Super Rugby round four form guide
March 8, 2013
Friday, March 8
Julian Savea has been one of the stars for the winless Hurricanes this season © Getty Images
Blues 21 - 28 Bulls Southern Kings 12 - 21 Sharks Brumbies 35 - 6 Waratahs Highlanders 19 - 36 Cheetahs Melbourne Rebels 13 - 23 Reds Hurricanes 29 - 28 Crusaders
Australia Blues Brumbies Bulls Cheetahs Chiefs Crusaders Highlanders Hurricanes Melbourne Rebels New South Wales Waratahs New Zealand Queensland Reds Rebels Reds Sharks South Africa Southern Kings Stormers Waratahs
Head to Head: Played 22 Hurricanes 5 Crusaders 15 drawn 2
In Wellington: Played 7 Hurricanes 2 Crusaders 4 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 16 2012 - Crusaders 22 Hurricanes 23 at Christchurch Stadium
Preview: The Crusaders were brittle defensively and one-dimensional in attack when they flopped badly in their opening match of the year against a fired-up Blues. But they will be far more prepared against an equally disappointing Hurricanes. All Blacks star Israel Dagg returns to his preferred position at fullback in a sharper backline, which requires Dan Carter to take on the line and straighten the attack. Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett has kept faith with his winless side, which is struggling to hold on to the pill. The scrum battle between the Franks brothers, Ben and Owen, should be a feature.
Tip: Crusaders by 1 point
(19:40 local, 08:40 GMT, 19:40 EST, 19:10 CST, 16:40 WST)
Head to Head: Played 4 Rebels 0 Reds 4
In Melbourne: Played 2 Rebels 0 Reds 2
Last clash: Round 16 2012 - Rebels 17 Reds 32 at AAMI Park
Preview: The Rebels blew a 10-point lead in losing to New South Wales but don't expect the ruthless Reds to give them the same head start. The home side's task of a breakthrough win over Queensland has been made even more difficult with the dual loss of star playmaker Kurtley Beale (hand) and tireless skipper Gareth Delve (shoulder). New No. 10 James O'Connor is itching to go toe-to-toe with good mate Quade Cooper, but a one-man show won't be enough for a Melbourne upset. Expect the Reds to target rookie fullback Angus Roberts, and returning Wallabies centre Anthony Faingaa will give the visitors plenty of punch in midfield.
Tip: Reds by 9 points
Saturday, March 9
19:35 local, 06:35 GMT, 17:35 EST, 17:05 CST, 14:35 WST
Head to Head: Played 8 Highlanders 7 Cheetahs 1
In Invercargill: Played 2 Highlanders 1 Cheetahs 1
Last clash: Round 10 2012 - Cheetahs 33 Highlanders 36 at Vodacom Park
Preview: It doesn't get much easier for the travel-weary Cheetahs, who were crushed 45-3 last week by the Chiefs 45-3. Star flanker Heinrich Brussow is in the squad for the first time this season, returning on the bench from a serious shoulder problem. The Springboks No. 6 is the visitors' only change, and they need him firing quickly. The Highlanders, who had the bye last round, pushed the Chiefs hard in their season-opener and have a heap of firepower out wide. They have lost No.8 Nasi Manu with a major foot injury, but All Blacks duo Colin Slade and skipper Andrew Hore are set to return from their respective leg injury and suspension.
Tip: Highlanders by 21 points
19:40 local, 08:40 GMT, 19:40 EST, 19:10 CST, 16:40 WST
Head to Head: Played 20 Brumbies 9 Waratahs 11
In Canberra: Played 9 Brumbies 7 Waratahs 2
Last clash: Round 17 2012 - Waratahs 15 Brumbies 19 at ANZ Stadium
Preview: The Waratahs were scrappy in beating the Rebels in round three, but they showed in the second half that they were on the improve. The breakdown battle between No. 7s David Pocock and Michael Hooper should be fierce, with George Smith poised to shake it up further when injected off the bench. There will be another bruising contest between two big packs, but the difference could come in the play-making department. The Tahs are again without Berrick Barnes, and Bernard Foley will be under immense pressure. Ben Volavola has added second-half spark from fullback thus far, and he will start at No. 15 with Israel Folau on the wing.
Tip: Brumbies by 5 points
17:05 local, 15:05 GMT, 02:05 EST +1d, 01:35 CST +1d, 23:05 WST
Head to Head: Played 15 Stormers 8 Chiefs 7
In Cape Town: Played 6 Stormers 4 Chiefs 2
Last clash: Round 13 2011 - Chiefs 30 Stormers 23 at Waikato Stadium
Preview: Are the wheels falling off the Stormers? South Africa's top home-and-away team for the past two seasons is winless and struggling to cross the line in 2013. The recruitment of young playmaker Elton Jantjies hasn't paid off as yet as, they try to spread their wings in attack. If there's a team in the competition best suited to unlocking the Stormers' defence, it's the Chiefs who have scored 10 tries in two big wins in New Zealand. Goalkicker Gareth Anscombe has slipped in nicely at fullback, and the likes of Aaron Cruden, Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane and Liam Messam have taken up where they left off last year.
Tip: Chiefs by 7 points
19:10 local, 17:10 GMT, 04:10 EST +1d, 03:40 CST +1d, 01:10 WST +1d
Head to Head: Played 0 Kings 0 Sharks 0
In Port Elizabeth: N/A
Last clash: N/A
Preview: The Southern Kings kicked off their entry into Super Rugby with a 22-10 win over Western Force, but how much can be read into that? After last week's bye, they'll get a better measure of their ability when they host the 2012 runners-up. The unchanged Sharks will be feeling confident after two wins, but they failed to post a try against the miserly Stormers. Expect a much more open game, with the dangerous Sharks backline to shine. The Kings have named lock Darron Nell as replacement captain for Luke Watson, who has a throat injury, while Jacques Engelbrecht starts at flanker.
Tip: Sharks by 14 points
Sunday, March 10
16:05 local, 03:05 GMT, 14:05 EST, 13:35 CST, 11:05 WST
Head to Head: Played 17 Blues 11 Bulls 5 drawn 1
In Auckland: Played 6 Blues 6 Bulls 0
Last clash: Round 3 2012 - Bulls 23 Blues 29 at Loftus Versfeld
Preview: The Blues have been the surprise hits of 2013, with eye-catching upsets of the Hurricanes and Crusaders. Sir John Kirwan has given his powerful and talented bunch of players plenty of confidence to have a crack at the defence, and it's paying off. Senior players Ali Williams, Piri Weepu, Luke Braid and Rene Ranger are thriving while young guns such as Steven Luatua, Frank Halai and Charles Piutau have each been a revelation. The Bulls got out of jail against the gutsy Western Force in round three, and they must lift their standards at Eden Park. The South Africans must keep it tight and play to their big pack to have any chance of victory.
Tip: Blues by 8 points
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin
Last year's thrashing at the hands of Wales was not the first time England have fallen to their rivals. Scrum Sevens looks at whether they have bounced back the following year
With just two rounds left in the 2014 championship, the intensity cranks up a notch at Twickenham. Tom Hamilton previews the weekend's action
"I had a perfect record against England as did a few other Welshmen. England always seemed to bring the best out of us." John Taylor on the age-old rivalry