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Super Rugby - Round 6 Preview

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Friday, March 20

Highlanders v Hurricanes, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Head-to-head: Played 23, Won 11, Lost 12

In Dunedin: Played 12, Won 6, Lost 6

Last clash: Round 14, 2014 - Hurricanes 16-18 Highlanders, Wellington

Key Stats (Opta Stats)

  • The Hurricanes are aiming to win five matches straight for the first time since 2003, when they won seven on the bounce.
  • The Highlanders have spent less time in possession than any other team this season, averaging just 12 minutes and 54 seconds with the ball per game.
  • The Canes have the best tackling success rate this season (90%), and have completed more tackles on average than any other team in Super Rugby this year

Line-ups

  • Highlanders: Ben Smith (co-captain); Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Shaun Treeby, Patrick Osborne; Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith; Nasi Manu (co-captain), Dan Pryor, Elliot Dixon; Joe Wheeler, Tom Franklin; Josh Hohneck, Liam Coltman, Brendon Edmonds. Replacements: Ash Dixon, Daniel Leniert-Brown, Pingi Tala'apitaga, Mark Reddish, Gareth Evans, Fumiaki Tanaka, Marty Banks, Jason Emery.
  • Hurricanes: Nehe Milner-Skudder, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith (capt), Ma'a Nonu, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara; Victor Vito, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Blade Thomson, Jeremy Thrush, Ben Franks, Motu Matu'u, Reggie Goodes. Reserves: Brayden Mitchell, Ben May, Chris Eves, Mark Abbott, Callum Gibbins, Chris Smylie, Rey Lee-Lo, James Marshall.

The Hurricanes' Cory Jane and Conrad Smith celebrate victory, Blues v Hurricanes, Super Rugby, Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand, March 23, 2012

Cory Jane (L) is back on the Hurricanes wing © Getty Images

Injuries/Unavailable

  • Highlanders: Richard Buckman (Knee, TBC), Ma'afu Fia (Knee, Season), Kane Hames (Suspension, Round 9).
  • Hurricanes: James Broadhurst (Suspended, Round 7)

Team News

  • Jamie Joseph has made three changes to the Highlanders' starting side that defeated the Waratahs, with Dan Pryor on the side of the scrum after Shane Christie was forced to withdraw during the warm up last Saturday with a hamstring injury. Gareth Evans, who came out of the grandstand to play his second game of the day against the Waratahs, is also in the matchday squad. Loose-head prop Daniel Leniert-Brown, who was bought into the squad following the season-ending injury to Ma'afu Fia, is named to make his Super Rugby debut from the bench.
  • Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd seems to be balancing the NZ Rugby-enforced rest weeks perfectly with Cory Jane returning on the wing after sitting out last week's win over the Blues. Boyd has also taken the opportunity to scratch Dane Coles, thus affording the All Blacks hooker one of his mandated rests, after he picked up an elbow injury last Friday. All Blacks counterpart Jeremy Thrush will make his first start of 2015 however; the Gloucester-bound forward named alongside Blade Thomson in a new-look second-row pairing. Prop Ben May has come in for Jeffery Toomaga-Allen on the bench.

Greg Growden's Verdict: What's all this about rugby being boring? Not when the Highlanders and Hurricanes are involved. Expect another high-quality game, and a tight finish.

Tips - Greg Growden: Highlanders by 2 Sam Bruce: Highlanders Brett McKay: Highlanders Brittany Mitchell: Highlanders Andy Withers: Hurricanes

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Dan Pryor returns to the Highlanders' starting side © Getty Images

Rebels v Lions, AAMI Stadium, Melbourne

Head-to-head: Played 2, Won 0,Lost 2

In Melbourne: N/A

Last clash: Round 18, 2014 - Lions 34-17 Rebels, Johannesburg

Key Stats (Opta Stats)

  • The Rebels have lost their last six home fixtures in Super Rugby; they last won in Melbourne in Round 10 last year, but they have never lost seven in a row at home.
  • The Lions have lost eight of their past nine matches in Australia, with their defeats by an average margin of 24 points.
  • The Lions have missed fewer tackles on average this season than any team in Super Rugby (12.8) and only the Hurricanes (90%) can boast a better tackle success rate in 2015. Lions back-rower Warren Whiteley has made the most tackles in the competition this season (68/69).

Line-ups

  • Rebels: TBA
  • Lions: Jaco van der Walt; Sampie Mastriet, Lionel Mapoe, Elton Jantjies, Courtnall Skosan; Marnitz Boshoff, Faf de Klerk; Warren Whiteley (captain), Warwick Tecklenburg, Derick Minnie; Franco Mostert, Robert Kruger; Ruan Dreyer, Armand van der Merwe, Schalk van der Merwe. Replacements: Robbie Coetzee, Corne Fourie, Julian Redelinghuys, Andries Ferreira, Jaco Kriel, Ross Cronje, Harold Vorster, Andries Coetzee

Injuries/Unavailable

  • Rebels: Tom Kingston (Knee, TBC)
  • Lions: MB Lusaseni (Knee, TBC)

Team News

  • Lions coach Johan Ackerman has made a number of changes to his team beaten by the Crusaders in Christchurch, naming Schalk van der Merwe, Armand van der Merwe and Ruan Dreyer in an all-new front-row with Robert Kruger at lock and Derick Minnie promoted to the flank. In the backline, Faf de Klerk and Marnitz Boshoff form a new starting halves partnership with Elton Jantjies moving from fly-half to inside centre. Courtnall Skosan plays on the left wing, with Sampie Mastriet moving to the right wing and Jaco van der Walt coming in at fullback.

Greg Growden's Verdict: The Rebels have quietly gone about their business this year, showing an admirable aggressive and physical streak. They are the real improvers among the Australian sides.

Tips - Greg Growden: Rebels by 5 Sam Bruce: Rebels Brett McKay: Rebels Brittany Mitchell: Rebels Andy Withers: Rebels

: The Lions endured a tough day in Christchurch despite dominating the stats © Getty Images

Saturday, March 21

Crusaders v Cheetahs, Rugby League Park, Christchurch

Head-to-head: Played 8, Won 6, Lost 2

In Christchurch: Played 4, Won 4, Lost 0

Last clash: Round 9, 2014 - Cheetahs 31-52 Crusaders, Bloemfontein

Key Stats (Opta Stats)

  • The Cheetahs have lost 10 of their last 11 games away from home - including the past five outside South Africa, and averaging 39 points conceded during those five matches.
  • The Crusaders have beaten the fewest defenders on average this year, evading just 11.8 would-be tacklers per game.
  • The Cheetahs have conceded 29.8 points and three tries per game on average this season; no team has averaged more in 2015.

Line-ups

  • Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Dan Carter, Nemani Nadolo, Colin Slade, Andy Elllis; Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Luke Whitelock, Mitchell Drummond, Tom Taylor, David Havili.
  • Cheetahs: TBA

Injuries/Unavailable

  • Crusaders: Robbie Fruean (Arm, Season), Willi Heinz (Leg, Season), Jone Macilai (Arm, TBC), Tim Perry (Achilles, TBC), Johnny McNicholl (Knee, TBC).
  • Cheetahs: Willie Britz (Hamstring, Round 7), Tienie Burger (Concussion, TBC), Lood de Jager (Elbow, Round 15), Armandt Koster (Back, TBC), Hilton Lobberts (Knee, Round 15), Sergeal Peterson (Jaw, Round 9-10), Willem Serfontein (Knee, Round 7-8), Steven Sykes (Knee, Round 6), Ewald van der Westhuizen (Nerve, TBC), Elgar Watts (Knee, Round 7-8)

Team News

  • Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has made four changes to the side that overcame the Lions last weekend. All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg returns for his second game of the season while Kieron Fonotia moves onto the right wing in place of the injured Johnny McNicholl. In the forwards, All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw will have a rest with Matt Todd coming in at No.7. The other change sees Codie Taylor starting at hooker with Ben Funnell moving onto the bench.

: Israel Dagg will play his first game since round two © Getty Images

Greg Growden's Verdict: Slowly but surely the Crusaders are regaining their footing. They should be standing tall after what should be a lopsided encounter.

Tips - Greg Growden: Crusaders by 16 Sam Bruce: Crusaders Brett McKay: Crusaders Brittany Mitchell: Crusaders Andy Withers: Crusaders

Bulls v Force, Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria

Head-to-head: Played 8, Won 4, Lost 4

In Pretoria: Played 3, Won 2, Lost 1

Last clash: Round 11, 2014 - Force 15-9 Bulls, Perth

Key Stats (Opta Stats)

  • The Bulls have won their past 15 matches at home to Australian sides, last losing in February 2007; but that defeat was inflicted by the Force.
  • The Force have averaged more time in possession than any other side this season (16 min 32 sec), but they average the fewest clean breaks with just 4.2 per game.
  • The Bulls, along with the Brumbies, have averaged the most points per game this season (28); this is due in part to their goal-kicking success rate in Super Rugby this season (86%). Handre Pollard is the second-highest points-scorer this season (72) and averages the most points per game of any player (18).

Line-ups

  • Bulls: TBA
  • Force: TBA

Injuries/Unavailable

  • Bulls: Carlo Engelbrecht (Ankle, Round 15), Werner Kruger (Ankle, Round 8-10), Bandise Maku (Chest, Season), Burger Odendaal (Knee, Round 7), Duncan Matthews (Knee, Season), Akone Ndungane (Hand, Round 10), Pierre Schoeman (Knee, Season), William Small-Smith (Foot, Round 11), Roelof Smit (Ankle, Round 8-9), Flip van der Merwe (Chest, Round 10), Callie Visagie (Chest, Round 8)
  • Force: Dane Haylett-Petty (Foot, Round 6-7), Matt Hodgson (Hamstring, Round 9), Francois van Wyk (Chest, Season)

Team News

Greg Growden's Verdict: Debatable whether this will be worth waking up for, as the Force haven't got much apart from Ben McCalman and Alby Mathewson. The Loftus altitude should put the Force into even more of a spin.

Tips - Greg Growden: Bulls by 10 Sam Bruce: Bulls Brett McKay: Bulls Brittany Mitchell: Bulls Andy Withers: Bulls

Sharks v Chiefs, Kings Park, Durban

Head-to-head: Played 17, Won 7, Lost 10

In Durban: Played 8, Won 4, Lost 4

Last clash: Round 11, 2013 - Chiefs 37-29 Sharks, Hamilton

Key Stats (Opta Stats)

  • The Chiefs are aiming to win on consecutive weekends in South Africa for just the third time, a feat they last managed in April 2012.
  • The Sharks' Marcell Coetzee is the joint-top try scorer this season, and the top-scoring forward, with four in five games.
  • The Chiefs average the most offloads per game (18) this season, with Sonny Bill Williams making a competition-high 13.

Line-ups

  • Sharks: TBA
  • Chiefs: TBA

Injuries/Unavailable

  • Sharks: Jean Deysel (Ankle, Round 8-10), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Knee, Season)
  • Chiefs: Nathan Harris (Ankle, TBC), Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Knee, Season), Tevita Koloamatangi (Ankle, TBC), Brodie Retallick (Shoulder, Round 8-10), Sonny Bill Williams (Concussion, TBC)

Team News

Greg Growden's Verdict: It was a fair effort for the Chiefs after travelling halfway across the world to beat the Stormers in Cape Town last weekend. They will be acclimatised this week, and again at sea level should be on song in Durban. A lot will still depend on whether Sonny Bill Williams plays.

Tips - Greg Growden: Chiefs by 2 Sam Bruce: Sharks Brett McKay: Chiefs Brittany Mitchell: Chiefs Andy Withers: Sharks

Sunday, March 22

Waratahs v Brumbies, Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney

Head-to-head: Played 25, Won 14, Lost 11

In Sydney: Semi-final, 2014 - Waratahs 26-8 Brumbies, Sydney

Last clash: Played 14, Won 12, Lost 2

Key Stats (Opta Stats)

  • No side has averaged more points (28) or tries (3.6) per game this season than the Brumbies; they have also conceded the fewest (10.4 and 0.6 respectively).
  • The Waratahs however have averaged more carries, metres, clean breaks and defenders beaten than any other side this season, but the Brumbies have allowed their opponents fewer metres and clean breaks than any other team this season - conceding just 330 metres and 3.6 clean breaks on average per game.
  • The Tahs have conceded more turnovers, and won fewer in defence, than any other side this season.

Line-ups

  • Waratahs: Israel Folau, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Matt Carraro, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Jacques Potgieter, Dave Dennis, Will Skelton, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Benn Robinson. Replacements: Hugh Roach, Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Sam Lousi, Mitchell Chapman, Stephen Hoiles, Brendan McKibbin, Jono Lance, Peter Betham. (One to be omitted)
  • Brumbies: Robbie Coleman, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali'ifano, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White; Ita Vaea, Jarrad Butler, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Rory Arnold, Scott Sio, Stephen Moore (C), Ben Alexander. Replacements: Josh Mann-Rea, Jean Pierre-Smith, Ruan Smith, Jordan Smiler, David Pocock, Michael Dowsett, James Dargaville, Lausii Tailiaui.

Injuries/Unavailable

  • Waratahs: Adam Ashley-Cooper (Knee, TBC), Tatafu Polota-Nau (TBC)
  • Brumbies:

Team News

  • Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has been replaced by Tolu Latu in one of two changes to the Waratahs starting side. While the Wallabies rake has succumbed to injury, Taqele Naiyaravoro has been included on the right wing in a straight swap with Peter Betham.
  • Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has named an unchanged starting side for the third straight week but there is one massive inclusion on the bench in the form of David Pocock. The former Wallabies captain will ease his way back after four weeks out with ankle injury with the in-form Jarrad Butler and Ita Vaea retaining their places in the run-on side. 

The Brumbies' David Pocock rumbles forward, Brumbies v Reds, Canberra, February 13, 2015

David Pocock has overcome an ankle injury © Getty Images

Greg Growden's Verdict: The Waratahs are correctly building the Brumbies up. Yes, the Brumbies are the best Australian side at the moment, and they should confirm that in the most anticipated match of round six.

Tips - Greg Growden: Brumbies by 2 Sam Bruce: Brumbies Brett McKay: Brumbies Brittany Mitchell: Waratahs Andy Withers: Brumbies


Read more at http://www.espnscrum.com/super-rugby-2015/rugby/s...

http://www.espnscrum.com/super-rugby-2015/rugby/st...

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