matchs between these sides with the Highlanders’ last victory in Perth registered way back in 2007.

The Highlanders have also lost 14 of their last 15 away games against Australian opposition. Such statisitics make for depressing reading for the visitors who have been one of the form teams in the competition this year.

The Highlanders’ expansive playing style has reaped the rewards as they have scored the third most tries (38) this season just three fewer than the Hurricanes and Crusaders who are the pacesetters in that category.

Jamie Joseph’s side have also impressed in the line-outs in the tournament where they are second only to the Brumbies with an impressive 90.2% success rate in that facet of play.

They head into this game brimming with confidence after their 45-24 thrashing of the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week.

The Force, however, are also on a high and will be no pushovers as they beat the Waratahs in their previous match on May 9.

That 18-11 triumph secured them only their second victory of the season but it also means they got the better of the defending champions for the second time having already beaten them in their season opener.

The Force are, however, at the bottom of the table and judging from previous matches and the season’s statistics they will battle to beat their visitors especially on attack.

Michael Foley’s charges have scored the third fewest tries (24) and made the fewest clean breaks (61) in the competition. They are also the team with the second worst tackle success rate (82.6%) and the third worst scrummaging success (84%).

Matches has been played between the Force and Highlanders
15-Mar-14 Highlanders 29 – 31 Force
25-May-13 Force 19 – 18 Highlanders
3-Jun-11 Highlanders 14 – 21 Force
10-Apr-10 Highlanders 27 – 41 Force
16-May-09 Force 33 – 28 Highlanders
22-Mar-08 Highlanders 28 – 36 Force
Overall Stats Force Overall Stats Highlanders
force2015 highlanders2014a
Games Played 6 Games Played 6
*Games Won 6 *Games Won 0
*Games Lost 0 *Games Lost 6
Games Drawn 0 Games Drawn 0
*Longest Winning Streak 6 *Longest Winning Streak n/a
*Longest Losing Streak n/a *Longest Losing Streak 6
*Largest Points For 41 *Largest Points For 29
*Largest Points Against 29 *Largest Points Against 41
*Largest Winning Margin 14 *Largest Winning Margin n/a
*Largest Losing Margin n/a *Largest Losing Margin -14
*Total Points For 181 *Total Points For 144
*Avg Points For 30.17 *Avg Points For 24
*Total Points Against 144 *Total Points Against 181
*Avg Points Against 24 *Avg Points Against 30.17
*Total Points Difference 37 *Total Points Difference -37
*Avg Points Difference 6.17 *Avg Points Difference -6.17
* = By Force * = By Highlanders


The teams:

Western Force: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson (c), 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Steve Mafi, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Guy Millar, 19 Sam Wykes, 20 Kane Koteka, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Brad Lacey.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 John Hardie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Brendon Edmonds.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Tom Franklin, 20 Dan Pryor, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka , 22 Richard Buckman, 23 Marty Banks.

Date: Saturday, May 23
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 19:45 local (11:45 GMT, 21:45 AEST, 23:45 NZST, 13:45 SAST)
Referee: Andrew Lees
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann; Graham Cooper
TMO: Ian Smith



Super Rugby Preview : Waratahs vs Crusaders


Super Rugby Preview : Waratahs vs Crusaders

2015 Australian Conference

Team P W D L F A +/- bp1* bp2* Pts
Brumbies 13 7 0 6 290 188 102 5 5 38
Waratahs 12 8 0 4 266 226 40 2 2 36
Rebels 12 6 0 6 251 265 -14 3 3 30
Reds 13 3 0 10 207 369 -162 2 3 17
Force 12 2 0 10 199 285 -86 3 4 15

2015 New Zealand Conference

Team P W D L F A +/- bp1* bp2* Pts
Hurricanes 12 11 0 1 334 215 119 7 1 52
Chiefs 13 9 0 4 326 239 87 4 4 44
Highlanders 12 8 0 4 327 258 69 4 3 39
Crusaders 12 6 0 6 353 253 100 5 2 31
Blues 13 3 0 10 259 321 -62 2 6 20
*bp1 = for scoring 4 tries (or more). **bp2 = for losing by 7 points (or fewer).

The Waratahs host the Crusaders in Sydney on Saturday in a repeat of last year’s final and with play-off hopes on the line.

With a win over the Sharks last time out, the ‘Tahs moved back into the top six, and they could yet earn a home play-off game if they can overhaul the Brumbies.

The Crusaders, on the other hand, face an uphill battle just to reach the post-season, but they did their chances a lot of good last time out with a huge win over the Reds.

The bye probably came at the wrong moment for them, but they will have had plenty of time to prepare for this weekend’s clash.

Last year the ‘Tahs claimed their first Super Rugby title with a 33-32 success thanks to Bernard Foley’s late penalty.

That came after a run of 11 straight losses to the Crusaders dating back to 2004, but they could see their own play-off ambitions severely dented in case of defeat.

And centre Adam Ashley-Cooper admits the peaking Crusaders will present major challenge for the defending champions.

“They are starting to come right at this time of year,” explained Ashley-Cooper.

“They always do at the business end. They will be out here to challenge for a really good win.”

 Michael Cheika has named an unchanged Waratahs side for their Super Rugby final rematch against the Crusaders this weekend.

After last week’s win over the Sharks, the defending champions have stuck with the same starting line-up for the game in Sydney.

While the bench has not yet been confirmed, it could be the same eight replacements, with Peter Betham the only other player in contention.

Nick Phipps and Bernard Foley will continue in the half-backs, while Adam Ashley-Cooper starts at outside centre, having scored a double the last time the teams met, the 33-32 final win.

The Crusaders welcome back All Blacks Richie McCaw and Luke Romano for Saturday’s clash with the Waratahs in Sydney.

Coach Todd Blackadder has made five changes, four of which are in the pack, for what is a rematch of last year’s Super Rugby final.

The Canterbury outfit head into the encounter on the back of a bye week, having hammered the Reds 58-17 a fortnight ago.

McCaw returns to the side at the expense of the unlucky Matt Todd, who is forced to contend with a place among the replacements. Romano slots into the second row in place of Dominic Bird who drops out the of the matchday squad completely.

In the front row, Owen Franks comes in at tighthead prop, with Ben Funnell getting a run at hooker in place of Codie Taylor who drops to the bench.

Up-and-coming scrum-half Mitchell Drummond is given the nod at nine ahead of All Black Andy Ellis after impressing thus far this season.

Israel Dagg is named in the squad for the first time since injuring his calf against the Highlanders six weeks ago, but will only feature off the bench as Blackadder looks to ease him back into action.

Last 10 Games played between the Waratahs and Crusaders
(Super Rugby Final)
Waratahs 33 – 32 Crusaders
31-May-13 Crusaders 23 – 22 Waratahs
29-Apr-12 Waratahs 33 – 37 Crusaders
4-Mar-11 Crusaders 33 – 18 Waratahs
10-Apr-10 Crusaders 20 – 13 Waratahs
21-Mar-09 Waratahs 13 – 17 Crusaders
31-May-08 Crusaders 20 – 12 Waratahs
21-Mar-08 Crusaders 34 – 07 Waratahs
31-Mar-07 Waratahs 33 – 34 Crusaders
7-Apr-06 Crusaders 17 – 11 Waratahs
Overall Stats Waratahs Overall Stats Crusaders
waratahs2015 crusaders2014
Games Played 19 Games Played 19
*Games Won 3 *Games Won 16
*Games Lost 16 *Games Lost 3
Games Drawn 0 Games Drawn 0
*Longest.Winning.Streak 1 *Longest.Winning.Streak 11
*Longest Losing Streak 11 *Longest Losing Streak 1
*Largest Points For 43 *Largest Points For 96
*Largest Points Against 96 *Largest Points Against 43
*Largest.Winning.Margin 24 *Largest.Winning.Margin 77
*Largest Losing Margin -77 *Largest Losing Margin -24
*Total Points For 397 *Total Points For 572
*Avg Points For 20.89 *Avg Points For 30.11
*Total Points Against 572 *Total Points Against 397
*Avg Points Against 30.11 *Avg Points Against 20.89
*Total Points Difference -175 *Total Points Difference 175
*Avg Points Difference -9.21 *Avg Points Difference 9.21
* = By Waratahs * = By Crusaders


The teams:

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Stephen Hoiles, 5 Dave Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Benn Robinson
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 Pat McCutcheon, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Matt Carraro, 24 Peter Betham

Crusaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Nafi Tuitavake, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Dan Carter, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Ben Funnell, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Andy Ellis, 22 Israel Dagg, 23 Jone Macilai.

Date: Saturday, May 23
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Kick-off: 19:40 local (21:40 NZST, 11:40 SAST, 09:40 GMT)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Referees: James Leckie, Michael Hogan
TMO: Peter Marshall





Super Rugby : RESULT : Reds 14 vs 21 Sharks


Reds 14 vs 21 Sharks

Match Report to Follow : –

Stefan Ungerer of the Sharks kicks the ball during the round 15 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium on May 22, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia.

Stefan Ungerer of the Sharks kicks the ball during the round 15 Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Sharks at Suncorp Stadium on May 22, 2015 in Brisbane, Australia.

The Sharks ended a six-game losing streak on Friday with a 21-14 victory over the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.

Inspired by the tireless efforts of their pack – especially impressive hooker Bismarck du Plessis – the visitors led from start to finish to bring a winning end to their four-game overseas tour.

Scrum-half Stefan Ungerer scored on either side of half time in a morale-boosting result, just their fifth win this season, as the Reds were punished for handing possession over too cheaply.

A huge effort from the Sharks backrow saw them get the upper hand at the breakdown in a performance marked by their sheer determination to end a miserable run of results.

Both teams scored a try in the first half but the Sharks led 16-7 at the interval with Frans Steyn’s big boot and accuracy from long range the difference between the sides.

Steyn opened the scoring for the visitors with an early penalty and they led 10-0 by the end of the first quarter thanks to a well-taken try from Ungerer.

The scrum-half used the forward momentum provided by a strong Sharks scrum to break clear, sell the defence a dummy and race home with the touchline conversion from Steyn capping a good start for the Durbanites.

The Reds replied soon thereafter though, counter-attacking from deep inside their own 22 with Samu Kerevi, Jake Schatz and Will Genia all handling the ball before Chris Kuridrani finished in the corner.

James O’Connor added the extras but Steyn kept the scoreborad ticking from the other end until half time with two more penalties, including one from almost 50m.

The Reds were first to strike in the second half as Kerevi crashed over under the sticks with two defenders on his back after running onto a flat pass from Genia. O’Connor’s second conversion of the night made it a two-point ball game going into the final quarter.

But it was a horrible error from the Reds full-back that handed Ungerer his second try in comical fashion. O’Connor fluffed a clearance kick, sending it straight into the breadbasket on the Sharks scrum-half, who had halted his charge-down run due to cramp and was just lucky to be in the perfect place at the right time.

Credit must be given to the Sharks for forcing the error with a period of sustained pressure and then for shutting the Reds down in the remaining 12 minutes to secure a much-needed win before heading home.

Reds – 14
Tries: Samu Kerevi (50), Chris Kuridrani (23)
Cons: James O”Connor (50,23)

Sharks – 21
Tries: Stefan Ungerer (68,16)
Penalties: Francois Steyn (38,28,6)
Drops: none
Cons: Francois Steyn (17)


The teams:

Reds: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Karmichael Hunt, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Chris Kuridrani, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (c).
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Pettowa Paraka, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Ed O’Donoghue, 20 Lolo Fakaosilea, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Sam Greene, 23 Ben Tapuai.

Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 S’bura Sithole, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Stefan Ungerer, 8 Renaldo Bothma, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel (c), 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Mouritz Botha, 20 Etienne Oosthuizen, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Andre Esterhuizen.

Date: Friday, May 22
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Matt O’Brien (Australia), Damien Mitchelmore (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)



Super Rugby : RESULT : Chiefs 34 vs 20 Bulls



Chiefs 34 vs 20 Bulls

Augustine Pulu of the Chiefs runs with the ball during the round 15 Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Bulls at Rotorua International Stadium on May 22, 2015 in Rotorua, New Zealand

Augustine Pulu of the Chiefs runs with the ball during the round 15 Super Rugby match between the Chiefs and the Bulls at Rotorua International Stadium on May 22, 2015 in Rotorua, New Zealand

The Chiefs overturned an early deficit to claim a significant 34-20 Super Rugby victory over the touring Bulls in Rotorua on Friday.

The Chiefs outscored their visitors five tries to three to yet again underline their credentials as title contenders and simultaneously put a huge dent in the Bulls play-off hopes.

Outstanding performances from scrum-half Augustine Pulu – who score twice – plus Damian McKenzie, Liam Messam and the Chiefs front row set up a crucial win that represents a huge step towards a home play-off.

The feel-good story of the game however was the performance of veteran lock Ross Filipo, who was brought into the Chiefs side at the last minute as an emergency replacement but turned back the clock with a barnstorming 70-minute display, playing a hand in three of his team’s tries.

The scores were locked at 15-all at the interval with the teams scoring two tries apiece in a high-paced, entertaining opening half.

Tries from Bulls backs Jan Serfontein and Bjorn Basson gave the visitors an unexpected early lead but the Chiefs replied with excellent scores from skipper Liam Messam and winger Bryce Heem.

Two tries after the break from Pulu handed the advantage to home side although a late from Bulls replacement forward Arno Botha made for a tense finish.

Tim Nanai-Williams came off the Chiefs bench to race over after the final hooter to add some shine to the scoreboard and leave the Bulls empty handed.

Chiefs pivot McKenzie opened the scoring off the kicking tee but this team soon trailed as the first try came against the run of play. Basson hacked a loose ball upfield and when Hosea Gear failed to cope with the bobbling ball, Serfontein pounced for a soft try.

That put a spring in the Bulls’ step as they plied the pressure and were rewarded with a second try after Serfontein’s grubber bounced awkwardly for Heem, who chose to bat the ball away in-goal, only for it to fall straight into the path of Basson.

Handré Pollard added the conversion and then a penalty. At 15-3, the Bulls were cruising but the reply from the Chiefs was scintillating.

First Messam muscled the ball onto the chalk from short range before an amazing try from way down town that featured almost every player in the Chiefs team handling the ball saw Heem cross in the corner.

It was anyone’s game at the break but Pulu’s brace in the space of two minutes left the Bulls with a mountain to climb in the final quarter.

A nifty show-and-go down the blindside opened the way for the Chiefs scrum-half to score before a brilliant break from McKenzie and more good work from Filipo set up his second.

Two more conversions from McKenzie meant the Chiefs were up 29-15 but a yellow card to Sam Cane for his team’s spoiling tactics at the breakdown gave the Bulls a sniff.

And they made the numerical advantage count with Botha crashing over after a textbook lineout and maul drive.

Crucially though, Pollard missed the conversion left his team outside of losing bonus point.

Typically, the Chiefs kept the pedal down in the dying moments and Nanai-Williams raced clear after the buzzer to add a nail in the Bulls’ coffin.

Chiefs – 34
Tries: Tim Nanai-Williams (80) Augustine Pulu (55,53), Bryce Heem (27), Liam Messam (22)
Penalties: Damian McKenzie (5)
Cons: Damian McKenzie (56,54,23)
Yellow Card: Sam Cane (69)

Bulls – 20
Tries: Pieter Labuschagne (72) Bjorn Basson (12), Jan Serfontein (8)
Penalties: Handre Pollard (15)
Cons: Handre Pollard (13)


The teams: 

Chiefs: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Hosea Gear, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Bryce Heem, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam (c), 5 Johan Bardoul, 4 Michael Fitzgerald/Ross Filipo, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Mitchell Graham
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Siate Tokolahi, 18 Pauliasi Manu, 19 Brian Alainu’uese, 20 Maama Vaipulu, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Tim Nanai-Williams

Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Trevor Nyakane
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Dean Greyling, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Pieter Labuschagne , 20 Arno Botha, 21 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22 Burger Odendaal, 23 Travis Ismaiel

Date: Friday, May 22
Venue: Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua
Referee: Chris Pollock
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson, Aki Aso
TMO: Glenn Newman



Super Rugby Preview : Blues vs Hurricanes


2015 New Zealand Conference

Team P W D L F A +/- bp1* bp2* Pts
Hurricanes 12 11 0 1 334 215 119 7 1 52
Chiefs 12 8 0 4 292 219 73 3 4 39
Highlanders 12 8 0 4 327 258 69 4 3 39
Crusaders 12 6 0 6 353 253 100 5 2 31
Blues 13 3 0 10 259 321 -62 2 6 20
*bp1 = for scoring 4 tries (or more). **bp2 = for losing by 7 points (or fewer).

Victory over the Blues at Eden Park on Saturday will guarantee the Hurricanes a spot in the Super Rugby play-offs for the first time since 2009.

To say this has been a season of contrasting fortunes for these two sides would be a massive understatement as the ‘Canes arrive in Auckland bubbling with confidence while the injury-depleted Blues struggle with drama off the field and dismal results on it.

The continued uncertainty over future of head coach John Kirwan has been making headlines all week, making for an unwelcome distraction for a Blues outfit shorn of leaders and short of options. And if things go according to the form book this weekend, the situation won’t be getting any better.

The Blues are on a run of seven defeats against fellow New Zealand sides and although five of those have come on the road, it’s fair to say they have been the biggest disappoint of the tournament this season.

The Blues were comfortable winners the last two times the Hurricanes visited Eden Park, securing bonus-point victories on both occasions, but the ‘Canes side that comes a-knocking this week is having one of those seasons where the dice just always seem to fall their way, reminiscent on the Waratahs last year.

Close results and 50 point games have been commonplace but, as illustrated by their narrow win over the Chiefs last week, the stars seemed to have aligned in the Hurricanes’ favour and winning has become a habit. And habits are hard to break.

Most remarkable has been the ‘Canes ability to cash in on opportunities, without necessarily having had loads of possession. This is in perfect contrast to the Blues, who have played a lot of rugby with ball in hand, but have made a truckload off errors.

Indeed, the ‘Canes average more tackles per game than any other team (135) whilst the Blues are the third most tackled team (123).

The Hurricanes can boast two of Super Rugby’s top three try scorers (TJ Perenara with 7 and Julian Savea with 6) whilst no Blues player has managed more than three this season.

It’s in the final quarter that the Hurricanes are doing the damage, scoring 15 of their 41 tries during the final 20 minutes yet conceding only five as the game opens up.

Such is the confidence in the squad that Chris Boyd has made a major reshuffle of his starting side, but the visitors must still be considered favorites.

Cory Jane, James Broadhurst out as injury hits Hurricanes ahead of Blues clash

Injuries to wing Cory Jane and lock James Broadhurst have thrown the Hurricanes a curve ball on the eve of their Super Rugby match against the Blues at Eden Park.

Jane was ruled out after picking up a minor hamstring strain in training, while Broadhurst has a niggly knee injury and coaching staff have decided not to risk him as the playoffs loom.

The twin blow has forced a major rejig to the team sheet with Willis Halaholo will coming into the starting side for his Super Rugby debut though it was unclear whether the 24-year-old would start in the midfield alongside Ma’a Nonu, or on the wing.

Mark Abbott moves into the second row where he will partner captain Jeremy Thrush with Wellington loose forward Vaea Fifita called in to the reserves as cover.

Interestingly, openside Ardie Savea will provide outside back cover with Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd opting for a five forwards, two backs split in the reserves. That’s mainly because Boyd is running low on outside backs.

Conrad Smith is officially on All Blacks rest duties and, although adjudged fit and available, it was considered too risky to play him a week after he suffered a head knock against the Chiefs.

Matt Proctor (ankle) and Vince Aso, who suffered a shoulder injury playing for the New Zealand under 20s recently, are both unavailable, while Jason Woodward’s season ended weeks ago when he broke his ankle playing club rugby. Young fullback Sam McNicol may have been an option, but is probably not quite ready for Super Rugby after only recently returning to club rugby from a long term injury.

Savea’s pace makes him a suitable emergency back up on the wing, while Fifita, one of the quickest and most athletically gifted forwards in the country could probably do likewise if required.

The Hurricanes’ late injury concerns have added a twist to a match most predicted the visitors would win easily. The midfield reshuffle in particular could be seen as an opening for a Blues backline that’s finally found some go-forward and rhythm via second five eighth George Moala, who is bringing out the best attacking qualities in inconsistent centre Francis Saili.

Boyd maintained all week that a trip to Eden Park remained one of the toughest on the schedule and his words suddenly sound a little more convincing.

“They have a 3-0 record at home so they’ve had a pretty good home season. I know they put a lot of emphasis on fortress Eden Park and they have a lot of quality players there,” Boyd said.

“The danger with the Blues doesn’t change whatever their position or how their season has gone. They have some wonderfully gifted athletes. George Moala is a handful, Francis Saili is a handful. They have guys who individually can kill you if you don’t get your [defensive] systems right. I don’t think that’s changed. They have  team full of good athletes.”

The Hurricanes’ goal is simple with a win guaranteeing the franchise its first Super Rugby playoff berth since 2009 and moving them a step closer to the New Zealand conference title and a home quarterfinal at Westpac Stadium.

It would also ease the pressure ahead of a tough three-match finish to the regular season, starting with the Crusaders in Nelson next weekend, then the Highlanders in Napier and the Chiefs in New Plymouth.

The battle of the loose trios should be a feature against the Blues, who in Blake Gibson and Akira Ioane have two huge talents. However, the Hurricanes are likely to avoid a midfield armwrestle and target Blues wings Ben Lam and Melani Nanai who can be susceptible to a short kicking game.


Last 10 Games played between the Blues and Hurricanes
13-Mar-15 Hurricanes 30 – 23 Blues
31-May-14 Blues 37 – 24 Hurricanes
18-Apr-14 Hurricanes 39 – 20 Blues
13-Apr-13 Blues 28 – 06 Hurricanes
23-Feb-13 Hurricanes 20 – 34 Blues
4-May-12 Hurricanes 35 – 19 Blues
23-Mar-12 Blues 25 – 26 Hurricanes
6-May-11 Hurricanes 11 – 17 Blues
19-Mar-11 Blues 41 – 17 Hurricanes
12-Feb-10 Blues 20 – 34 Hurricanes
Overall Stats Blues Overall Stats Hurricanes
blues2014 hurricanes2014
Games Played 24 Games Played 24
*Games Won 13 *Games Won 9
*Games Lost 9 *Games Lost 13
Games Drawn 2 Games Drawn 2
*Longest.Winning.Streak 6 *Longest.Winning.Streak 3
*Longest Losing Streak 3 *Longest Losing Streak 6
*Largest Points For 60 *Largest Points For 45
*Largest Points Against 45 *Largest Points Against 60
*Largest.Winning.Margin 53 *Largest.Winning.Margin 19
*Largest Losing Margin -19 *Largest Losing Margin -53
*Total Points For 683 *Total Points For 578
*Avg Points For 28.46 *Avg Points For 24.08
*Total Points Against 578 *Total Points Against 683
*Avg Points Against 24.08 *Avg Points Against 28.46
*Total Points Difference 105 *Total Points Difference -105
*Avg Points Difference 4.38 *Avg Points Difference -4.38
* = By Blues * = By Hurricanes


The teams:

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Francis Saili, 12 George Moala, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Brendon O’Connor, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Sam Prattley.
Replacements: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Angus Ta’avao, 18 Nic Mayhew, 19 Will Lloyd/Hayden Triggs, 20 Joe Edwards, 21 Jimmy Cowan, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Matt Vaega.

Hurricanes: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder 14 Rey Lee-Lo/Willis Halaholo, 13 Lee-Lo/Halaholo, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 James Marshall,9  TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Blade Thomson, 5  Mark Abbot , 4 Jeremy Thrush (c), 3 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Chris Eves.
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Ben May, 18 Tolu Fahamokioa, 19 Callum Gibbins, 20 Brad Shields, 21 Vaea Fifita, 22 Chris Smylie, 23 Otere Black.

Date: Saturday, May 23
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-off: 19:35 local (17:35 AEST, 09:35 SAST, 07:35 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Aki Aso
TMO: Aaron Paterson