Super Rugby Round Five Forecast

Super Rugby Rd 4 - Hurricanes v Highlanders

Last Word On Rugby, by Scott Hornell.

With the action continuing, we are starting to see more standards being set. The standard of play, scrums: predominantly good; defense: overall good; and standards in refereeing: fair. That comes as no surprise, and in the Super Rugby Round Five forecast, the prediction is for ‘more to come’.

Teams are settling on their style of game. Some, all-out-attack–the Sunwolves will launch an attack, time and time again–whereas the Chiefs are best at withstanding pressure and taking opportunities. The comparative distance between those two sides, is an example of one sides capacity to stick to a plan [the Chiefs] and the other’s resolve to ‘never give in’.

Super Rugby Round Five Forecast

And so it continues into Round Five. And before we look ahead to forecast this upcoming round, a brief reflection on last week, and the winners and losers, news and views.

Round Four results: Crusaders 33 Blues 24 | Melbourne Rebels 14 Chiefs 27 | Bulls 34 Sunwolves 21 | Hurricanes 41 Highlanders 15 | Waratahs 12 ACT Brumbies 28 | Lions 44 Reds 14 | Sharks 19 Southern Kings 17 | Jaguares 41 Cheetahs 14 [Bye: Western Force, Stormers]

Again, most results were as predicted whereas others showed that the gap between sides is very small or….the touring side did not respect the opposition. That is in regard to the Cheetahs [and Lions, a week earlier]. Any side who rests leading players going to face the Jaguares, will leave with a bloodied nose. And the bonus point returned the Jaguares to the lead in their conference.

Taking a valiant loss, the Kings showed some backbone in 2017. The Sharks only just managed a win over them–it nearly ended in embarrassment actually. So the Sharks need all their wits about them in Super Rugby round five. That also applies for the Rebels, who had seeming parity for 70 minutes until the Chiefs finally found their winning attitude. The Hamilton side now relax with a bye, top of the standings and unbeaten.

Who Did Well? #1 – Hurricanes

And in Wellington, a tense encounter for 50 minutes between the 2015 final opponents, was lost once the ‘Canes found their mojo. It increases the champions points differential advantage, which will help them in later rounds.

Ngani Laumape (see main picture) was ultra-impressive, adding to his teams record: they now occupy three-of-four places on the try scoring list. He seemed to carry an injury, but when required; like all other players, he gave it 100%. That is what every coach dreams of, and Chris Boyd must still be asking John Plumtree to pinch him. A great start, with a bye round now to rest sore bodies.

Who Did Well? #2 – ACT Brumbies

The tight contests were spread over all conferences: the Waratahs could not withstand the Brumbies though, in the forecasted match of the round. In competition terms, neither were ultra-impressive, with the Brumbies knowing ‘how to win’. They also took away the Dan Vickerman Trophy, in honour of the fallen player who represented each franchise; and the points.

Standings: NZ Conference – Chiefs | Australian conf – Brumbies | Africa One – Stormers | Africa Two – Jaguares

News: Quade Cooper Suspender for Three Games

Many assumed that his offense was likely going to be followed by more punishment, but the Red Card (below) given to Cooper has earned the Reds first-five a three match ban. Rightly or wrongly, his high-shot going down over the player was poor technique–and how many times over Quade’s career have commentators said that?

Renaldo Bothma of the Bulls was also suspended, with his punishment four weeks on the sidelines.

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Looking at the Forecast Ahead

Heading into this weekend, the bye rounds will slightly alter the standings until all teams have rested for one weekend [Round Nine] so apart from on-field performance, every match will impact on the mid-competition placing’s. So, attention to detail in Super Rugby round five is crucial–how teams like the Crusaders and Stormers go now, will show benefits in a few weeks time.

Super Rugby Round Five Forecast

The official match packs from SANZAAR show some good clashes. Right from Friday night, until the last games late Saturday in the republic, and the third match in a row for the Jaguares, there is ‘something for everyone’. (BYE: Chiefs, Hurricanes)

Friday March 24 –  Crusaders v Force, Christchurch | Rebels v Waratahs, Melbourne 

While fans and the coaching staff will not want to see a repeat of the get out of jail performance, facing the traveling Western Force is never easy. ‘Who will turn up’ is often the question. With Tatafu Polota-Nau making his first start, the tight forward battle (see below) could determine who has the ascendency–but if the Force are leading at 60 minutes, hold your hats for a ‘Saders comeback special!

Over in Melbourne, which team has the more guts should prevail. If the Rebels take out this match, what does it mean for Daryl Gibson’s place in Sydney?

Saturday March 25 – Blues v Bulls, Albany | ACT Brumbies v Highlanders, Canberra | Sunwolves v Stormers, Singapore |  Southern Kings v Lions, Port Elizabeth | Cheetahs v Sharks, Bloemfontein | Jaguares v Reds, Buenos Aires.

The wealth of matches gives fans a wide choice. Opening with the classic NZ versus South Africa fixture in Albany, where the home side have enjoyed good success. If Tana Umaga can draw his men together, put the distractions aside, then the locals might see a game worth attending.

The Blues have won all but one of their previous 11 home games against the Bulls. Unless Adrian Strauss and Handre Pollard can bring a fresh approach for the visitors, it might be a beneficial win for the hosts.

The Highlanders could feel slightly desperate in their offshore match; sitting so far down the ladder is of concern but they can be confident that have won in Canberra before. However, if Henry Speight lays on the speed like he did last weekend though, not even the returning Patrick Osborne could stop him.

The action then heads to Singapore, where the Sunwolves hope some home fans will motivate the Asian side. An early evening game, it could be a feast of tries for Stormers if the Cape Town side can express themselves. They should do, after enjoying an early bye weekend. Expect a high scoring match-up.

Lions Hope to Improve on Last Week

After suppressing the Reds last week, most expect another entertaining night at Emirates Park. A high scoring match is one thing, but Johan Ackermann will want his men to be accurate. Ryan Jordan said that “a frenetic start saw the Lions forcing passes and worse.” Improve on those fundamentals, and hopefully a highly entertaining game will follow.

OPTA Stats tells us that the Kings have stolen an average of 2.5 lineouts per game this season [the equal most of any team alongside the Cheetahs]. If the Lions are too relaxed, the Kings won’t mind giving their local team members more experience against the best opposition available.

And respecting the opposition is something that the Jaguares must do. The Queensland Reds have not travelled well, so have little to lose–without Quade Cooper, it might be a tough assignment–but that still means that the hosts must be alert. A new halves pairing maybe unpredictable, so watch this space.

Considering that the Jaguares have now won four of their last five games; more wins than they managed in their first 14 Super Rugby fixtures, a third straight win would better than all of last years results. It could be a huge Super Rugby round five result in Buenos Aires.

Forecasted ‘Match of the Round’

Cheetahs v Sharks will hold plenty of interest. It will prove two things: primarily if the hosts are worthy. When Managing Director Harold Verster told media “All that I can say is that we’re safe. I keep my ear on the ground.” Safe to what degree is the question? If any teams are reduced, will it prove to be a test for the Cheetahs to justify their future inclusion.

Last week the Kings pushed the Sharks, so the Durban side must improve on that performance; even though Patrick Lambie has been taken through injury, Garth April did himself no favours. Under pressure from Curwin Bosch, the direction of that team is similar to the Blues–an over expectation on one role, does not assist in their direction.

If the Cheetahs can manage this upset; or whether the Sharks under-perform, then the axe will stay away from Bloemfontein. Lose…..and the question will still persist, which South African team might be erased from Super Rugby?

SANZAAR have down themselves little good in not making a public announcement, so the forecast is ‘if teams focus on the match ahead of them’ it should be a great game. And another choice round of games. Enjoy!

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This Week In Rugby History

2005

The Highlanders defeated the Sharks in Durban, with Ben Blair collecting a hatrick of tries

1992
Wales gave their captain, Ieuan Evans, a welcome birthday present. Their 15-12 win against Scotland in Cardiff was their first home victory in the Five Nations for three seasons

1971
At Twickenham, Scotland’s Peter Brown slotted a late conversion to defeat England 16-15. Back-row Brown, famous for his eccentric kicking style, converted a try by Chris Rea to send the Auld Enemy’s fans home unhappy.

2009
The Bulls maintained their unbeaten Super 14 record with a 19-14 defeat of the Hurricanes that bordered on farcical. Australian referee Matt Goddard was the central figure at Westpac Stadium, dishing out five yellow cards and one red, while hammering the hosts in the penalty count.

1997
Italy’s bid to join the Five Nations championship was boosted when they beat France for the first time in 19 matches

The ‘Week in Rugby History’ is sourced from the ESPN UK ‘on this day’ webpage.

 

“Main photo credit”

by Scott Hornell.


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