JON CARDINELLI looks ahead to the first three Vodacom Super Rugby matches of round 10, including the games involving the Lions and Sharks.
CHIEFS vs LIONS, Hamilton (Friday, 9:35am)
The Chiefs’ winning run continues. Colin Cooper’s side began the season with four consecutive losses and a draw. Since then, they’ve won three on the bounce – including last week’s derby against the Blues.
The Chiefs will go into the next clash as favourites. The Lions have struggled for consistency since losing a host of senior players to overseas clubs at the end of 2018.
The Lions boast some exciting youngsters – Gianni Lombard will start at No 10 ahead of Elton Jantjies this week. The pack should be bolstered by the return of Warren Whiteley and Kwagga Smith.
But the Chiefs have found some form, and they will have the advantage of playing this next fixture at home. The Lions have not travelled well in recent seasons, and are coming off a big loss to the Brumbies.
Stats and facts
– The Lions won on their most recent visit to face the Chiefs (36-32 in 2016). The Chiefs had won all five previous home matches.
– This will be the fourth consecutive time that the Chiefs have hosted the Lions. The Chiefs haven’t paid a visit to the Lions in Johannesburg since 2011 (Chiefs won 34-30).
– The Chiefs have played the Lions 10 times in history for seven wins and three losses. The New Zealand outfit have won five of the last six clashes.
– Malcolm Marx (Lions) has played the most minutes (622) of any hooker in 2019, almost 100 more than the next hooker behind him (James Parsons, 529 minutes).
Chiefs – 15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Alex Nankivell, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Ataata Moeakiola, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (c), 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Tyler Ardron, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Liam Polwart, 1 Angus Ta’avao.
Subs: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Atu Moli, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Tumua Manu, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Franco Naude, 11 Aphiwe Dyanti, 10 Gianni Lombard, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Frans Van Wyk, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Ruan Combrinck.
SUNWOLVES vs HURRICANES, Tokyo (Friday, 12pm)
Ngani Laumape aside, the Hurricanes are yet to really impress in this year’s Super Rugby tournament. One would expect them to dominate the coming clash against the Sunwolves, though, and claim five much-needed log points.
Beauden and Jordie Barrett have been rested for this clash, as has Ardie Savea. Hurricanes captain Dane Coles is still battling a calf injury.
And yet the Hurricanes still have the power up front – and certainly out wide – to blow the Sunwolves off the park. According to Opta, the Japan-based side has missed the most tackles in this year’s tournament, and has the second-worst tackle-success rate (82%).
Stats and facts
– This will be the third meeting between the Sunwolves and Hurricanes, with the side from Wellington winning the previous two by an aggregate score of 126-32.
– The Hurricanes have lost just one of their last six games. However, on the road they’ve won just twice in their last nine (drawn one, lost six).
– The Sunwolves are still chasing their first victory at home in 2019. They’ve only lost five games in a row on their own turf once before.
Sunwolves – 15 Ryohei Yamanaka, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Josh Timu, 12 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Jamie Booth, 8 Hendrik Tui, 7 Dan Pryor (c), 6 Ben Gunter, 5 Luke Thompson, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Nathan Vella, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Subs: 16 Atsushi Sakata, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Tom Rowe, 20 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Jason Emery, 23 Jamie Henry.
Hurricanes – 15 Chase Tiatia, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Reed Prinsep, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Liam Mitchell, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Ben May, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Subs: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Sam Henwood, 21 Richard Judd, 22 James Marshall, 23 Billy Proctor.
SHARKS vs REDS, Durban (Friday, 3:05pm)
Which Sharks side will turn up this week? The white-hot outfit that hammered the Lions at Ellis Park in round eight, or the ice-cold group that surrendered to the Jaguares in what coach Rob du Preez Snr described as the franchise’s ‘worst performance’?
The Sharks conceded 51 points and as many seven tries at home last week. While rumours persist that the coach and many of the players are not on the same page, there will be plenty to play for – in terms of pride and log position – when they host the Reds on Friday.
The Vodacom Bulls bounced back last week to claim a comfortable win over the Reds at Loftus Versfeld. Brad Thorn’s side could become victims of another backlash when they travel to Kings Park.
The Sharks defence will have to be on point. While the Reds have one of the worst attacking records in the tournament as far as points (rank 13) and tries (rank 10) are concerned, they’re averaging 27 defenders beaten per game.
If they win the gainline battle and translate that dominance into points – as the Jaguares did last week – they could surprise the Sharks.
The hosts should be up for this battle, though. There will be no room for complacency after such a poor showing in the previous match.
Stats and facts
– The Sharks have won eight of their last 11 encounters with the Reds. Each of those wins have seen them score 21 points or more against the Queenslanders.
– The Sharks have won 21 of their last 26 home games against Australian opposition and are undefeated in the last 10 fixtures of that span.
– The Reds are pursuing a win in South Africa for the first time since 2015 (against the Cheetahs). They haven’t toppled an existing South African side since 2011 (the Stormers).
– April 2004 was the last time the Reds triumphed when visiting the Sharks. Three of the Reds’ four away wins against the Sharks have come by a single point.
– Samu Kerevi (Reds) and Daniel du Preez (Sharks) have carried the ball the most often in 2019, with 108 and 96 carries respectively.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Kobus van Wyk, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (c), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Aphelele Fassi.
Reds – 15 Hamish Stewart, 14 Sefa Naivalu , 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi (c), 11 Jack Hardy, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 Harry Hoopert.
Subs: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Harry Hockings, 20 Adam Korczyk, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Jock Campbell.
Photo: EPA/Dave Hunt