Super Rugby 2019

Weekend Preview & Predictions

Week Two 

This second weekend of the 2019 Super Rugby Season features seven games, just one of Friday the 22ndand then six on Saturday the 23rd.

Saturday Games

SUNWOLVES VS WARATAHS

Venue Prince Chichibu Stadium Tokyo
Date Saturday 23 February
Kick-off 13h15 local, 04h15 GMT, 06h15 SA Time
Referee AJ Jacobs
AR1 Marius van der Westhuizen
AR2 Shuhei Kubo
TMO Minoru Fuji

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson and captain Michael Hooper will both reach the milestone of 50 games with the team this weekend in Tokyo.

Both will be hoping their side can bounce back from their narrow loss at home to the Highlanders in round one. A loss that has been blamed on Bernard Foley’s miss of a 78thminute sitter of a penalty, but which did suggest some deeper issues – Allowing the Highlanders a score five minutes from time; an inability to close out a game where the ‘Tahs held possession and territory for long stretches of time; an inability to step up a gear when it was really needed; and a worrying inability to cope with strong running looseforwards close in and the direct game – Ardie Savea was allowed to get away far too many times; there was a lot of one-out running, zero organisation and aimless shovel passing, and then there was indiscipline at critical moments, all worrying things for a team that even had the best of a lenient referee……

The ‘Tahs are in the fortunate position that their next opponent just happens to be the Super Rugby whipping boys, the Sunwolves. 

They have a chance to get all the gears moving in the same direction, and all the cogs and levers oiled…….

Team News:

The Teams:

The Sunwolves:

The Sunwolves have something of a reputation for wholesale changes week after week. This week is no different. Jason Emery starts at fullback with Gerhard van den Heever moving to the 14 jersey as Semisi Masirewa shifts across to the 11 jersey for Rene Ranger who is out injured. Shane Gates remains in the 13 jersey, but now has Ryoto Nakamura inside him at 12, last week’s inside centre, Phil Burleigh, drops right out of the match-day squad.

Hayden Parker and Kaito Shigeno remain as halfbacks, while No.8 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 7 Ed Quirk, and 6 Hendrik Tui, remain unchanged as the loosies.

James Moore drops out of the matchday squad and is replaced in the second row by Tom Rowe, alongside Luke Thompson, who retains his place in the team.

In the front row, Asaeli Valu drops to the bench with Hiroshi Yamashita stepping up into a starting spot, the rest of the front row remains the same, with No.2 Jaba Bregvadze, and captain Craig Millar in the No.1 jersey.

There are some changes on the bench too.

The Waratahs:

Adam Ashley-Cooper might sit this one out as he recovers from a head knock, but is provisionally named on the bench, bracketed with Cam Clark, a shift which allows Kurtley Beale back to start in the 12 jersey again as Karmichael Hunt shifts out to 13.

There are no other changes to the match-day squad.

Teams:

Sunwolves: 15 Jason Emery, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Shane Gates, 12 Ryoto Nakamura, 11 Semisi Masirewa, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 7 Ed Quirk, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Tom Rowe, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Craig Millar (captain).
Relacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Awe Helu, 20 James Moore, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Michael Little, 23 Rikiya Matsuda.

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Karmichael Hunt, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Jed Holloway, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Rory O’Connor, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Lachlan Swinton, 20 Will Miller, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Mack Mason, 23 Cam Clark/Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Thoughts:

Not much to think about here. The one team that the Waratahs have managed to put more than 50 past in every game they have ever played – 2018 saw 77-25 in Sydney, and 50-29 in Tokyo. Back in 2016 the Waratahs won 57-12, also in Tokyo.

Once again, the Waratahs should simply have too much in the tank for the Sunwolves, who have already conceded 45 points so far in 2019..

Prediction:

The Waratahs, by a whole lot of points

CRUSADERS VS HURRICANES

VenueChristchurch Stadium, Christchurch
Date Saturday 23 February
Kick-off 19h35 local, 06h35 GMT, 08h35 SA Time
Referee Ben O’Keeffe
AR1 Federico Anselmi
AR2 Nick Briant
TMO Glenn Newman

Probably the Game To Watch this weekend.

New Zealand derbies are always worth a watch, in a calendar chock-a-block with low quality rugby offerings, these derbies do not usually disappoint.

This is also the only New Zealand derby of the weekend.

Last week both teams had a bit of luck on their side. The Blues managed to fluff two kicks at goal, and handed the Crusaders a win, while the ‘Tahs fluffed one straight in front, and the Hurricanes took the win.

This week sees the Crusaders back at home, a veritable fortress for them as they have not lost at home since July 2016! Just that little factoid suggests that the ‘Canes are up against it this weekend!

Team News:

The Crusaders

Scott Robertson has made just one change to his starting line-up for Saturday.

Outside centre Jack Goodhue has recovered from a minor groin injury and joins the run-on side this week, while Braydon Ennor, who impressed in last weekend’s narrow victory against the Blues – moves onto the bench.

The only other change in the matchday squad sees 21-year-old prop Harry Allan replace Tim Perry in the reserves. Perry left the field against the Blues with a fractured forearm.

The Hurricanes

The ‘Canes are still without Beauden Barrett at flyhalf, although he is back from honeymoon and training with the squad. 

Dane Coles will return to their starting line-up for the first time since 2017 on Saturday.

Coles’ inclusion is one of four changes to the side which started in Sydney with Du’Plessis Kirifi set to start for the first time after he also impressed on debut against the Waratahs.

In the backs, Finlay Christie replaces last week’s captain TJ Perenara who gets a rest in the reserves.

Centre Matt Proctor has recovered from a virus that kept him out of the Waratahs match. His return sees Vince Aso move inwards to inside centre with Ngani Laumape moving to the reserves.

There is plenty of experience on that bench with Perenara and Laumape joined by Ricky Riccitelli while flanker Sam Henwood and playmaker Jackson Garden-Bachop have also joined the matchday 23.

The Teams:

Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Manasa Mataele, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Matt Todd (c), 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Quinten Strange, 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Makalio, 1 Joe Moody
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Michael Alaalatoa, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Tom Sanders, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor

Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Vince Aso, 11 Ben Lam, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Reed Prinsep, 5 Liam Mitchell, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Chris Eves 
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Xavier Numia, 18 Ben May, 19 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 20 Sam Henwood, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 23 Ngani Laumape

Thoughts:

Discipline has been an issue for the Hurricanes in pre-season matches and that is one area they will need to be spot-on against a very good Crusaders side who. Richue Mo’unga may have had an off day last week, but that is not likely to happen again this week!

The Crusaders have something of a reputation for a rather slow start to Super Rugby, before getting stronger and stronger as the season progresses, although their results of the last two seasons tend to belie this reputation. 

Whichever way you look at it, this is a match that is crucial to both teams’ seasons. Both teams are loaded with All Blacks, and are both likely to be forced into resting those internationals at various times during the season. Accordingly, they will need every point they can bank while they have the name players available on the field.

This is perhaps where the Crusaders are slightly better off at the moment. They have their first choice flyhalf available, the Hurricanes still have to do without Beauden Barrett for another week. One man does not make a team, but when that man is Beauden Barrett, his absence may just contribute to the undoing of his team!

The Crusaders are on a 16-match winning streak, and they have proven that they know how to grind out a win, even when they are playing badly. Last weekend was a case in point.

Prediction:

Once again, it would be silly to bet against the Crusaders. At home, unbeaten since 2016, they will win this one too! By around 7 points.

BRUMBIES VS CHIEFS

Venue GIO Stadium, Canberra
Date Saturday 23 February
Kick-off 19h45 local, 08h45 GMT, 10h45 SA Time
Referee Angus Gardner
AR1 Damon Murphy
AR2 Graham Cooper
TMO Ian Smith

The Brumbies might well be at home, but that has not been a guarantee of success for the Canberra based outfit for some time. They are no longer the powerful championship-challenging team of years gone by, and have developed an alarming tendency to leak tries, 52 of them in 2018 after previous seasons of fairly sterling defence, just 32 tries conceded in 2017. 

They are up against a team that scores plenty of tries, 60 last year, 55 the year before, and the Chiefs will be looking for more of the same in 2019.

The Chiefs have the special attacking talents of Damian McKenzie back in their lineup this week, and that will send a message to the Brumbies: Defend or die!

Team News:

The Brumbies:

The Brumbies have made three changes to the team that was beaten by the Rebels a week ago. Tom Cusack, Andy Muirhead and Chance Peni are all included in the starting XV, with Cusack replacing David Pocock, and Peni in for Toni Pulu, both of whom suffered injuries during the first-half of the Rebels match. Muirhead starts ahead of Henry Speight, who hobbled off in the second half.

The Chiefs:

Brodie Retallick is set to play his 100th Super Rugby game for the Chiefs on Saturday.

Colin Cooper has named a strong starting XV with a near unchanged pack that will take the field after last week’s loss to the Highlanders in Hamilton.

The only alteration to the forwards sees Nepo Laulala who will move from the bench into the starting tighthead prop position for fellow All Black Angus Ta’avao, who is on leave.

In the back-line All Black Damian McKenzie will return from injury to start  with Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi at halfback for the first time this season. 

Ataata Moeakiola will take his position on the right wing with Bailyn Sullivan named as cover on the bench.

Joining Sullivan on the bench will be front-row Sosefo Kautai, loose forward Mitch Karpik, halfback cover Jonathan Taumateine and midfield cover Orbyn Leger.

The Teams:

Brumbies – 15 Tom Banks, 14 Chance Peni, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Irae Simone, 11 Andy Muirhead, 10 Christian Lealiifano (c), 9 Joe Powell, 8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Tom Cusack, 6 Rob Valetini, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Folau Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements:16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Peter Samu, 21 Matt Lucas, 22 Wharenui Hawera, 23 Tom Wright.

Chiefs – 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Ataata Moeakiola, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Brodie Retallick (c), 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Aidan Ross.
Replacements: 16 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 17 Tevita Mafileo, 18 Sefo Kautai, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Mitchell Karpik, 21 Jonathan Taumateine, 22 Orbyn Leger, 23 Bailyn Sullivan.

Thoughts:

The Chiefs did not click into high gear last weekend, yet they still produced some sublime rugby, with plenty of running, passing, offloading, carries, meters, and linebreaks. This was against the Highlanders, another New Zealand team in one of those derbies that everyone tunes in to watch. They looked good, if a trifle under-cooked so early in the season.

The Brumbies also produced plenty of running, passing, offloading, carries, meters, and linebreaks, but this was against the Rebels, and not against one of the benchmark New Zealanders.

What then of this week?

I think that the changes to the Chiefs serve to strengthen their squad, whilst the Brumbies have lost their talisman, David Pocock……

And that is a big loss…

Prediction:

I just do not see the Brumbies having sufficient quality in depth to take on the Chiefs, especially later in the game. With Damian McKenzie back ruling the roost, the Chiefs are twice the team they were last week, and thus they will win, easily.

SHARKS VS BLUES

Venue Kings Park, Durban
Date Saturday 23 February
Kick-off 15h05 local (SA Time), 13h05 GMT
Referee Paul Williams
AR1 Cwengile Jadezweni
AR2 Griffon Colby
TMO Marius Jonker

This is going to be a very interesting game!

We cannot really say where the Sharks are in their development into 2019, the practice match against a woeful Sunwolves was really nothing more than a warm-up against a club team, now they face the real deal, the Blues, a New Zealand outfit that gave the Crusaders a massive fright just a week ago, and who have revenge on their mind after losing 63-40 to the Sharks in Auckland last year.

We do know that the Sharks had a very good record against New Zealanders last year, beating the Blues 63-40 and then losing  a very close-run thing, by a solitary point against the Hurricanes in Wellington, before banking home wins against the Highlanders and Chiefs.

We also know that the Sharks are the real yo-yo team of the South African conference. Last year you could bet your house and your children’s’ inheritance on the Sharks losing a game in the immediate aftermath of a good win, and last week they had a good win albeit against the Sunwolves…………

Team News:

The Sharks:

Sharks coach Robert du Preez has retained his “winning formula” for his team’s first home match of the Super Rugby season.

The starting line-up to take on the Blues remains unchanged from last week’s team that smashed the Sunwolves in Singapore.

The bench, however, does see some changes. Thomas du Toit comes in for Khutha Mchunu while Curwin Bosch replaces Rhyno Smith on the bench.

The Blues:

In something of a surprise Ma’a Nonu has been dropped from the side to play the Sharks in Durban.

Sonny Bill Williams will start at 12 at Kings Park, with TJ Faiane starting at outside centre.

Nonu, who played 80 minutes at centre against the Crusaders at Eden Park last weekend, has not been included in the match-day 23.

The other significant change is Melani Nanai, on the right wing against the Crusaders, shifting to fullback ahead of Michael Collins.

The Blues do welcome three All Blacks into their starting line-up, with props Ofa Tuungafasi and Karl Tu’inukuafe joining Sonny Bill Williams in the run-on side. 

Dalton Papalii has recovered sufficiently from his hip problem to start at openside flanker.

Melani Nanai, starting a full-back, and number eight Akira Ioane are both playing in their 50th Super Rugby game for the Blues. (Ioane, who also played for the Blues against the British and Irish Lions in 2017, celebrated 50 games for the club last week, but this is his 50thSuper game.)

Tu’inukuafe and Tuungafasi make their first start together for the Blues, but both have previously paired up in the All Black front row.

New Zealand U20s winger Caleb Clarke moves to the right wing after a superb pre-season, with Rieko Ioane on the left wing, while Nanai shifts to full-back.

Another New Zealand U20s player Tanielu Tele’a, an outside back who also impressed in pre-season, is set for his debut off the bench.

The Teams:

Sharks: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Curwin Bosch.

Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru; 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu ©, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe 
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Matt Matich, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Tanielu Tele’a

Thoughts:

A week ago the Sharks ran in six tries as their pack of forwards took command of the game and allowed the backs to slowly but surely find their feet and establish a bit of rhythm. Once the backs started to run with confidence, they started to produce some very good interplay, with the likes of Lukhanyo Am playing the kind of thinking rugby we have been waiting for since his injury last year. He produced some deft touches, and superb line straightening as he found some confidence against the hosts in Singapore. This was encouraging, as was the focussed physicality of the forward pack, although perhaps too much emphasis was placed on playing close in, rather than taking the ball away from contact.

The Blues showed that they were up to the physical task of taking on the Crusader forwards, both in the set-pieces and in the closer channels, while Akira Ioane produced some superb support rugby wider out. 

The Sharks will have to add a wider game to their established patterns if they want to beat the Blues.

They will also have to make every tackle count! Last week it was the Crusaders’ defence that held out the Blues, just, as the Blues made plenty of meters with the ball in hand, 468 meters in 113 carries, stringing together 145 passes and beating 20 defenders along the way.

Therein lies the crux of this game. If the Sharks can stop the Blues and take them back in the tackle, they will go a long way towards winning this game.

Prediction:

The travelling to South Africa will count against the Blues, with the Sharks at home in a hot (30ᴼC) and humid (70%+) Durban, so different to the average of 24ᴼC and cloudy Auckland. 

The Sharks massive pack of forwards will take its toll. 

The Sharks by 8 points.

STORMERS VS LIONS

Venue Newlands, Cape Town
Date Saturday 23 February
Kick-off 17h15 local (SA Time), 15h15 GMT
Referee Egon Seconds
AR1 Divan Uys
AR2 Aimee Barrat-Theron
TMO Christie du Preez

Can the Stormers forget about the turmoil in their backrooms and at headquarters? Can the ignore the infighting and petty squabbling for power?

Can a team that still does not officially know what their coaching squad looks like for this season focus properly on the game at hand?  

Can a team of players put aside the fears and uncertainty that surrounds their own personal futures in a union that seems to have pressed the “Self-Destruct” button?

Can a bunch of professional rugby players produce their best when their entire future and the way they prepare and play the game is in the hands of a bunch of rank amateurs with a host of personal agendas and ego trips?

We are told that the Stormers are ready to put their disastrous performance in Pretoria firmly behind them as they prepare for their derby against the Lions at Newlands.

I have my doubts.

If you have a tummy bug that regularly causes severe cramps or worse, it is very difficult for your head to focus on the job at hand, and the Stormers have something akin to a terminal disease infecting their collective intestines.

Team News:

The Stormers:

Stormers have made four changes to their starting XV for their match against the Lions.

Damian Willemse shifts to fullback with Jean-Luc du Plessis starting at flyhalf. Last week’s fullback, Dillyn Leyds, will sit this one out after an injury. Sergeal Petersen will make his Stormers debut on the wing adding some much needed pace out wide. Josh Stander comes onto the replacements bench.

The only change to the forward pack is in the second row, with Chris van Zyl at lock in place of the injured Salmaan Moerat.

Fit-again Springboks Frans Malherbe and Eben Etzebeth are among the replacements, along with flank Jaco Coetzee who is also set to get his first run of the campaign.

The Lions:

Swys de Bruin has made three changes to the starting XV that beat the Jaguares 26-15 in Argentina in Round One of Super Rugby.

Ruan Combrinck will start in the 14 jersey with Courtnall Skosan moving over to the other wing. Last week’s left wing starter, Aphiwe Dyantyi will play off the bench.

Kwagga Smith will make his first Super Rugby appearance of the season at No.7 flank in place of Hacjivah Dayimani, who drops to the bench.

Former Sharks lock Stephan Lewies will make his first appearance for the Lions in Super Rugby. He will partner Marvin Orie in the second row with Rhyno Herbst dropping down to the bench.

The Teams:

Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 SP Marais, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Dan du Plessis.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Rhyno Herbst, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Gianni Lombard, 22 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.

Thoughts:

On paper, the Stormers have a very good side. On the field, they have a team that seems to be totally distracted and without direction.

The Lions, on the other hand, just seem to have everything going for them after a very solid performance against their bogey team in Argentina.

It is very difficult to look past all of that.

Prediction:

My head says the Lions, all logic says the Lions, the bookies are saying the Lions, RugbyPassIndex Prediction says the Lions. Every rugby scribe I have bothered to consult say the Lions.

I would be silly to argue with the overwhelming majority, who all say the Lions, and it is for that very reason that I am going to say that the complete underdogs, the Stormers, will surprise everyone, especially me, and will win, but it will be a very close run thing, with maybe 5 points in it.

JAGUARES VS BULLS

Venue Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires
Date Saturday 23 February
Kick-off 18h40 local, 21h40 GMT, 23h40 SA Time
Referee Brendon Pickerill
AR1 Rasta Rasivhenge
AR2 Mike Fraser
TMO Santiago Borsani

I have just mentioned how the overwhelming majority of tipsters are saying that the Lions will maul the Stormers at Newlands. When I look at those same tipsters, they are suggesting that the Jaguares will beat the Bulls!

Not so sure I agree with them.

This Bulls outfit looked so much better last weekend than they did a year ago, despite the direction of John Mitchell at the time. Under Mitchell they played a quick, open game of rugby with plenty of passing and offloading, but with terrible accuracy and inconsistency, together with a total disregard for defence.

Last week they were clinical, they were accurate, and they tackled like demons.

They head over to the Argentine surfing on a big wave of confidence too!

The Jaguares just did not look the part as the Lions played restricted, focussed grinding rugby to shut them down and out a week ago. The score might have been close, but on the field of play, the game was simply not that close.

The Jaguares do have plenty of experience, but also have a lot of rookies learning the game at this level, and they are missing the game management of the departed Nicolas Sanchez.

Can the Jaguares return to the level of rugby and the focus they produced in 2018?

This game may tell us a lot.

Team News:

The Jaguares:

Tomás Cubelli will make his debut for the Jaguares in one of two changes to the starting lineup to face the Vodacom Bulls in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

The 29-year-old scrumhalf, who spent two years with the Brumbies before returning to Argentina in 2018, will finally make his first appearance after missing most of last year with a neck injury.

Cubelli comes in for Gonzalo Bertranou, who dislocated his right shoulder in the loss against the Lions.

There is one further rotational change in the forwards as flank Marcos Kremer replaces Rodrigo Bruni, who drops to the bench.

The Bulls:

Former Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks will make a return to Super Rugby on Saturday when the Bulls face the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.

Hendricks replaces Johnny Kotze, who stayed home due to illness, in the only change to the side that secured a convincing 40-3 win over the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld in last weekend’s opening round of the 2019 tournament.

The Teams:

Jaguares – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de le Fuente (c), 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 9 Tomás Cubelli , 8 Javier Ortega Desio, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Mayo Vivas.
Replacements:16 Julián Montoya, 17 Juan Pablo Zeiss, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Matías Alemanno, 20 Rodrigo Bruni, 21 Martín Landajo, 22 Juan Cruz Mallía, 23 Matías Moroni.

Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager (c), 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Eli Snyman, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Dylan Sage

Thoughts:

A week ago the Bulls won a game by playing crisp, clinical rugby, based on accurate tactical kicking, superb defence, and very good game management. They pounced on every opportunity that came their way and turned those opportunities into points on the scoreboard.

This bodes well for the game in Buenos Aires where the home team prefer a game that breaks up and becomes a jumble of arms, legs, and a pileup of body parts, and lots of bouncy, scrappy ball . 

If the Bulls retain their focus and their disciplined approach to the game, they will make it very difficult for the Argentineans. 

The Jaguares will do whatever they can to impose their scrappy disruptive style on the game. If they get that right, the Bulls are in for a long, hard afternoon. 

One aspect that the Bulls will be looking to exploit will be the Jaguares rather haphazard approach to defence. They were poor last week, with just 83% of their tackles sticking, coupled to some very poor handling. If the Bulls can exploit the poor defensive systems and feed off the handling errors, as they did against the Stormers, they will have the game in the bag. 

Prediction:

The Bulls laid down a marker last week. This game is entirely in their hands. Play the same way against the Jaguares, and the win is in the bank. I am going against the tipsters and the bookies, the Bulls will win this one, comfortably.