Opinionated Rugby Commentary - by Fans for Fans
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Super 15 Rugby Round 9 - Juggling Act! 32 views
19 April 2012 by The Swede Eaters
While the results appear to be getting slightly easier to predict, the bye rounds with three teams out each week is keeping managers on their toes. Scotty Donaldson looks at Super Rugby Round 9.
The bye rounds are starting to make life difficult for www.testrugby.com managers. Last week the Highlanders, Hurricanes and Reds had the bye and this week it is the turn of the Cheetahs, Force and Lions to take a break, while next week the Bulls, Rebels and Sharks have the bye. This makes it so tough for managers with limited trades.
The competition is halfway through and the smoke is clearing as far as knowing which teams to watch and which teams are out of the running. Round 9 at a glance does look easier to pick than most earlier rounds, but they are famous last words! Local derbies are funny, usually they are closer than they should be.
I am picking 63% of winners this season which is actually quite a good effort given the high number of upsets.
Pre-season predictions of the Crusaders, Reds and Bulls to dominate weren't far from the truth, although the Brumbies, Stormers and Chiefs are currently sitting on top of the respective conferences. Will the cream rise to the top over the second part of the season? Can things get any worse for the Blues and Lions?
For updated team lists go to
Game 1 - Highlanders vs Blues
The Highlanders are coming off the bye against the disappointing Blues combination. This could mean that an upset is potentially on the cards. The problem for the Highlanders is that they have a nice indoor stadium which while it draws bigger crowds, also takes away some of the home advantage since the southern men are more used to the cold weather than other teams. The big fear for the Highlanders is that the Blues are going to kick into gear at some stage this season. Hopefully for the southern men it is after tomorrow! The Highlanders welcome Mike Delany into the team and he will kick goals. Keven Mealamu is out for the Blues.
Players to buy - Adam Thomson, Andrew Hore, Chris Lowrey, Rene Ranger.
Bargains - Phil Burleigh, Mike Delany, Gareth Anscombe, George Moala.
My pick - Highlanders by 3.
Game 2 - Reds vs Stormers
The impressive Stormers won't be wanting to lose two weeks in a row and I think they will be too strong for the defending champions. The Reds have been a mixed bag this season and really miss a quality first five with Quade Cooper still out injured. They do get Mike Harris back, but I think the South Africans even without Jean De Villiers and the massive Andries Bekker will still be too strong.
Players to buy - Scott Higginbotham, Joe Pietersen, Tiaan Libenberg.
Bargain - Eben Etzebeth, Dominic Shipperley, James Hanson, Siya Kolisi.
My pick - Stormers by 7.
Game 3 - Hurricanes vs Crusaders
This local derby will have plenty of passion in it. The Hurricanes have punched above their weight this year and their coach and former Crusader Mark Hammett will want a good showing against his old team. Hammett is getting the best out of some great young talent like Andre Taylor, Julian Savea and Beauden Barrett, but I think the Crusaders who were impressive last week against the Stormers will be too strong. The Crusaders tight five will steamroll the Hurricanes greenhorns and this will pave the way for a victory. It will be great seeing some matchups including Andre Taylor vs Israel Dagg, Conrad Smith vs Robbie Fruean and Beauden Barrett vs Tom Taylor.
Players to buy - Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Corey Flynn, Dane Coles, Robbie Fruean, Israel Dagg, Victor Vito, Andre Taylor, Dan Carter.
Bargains - Beauden Barrett, Tom , Adam Whitelock, Julian Savea.
My pick - Crusaders by 12.
Game 4 - Waratahs vs Rebels
This match should be an easy win for the Waratahs at home, but this season the Waratahs have been a tad disappointing, but surely they will have too much quality across the paddock for the Rebels who while they have a sprinkling of stars like James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale, lack the allround team to be a contender in the Super Rugby 2012 competition. The Rebels have a few www.testrugby.com studs like James O'Connor and Hugh Pyle, while Tatafu Polatu-Nau, Tom Kingston, David Dennis and goalkicking halfback Brendan McKibbin are useful points scorers.
Players to watch - Tatafu Polatu-Nau, James O'Connor, David Dennis.
Bargains - Tom Kingston, Hugh Pyle, Brendan McKibbin.
My pick - Waratahs by 15.
Game 5 - Sharks vs Chiefs
This is probably one of the least predictable matches of the round. It is one of the strange situations where the away team is waiting on the home team to arrive back from overseas. The Sharks will be buoyed by the Crusaders and Reds who have successfully won on their return home, but I think the Chiefs will be too good. The Sharks will be hoping to tear the Chiefs forward pack apart, but this year under the coaching of Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith the Chiefs forwards have stood up and their backline have been lethal with Aaron Cruden, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Richard Kahui, Lelia Masaga and a certain Sonny Bill Williams showing that they have got game. Ironically it is prop Sona Taumalolo who has scored six tries so far this season. This game should be a cracker! Neither of these teams have been named yet.
Players to watch - Aaron Cruden, Sonny Bill Williams, Bismarck du Plessis/Craig Burden (whoever is playing), Patrick Lambie, Keegan Daniel, Liam Messam.
Bargains - Brodie Retallick, Tim Whitehead, Marcell Coetzee.
My pick - Chiefs by 3.
Game 6 - Bulls vs Brumbies
Both of these teams are former champions and it will be interesting to see how the Brumbies go away from Australia. They have been the leading team in an average Australian conference, but will notice the step up at Loftus against a quality Bulls side. It is difficult to know the result of this game, but the Bulls must be favourites and could win by plenty. Before you get carried away buying heaps of Bulls, remember they have the bye next week.
Players to watch - Pierre Spies, Morne Steyn, Chilliboy Ralepelle, Bjorn Basson, Stephen Moore, Ben Mowen, Christian Lealiifano.
Bargains - Juandre Kruger, Michael Hooper.
My pick - Bulls by 10.
What do you think of my picks? Who do you think will dominate Super Rugby Round 9? How will your team go? Are many of these games really as clearcut as they appear at first glance?
Super Rugby, Round 9