Super Rugby Round 17 preview panel
Preview of Super Rugby Round 17 matches (all times AEST).
FRIDAY, July 6
Chiefs v Crusaders at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton 5.35pm
Head to Head: Played 18 Chiefs 5 Crusaders 13
In Hamilton: Played 7 Chiefs 2 Crusaders 5
Last clash: Round 3 2012 – Chiefs 24 bt Crusaders 19 at McLean Park
The match of the round. This is a potential grand final preview. The Crusaders are smarting after their surprise one-point loss to the Hurricanes and need to topple the ladder leaders to ensure their play-off safety. They have All Black big guns Dan Carter, Kieran Read and Israel Dagg back for the heavyweight clash and should regain their famed ruthlessness in Hamilton. The Chiefs have strengthened their pack with Sona Taumalolo and Sam Cane starting while Alex Bradley replaces injured No.8 Kane Thompson. The Carter-Cruden playmaking battle will be intriguing.
Tab Sportsbet: Chiefs $1.95 Crusaders $1.80
Tip: Crusaders by 5 points
Queensland Reds v Highlanders at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 7.40pm
Head to Head: Played 15 Reds 6 Highlanders 9
In Brisbane: Played 7 Reds 5 Highlanders 2
Last clash: Round 14 2010 – Reds 38 bt Highlanders 36 at Suncorp Stadium
The Reds showed glimpses of the attack that fired them towards last year’s title in their 32-17 win over the Rebels but this will be a much tougher test. The Highlanders are all but out of finals contention following their tight loss to the Chiefs. But they’re desperate to end their season with a bang as they have a final-round bye. All Blacks hooker Andrew Hore is back starting while Mike Delaney takes over at No.10 and form centre Tamati Ellison is sidelined. Queensland have suffered a double blow with flanker Liam Gill (hamstring) and winger Digby Ioane (pneumonia) ruled out but are hard to beat at home.
Tab Sportsbet: Reds $1.28 Highlanders $3.50
Tip: Reds by 6 points
SATURDAY, July 7
Sharks v Bulls at ABSA Stadium, Durban 3.10am
Head to Head: Played 19 Sharks 10 Bulls 7 drawn 2
In Durban: Played 9 Sharks 5 Bulls 3 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 1 2012 – Bulls 18 bt Sharks 13 at Loftus Versfeld
The bitter South African rivals have it all to play for here in what shapes as a brutal battle. The Bulls, who ran up a 40-0 start against the Cheetahs, still have designs on top spot in their conference but could also become vulnerable if they lose to the Sharks. The Sharks knocked the Bulls out of play-off contention last year with a gripping three-point win but will drop out of the 2012 running if they fail to repeat the dose. The home side will be without stars Patrick Lambie and Willem Alberts but have been helped by the return of Springboks centre Frans Steyn. Lambie’s goalkicking could be sorely missed.
Tab Sportsbet: Sharks $1.80 Bulls $1.95
Tip: Bulls by 3 points
Blues v Western Force at Eden Park, Auckland 5.35pm
Head to Head: Played 6 Blues 4 Force 1 drawn 1
In Auckland: Played 1 Blues 1 Force 0
Last clash: Round 4 2011 – Force 22 drew Blues 22 at nib Stadium
The Blues would have to be biggest odds-on favourites for a last-placed team in Super Rugby history. But there are good reasons why the bookies have given them such short odds. The Aucklanders are at home, have inspirational captain Keven Mealamu back and started to show signs of good form before the mid-season break. Also, the Force are in a deep hole with skipper David Pocock and Matt Hodgson joining fellow back-rower Ben McCalman on the injured list. The boys from Perth need to reproduce their second-half form against the Brumbies, fighting back from 22-0 down, to be competitive against the Blues.
Tab Sportsbet: Blues $1.09 Force $6.50
Tip: Blues by 17 points
NSW Waratahs v Brumbies at ANZ Stadium, Sydney 7.40pm
Head to head: Played 19 Waratahs 11 Brumbies 8
In Sydney: Played 10 Waratahs 9 Brumbies 1
Last clash: Round 11 2012 – Brumbies 23 bt Waratahs 6 at Canberra Stadium
The Brumbies have coped brilliantly with the pressure of being conference table-toppers to this point but it’s Saturday night when the heat is applied most. While the Waratahs have been major disappointments, they have the side and desire to derail the ACT side’s campaign. A new halves combination of Bernard Foley and Grayson Hart can spark an otherwise Wallabies-laden backline that has Lachie Turner on the wing. NSW’s pack remains far more experienced than the visitors and will take it to them at scrum time. Jake White has named an unchanged Brumbies team which clicked then stumbled in Perth. They traditionally struggle in Sydney and this one could go either way.
Tab Sportsbet: Waratahs $1.90 Brumbies $1.90
Tip: Waratahs by 2.
Cheetahs v Stormers at Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein 11.00pm
Head to Head: Played 8 Cheetahs 2 Stormers 6
In Bloemfontein: Played 3 Cheetahs 1 Stormers 2
Last clash: Round 12 2012 – Stormers 16 bt Cheetahs 14 at Newlands Rugby Stadium
The Stormers will be under pressure to show they deserve their standing as top South African team here. They were unimpressive against the Lions and have struggled to shine in attack all season. The Cheetahs like to play an open game and the Cape Town side will have a good chance to showcase their skills. The Stormers also have big guns Joe Pietersen and Bryan Habana back after overcoming illness. The home side was blown away 40-0 by the Bulls in the opening 55 minutes last week and have had five changes made to their line-up.
Tab Sportsbet: Cheetahs $3.30 Stormers $1.30
Tip: Stormers by 8 points
SUNDAY, July 8
Lions v Melbourne Rebels at Ellis Park, Johannesburg 1.05am
Head to Head: Played 0 Lions 0 Rebels 0
In Johannesburg: N/A
Last clash: N/A
After a promising mid-season surge, the Rebels’ season has unravelled. They have gone on the road for their South African safari without backline stars James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale and will be searching for attacking spark. They will need James Hilgendorf to step up in their absence at five-eighth and their forwards to outmuscle the young home side. The Lions put up a strong fight against the Stormers and are playing better without John Mitchell in charge. The game will feature a rare appearance by a “foreign” referee with Argentina’s Francisco Pastrana controlling affairs.
Tab Sportsbet: Lions $1.25 Rebels $3.75 Draw $50.00
Tip: Lions by 10 points
Bye: Hurricanes© AAP 2013
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