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Super Rugby Round 14
Brett McKay previews Super Rugby round 14
Brett McKay
May 16, 2013

Friday, April 17

Hurricanes v Chiefs, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

19:35 local, 07:35 GMT, 17:35 EST, 17:05 CST, 15:35 WST

Head to Head: Played 20; Hurricanes 11, Chiefs 8, 1 draw

In Wellington: Played 8; Hurricanes 7, Chiefs 1

Last clash: Round 18 2012 - Hurricanes 28 - 25 Chiefs, at Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Preview: I got a genuine shock going through the head-to-heads for this clash to see the Chiefs haven't won at the "Cake Tin" in Wellington since round 11, 2001. And the record overall is ridiculously close; of the past six clashes going back to their semi-final in 2009, three matches were decided by fewer than four points and they even drew 18-all in 2011. Over their history, the average scoreline is 23-23, with three tries apiece.

I'm not sure this first clash of 2013 will follow the same path, but I won't be completely surprised if it does. The Chiefs have remained among the very best sides this season, capable of really dismantling teams, while the Hurricanes can only be described as "consistently inconsistent". The Chiefs will relish this game being played at a fast pace, while the Hurricanes might have their best chance if the game gets a bit loose and becomes one of counter-attack and second-phase play.

Tip: Chiefs by 10 points

Melbourne Rebels v Stormers, AAMI Stadium

19:40 local, 09:40 GMT, 19:40 EST, 19:10 CST, 17:40 WST

Head to Head: Played 2; Rebels 0, Stormers 2

In Melbourne: Played 1; Rebels 0, Stormers 1

Last clash: Round 18 2012 - Stormers 26 - 21 Rebels, at Newlands, Cape Town

Preview: Time to produce the lucky coin, tipsters. The Stormers showed in Sydney last weekend that their evident lack of attack is holding them back against even mid-table teams, while the Rebels gave the Blues plenty to think about in the second half at Eden Park.

The Stormers will be without their enforcer, No. 8 Duane Vermeulen, and there was even talk out of the Republic that hooker Deon Fourie might overcome his rib injury and run out at openside flanker - a position he has played a lot in the Currie Cup. The Rebels, meanwhile, have named their fourth-choice fly-half, Bryce Hegarty, for his run-on debut, with Kurtley Beale standing down indefinitely and James O'Connor and Angus Roberts both ruled out.

So who do you pick between a team that has no trouble scoring tries but more than a few defending them against a team that will happily defend all game for a lack of attacking alternative,? Well, I think there's an upset in the air. So does the coin.

Tip: Rebels by 3 points

Force v Sharks, nib Stadium, Perth

19:40 local, 11:40 GMT, 21:40 EST, 21:10 CST, 19:40 WST

Head to Head: Played 7; Force 1, Sharks 6

In Perth: Played 3; Force 1, Sharks 2

Last clash: Round 12 2012 - Sharks 53 - 11 Force, at Kings Park Stadium, Durban

Preview: The Sharks haven't enjoyed a pleasant time in the past five weeks, with five losses and a growing injury toll all they have to show for it. Their Australasian Tour was always going to be a tough run, facing the looming Chiefs and revitalised Reds along the way, but the disappointing loss to the then-winless Highlanders has been the talking point. Bismarck du Plessis is still out, but Springboks loose forward Willem Alberts has been named at blindside, forming a formidable backrow with his captain, Keegan Daniel, and Marcell Coetzee.

The Force have shown they're more than up to the task of competing with top-class backrows, most recently pushing the Chiefs and Reds in successive weeks. This week's Scrum Five mention was noticed in the west, and there is definite confidence ahead of this clash back in front of the "Sea of Blue". The likes of Heath Tessmann, Matt Hodgson, Chris Alcock, Ben McCalman, Kyle Godwin and Nic Cummins are all in really good form, and I think the Force's all-round game should be too strong for tourists who may already have the thought of one last plane trip in the back of their collective mind.

Tip: Force by 5 points

Saturday, April 18

Crusaders v Blues, AMI Stadium, Christchurch

19:35 local, 07:35 GMT, 17:35 EST, 17:05 CST, 15:35 WST

Ruck'n Maul: Greg Growden and Russell Barwick discuss the big issues
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Head to Head: Played 22; Crusaders 12, Blues 10

In Christchurch: Played 9 Crusaders 6, Blues 3 (* Crusaders 1-0 at AMI Stadium)

Last clash: Round 13 2012 - Crusaders 59 - 12 Blues, at AMI Stadium, Christchurch

Preview: The second of three cracking derby games in round 14, this probably shapes as the hardest to pick. The Blues were jaw-droppingly brilliant in their scintillating first 40 minutes against the Rebels at Eden Park last week, while the Crusaders returned to their age-old "slow build-up to the kill" in bringing down the Brumbies in Canberra the week previously.

The Blues' excitement machines, fullback Charles Piutau, winger Frank Halai, midfield back Francis Saili and flanker Steven Luatua, will all be keen to showcase their talents and celebrate their All Blacks training squad selection, while opposing opensiders Luke Braid (Blues) and Matt Todd (Crusaders) will be wanting to prove to Steve Hanson that he may have erred in selecting only one specialist No. 7 (Sam Cane, who now happens to be out this round with a back injury).

A tough one to pick, but I think the patience and discipline of the Crusaders should prove too strong, particularly as Kieran Read returns from injury.

Tip: Crusaders by 10.

Waratahs v Brumbies, Stadium Australia, Sydney

19:40 local, 09:40 GMT, 19:40 EST, 19:10 CST, 17:40 WST

Head to Head: Played 21; Waratahs 11, Brumbies 10

In Sydney: Played 11; Waratahs 9, Brumbies 2 (* Waratahs 2-1 at ANZ Stadium)

Last clash: Round 4 2013 - Brumbies 35 - 6 Waratahs, at Canberra Stadium, Canberra

Preview: The Waratahs are high on confidence, as if getting up for derby games against the Brumbies is ever an issue. The Michael Chieka gameplan is becoming more familiar with every outing, and, more importantly, the crowds are slowly returning. Israel Folau is getting all the plaudits currently, but the truth of the matter is that he doesn't get the room to move without his forwards laying the foundation up front, which they've been doing very effectively over the past month.

The Brumbies have had two weeks to stew on their disappointing loss to the Crusaders in Canberra, and they will be keen not only to ram home their recent advantage over the Tahs but also to maintain their overall Super Rugby and Australian Conference leads. Aside from Folau v Mogg, the battle of the halves and the backrows each will be worth the price of admission alone. And that's before we factor in the Wallabies squad announcement the following day, for which this game will play a major role in deciding a number of names.

Tip: Brumbies by 7.

Bulls v Highlanders, Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria

17:05 local, 15:05 GMT, 01:05 EST +1d, 00:35 CST +1d, 23:05 WST

Head to Head: Played 15; Bulls 4, Highlanders 10, 1 draw

In Pretoria: Played 8; Bulls 3, Highlanders 4, 1 draw

Last clash: Round 13 2012 - Highlanders 16 - 11 Bulls, at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Preview: Only the very bold, and possibly family, would be game to take the Highlanders at Loftus on current form, though it's certainly recognised that, with all the unlikely results this season, the Highlanders will just as likely spring the upset. Their record against the Bulls is surprisingly good overall, and I can't think of too many visiting teams that have a positive win-loss record in Pretoria.

The Bulls aren't leading the South African conference by accident, though, and the Highlanders will need plenty of stars in the sky - and all of them in their jersey - to align properly if they're to take the four points. Given how tight things are getting as we get closer to the play-offs, though, where a loss could see them drop out of the top six completely, I can't the Bulls losing this one.

Tip: Bulls by 12.

Cheetahs v Reds, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

19:10 local, 17:10 GMT, 03:10 EST +1d, 02:40 CST +1d, 01:10 WST +1d

Head to Head: Played 6; Cheetahs 2, Reds 4

In Bloemfontein: Played 3; Cheetahs 2, Reds 1

Last clash: Round 6 2011 - Reds 41 - 8 Cheetahs, at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Preview: As a likely source of entertaining rugby, this game should be at the top of the list in round 14. The Cheetahs are looking to score from every phase, or so it seems, and the Reds have again found their try-scoring mojo, highlighted superbly by the 90-metre special scored by Rod Davies against the Sharks last weekend.

Quade Cooper has been on the charm offensive in the Republic, suggesting Cheetahs winger Willie le Roux "is a star player in the making" and correctly identifying him as the danger man for the Reds. Le Roux wears No. 14, but he spends a lot of time at first receiver; he will undoubtedly be in that same roving role here, and the Reds will give him space at their peril. Cooper, too, should keep an eye out for the intercept king of Super Rugby before unloading any of his long floating passes.

The Cheetahs won't be able to afford to let this game get loose, though, as the Reds will make them pay in ways much worse than the Hurricanes did.

Tip: Reds by 10.

Bye: Southern Kings


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