Super Rugby: Round 10 Preview (Saturday)


Our in-house rugby scribe previews Saturday’s six Round 10 Super Rugby fixtures.

We have a rather lop-sided looking set of Super Rugby fixtures in store this coming Saturday with some of the big guns taking on a few of the minnows. It’s not often that you’ll mention the Kings in the same breath as the most even looking encounter but it seems the men from Nelson Mandela Bay Rebels' assignment looks like it will be the most hotly contested affair of the weekend, although, the derby between the Reds and Waratahs could claim that particular mantle if both of these Aussie outfits get their acts together.

Elsewhere, the Chiefs host the Sunwolves in a game that’s scoreline could well resemble a cricket score come the final whistle, while the Crusaders take on a deflated Cheetahs outfit and an injury ravaged Sharks side make the long-haul trip to Argentina.

Chiefs v Sunwolves | Saturday 29 April | FMG Waikato Stadium | 09:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Chiefs 1/100 | Draw 45/1 | Sunwolves 16/1
Chiefs (-36.5) 9/10 | Sunwolves (+36.5) 9/10

Okay, so first things first, a lot of people will have looked at last week’s performance by the Chiefs and filed it under the ‘pathetic’draw. And while I do feel the men from Waikato were nowhere near their best, I think it was just one of those games where things just didn’t click for them. The aforementioned 7-16 victory seems to have influenced the bookmakers here with the 9/10 handicap being moved down from 41.5 line which was priced up for the Highlanders game down to 36.5. And while the Sunwolves did manage to comfortably stay within last week’s cap, it was more down to the Highlanders shutting up shop rather than the ‘Wolves finding their feet.

There’s some interesting teams news coming out for this one with the Chiefs having to call upon 20-year-old Jonathan Taumateine to take over the reigns at scrum-half with Tawera Kerr-Barlow still struggling with concussion and Finlay Christie serving the first week of his three-match ban for a stamp against the force. Further changes to the Chiefs starting XV see Soloman Alaimalo come in for James Lowe and veteran Stephen Donald come into the inside-centre berth with Sam McNicol reverting back to his preferred position on the side of the scrum. The Sunwolves are yet to announce their match day squad but we're unlikely to see too many changes from the side that went down 40-15 to the Highlanders

Verdict: Chiefs (-36.5) 9/10
Unlike the Highlanders, the Chiefs are unlikely to take their foot off the pedal come the latter stages of this game. I think a Damien McKenzie – who was rather poor last week – inspired performance is going to see this Chiefs side past the margin. 

Reds v Waratahs | Saturday 29 April | Suncorp Stadium | 11:45

To win (80 Mins)
Reds 8/10 | Draw 22/1 | Waratahs 1/1
Reds | Waratahs
* Handicap to be added upon release

This used to be one of the most anticipated clashes during a Super Rugby season but with these two teams playing some pathetic rugby, we could be in for a bit of a snooze fest at Suncorp this Saturday.

It’s been a rather harrowing week for the visitors after their 24-26 home defeat to the Kings sparked a raft of criticism from the local press. And while coach, Daryl Gibson, has borne the brunt of it, I really think the players should wear the blame here as they have shown little character during the defeat. While the Waratahs were getting a lesson in how to play with heart from the South African strugglers, the Reds were watching it unfold from the comfort of their couches as they enjoyed a bye week.

Verdict: Waratahs
I know this seems a rather left-field call with the Waratahs really struggling but I think they may just get up for this one. They’ve won their last six games against the Reds with three of these victories coming at Suncorp. While I wouldn’t be wagering the house on it, a R50 rand strike on the ‘Tahs could net a tidy profit. 

Force v Lions | Saturday 29 April | nib Stadium | 13:55

To Win (80 Mins)
Force 11/4 | Draw 22/1 | Lions 2/9
Force (+8.5) 9/10 | Lions (-8.5) 9/10

Our next fixture of the day sees an injury-hit Western Force outfit host a Lions side that will be desperate to put in a performance after they just managed to overcome the Jaguares in Joburg last Friday.

While the Force have put in a few gutsy displays in recent weeks, they’ve lacked the killer instinct needed to claim victory. Their opponents, on the other hand, know how to get the job done as their narrow 24-21 victory over the ‘Jags attests to.

In terms of team news, the Force are missing a whole host of players which has led to a massive backline shuffle that sees Marcel Brachie move to fullback. The Lions have also made a few switches for this one with Kwagga Smith getting a start on the flank; Faf de Klerk coming in at nine and Sylvan Mahuza coming in on the wing for the impressive Madosh Tambwe who is in camp with the SA under 20 side.

Verdict: Lions (-8.5)
The Force have been hard hit by injuries this week and I just can’t see their makeshift backline coping with the Lions backs for the full 80. My money is on the Lions clearing the cap!

Cheetahs v Crusaders | Saturday 29 April | Toyota Stadium | 17:15

To Win (80 Mins)
Cheetahs 9/2 | Draw 28/1 | Crusaders
Cheetahs (+16.5) 9/10 | Crusaders (-16.5) 9/10

The Crusaders get their tour of South Africa underway with a rather kind fixture against a Cheetahs side who are low on confidence and struggling to patch together a complete performance. The visitors were mighty impressive last week as they ran the Stormers ragged in Christchurch. The 57-24 victory has seen them take a three-point lead at the top of the New Zealand Conference standings.

While the Crusaders ran riot against the Stormers, the Cheetahs once again let victory slip through their hands as they let forfeited an 11-3 half-time lead and went on to lose 20-14 to a less than impressive Bulls side. The loss would have been another dagger in coach, Franco Smith’s heart.

Verdict: Crusaders (-16.5) 9/10
Yes, they do have a less than impressive record in Bloemfontein with only one of their last three visits seeing them claim a victory, but I still can see the Crusaders cruising past this handicap. They’ve put two mammoth scores on the board in their last two games and I can see them doing it again against a Cheetahs side who are as porous as ‘Dear Old Henry’s’ bucket when it comes to defending.  

Kings v Rebels | Saturday 29 April | Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium | 19:30

To Win (80 Mins)
Kings 12/10 | Draw 22/1 | Rebels 13/20
Kings (+2.5) 9/10 | Rebels (-2.5) 9/10 

I never thought I’d be this excited to watch a Kings game but after last week’s victory over the ‘Tahs, I’m really keen to see what the Kings do on their own patch. It’s a rather strange situation the men from Nelson Mandela Bay find themselves in, as barring a late reprieve from SANZAAR or political interference, the Kings as a Super Rugby entity will cease to exist come the close of the round robin phase. And while I still think they have no right to be sitting at the big boy's Super Rugby table, one has to wonder if SANZAAR has missed a trick by not going with a two-tier system a la the European Rugby Champions Cup and Challenge. Yes, Super Rugby is currently a meal too big for most palates but changing it into a two-tier system would have kept everyone happy. That particular debate is for another time, however.

The Rebels, while claiming a vital two points against the Sharks, were far from impressive in Round 9. For a side so desperate to stay in Super Rugby, it simply is unforgivable to not end up beating a team who were so undercooked they make a rare steak look well done and who were down to 14 men. A 9-9 draw against 14 men really encapsulates the Rebels season so far.

Verdict: Kings 12/10
I think the Kings will actually take this one quite comfortably. They were brilliant on tour and have some form players in the shape of Chris Cloete and Lionel Cronje. I also think the Rebels are going to struggle to keep the like of Makozole Mpimpi quiet on a surface that is way more conducive to running rugby than the Australian decks. 

Jaguares v Sharks | Saturday 29 April | Estadio Jose Amalfitani | 21:40

To Win (80 Mins)
Jaguares 1/3 | Draw 22/1 | Sharks 2/1
Jaguares (-7.5) 9/10 | sharks (+7.5) 9/10

We close out Saturday’s action with a clash between the Sharks and the Jaguares. The former make the trip off the back of a horror show against the Rebels which lead to coach Robert du Preez saying the players should reimburse the Kings Park faithful for their ticket costs, while the later put in a solid showing against the Lions last Friday evening.

The Sharks really do face a tough assignment here as they are missing a plethora of players through suspension and injury. The Jaguares are also yet to lose at home this year and have already claimed comfortable wins over the Cheetahs and Lions at the Estadio Jose Amafitani.

Verdict: Jaguares 1/3
I know this is a bit of a cop out but that handicap makes me extremely weary. The ‘Jags should win this one but I honestly have no idea by how much. Play it safe here and back the straight home win.

Written by Darry Worthington for!

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