Super Rugby - Round 2 preview
February 22, 2013
Greg Growden and Russell Barwick preview this weekend's Six Nations and Super Rugby action.
Form guide for round two of Super Rugby 2013, with a series of local derbies and South Africa's Southern Kings make their debut against Western Force.
FRIDAY, February 22:
Highlanders v Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.
Head to Head: Played 19 - Highlanders 7, Chiefs 12.
In Dunedin: Played 6 - Highlanders 3, Chiefs 3.
Last clash: Round 16 2012 - Chiefs 27 bt Highlanders 21 at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
THE first all-Kiwi match of the season shapes as a cracker. Both sides have been hit by injury but the emerging Highlanders will still like their chances of taking the big scalp of the defending champions. The Chiefs are missing Richard Kahui, Robbie Robinson and Andrew Horrell from their backline, on top of Sonny Bill Williams' return to the NRL. The Highlanders won't have suspended hooker Andrew Hore, as well as injured playmaker Colin Slade. There was very little between both sides in their two matches last year and both possess strong packs and dynamic backlines. Aaron Cruden's class could be the difference. Tip: Highlanders by 5 points
Rebels v Brumbies at AAMI Park, Melbourne 7.40pm.
Head to Head: Played 4 - Rebels 1, Brumbies 3.
In Melbourne: Played 2 - Rebels 1, Brumbies 1.
Last clash: Round 15 2012 - Brumbies 27 bt Rebels 19 at AAMI Park.
THE Rebels chased down a fast-starting Force for a round one win but the Brumbies, who downed the Reds, won't allow them the same luxury. The battle of the breakdown should decide this encounter. The Brumbies back-row, led by Test star David Pocock, dominated Queensland and rookie Rebel flanker Scott Fuglistaller will be up against it. With fullback James O'Connor sharp in his return from injury and Kurtley Beale calling the shots Melbourne have the backline talent to take on the visitors but it will depend on whether they can get any quick ball. The jostling between aspirant Test halfbacks Nick Phipps and Nic White will be key. Tip: Brumbies by 3 points
SATURDAY, February 23.
Bulls v Stormers at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria.
Head to Head: Played 19 - Bulls 8, Stormers 10, drawn 1.
In Pretoria: Played 9 - Bulls 4, Stormers 5.
Last clash: Round 15 2012 - Stormers 19 bt Bulls 14 at Loftus Versfeld.
THE Stormers - South Africa's leading regular-season team over the past two seasons - have brought in exciting Springboks No.10 Elton Jantjies to spark up their attack in 2013. The Cape Town team have built their success on a brick-wall defence but need to unleash the likes of Gio Aplon, Jaco Taute and Bryan Habana. They are missing captain Schalk Burger and lock Eben Etzebeth while the Bulls are near full strength. Always tough to toss at home, the Bulls' strength lies in their big pack. Francois Botha and Morne Steyn remain in the halves and Bjorn Basson looms as a threat out wide. Tip: Bulls by 3 points
Hurricanes v Blues at Westpac Stadium, Wellington.
Head to Head: Played 19 - Hurricanes 7, Blues 11, drawn 1.
In Wellington: Played 8 - Hurricanes 3, Blues 4, drawn 1.
Last clash: Round 11 2012 - Hurricanes 35 bt Blues 19 at Westpac Stadium.
SIR John Kirwan has a big job on his hands to turn around the Blues but if there trial showings are anything to go by he has plenty of raw talent to work with. The Blues scampered over for 11 tries in matches against the Reds and Waratahs and boast some exciting unheralded youngsters. But it's up to the likes of Piri Weepu, Ali Williams and Luke Braid to lead them with nous. The Hurricanes will miss winger Cory Jane for the season, as well as flanker Ardie Savea for a month, but boast a more settled and experienced side. Young duo Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara were a hit combination in 2012 and should only improve. Tip: Hurricanes by 6 points
QLD Reds v NSW Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane.
Head to Head: Played 19 - Reds 11, Waratahs 8, drawn 1.
In Brisbane: Played 10 - Reds 6, Waratahs 3, drawn 1.
Last clash: Round 18 2012 - Reds 32 bt Waratahs 16 at Suncorp Stadium.
THE interstate grudge match should tell us plenty about exactly where both arch-rivals sit in 2013. The Reds are already under the pump following their disappointing 24-6 loss to the Brumbies while the Waratahs need to show they are again worthy of the hype. New coach Michael Cheika has brought a steely resolve as well as adventurous intentions. Whether the Waratahs play an expansive game or stick to the strength of their big pack is the $64 question. Queensland will attempt to run them off their feet if they can and hope to counter-attack at will. Many eyes will be on Israel Folau's debut at fullback where he'll be a major threat if the Reds allow him time and space. Tip: Waratahs by 2 points
SUNDAY, February 24:
Cheetahs v Sharks at Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein.
Head to Head: Played 10 - Cheetahs 4, Sharks 6.
In Bloemfontein: Played 5 - Cheetahs 2, Sharks 3.
Last clash: Round 18 2012 - Sharks 34 bt Cheetahs 15 at ABSA Stadium.
LAST year's finalists, the Sharks should have little trouble in this away match, even without key forwards Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts and Keegan Daniel. The Sharks boast plenty of depth in their pack and Patrick Lambie is back in his rightful position at five-eighth. The Cheetahs have big-kicking five-eighth Johan Goosen back fit while Waratahs flop Sarel Pretorius returns to Free State on the bench. The competition entertainers have lost captain Juan Smith (retired) and are without ball scavenger Heinrich Brussow (shoulder). Tip: Sharks by 14 points
Southern Kings v Western Force at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth. Head to Head: Played 0 Kings 0 Force 0.
WESTERN FORCE go where no men have gone before as the first team to take on Super Rugby newcomers the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth. The visitors start the bookmakers' heavy favourites but the Kings, who replaced the Lions in the competition, have plenty to play for in their debut. Big-kicking five-eighth Demetri Catrakilis can knock over drop goals from almost anywhere on the park while flanker Luke Watson will lead by example. The Force impressed early on against the Rebels and will see this as a real opportunity for a bonus-point win. Skipper Matt Hodgson, Nick Cummins, Salesi Ma'afu and Hugh McMeniman are all returning from injury. Inside centre Kyle Godwin was one of his team's best against the Rebels and is one to watch. Tip: Force by 10 points
Crusaders have a bye.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson
Paul Eddison explains how the French sold English clubs down the river and why their domestic game will go from strength to strength