Super Rugby round nine preview
April 12, 2013
Friday, April 12
Henry Speight has been in good form for the Brumbies © Getty Images
19:35 local, 07:35 GMT, 17:35 EST, 17:05 CST, 15:35 WST
Head to Head: Played 17 Highlanders 7 Brumbies 10
In Dunedin: Played 6 Highlanders 4 Brumbies 2
Last clash: Round 5, 2012 - Brumbies 33 - 26 Highlanders, at Canberra Stadium
Preview: The Highlanders look much better than their winless record suggests, while the Brumbies have started to sag. Both teams have made six run-on changes - split between backs and forwards. Matt Toomua and Jesse Mogg have returned to the Brumbies backline but Pat McCabe has been benched. Surprisingly, All Blacks halves Aaron Smith and Colin Slade have also been dropped to the bench for the Highlanders in a massive call. But damaging winger Kade Poki returns to wreak havoc alongside Hosea Gear, Ma'a Nonu and Ben Smith. The Brumbies have been played South African sides for each of their past four games, and it is quite a significant change to deal with New Zealand sides.
Tip: Brumbies by 5 points
Saturday, April 13
16:35 local, 04:35 GMT, 14:35 EST, 14:05 CST, 12:35 WST
Head to Head: Played 17 Chiefs 8 Reds 9
In Hamilton: Played 8 Chiefs 4 Reds 4
Last clash: Round 12, 2012 - Reds 42 - 27 Chiefs, at Suncorp Stadium
Preview: The Chiefs deserve their pole position on the ladder and favouritism for what shapes as a highly entertaining, daytime clash. But the Reds make a habit of surprising Kiwi outfits, winning 10 of their past 11 against New Zealand sides, and they seem to produce some of their best rugby against the Chiefs. Both teams come off a timely bye. Winger Rod Davies is the Reds' only change from the 34-33 win over the Highlanders while the Chiefs have made several alterations to the pack that beat the Blues. The playmaking battle between Quade Cooper and Aaron Cruden is one to watch, as well as the stoush between No. 7s Liam Gill and Sam Cane.
Tip: Chiefs by 1 point
19:35 local, 07:35 GMT, 17:35 EST, 17:05 CST, 15:35 WST
Head to Head: Played 20 Blues 12 Hurricanes 7 drawn 1
In Auckland: Played 9 Blues 6 Hurricanes 3
Last clash: Round 2, 2013 - Hurricanes 20 - 34 Blues, at Westpac Stadium
Preview: The Hurricanes have soared into fifth spot with four consecutive wins, while the Blues are only one point behind. The news that All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina will miss the rest of the season with a calf injury is a huge blow to the Blues, who are also without suspended winger George Moala. The Auckland side beat the Hurricanes 34-20 in round two, but the Canes will fancy their chances after showing their attacking spark against New South Wales. They have re-jigged their backline, with Tusi Pisi taking over at five-eighth with in-form Beauden Barrett moving to fullback to offer a twin-playmaking threat
Tip: Hurricanes by 6 points
19:40 local, 09:40 GMT, 19:40 EST, 19:10 CST, 17:40 WST
Head to Head: First meeting.
Preview: The besieged Rebels are breathing much better after their desperate 30-23 win over Western Force in Perth, but this isn't the "easy" game many predicted pre-season. The Kings rattled the Brumbies in a 28-28 draw last week, and their pack is primed to outmuscle the home side. Melbourne have reshuffled their backline with James O'Connor moving to five-eighth and Richard Kingi switching to fullback, allowing Cooper Vuna to return on the wing. The Kings lack star power, but they make up for it in hard graft and character. The Rebels forwards must be on their game. Fatigue will be a factor for both sides, with the Kings on the fourth leg of their Australasian tour and the Rebels back at home for the first time in a month after a three-week tour of South Africa and Perth. There isn't much between these two, but the Kings can claim their first win on Australian soil if they can repeat last week's effort.
Tip: Kings by 5 points
19:40 local, 11:40 GMT, 21:40 EST, 21:10 CST, 19:40 WST
Head to Head: Played 7 Force 1 Crusaders 4 drawn 2
In Perth: Played 4 Force 1 Crusaders 2 drawn 1
Last clash: Round 18, 2012 - Crusaders 38 - 24 Force, at Christchurch Stadium
Preview: Force coach Michael Foley was quick to say his side's 30-23 defeat to the Rebels last week was their worst performance of the season. Compounding their woes was the loss of in-form lock Hugh McMeniman, who will miss at least six weeks with a fractured shoulder. The Crusaders were also dealt a heavy blow with five-eighth Dan Carter ruled out after tweaking a hamstring. The Crusaders have opted to rest forwards Sam Whitelock and Matt Todd. The Force have notched just one win this season and are in danger of finishing last in the Aussie conference, while the Crusaders (3-3) need to get a wriggle on to make the finals.
Tip: Crusaders by 10 points
17:05 local, 15:05 GMT, 01:05 EST +1d, 00:35 CST +1d, 23:05 WST
Head to Head: Played 20 Stormers 9 Sharks 11
In Cape Town: Played 9 Stormers 5 Sharks 4
Last clash: Round 3, 2013 - Sharks 12 - 6 Stormers, at Kings Park Stadium
Preview: The consistent Crusaders are the measuring stick for this match, pipping the Stormers then falling short against the Sharks. The Stormers are at home, where they've won 10 of their past 12, but one of those losses was against the Sharks - against whom they also fell in round three. Stormers five-eighth Elton Jantjies is out injured, replaced by rookie Gary van Aswegen, while fullback Jaco Taute has ruptured an ACL. Sharks winger Sean Robinson debuts and backrower Jean Deysel returns to cover for an injured Jacques Botes. Expect another tight derby.
Tip: Sharks by 3 points
19:10 local, 17:10 GMT, 03:10 EST +1d, 02:40 CST +1d, 01:10 WST +1d
Head to Head: Played 10 Bulls 9 Cheetahs 1
In Pretoria: Played 5 Bulls 4 Cheetahs 1
Last clash: Round 16, 2012 - Bulls 40 - 24 Cheetahs, at Loftus Versfeld
Preview: The Cheetahs continue to defy expectations and to surprise pundits, and they will go in as underdogs despite a five-match winning run. Their red-time escape act against the Stormers shows they boast great staying power, and they will like their chances of a rare win over the Bulls. The home side have Springboks duo Akona Ndungane and Flip van der Merwe returning after four weeks out, while they're also refreshed following a bye. Youngster Jan Serfontein has added some welcome creativity to the Bulls backline. That's something the Cheetahs have in spades, and Burton Francis has covered the loss of Johan Goosen by stepping up at No. 10.
Tip: Cheetahs by 5 points
Bye: New South Wales Waratahs
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