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Thread: Investec Super 14: Round 2 Preview

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    Investec Super 14: Round 2 Preview

    Investec Super 14: Round 2 Preview

    February 17, 2009 - 11:00am
    Story by: ARU

    It was, Qantas Wallabies coach Robbie Deans said at the recent Australian competition launch, shaping as one of the most even competitions on record. While there might be a long way to go, this prediction is already well on its way to being born out, if the closeness of the contests from the opening weekend of the 14th Investec Super 14 are an accurate guide of what is to come. Until the Bulls beat the Queensland Reds by 13 in round one’s final match, with the score perhaps being deceptively flattering to the South African side; the greatest winning margin from the previous six matches had been six. Round Two promises more of the same…
    It's not too late to join the Official Investec Super 14 Tipping Competition! Players who join the game late will be allocated default picks for the games they have missed. Fans will be eligible for up to 7 late joiner default picks in this manner.
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    Hurricanes v Highlanders

    Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
    Kick off: Friday 20 February, 7.35pm (local), 5.35pm AEST
    Referee: Keith Brown
    Head to Head: Played 13: Hurricanes 8, Highlanders 5
    Last year: Hurricanes 10, Highlanders 6 at Dunedin
    Two sides that lost in round one come together for a game that is already looming as a credibility test of their championship candidacy. This is particularly so for the Hurricanes, who were the pre-tournament tip of many of the Kiwi analysts. They will be favoured to win this clash but history suggests it won’t be easy against a Highlanders outfit that showed during its loss to the Brumbies that it will again cause its share of trouble. The biggest issue the southerners face pre-game surrounds the fitness of the two key All Black leaders on their roster – captain and halfback Jimmy Cowan (sprained elbow) and prop Jamie Mackintosh (knee); neither of who made it even to halftime on opening night. The Highlanders are confident (or is that hopeful?) they will both play. Certainly their absence would be a major blow and would compound the loss in the pre-season of the experienced Otago lock Tom Donnelly, who is still a few weeks away from a return. The Hurricanes also have injury and off field concerns. Skipper Rodney So’oialo has been outed for a week by the SANZAR judiciary for accidentally tramping on Phil Waugh’s head. The All Black No 8’s absence is a further massive blow given that talismanic All Black hooker Andrew Hore is still a couple of weeks away rehabilitating from a knee injury, while the calming midfield presence of fellow international Conrad Smith (groin) was missed last weekend against the ‘Tahs. Piri Weepu was also rubbed out of that match. Whether he plays at halfback or flyhalf, the ‘Canes will want to have the goal-kicking All Black on board. The Highlanders venture north having won one, and lost one, from previous trips to Westpac Stadium since it opened for business nine years ago. The southerners were successful on their first raid, four years back, winning 26-16. They nearly made it two from two, two years ago, falling 21-22. That match, and last year’s outcome at Carisbrook where the Hurricanes got home by four, continued a trend of tight matches between these particular sides. Only twice since 2000 – in 2003 and 2006 – have there been blow outs in excess of 13 points; & both of those games fell to the Hurricanes.

    In round one – The Highlanders led 19-0 after 20 minutes, and 31-30 with a minute to go, but couldn’t complete the job, falling 31-33 to the Brumbies. The Hurricanes also experienced Aussie heartache, trailing throughout against the Waratahs where they eventually fell 22-26.
    Waratahs v Chiefs

    Venue: Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney
    Kick off: Friday 20 February, 7.40pm (AEDT)
    Referee: Stuart Dickinson
    Head to Head: Played 13: Waratahs 7, Chiefs 6
    Last year: Chiefs 20, NSW Waratahs 17 at Hamilton
    The Chiefs were the most recent visiting side to prevail at the Sydney Football Stadium, when they won 28-23 in the Waratahs’ final home match of the disappointing 2007 campaign. That win was their second from six in Sydney (having won 33-26 in 1997). The side returns to the SFS having now won its last three against the Waratahs – with the Sydney win being flanked by 37-33 (2006) and 20-17 (2008) victories in Hamilton. Winger Sitiveni Sivivatu and loose forward Liam Messam, who scored tries when the Chiefs won in Sydney two years ago, will be key strike players for the side again, especially if the game loosens up, which is the style the Chiefs prefer. The Waikato-based outfit crosses the Tasman to face the second of last year’s finalists, having been out-pointed 13-19 in Christchurch by the defending champion Crusaders last Saturday. They did run the Crusaders close enough to secure a bonus point, and might have claimed the win had their field kicking not been so aimless, and had they been able to get more ball to the talented three-quarter line of All Blacks Malili Muliaina, Sivivatu, Richard Kahui and the uncapped Lelia Masaga. The successful return from a long-term knee injury of All Black halfback Brendan Leonard was another plus for the Chiefs, and he should only improve with last weekend’s outing. So too will the Waratahs, who returned to Sydney last Sunday buoyed by just their second success from eight Super Rugby visits to Wellington. New South Wales came through that match unscathed on the injury front, and were further boosted when Wycliff Palu was quickly cleared of an allegation of stamping. Palu made his comeback from off-season shoulder surgery in the second half against the Hurricanes, and can be expected to carry a larger load moving forward as he works his way into the season. The Waratahs won all seven matches at the SFS last season, and carry a seven-win, six-loss Super Rugby record against the Chiefs into battle on Friday night. Eight of those matches – including the last three - have been determined by margins of 1-12, with the other five being 13+ blow outs.

    In round one – While they were always close enough on the scoreboard, the Chiefs just couldn’t quite land the decisive blow when it mattered in Christchurch, losing in round one for the 10th time in the last 11 years. The Waratahs applied plenty of class in racing to a 19-0 advantage over the Hurricanes in Wellington, but showed in the second half they could rough it too, hanging on under plenty of pressure to get home 26-22.

    2003: Remember when… Matt Dunning kicked his Dropped goal! It’s a memory that will endure, but it’s now six years since Waratahs prop Matt Dunning kicked that dropped goal in the second half of a 25-14 win against the Chiefs at the SFS in 2003. Dropped kicks from free kicks became a fad that year, but the admiration for Dunning’s marvellous piece of skill was unfortunately lost in the disappointment of the Waratahs’ failure to reach the playoffs. New South Wales had needed to beat the Chiefs with a try-scoring bonus point to have any chance of advancing, which they failed to achieve. Dunning’s big moment came with just under quarter of an hour remaining when the Waratahs went quickly from a tap penalty. In an effort to gain a 10-metre advantage from referee Andy Turner for the Chiefs not being back the required distance at the re-start, Dunning let loose with his dropped kick attempt, as had been the norm throughout the competition. Had his kick missed, which was probably his intention; the penalty would have been re-issued 10 metres up-field as Turner was playing advantage to the home side at the time. The only trouble was: Dunning hit it too well. Not only did it travel the required distance; it was as accurate as any kick struck on the night, making Dunning just the third front row forward after Cats’ hooker Basil de Coning and Sharks’ prop Ollie le Roux, to be credited with a successful goal in Super Rugby.
    Western Force v Cheetahs

    Venue: Subiaco Oval, Perth
    Kick off: Friday 20 February, 7.45pm (local), 9.45pm (AEDT)
    Referee: James Leckie
    Head to Head: Played 3: Force 3, Cheetahs 0
    Last year: Western Force 16, Cheetahs 15 at Bloemfontein
    It might only be round two, but two sets of grumpy players are set to collide when the Cheetahs land in Perth. Both teams were left with plenty to ponder after testy opening night losses, where they didn’t always help themselves. The Force did the hard yards into the wind, leading the Blues 14-8 at the mid-point, only to squander that advantage after the break against an opponent that excelled in cashing in on home team errors. The Cheetahs were just as guilty, self destructing in their local derby at Johannesburg where yellow cards for their highly rated flanker Heinrich Brussouw and most capped player Meyer Bosman, handed the Lions an advantage they converted into a six-point victory. Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske will be hoping to add Jonge Nokwe – he of the four tries in the Johannesburg Test against Australia last year – to his attacking arsenal, after the Springbok wing missed opening night through injury. The Force will be doing a head count this week to see who’s available after last week’s casualty ward included two halfbacks: Josh Valentine (hamstring) and Justin Turner (back), centres Junior Pelesasa (hamstring) and Scott Staniforth (knee), prop Ben Castle (neck) and utility forward Sam Wykes (shoulder). While most of these are expected to be fit for selection this time, the outlook is less promising for centre Ryan Cross (shoulder) and prop AJ Whalley, who were added to the wounded list after the Blues game. The Cheetahs provided the Force with its maiden win in Super Rugby in 2006, 16-14 at the South African coal mining town of Kimberley. Four years on, the Free Staters are still to beat the Force, having been deprived by a solitary point last year, on a day where they scored two tries to one but still lost, with Matt Giteau scoring all 16 points for the victors. Giteau will be a man to watch for the South Africans on Friday night. So too is Staniforth if he is fit, after he contributed a try and conversion to the 2006 win, and then scored two tries a year later – as the Force cruised home 45-17. The number of points and tries (seven) the Force scored that night remain records for the franchise. The side is also in credit, in terms of its record against South Africans, after three seasons of competition. This will be the Force’s 16th contest against a South African opponent – having won eight and drawn another of the previous 15. The Cheetahs are desperate to rid themselves of the worst travelling record in Super Rugby. From six matches in Australia and seven in New Zealand since they returned to the competition in 2006, the South African side is yet to win. Things are looking up though. Last year’s performance – where they lost by four in Sydney and six in Canberra; represented their most competitive efforts yet. Six of the Cheetahs’ 12 defeats last year were by margins of seven points or less. This included its three losses against Australian opposition.

    In round one – After leading 14-8 at halftime, the Force couldn’t go on with it, faltering just after the break to lose 19-25 to the Blues. This kept in tact their four-year record of never having won on the opening weekend. The Cheetahs similarly experienced déjà-vu, being out-pointed on opening night, as they were 12 months ago, by local rivals the Lions.
    Stormers v Reds

    Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
    Kick off: Friday 20 February, 7.10pm (local), 4.10am (Sat 21, AEDT)
    Referee: Chris Pollock
    Head to Head: Played 11: Stormers 7, Reds 4
    Last year: Stormers 34, Queensland Reds 16 at Brisbane
    Queensland last won in Cape Town in 2003. The 41-20 success on that occasion was also the Reds’ last win against the Stormers, who have won the last five to take a seven to five lead in the overall contests played. Virtual rugby players should beware – this game is usually close, with seven of the 12 played between the teams being determined by margins of 12 points or less. The Reds opened their tour of South Africa with a loss in Pretoria although there were some encouraging signs in that performance, most notably from halfback Will Genia and fullback Mark McLinden coming off the bench. Coach Phil Mooney may be tempted to start this pair at Newlands. Queensland’s preparations for week one were disrupted when Qantas Wallabies utility forward Hugh McMeniman had to return home for personal reasons, then Morgan Turinui was rubbed out due to a shoulder problem. Queensland has won 12 and lost 16 in South Africa in Super Rugby, with a further game drawn. The Stormers major personnel issue surrounds Jean de Villiers, who was stretchered off just after halftime last week after suffering whip lash. While hospital tests later cleared the skipper of serious damage, a return date has yet to be set. The Cape Town-based side also missed Fijian wing Sireli Naqelevuki last week due to damaged ribs, which saw Rassie Erasmus pitch the 19-year-old flanker Nick Koster in on the wing. Luke Watson could also be in-line to start, after coming from the bench last week behind the Stormers’ most recent recruit from Free State, No 8 Duane Vermeulen. Erasmus has said he will vary his loose forward resources from week to week.

    In round one – Despite leading 10-0 at halftime – the same as they did last year – the Stormers were once again over-run by the Sharks; conceding 20 unanswered points before a late try made for an interesting finish and a 15-20 loss. The Reds were useful in Pretoria but paid the price for a few concentration lapses as they lost 20-33.
    Brumbies v Crusaders

    Venue: Canberra Stadium, Canberra
    Kick off: Saturday 21 February, 7.40pm (AEDT)
    Referee: Bryce Lawrence
    Head to Head: Played 16: Brumbies 7, Crusaders 9
    Last year: Crusaders 34, ACT Brumbies 3 at Christchurch
    The Brumbies return to Canberra having successfully beaten the Highlanders first up, in a match where they see-sawed between the sublime and the downright ordinary. This match is the first at home for the team’s new leadership combination of coach Andy Friend and captain Stephen Hoiles. They will be looking for a good start to reassert the ‘intimidation’ value the Brumbies get out of playing in Canberra after the side lost twice at home in both the 2007 and 2008 campaigns. If that is to happen, the Brumbies will need to be more accurate in their execution than they were at times in Dunedin. They will also need to be more effective defensively: even though they won, the five tries they conceded against the Highlanders were the most let in by any side over the opening weekend. The Brumbies will also need to step up the physicality in their game, after twice being compromised by the Highlanders forwards for close-range tries late in the match in Dunedin. Those lapses won’t have been missed by a Crusaders forward pack which features six All Blacks and comes into this off the back of a dominant performance up front against the Chiefs. Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder will also be looking for his side to tighten up defensively after they missed 20 tackles last weekend. While the misses didn’t cost the defending champions the match, they were most un-Crusader-like, and are a habit Blackadder and skipper Richie McCaw will be seeking to eradicate from their game as quickly as possible. The Crusaders could arrive in Australia without their most experienced player – fullback and centurion Leon MacDonald – after he suffered an AC shoulder joint injury last weekend. Fellow international, lock Brad Thorn, is also in doubt due to trouble with a heel in his foot.

    In round one – Stirling Mortlock might not be captain any more but he still wields an enormous influence over Brumbies affairs, as evidenced by his two tries at Carisbrook which, alongside a 79th minute Christian Lealiifano dropped goal, helped the side to open with a 33-31 win. Mortlock’s All Black counterpart, Richie McCaw, remains the main man at the Crusaders. He held his new-look side together through the moments that mattered to get them home 19-13 against the Chiefs.

    Clash of the Champions: Such has been the collective dominance of the Crusaders and Brumbies in Super Rugby, the 1996 and 2007 competitions are the only instances from 13 years where one or other of these sides hasn’t graced the final. This includes three occasions where the pair played each other, with the Robbie Deans-coached Crusaders winning in 2000 and 2002, while David Nucifora’s Brumbies got up in 2004. The Brumbies have only lost 17 of 82 competition matches in Canberra. Three of these defeats were inflicted by the Crusaders, who won the tournament decider 20-19 in the Australian capital in 2000, as well as prevailing 28-21 in 1999 and by the same scoreline again in 2003. The home side edged a try-less contest 15-6 when the Crusaders were last in town two years ago. This was the fifth time the Brumbies had beaten the seven-time champions from eight meetings in Canberra – and represents exactly 50 percent of all Super Rugby defeats suffered by the Crusaders on Australian soil. The Crusaders have won 13 of 24 in Australia since Super Rugby began, with a further match drawn. While the Crusaders have won nine of 16 in this rivalry through Super Rugby – the seven wins achieved by the Brumbies is the second most by any side against the Crusaders.
    Bulls v Blues

    Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
    Kick off: 5pm (local), 2am (Sun 22, AEDT)
    Referee: Mark Lawrence
    Head to Head: Played 11: Bulls 4, Blues 7
    Last year: Blues 23, Bulls 21 at Auckland
    The Blues departed Perth on Saturday happy, but counting the cost of the previous night’s work at Subiaco. The Force outing left its imprint on halfback Taniela Moa, centre Benson Stanley (hamstring) and hooker and skipper Keven Mealamu (calf) particularly. Moa has returned to Auckland to join All Blacks Joe Rokocoko and Jerome Kaino on baby watch, while Stanley has also gone home – joining the locking brothers Jay and Ali Williams on the injured list. Grayson Hart and the little-known Northland hooker Francis Smith have collected some unexpected Airpoints, after being rushed to Pretoria to provide additional playing cover. The injuries mean Pat Lam is looking at the possibility of being seriously undermanned – which is not a good situation to be in when your destination is Loftus Versfeld; especially if you are the Blues! The Auckland-based outfit has won only once from six previous visits to Loftus. That came in 2003; 56-28. The Blues previously drew 40-40 away to the Bulls in 1997. Of the four away defeats to the Bulls, two have been by 1-12 margins, but the most recent two have been 13+ blow outs. Although last year’s title was surrendered meekly, with a 10th placed finish, the Bulls only dipped out by two at Eden Park, out-scoring the locals three tries to two during that visit. Frans Ludeke’s men also finished strongly, winning their last four, with the sequence being extended to five by last weekend’s success against the Reds. Such is the fire-power Ludeke has at his disposal, he was able to leave the Springbok loose forwards Pedrie Wannenburg and Danie Rossouw on the bench and still get the job done against the Reds. That depth will be tested now, with captain Victor Matfield clocking off early against the Reds due to trouble with an AC joint in his shoulder. He is likely to be out for three weeks. Halfback Fourie du Preez will take over as skip. The Bulls won four of seven at home last term, but two of their defeats came against Kiwi visitors: the Crusaders and the Hurricanes.

    In round one – It wasn’t quite 92-3, and the Reds made them work, but the Bulls still got the job done comfortably at Loftus, claiming a top of the table spot with a maximum point 33-20 victory. Meanwhile the Blues handed Pat Lam a successful start to his tenure, while raising the franchise’s 100th win in Super Rugby, coming from behind at halftime to chalk up a courageous 25-19 victory in Perth.
    Sharks v Lions

    Venue: ABSA Stadium, Durban
    Kick off: Saturday 14 February, 7.10pm (local), 4.10am (Sun 22, AEDT)
    Referee: Jonathan Kaplan
    Head to Head: Played 12: Sharks 9, Lions 2, Draw 1
    Last year: Sharks 16, Lions 8 at Johannesburg
    The Sharks have not lost to the Johannesburg-based Super Rugby representative since 2001. That year, the Cats won 26-25 during a year in which they advanced to the semi-finals. Both sides scored a try apiece last term as the Sharks won 16-8 at Ellis Park, to complete their ninth win from 13 against the Lions or any of their forerunners. The 2005 game between the two was drawn, 20-20. The Sharks opened with a hard fought win at Newlands, scoring all of their points after halftime to edge the Stormers by five. John Plumtree’s playing roster should be even stronger for their home debut, with hooker Bismarck du Plessis ready to start, after coming from the bench in the Cape as he returned from a hamstring injury. His return moved Bok skipper John Smit to prop, where he may stay. Fellow Springbok front-ranker Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira could also be available after missing round one due to a sternum injury. The Lions trek down to the coast, having won just one of seven away from Johannesburg last year, with that success coming by a solitary point against the Cheetahs at Bloemfontein. Eugene Eloff’s men repeated that success against the Free State men last Friday, pleasingly coming through that game without any significant injury damage. Veteran Springbok flyhalf Andre Pretorius was used off the bench by the Lions last week and is likely to continue in that role as Eloff looks to protect the talented but injury-plagued 30-year-old, who missed all of last year’s campaign. This is the first of seven home ties the Sharks’ have this year, but the only one prior to their four match tour of Australia and New Zealand which kicks off in Hamilton next week. The Sharks have won 18 of 21 at the Shark Tank since 2006, and won all six last year, although four of those games were determined by 1-12 margins. The Sharks’ most recent defeat in Durban was the 2007 final which they lost 19-20 to the Bulls.

    In round one - A hostile crowd of over 50,000 and a 0-10 halftime deficit would have fazed most teams but not the Sharks. Composure was key as one of the competition fancies underlined their credentials with a 20-15 win over the Stormers at Newlands. In Johannesburg, the Lions held their nerve in the final 10; despite having had a 28-14 advantage whittled away, popping over two late dropped goals to sink the Cheetahs 34-28.,128212.html

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    Veteran force addict's Avatar
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    haven't heard of our ref James Leckie before. what's he like?

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    Quote Originally Posted by force addict View Post
    haven't heard of our ref James Leckie before. what's he like?
    Like all Aussie refs- pretty average. Probably better for us to have him though I'd have thought. Might go easy on us in the scrums.

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    Veteran TOCC's Avatar
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    im not in the habit of criticising refs, nor am i even trying to blame the loss on the ref, but the ref in the Reds vs Bulls match last week was pretty poor.

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    Legend Contributor blueandblack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TOCC View Post
    im not in the habit of criticising refs, nor am i even trying to blame the loss on the ref, but the ref in the Reds vs Bulls match last week was pretty poor.
    who was it?

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    Veteran robyn <3's Avatar
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    Leckie did the Brumbies game last week, just watched the end of the replay and they mentioned his name.

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