Super Rugby

Weekend Previews & Predictions

Round Eighteen – Saturday

The Baby Boks

We start with a word about the Baby Boks. The Juniors are through to the semi-finals, and their arch rivals are not!

The scoreline reads: 

South Africa 25-17 New Zealand

It was intense, as intense as when the Seniors meet on the rugby field. South Africa and New Zealand are the top end of rugby rivalry, and it showed in this game!

South Africa played with a pace and intensity that impressed, especially in the first half. However, their lack of discipline could have cost them dearly! Three yellow cards meant that they played with 14 men for a full thirty minutes, and that is never a good idea in top level rugby! One of those yellow-card incidents also saw a penalty try awarded to the Baby Blacks – it could have been disastrous!

Some great skills, some great rugby, by both teams. Entertainment all the way.

Now for France!

Round 18 & The Referees:

The last round of the regular season is upon us! 

18 rounds of Super Rugby, and Sanzaar have still not found a way to include the concept of neutral referees in their thinking.

Another weekend of weird referee appointments looms.

By the time you read this, Friday’s games will be in full swing across the Southern Hemisphere.

The Highlanders have already disposed of the Waratahs away – 49-12 to keep their hopes of a playoff alive, as long as some of the other matches to go their way this weekend.

Saturday starts in Wellington where the Hurricanes host the Blues with Glen Jackson the referee. At least Jackson did not play for either side in this game – he is an ex-Chief!

New Zealander Paul Williams has the whistle for the Australian Conference derby between the Brumbies, and the Reds in Canberra. A neutral appointment! You see Sanzaar, you can do it!

The regular season finishes with two South African Conference derbies that will be crucial to the outcome of the Conference and indeed the entire quarter-finals qualification list. All four South African teams can  qualify for the quarter-finals. In Cape Town AJ Jacobs will referee the Stormers versus the Sharks. Jacobs was born in Kimberley, went to school in Welkom in the Free State, so we could say, in the South African context, that he is completely neutral.

Marius van der Westhuizen is in charge for the Bulls versus Lions match that concludes the regular season’s fixture list. Van der Westhuizen is a Cape Town man and is thus neutral to the two teams involved in this clash.

Saturday 15 June

Hurricanes v Blues

Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Date Saturday 15 June
Kick-off 19h35 local; 07h35 GMT; 09h35 SA Time
Referee Glen Jackson
AR1 Brendon Pickerill
AR2 Mike Fraser
TMO Glenn Newman

Another game where one team has nothing to gain and everything to lose, while the visiting team is playing for pride and nothing else.

The Hurricanes have qualified for a home quarterfinal berth, theirs is everything to lose if they pick up injuries to key players, while the Blues are simply finishing a compulsory fixture before they pack up their changerooms and put away the tackle-bags for the while.

One could be forgiven for expecting the Hurricanes to play this game just a little gingerly, while protecting some of their big guns for the playoffs. They have selected their team accordingly.

The Blues will be desperate for a morale booster before the season closes. They are also saying goodbye to a number of their players and would like a win just to finish things off.

Team News:

The Hurricanes:

Dane Coles returns to the starting XV for the first time since Round Five of the Super Rugby competition when the Hurricanes host the Blues at Westpac Stadium on Saturday.

Coles impressed off the bench during the side’s successful two-match tour of South Africa. That included playing the second half against the Lions when he scored two tries as the Hurricanes ran out 37-17 winners, a result which guaranteed them a home quarter-final with a round to play.

With fourth place on the overall table secured, Hurricanes head coach John Plumtree has made a number of changes to the run-on side to face the Blues as he looks to manage the workloads of a number of players who have played a lot of minutes in recent weeks.

That includes the front row where props Toby Smith and Jeff Toomaga-Allen have been replaced by Fraser Armstrong and Ross Geldenhuys while lock James Blackwell, who has started every match, has been given an opportunity to freshen up.

The halves combination is also new with flyhalf Jackson Garden-Bachop starting outside scrumhalf Richard Judd, while there is also a new look midfield pairing with Danny Toala and Peter Umaga-Jensen combining.

Plumtree will have plenty of strike power on the bench with Ardie Savea, TJ Perenara and Asafo Aumua set to be introduced at some stage.

Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Peter Umaga-Jensen, 12 Danny Toala, 11 Salesi Rayasi, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Richard Judd, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 Kane Le’aupepe, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Fraser Armstrong.
Replacements: 16 Asafo Aumua, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Alex Fidow, 19 Liam Mitchell, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Jonah Lowe.

The Blues:

The Blues welcome back All Blacks Rieko Ioane and Patrick Tuipulotu after their final All Blacks stand-down last week.

Tuipulotu will join with Scott Scrafton in the second row while upfront the experienced James Parsons will play his 106th game for the Blues, elevating him to fourth in overall Blues history behind Keven Mealamu, Tony Woodcock and Jerome Kaino.

He will be flanked in the front row by the in-form Alex Hodgman and Marcel Renata, who gets his first start against the team he played for last year. Renata replaces All Black Ofa Tuungafasi, who has his final All Black stand-down after some outstanding form in the last month.

The same back row starts again in captain Blake Gibson, Dalton Papalii and Akira Ioane, who makes his 35th start in a row, virtually all of them the full 80 minutes. The resilient 23-year-old will earn his 65thcap for the Blues, having played in every game for the past three seasons

Augustine Pulu, who scored two tries and had a third controversially ruled out, is rewarded with another start, his 87thSuper cap and 37thand final game for the Blues before heading to Japan. He is partnered inside flyhalf Otere Black.

There is a new midfield with Sonny Bill Williams making a return from a knee injury. He will partner 20-year-old Tanielu Tele’a, who has impressed on the wing in his rookie season. Tele’a moves to his more accustomed midfield role alongside Williams, with TJ Faiane, who has started in every game, out with a hand injury.

The Blues back three is reunited with Rieko Ioane playing his 49th game for the Blues. Caleb Clarke returns from injury and Melani Nanai, who joins Akira Ioane as the only players to start in every game this year, is at fullback for the final time before he heads to the UK.

It means Ma’a Nonu, who has been such an influential player this year, will add his energy off the bench.

Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 Tanielu Tele’a, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (captain), 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Hisa Sasagi, 18 Lua Li, 19 Tom Robinson, 20 Josh Goodhue, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Ma’a Nonu.

Thoughts:

Analysing form, stats, and players is a bit pointless in a game such as this – if it were a regular season game with log points and progression on the line both teams would be approaching the game in a normal frame of mind, with their usual, more predictable tactical approach and strategies up for discussion.

This game has none of that tension, none of that planning, and none of the usual issues at stake.

Essentially a nothing game, with one team looking to protect players from injury and the other looking to end the season with a modicum of pride.

Perhaps the one element of interest to this game has been the revelation that the Blues are targeting the signature of Beauden Barrett for next season – they desperately want him as their flyhalf in an attempt to turn around their lack of winning results of the last decade or so. 

I would suggest the money should rather be spent on a good sports psychologist!

This game signals the end of their journey as Blues for a number of players. We know Melani Nanai is on his way to the Worcester Warriors, along with Matt Moulds. We know that Augustine Pulu is heading to Japan and the Hino Red Dolphins. We also know that Sonny Bill Williams is off-contract at the end of the year and is leaving, but he has not announced his destination yet. Ma’a Nonu is rumoured to be heading back to France.

The ‘Canes are also losing a bucket full of players, but this game is not their final run of the year, we could still be seeing Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Sam Lousi, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Matt Proctor, and James Marshall before their time is up as ‘Canes. Sadly, Nehe Milner-Skudder is injured again, and we are not likely to see those silky running skills again in 2019. 

The only interest in this game is really whether the Hurricanes will be up for a fight or whether they will cruise, while the Blues battle their inner demons, again.

Prediction:

I have the Hurricanes to win, but it is a bit of a pointless choice.

Brumbies v Reds

Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Date Saturday 15 June
Kick-off 19h45 local; 09h45 GMT; 11h45 SA Time
Referee Paul Williams
AR1 Ben O’Keeffe
AR2 Graham Cooper
TMO James Leckie

Yet another of the games where one team has everything to lose, and the other nothing.

The Brumbies have qualified for a home quarterfinal, the Reds are simply finishing a season. The Brumbies have to conserve resources for the playoffs and need to avoid unnecessary injuries, while the Reds are simply playing for pride.

Such is the end-of-season fixture in Canberra.

Team News:

The Brumbies:

The Brumbies return to GIO Stadium this weekend for their final regular season match of the Super Rugby competition when they host the Reds.

Having secured a home quarterfinal coach Dan McKellar has made four changes to the starting XV that defeated the Waratahs and promoted a trio of youngsters to the replacements bench.

Scott Sio headlines the inclusions in the forwards as the prop will pack down for his 100th Brumbies Rugby match, leading the team onto the GIO Stadium turf before kick-off, forming a front-row alongside Allan Alaalatoa and Folau Fainga’a.

There are two additions to the back-row with Lachlan McCaffrey rotating with Pete Samu in the No.8 jersey, Samu is named amongst the replacements, whilst Jahrome Brown is back in the starting line-up, on the opposite flank to Rob Valetini, in place of Tom Cusack who is rested.

In the backs, lutility Tom Wright has earned a start on the left-wing.

Other than the inclusion of Wright, the backline is the same that gave the Waratahs the run around in an expansive opening forty minutes last weekend, with Joe Powell and skipper Christian Lealiifano the fulcrum from which the exciting back division takes its lead.

Irae Simone and Tevita Kuridrani are forming a tough-tackling, physical centre-pairing.

There’s a youthful look to the Brumbies bench with a trio of promising talent given an opportunity amongst the replacements. Scrumhalf Ryan Lonergan is joined by Jordan Jackson-Hope and Len Ikitau with the trio sure to add plenty of pace and enthusiasm to the finishers.

Murray Douglas is also included on the bench, with the front row changes seeing McKellar select Connal McInerney, James Slipper and Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin.

The Brumbies will be wearing their new Pasifika Round jersey for the match, designed with the help of the playing group.

Brumbies: 15 Tom Banks, 14 Andy Muirhead, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Tom Wright, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Lachlan Mccaffrey, 7 Jahrome Brown, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’A, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Connal Mcinerney, 17 James Slipper, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Murray Douglas, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Ryan Lonergan, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Len Ikitau.

The Reds:

The Reds have made two changes to their starting XV for their final match of 2019.

Harry Hockings will start at lock instead of Angus Blyth, while Lukhan Salakaia-Loto returns from his Wallabies rest match and slots into the back row a move that sees Angus Scott-Young shift to No.8.

Scott Higginbotham drops to the bench in one of three changes to the reserves with Caleb Timu and Sefa Naivalu both back in the Reds’ 23 for this weekend.

Reds: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi (captain), 11 Filipo Daugunu, 10 Matt McGahan, 9 Scott Malolua, 8 Angus Scott-Young, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 JP Smith.
Replacements: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Gav Luka, 19 Caleb Timu, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Sefa Naivalu.

Thoughts:

At the risk of sounding repetitive, I repeat, word for word, what I have written about the previous game:

Analysing form, stats, and players is a bit pointless in a game such as this – if it were a regular season game with log points and progression on the line both teams would be approaching the game in a normal frame of mind, with their usual tactical approach and strategies up for discussion.

This game has none of that tension, none of that planning, and none of the usual issues at stake.

Essentially a nothing game, with one team looking to protect players from injury and the other looking to end the season with a modicum of pride.

On paper, the Brumbies simply look far too accomplished for the Reds to win this one.

Prediction:

The Brumbies, by 10.

Stormers v Sharks

Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Date Saturday 8 June
Kick-off 15h05 local (SA Time); 13h05 GMT.
Referee AJ Jacobs 
AR1 Cwengile Jadezweni
AR2 Divan Uys
TMO Willie Vos

Compared to some of the earlier fixtures of the weekend, save for the Rebels/Chiefs game, the final two of the weekend – the Stormers hosting the Sharks, and the Bulls hosting the Lions are, undoubtedly, the most interesting and important of the weekend. Of the season, perhaps?

If you are only going to select one game of the seven on offer this weekend, then this should be the one you will watch.

Both these teams are in the running for a playoff spot – whoever wins progresses, the loser goes home for the end-of-season farewells and parties.

Adding spice to the game is the fact that this is a South African derby, with two sides that have focussed on attaining forward supremacy as their primary mission, before unleashing their backs.

It will be brutally physical.

It is likely to be close.

And tense.

Worth watching – you can always change channels if it fizzles rather than pops.

Team News:

The Stormers:

There are four changes to the Stormers backline for their crucial Super Rugby coastal clash with the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday.

The forward pack that started in the victory against the Sunwolves last week remains unchanged, while fit-again hooker Scarra Ntubeni features in the only change among the forward replacements.

There is an all-new half-back pairing of Jano Vermaak and Josh Stander, while Damian de Allende is back in midfield and Seabelo Senatla returns from injury to take his place out on the wing.

Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Johan du Toit, 6 Ernst van Rhyn, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Cobus Wiese, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (c)
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Chris Massyn, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Dan Kriel

The Sharks:

Injuries to a couple of senior players have forced Robert du Preez’s hand this week, although he will be glad to welcome back on senior too.

Tendai “The Beast” Mtawarira returns to the starting lineup in one of three changes to the Sharks team to face the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.

The 33-year-old takes over from Mzamo Majola in the front row, with Majola playing off the bench. 

An injury to Ruan Botha means that Ruben van Heerden comes into the starting lineup at lock.

There is just one change to the backline, Aphelele Fassi reverting to fullback for Curwin Bosch, who has an ankle injury.

Sharks – 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (c), 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Tendai Mtawarira .
Replacements:16 Cullen Collopy, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Rhyno Smith.

Thoughts:

What a pity that Curwin Bosch is injured. He has produced some of the best flyhalf play in all of 2019 and is, to my mind, the natural understudy to Handré Pollard as we head towards the World Cup in Japan. 

What a pity that Damian Willemse is injured, he has been one of the better ball carriers is South African rugby in 2019, and is a natural understudy to Willie le Roux for the World Cup.

A host of other injuries are also depriving both teams of important players, Jean-Luc du Preez, Akker van der Merwe, Ruan Botha, Philip van der Walt, Lwazi Mvovu. Marius Louw, just to name a few of the Sharks. The Stormers are missing their captain Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Sikhumbozo Notshe, Juarno Augustus, Kobus van Dyk, Herschel Jantjies, Dan du Plessis, Ruhan Nel, Sergeal Peterson, and SP Marais from their line-up.

Two teams without a host of their more important players, facing off in a critical game that will determine whether their season is over or will continue.

Some are suggesting that neither side would gain anything from progression to the playoffs, they are vying for one of the four wild-card entries to the playoffs, with the spectre of long-haul travel to whichever quarterfinal they might qualify for – be it in Argentina, New Zealand, or Australia. It might just serve their interests better if they did not qualify for the quarters?

Both teams will be looking for forward domination. The Sharks entire game plan is built on forward domination, smashing the ball up time and again, with forwards running in pods off the 9. If the ball is released past the forwards, 9 times out of 10 the next ball carrier, usually Andre Esterhuizen, looks to run the crashball and set up another ruck-and-recycle sequence. The Sharks have an exciting back three and an outside centre that can test anyone of the day, but they are not likely to see much ball from first or second phase possession.

This is the Sharks way of playing, and they are unlikely to change much, especially with Curwin Bosch sidelined.

The Stormers play a similarly forward orientated game, although they are far more likely to let the ball go to the back division after the first, or second recycle. Their problem, all season, has been the lack of consistency and finishing in that back division. During the last couple of games they seem to have fixed the lack of structure and finishing, but struggled again a week ago against the Sunwolves. (This might have been as a result of the changes made due to injuries.)

The Stormers kicking game has been a weakness all season, with Josh Stander being slightly more accurate than his bench understudy Jean-Luc du Plessis. They cannot afford to kick ball away to the Sharks dangerous back three!

Neither side appears to be on top form in recent weeks, with the Stormers perhaps slightly better for it, they did win last weekend in a somewhat stuttering and disjointed effort, while the Sharks were simply horrible against the Jaguares.

We will have to see what level of motivation the teams bring to this one.

It is a South African derby, and it will be enormously physical, brutal too, and disciplines are going to be critical.

We can look forward to a tense and closely fought battle.

Prediction:

The Stormers have home-ground advantage, while the Sharks have had to travel back from Argentina this week. The Stormers also have a modicum of form on their side.

The Stormers, by 10.

Bulls v Lions

Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Date Saturday 15 June
Kick-off 17h15 local(SA time); 15h15 GMT
Referee Marius van der Westhuizen
AR1 Egon Seconds
AR2 Stefan Geldenhuys
TMO Christie du Preez

Something seems to be wrong in the Lion pride. 

They have delayed the naming of their team for this game way beyond the prescribed 48-hour time frame required by Sanzaar, without explanation or comment. As I write this, their team announcement has still not been made.

The Bulls will go into this clash knowing that they have already qualified for a spot in the playoffs, the result of this game will only determine which quarterfinal venue they will need to visit. There is no pressure on the Bulls, and they can go out and enjoy themselves, which is never a good thing for the opposition.

The Lions have a slightly different level of motivation. Currently in 6th, they could climb to 5thif they beat the Bulls and take a bonus point home. They could also drop to 8thif the Stormers and Rebels both earn a bonus point win while the Lions take a losing bonus point, but they could also drop to 9th, and miss out on a playoff spot altogether. Their season depends on this game!

Different motivation, different approach.

It could be interesting.

Team News:

The Bulls:

The Bulls added some Springbok muscle for their derby encounter with the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Springboks Duane Vermeulen and Warrick Gelant, along with Sevens Bok Rosko Specman, will return to the Bulls starting team.

The backline duo of Gelant and Specman picked up injuries during the Bulls tour to Australasia, while Vermeulen missed the New Zealand leg of the tour due to the World Cup rest protocols.

Coach Pote Human also had to replace injured lock Jason Jenkins and hooker Schalk Brits in a side that shows six changes to the one that started against the Highlanders in Dunedin last week.

Gelant takes over from Divan Rossouw, who drops to the bench, and Specman’s return is at the expense of Dylan Sage, with Johnny Kotze moving from wing to outside centre.

Andre Warner comes in at scrumhalf in place of Embrose Papier in a rotational move.

In the pack, Vermeulen’s return resulted in Marco van Staden moving back to six, with Ruan Steenkamp benched and Jannes Kirsten slotting in for Jenkins, with Eli Snyman coming onto the bench in his place.

Johan Grobbelaar will be back-up hooker to Jaco Visagie, who took over from Schalk Brits in Dunedin.

Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handré Pollard (captain),
9 Andre Warner, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Jannes Kirsten, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Eli Snyman, 20 Ruan Steenkamp, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.

The Lions:

At the time of writing we have no idea what is happening in the Lions camp.

Thoughts:

There is not much one could say about this game, given the wholly different motivational factors at play in each of the sides. One will need to play do-or-die rugby, while the other can go out and enjoy themselves.

Some have even suggested that losing is better than winning in this game! Sanzaar’s weird playoff qualification system means that the teams ranked fifth through eighth will travel to the teams ranked fourth through first for their quarter-final matches. 

The fifth placed team, likely to be either the Bulls or the Lions, depending on the outcome of this match, will have to travel to New Zealand to take on the Hurricanes. While the team finishing 6thgoes to Australia to take on the Brumbies.

If the team that takes on the ‘Canes goes on to win that quarterfinal, they have to go straight on to Christchurch to play the Crusaders in the semifinals!

The 6thranked team goes to Canberra, and plays the Brumbies, and the seventh ranked side travels to Buenos Aires to take on the Jaguares. 

The 8thranked team has the immediately unenviable task of facing the Crusaders in the quarterfinals.

If you were a Bulls’ supporter, where would you like your team to play their quarterfinal? New Zealand, Australia, or the Argentine?

The winner of this clash is probably going to New Zealand!

This game is also the final home game for a whole host of Bulls players. Some are playing, others will be watching from the sidelines. Rudolph Snyman, Duane Vermeulen, Lood de Jager, Jason Jenkins, Jesse Kriel, Eli Snyman, Thembelani Bholi and Handré Pollard are all on their way once the season is over, and they are very unlikely to take the field at Loftus again.

The Lions are also losing a couple when the season ends, with Kwagga Smith, Stephan Lewies, and Robert Kruger confirmed to be leaving.

Discipline will be the key to winning this game, the Bulls have relied on the metronomic boot of Pollard to keep them in touch with the scoreboard through the season.

Handré Pollard is the Super Rugby’s leading points scorer, with 170 in 12 games – 37 penalties, 23 conversions, two tries and a drop-goal.

The Lions will do well to stay out of range of his boot.

Without the Lions team, we cannot do much of a player-by-player analysis, so we will focus on the two flyhalves, Handré Pollard and the most likely candidate for the Lions, Elton Jantjies.

They are very different players.

Handré Pollard is the epitome of a cool, calm, calculating game manager. He is a thinker and tactician, solid on defence and accurate in all aspects of his play.

Elton Jantjies is the exact opposite. Volatile, instinctive, and emotional. Driven by an attacking instinct and flair, one of the best attacking 10’s in the world, but equally weighed down by all manner of demons, especially when the pressure mounts up.

Two wholly different players, with two contrasting styles of play.

Once in a while the Springboks have brought Jantjies on as an impact player off the bench, with Pollard drifting into the inside centre berth, where he remains in control of the game and can hold Jantjies’ hand when the pressures mount up. They work well as a combination later on in games.

But it is Super Rugby we are talking about today, not Test match rugby, and it is Pollard versus Jantjies.

Bluntly, Pollard has outperformed Jantjies all season. 

The Lions have had their ups and downs in 2019, and the ups and downs have usually coincided with the form of their flyhalf. He simply has not been the most consistent of players. On the one hand, he has some impressive attacking stats, he has created more linebreaks for his team members than anyone else in Super Rugby, and he is a top performer in terms of try assists.

His own line-breaks have been less impressive than in previous years.

On defence, he has been simply woeful. For the second year in succession he is topping the missed tackle count in all of Super Rugby!

Worse, though, is that his goal kicking has been off all year, with a low 75% success rate.

Pollard, in contrast, is right up there with linebreak assists, just a short head behind Jantjies in those numbers. His defence has been outstanding, an 11% better tackle success rate than Jantjies, 

But it has been his goal kicking and conversions that have kept the Bulls in the game all season. While his tactical kicking has been amongst the very best in the game.

Based on the two flyhalves form in 2019, the Bulls have this one in the bag.

Not much more that we can do or say while the Lions team remains a mystery to us all.

Prediction:

The Bulls, at Loftus, by 9.