Lions and Sharks carry SA's hopes in Super quarterfinals
Whether the current Super Rugby format is the best is a matter that’s still up for debate but what can’t be denied is that the eight best teams have made the playoffs.
Whatever chaff that remains will be sifted from the grain from Friday in Wellington and Saturday in Christchurch‚ Sydney and Johannesburg.
The Lions and the Sharks hold the hopes of the inconsistent South African challenge and how they proceed from their quarterfinals will have a significant bearing on how the Springboks will approach the Rugby Championship.
Hurricanes (4th) v Chiefs (5th) – Westpac Stadium‚ Wellington (09.35am)
Barring an upset in Christchurch between the Crusaders and the Sharks‚ this game is insignificant from a South African perspective.
The winner of this game will face the victors of the Christchurch match but this could prove to be the most electric of the quarterfinals.
The New Zealand teams have taken chunks out of each other while bashing the other teams in the inferior conferences.
The current nature of Super Rugby hasn’t benefited these teams because if they were ranked on the points they have accrued‚ the Hurricanes (51) and the Chiefs (49) should be hosting quarterfinals against the Jaguares (38) and the Highlanders (44) respectively instead of facing each other. But their lot has been cast and this should be a cracker of a game.
Hurricanes: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder‚ 14 Julian Savea‚ 13 Jordie Barrett‚ 12 Ngani Laumape‚ 11 Ben Lam‚ 10 Beauden Barrett‚ 9 Thomas Perenara‚ 8 Blade Thomson‚ 7 Gareth Evans‚ 6 Brad Shields (captain)/Reed Prinsep‚ 5 Sam Lousi‚ 4 Michael Fatialofa‚ 3 Jeff Toomaga-Allen‚ 2 Ricky Riccitelli‚ 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly‚ 17 Chris Eves‚ 18 Ben May‚ 19 Vaea Fifita‚ 20 Reed Prinsep/Sam Henwood‚ 21 Jamie Booth‚ 22 Ihaia West‚ 23 Wes Goosen/Jonah Lowe.
Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo‚ 14 Sean Wainui‚ 13 Anton Lienert-Brown‚ 12 Charlie Ngatai‚ 11 Shaun Stevenson‚ 10 Damian McKenzie‚ 9 Brad Weber‚ 8 Liam Messam‚ 7 Sam Cane‚ 6 Lachlan Boshier‚ 5 Michael Allardice‚ 4 Brodie Retallick‚ 3 Angus Ta’avao‚ 2 Nathan Harris‚ 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart‚ 17 Sam Prattley‚ 18 Jeff Thwaites‚ 19 Jesse Parete‚ 20 Mitch Karpik‚ 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi‚ 22 Marty McKenzie‚ 23 Alex Nankivell.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand)‚ Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)
Crusaders (1st) v Sharks (8th) – AMI Stadium‚ Christchurch (09.35am)
If ever there is a game where the outcome is predetermined by log placings‚ this is the one.
The Sharks won half the league games (seven)‚ as compared to the Crusaders‚ who have only lost two matches all season. The Crusaders have only lost two home games against South African teams since 1996‚ even though one of them was the Sharks four years ago.
The Crusaders haven’t lost a home game in two years and the Sharks‚ who have been impressive against New Zealand teams this season (three wins from four matches) don’t have the benefit of warming up with the pre-trip to Australia before confronting the New Zealand challenge.
There’s also the significant matter of South African teams having never won a playoff in New Zealand. It’s a tough ask for the Sharks but it’s the price they have to pay for being inconsistent.
Crusaders –15 David Havili‚ 14 Seta Tamanivalu‚ 13 Jack Goodhue‚ 12 Ryan Crotty‚ 11 George Bridge‚ 10 Richie Mo’unga‚ 9 Bryn Hall‚ 8 Kieran Read‚ 7 Matt Todd‚ 6 Jordan Taufua‚ 5 Sam Whitelock (c)‚ 4 Scott Barrett‚ 3 Owen Franks‚ 2 Codie Taylor‚ 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio‚ 17 Wyatt Crockett‚ 18 Michael Alaalatoa‚ 19 Luke Romano‚ 20 Pete Samu‚ 21 Mitchell Drummond‚ 22 Mitchell Hunt‚ 23 Manasa Mataele.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch‚ 14 Kobus van Wyk‚ 13 Lukhanyo Am‚ 12 Andre Esterhuizen‚ 11 Lwazi Mvovo‚ 10 Robert du Preez‚ 9 Louis Schreuder‚ 8 Daniel du Preez‚ 7 Jacques Vermeulen‚ 6 Philip van der Walt‚ 5 Ruan Botha (c)‚ 4 Tyler Paul‚ 3 Thomas du Toit‚ 2 Akker van der Merwe‚ 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle‚ 17 Juan Schoeman‚ 18 John-Hubert Meyer‚ 19 Hyron Andrews‚ 20 Wian Vosloo‚ 21 Cameron Wright‚ 22 Marius Louw‚ 23 Makazole Mapimpi.
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)‚ Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Waratahs (3rd) v Highlanders (6th) – Allianz Stadium (Sydney Football Stadium)‚ Sydney (12.05pm)
This is where inconsistent meets chaotic‚ even though the former triumphed over the latter on May 19. It was an important result from an Australian perspective as the 41-12 hammering snapped a 40-match winning streak New Zealand teams had conjured up against their Australian rivals.
It is a playoff game and it’s a stage where Australian teams have been routinely embarrassed by their New Zealand foes. No Australian side has beaten a New Zealand team in a playoff since the 2014 final‚ which the Waratahs won against the Crusaders.
The Waratahs and the Brumbies have been repeatedly felled by New Zealand teams in the subsequent years but the Waratahs will back themselves to win despite their dogged inconsistency.
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau‚ 14 Alex Newsome‚ 13 Curtis Rona‚ 12 Kurtley Beale‚ 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro‚ 10 Bernard Foley (c)‚ 9 Nick Phipps‚ 8 Michael Wells‚ 7 Will Miller‚ 6 Ned Hanigan‚ 5 Rob Simmons‚ 4 Jed Holloway‚ 3 Sekope Kepu‚ 2 Damien Fitzpatrick‚ 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu‚ 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes‚ 18 Paddy Ryan‚ 19 Tom Staniforth‚ 20 Brad Wilkin‚ 21 Jake Gordon‚ 22 Cam Clark‚ 23 Bryce Hegarty.
Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith (c)‚ 14 Waisake Naholo‚ 13 Rob Thompson‚ 12 Tei Walden‚ 11 Tevita Li‚ 10 Lima Sopoaga‚ 9 Aaron Smith‚ 8 Luke Whitelock‚ 7 James Lentjes‚ 6 Liam Squire‚ 5 Jackson Hemopo‚ 4 Tom Franklin‚ 3 Tyrel Lomax‚ 2 Liam Coltman‚ 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon‚ 17 Aki Seiuli‚ 18 Kalolo Tuiloma‚ 19 Shannon Frizell‚ 20 Elliot Dixon‚ 21 Kayne Hammington‚ 22 Josh Ioane‚ 23 Matt Faddes
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia)‚ Will Houston (Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
Lions (2nd) v Jaguares (7th) – Ellis Park‚ Johannesburg (03.05pm)
For a third consecutive season‚ the Lions were the best South African Super Rugby outfit‚ but at no stage have they been convincing. A team that lost to the Blues at home cannot be trusted‚ especially against a Jaguares who may have lost both of their league games in consecutive weeks but are ready for this fixture.
The Jaguares have been in South Africa for three weeks now and are prepared from an altitude perspective. The Lions still have a strong record at home but the Jaguares‚ who won four consecutive matches in Australasian‚ can’t be underestimated.
The Jaguares also rested their star players last week and pick their strongest side for their first ever Super Rugby playoff. Anything in this game is possible.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee‚ 14 Ruan Combrinck‚ 13 Lionel Mapoe‚ 12 Harold Vorster‚ 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi‚ 10 Elton Jantjies‚ 9 Ross Cronje‚ 8 Warren Whiteley (captain)‚ 7 Cyle Brink‚ 6 Albertus Smith‚ 5 Francois Mostert‚ 4 Marvin Orie‚ 3 Ruan Dreyer‚ 2 Malcolm Marx‚ 1 Jacques Van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Corne Fourie‚ 17 Dylan Smith‚ 18 Johannes Jonker‚ 19 Lourens Erasmus‚ 20 Marnus Schoeman‚ 21 Dillon Smit‚ 22 Courtnall Skosan‚ 23 Howard Mnisi.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)‚ Egon Seconds (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)