AUCKLAND, NZ – Super Rugby goes all over the show this weekend, with inter-conference matches in every fixture. Whether this can produce the same sort of entertaining play that the mostly local derbies showcased last weekend will be interesting. The Crusaders desperately need a win, the Blues might just be a dangerous team again while the Highlanders enter the defining point of their season. They run into an in-form Lions side in their home den of Ellis Park. Let’s have a look at what’s been going on off the field this week before we get into that, though.
Waratahs flanker, cult hairdo owner and guy that should probably watch what he says Jacques Potgeiter is heading back to South Africa next season. He’s signed with the Sharks, which is the best news they’ve probably had all season. Potgeiter started his pro career in Durban, before moving to the Bulls and lately the Tahs. He’ll leave a big gap on the side of their scrum, whether the rich boys from Sydney decide to wave their chequebook overseas will be interesting.
George Gregan reckons the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup pool is too easy and that they need at least one hard test before the knockout games. While I love the former Wallabies halfback and all-round legend, he seems to have forgotten that The Rugby Championship will involve four tests against both the Springboks and Wallabies in the lead up to the big show. Besides, at the rate the All Blacks’ first fives are going down, having a soft pool is looking like the best possible option right now. He should probably worry about the Wallabies’ pool as one of them, England or Wales is going to be having an embarrassingly short tournament.
Former All Black wing Zac Guildford has quit the French Top 14 and is set to return to NZ rugby. Unfortunately for Zac, he’s unlikely to pick up a Super Rugby contract any time soon, given the massive depth of wingers in these parts and his history of off-field issues. Strangely, it seems one of the main reasons he struggled at Clermont was his inability to speak French, something he probably should’ve thought about a bit more before moving to France.
Super Rugby Round 13 Fixtures:
At AMI Stadium, Christchurch: Crusaders vs. Reds #CRUvRED Prediction: Crusaders by 15
At AAMI Park, Melbourne: Rebels vs. Blues #REBvBLU Prediction: Blues by 6
At Westpac Stadium, Wellington: Hurricanes vs. Sharks #HURvSHA Prediction: Canes by 30
At nib Stadium, Perth: Force vs. Waratahs #FORvWAR Prediction: Tahs by 12
At Ellis Park, Johannesburg: Lions vs. Highlanders #LIOvHIG Prediction: Lions by 1
At Newlands Stadium, Cape Town: Stormers vs. Brumbies #STOvBRU Prediction: Stormers by 3
Chiefs, Bulls and Cheetahs have the bye.
Richie McCaw will return from a concussion suffered in the Crusaders loss to the Chiefs a fortnight ago. This may well be his and fellow All Black legend Dan Carter’s last game in Christchurch for the Crusaders, with their final home game after this to be played in Nelson.
The Canes have signaled what they think of the threat the Sharks pose by resting All Blacks TJ Perenara and Julian Savea. This is despite losing Beauden Barrett for the next four weeks with a knee injury, he’ll be replaced at first five by James Marshall. Meanwhile Sharks CEO John Smit felt compelled to write an open letter to fans apologising for how awful they’ve been this season so far.
Ihaia West gets another run in the Blues 10 jersey this week, with a bunch of other injury enforced changes putting a bit of a bunny-hop in their new found momentum. Lolagi Visinia comes in for Charles Piutau and Brendan O’Connor takes the place of Jerome Kaino, both of whom are gone for the rest of Super Rugby.
Game Of The Week: The Highlanders have been having an impressive run so far this year and at the start of the season probably would’ve been happy that half of their South African tour took place against the usually useless Lions. Fast forward three months and it’s a completely different story, this game could go either way and should be hugely entertaining.
The Chiefs could retake the competition lead if the Canes suffer an unlikely loss, that’s just one of the many ramifications out of this weekend. Keep an eye on the footy and I’ll recap anything you missed right here.
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