Super Rugby round seven preview
March 29, 2013
Friday, March 29
Russell Barwick and Greg Growden discuss the issues of the week (video available only in Oceania)%]
Waratahs 23 - 19 Force Stormers 14 - 19 Crusaders Cheetahs 34 - 16 Melbourne Rebels Brumbies 23 - 20 Bulls Chiefs 23 - 16 Blues Hurricanes 46 - 30 Southern Kings Highlanders 33 - 34 Reds
19:35 local, 06:35 GMT, 17:35 EST, 17:05 CST, 14:35 WST
Head to Head: Played 16 Highlanders 9 Reds 7
In Dunedin: Played 5 Highlanders 5 Reds 0
Last time: Round 17 2012 - Reds 19 - 13 Highlanders, at Suncorp Stadium
Preview: Dunedin marks the final frontier for the Reds, as they have never won a Super Rugby match in the deep south of New Zealand, failing to come to terms with icy wind-swept Carisbrook and Invercargill. But Queensland should have no excuses under the new roof in Dunedin. But the Highlanders love running the ball more than anyone, and they are desperate to break their duck this season. The Reds have suffered a major blow with the loss of Digby Ioane, but they have form flanker Liam Gill back. James Horwill made a big impact on return against the Bulls, and he should play for an hour this time. The home side have their skipper, Andrew Hore, back from a rib injury, but they have lost dynamic winger Kade Poki. Should be a cracking game.
Tip: Reds by 1 point
Saturday, March 30
16:35 local, 03:35 GMT, 14:35 EST, 14:05 CST, 11:35 WST
Head to Head: First meeting.
Preview: The Kings' defence was woeful against the Crusaders, but they should at least earn themselves some attacking chances with the ball if they can tighten up that department. The Hurricanes' all-round game might not be as ruthless as that of the Crusaders, but their attack is more dynamic. And they welcome back fullback Andre Taylor and hooker Dane Coles while skipper Conrad Smith has overcome concerns about his bruised heel.
Tip: Hurricanes by 30 points
19:35 local, 06:35 GMT, 17:35 EST, 17:05 CST, 14:35 WST
Head to Head: Played 19 Chiefs 9 Blues 10
In Mount Maunganui: First match.
Last time: Round 15, 2012 - Blues 34 - 41 Chiefs, at North Harbour Stadium
Preview: The Blues' revival has stalled and they'll face another searching test against the defending champions. The Chiefs, running second with a 4-1 record, have a luxury of riches, shown by their backline selections: they've lost half-back Tawera Kerr-Barlow to injury but All Blacks No. 9 Brendon Leonard returns to the bench, and Tim Nanai-Williams has made way for midfield linchpin Richard Kahui to make a celebrated return. The Blues will miss tight-head prop Charlie Faumuina and have given hooker Keven Mealamu an extra week to return.
Tip: Chiefs by 10 points
19:40 local, 08:40 GMT, 19:40 EST, 19:10 CST, 16:40 WST
Head to Head: Played 16 Brumbies 9 Bulls 7
In Canberra: Played 7 Brumbies 6 Bulls 1
Last time: Round 9 2012 - Bulls 36 - 34 Brumbies, at Loftus Versfeld
Preview: The Brumbies are coming off their first loss of the season and a long trip home, but they should still fancy themselves against an injury-riddled Bulls outfit that almost stole a win out of the bag against the Reds. The home side will look to repeat their running game that worked wonders against the Sharks, but they will be sweating over the fitness of fullback Jesse Mogg. Jake White has done well to keep his team fresh and hungry by rotating his troops. This is an important game for the Bulls, who must do more with the ball rather than score with penalty goals.
Tip: Brumbies by 8 points
17:05 local, 15:05 GMT, 02:05 EST +1d, 01:35 CST +1d, 23:05 WST
Head to Head: Played 2 Cheetahs 2 Rebels 0
In Bloemfontein: Played 1 Cheetahs 1 Rebels 0
Last time: Round 4 2012 - Rebels 26 - 33 Cheetahs 33, at AAMI Park
Preview: Melbourne's response to last week's debacle, on and off the field, will determine the rest of their season: a blowout to the Cheetahs will suggest a long back end to the season; but if they rally together following the axing of Kurtley Beale, it'll send a clear message they're united and stronger than the actions of one man. Richard Kingi has replaced suspended winger Cooper Vuna, while young forwards Jordy Reid and Paul Alo-Emile will make their run-on debut. The Cheetahs have just completed three wins on the road and will eye the Rebels as an easy kill.
Tip: Cheetahs by 25 points
19:10 local, 17:10 GMT, 04:10 EST +1d, 03:40 CST +1d, 01:10 WST +1d
Head to Head: Played 18 Stormers 4 Crusaders 13 drawn 1
In Cape Town: Played 9 Stormers 4 Crusaders 5
Last time: Round 8 2012 - Crusaders 31 - 24 Stormers, in Christchurch
Preview: The Crusaders have rarely been such underdogs, but there are no surprises with the odds when they are missing Dan Carter and Kieran Read on top of Richie McCaw. George Whitelock, a hat-trick hero against the Kings, will captain the Cantabs while Tyler Bleyendaal steps into the No. 10 jersey. The Stormers produced their best display of the season against the Brumbies, showing they could attack against a good defensive unit. But they have taken a hit up front with hooker Tiaan Liebenberg ruled out for six weeks and prop Steven Kitshoff suspended. Bad timing as the Crusaders use their scrum as a weapon.
Tip: Stormers by 7 points
Sunday, March 31
16:05 local, 05:05 GMT, 16:05 EST, 15:35 CST, 13:05 WST
Head to Head: Played 9 Waratahs 6 Force 2 drawn 1
In Sydney: Played 4 Waratahs 1 Force 2 drawn 1
Last time: Round 8 2012 - Force 18 - 23 Waratahs, at nib Stadium
Preview: Queensland slipped up against the Force two weeks ago, and NSW can't fall into the same trap against a spirited outfit if they wish to be Australian conference contenders. Last week's performance against the Blues still wasn't good enough from the Waratahs, but the emotion of a comeback win could be the spark they need. Of course, the Force won't be lacking in motivation or inside oil as coach Michael Foley will be determined to get one over his former team. He's missing hooker Nathan Charles, who's been ruled out for the season, but former Waratahs utility back Sam Norton-knight is set to make his debut. Hugh McMeniman will be up for the fight with Wallabies locks Kane Douglas and Sitaleki Timani.
Tip: Waratahs by 10 points
Make your ESPN FootyTips selections for Super Rugby round seven
Munster, No.8s, the imploding Australians, wonderful Glasgow and Lancaster's dilemma - it is Monday Maul time
As Ewen McKenzie exits stage left, the ARU remains under huge pressure, with CEO Bill Pulver feeling the brunt of Australian rugby's displeasure, Greg Growden writes
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the remarkable events in Brisbane and the first round of the European Rugby Champions Cup
Following Saturday's shock announcement, we look at the highs and the lows of Ewen McKenzie's brief stint as Wallabies coach.