Super Rugby round 11 preview
April 26, 2013
Friday, April 26
Tom Taylor and the Crusaders are unbeaten at home this season © Getty Images
Head to Head: Played 15 Hurricanes 6 Stormers 9
In Palmerston North: Played 1 Hurricanes 1 Stormers 0
Last clash: Round 1 2012 - Stormers 39 -26 Hurricanes at Newlands Rugby Stadium
Preview: The Stormers have lacked penetration, but that's one trait returning Springboks winger Bryan Habana has in spades. On the other hand, Hurricanes star winger Julian Savea has made himself unavailable pending assault charges. His exit is one of many changes for the hosts, with Jason Eaton, Karl Lowe, Victor Vito, TJ Perenara and Andre Taylor all returning to the starting side and winger Matt Proctor making his debut. The Stormers haven't won on the road since last year, while the Hurricanes have lost only one match at home this year - their first game of the season.
Tip: Hurricanes by 5 points
Head to Head: Played 18 Reds 9 Blues 8 drawn 1
In Brisbane: Played 10 Reds 7 Blues 3
Last clash: Round 10 2012 - Blues 11 - 23 Reds at Eden Park
Preview: The Reds have endures a week of drama with Digby Ioane's contract shenanigans following their brutal, energy-sapping 19-19 draw with the Brumbies. The Blues, on the other hand, come off a bye. But the Blues have faced drama of their own with three-quarters Francis Saili and George Moala stood down, forcing Rene Ranger back into the midfield. Lock Anthony Boric (neck) is also missing. The Blues have a strong backrow, with rookie Steven Luatua leading the charge, and their outside backs are among the most dangerous in the competition. Ben Daley and Saia Faingaa start as part of the Reds' front-row rotation.
Tip: Reds by 7 points
Saturday, April 27
Head to Head: Played 18 Chiefs 9 Sharks 9
In Hamilton: Played 9 Chiefs 6 Sharks 3
Last clash: Final 2012 - Chiefs 37 - 6 Sharks at Waikato Stadium
Preview: Plenty has changed since these sides contested the 2012 Super Rugby final, but the Chiefs should be too strong again. The Chiefs looked like they'd fallen for their own hype when losing to Queensland and New South Wales in their past two matches, as they lacked urgency, direct running and commitment to one-percenters. But that message should have sunk in after stern words from the coaching staff so expect a big turnaround. They regain co-captain Craig Clarke after five weeks out with concussion. The Sharks have an identical 5-3 record this season, but they have a shocking injury list and might be targeting other games judging by the "rotational" team changes that include resting skipper Keegan Daniel on the bench. Bismarck du Plessis, Jacques Botes, Tendai Mtawarira, Willem Alberts, JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Lwazi Mvovo, Tim Whitehead, Butch James and Louis Ludik are key players who are absent.
Tip: Chiefs by 12 points
Head to Head: Played 9 Brumbies 5 Force 3 drawn 1
In Canberra: Played 4 Brumbies 2 Force 2
Last clash: Round 16 2012 - Force 17 - 28 Brumbies at nib Stadium
Preview: The Brumbies have made just one change to the side that drew with the Reds 19-19 on Saturday with prop Scott Sio to give Wallabies squad-mate Dan Palmer a week's rest. The Brumbies will be wary of Sam Norton-Knight taking the ball to the line off Alby Mathewson, and the giant-slaying Force have already upset the Reds and Crusaders with huge defensive efforts. Expect another gritty derby. The Brumbies have conceded the least points per match in the comp, but the Force have conceded 11 points fewer than the table-topping Brumbies over the past six rounds, suggesting Michael Foley's style is starting to yield results.
Tip: Brumbies by 6 points
Head to Head: Played 18 Bulls 10 Waratahs 8
In Pretoria: Played 9 Bulls 7 Waratahs 2
Last clash: Round 12 2012 - Waratahs 24 - 27 Bulls at Allianz Stadium
Preview: Sstart believing a late drive to a finals berth really is possible if the Waratahs can win this. They looked good toppling 2012 champions the Chiefs last weekend but this is a more formidable assignment. The Bulls are South African conference leaders and the Tahs haven't beaten them on the road in a decade; the Waratahs also haven't won anywhere in South Africa since 2009. The Bulls, who crushed the Kings 34-0 last week, regain prop Dean Greyling and scavenger Diewald Potgieter from injury while half-back Francois Hougaard makes his return via the bench. The Tahs are 4-4 and ever-improving, but the Bulls' ferocious defence will be a major test for their new running game. The Wallabies-laden NSW pack must create a platform for Bernard Foley to exploit Israel Folau's leaping ability with more pinpoint cross kicks.
Tip: Bulls by 3 points
Head to Head: First meeting
Preview: The Cheetahs kept the Sharks tryless in their 12-6 win in Durban last week, and now their defence is winning games after they had previously scored through their frenzied attack. Coach Naka Drotske has kept the same starting XV, and they'll be eying a bonus-point win against the fledgling Kings as prop Coenie Oosthuizen plays his 50th Super Rugby match. The Kings have dropped captain Luke Watson to the bench, replacing him with Jaques Engelbrecht, after their 34-0 loss to the Bulls. Former Lions winger Michael Killian returns from a long injury lay-off, forcing Ronnie Cooke into the centres and Waylon Murray onto the bench.
Tip: Cheetahs by 11 points
Sunday, April 28
Head to Head: Played 1 Crusaders 0 Rebels 1
In Christchurch: First fixture
Last clash: Round 12 2012 - Rebels 28 - 19 Crusaders at AAMI Park
Preview: The men from Canterbury have dominated all three home games in 2013, for a total scoreline that reads 120-47. That doesn't bode well for the Rebels, who have the worst defensive record in the competition. But the Rebels have beaten the Force twice this year, who themselves upset the Crusaders in round nine. Melbourne received a midweek boost with the re-signing of locks Hugh Pyle and Cadeyrn Neville and the poaching of Brumbies flanker Colby Faingaa.
Tip: Crusaders by 25 points
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton
Cards, kicks, slips and scores: It's The Week in Pictures, the finest snaps from the last seven days of rugby