Super Rugby 2019

Weekend Preview & Predictions

Week Three 

This third weekend of the 2019 Super Rugby Season features seven games, two of Friday the 1stand then five on Saturday the 2ndMarch.

The first two weekends of Super 2019 gave us some pretty poor rugby, lets hope it is third time lucky and we get some quality worth getting excited about this weekend.

So far, the Friday games have produced a bit of excitement as the Hurricanes found their mojo and scored 6 tries to the Brumbies 2, with a much better display of focussed rugby than we have seen from them so far this year. I have not had the chance to watch the Rebels beat the Highlanders, so I can make no comment about the quality of that game until I have sat down with my trusty PVR and watched proceedings.

Saturday Games

Chiefs v Sunwolves

VernueFMG Stadium, Hamilton
Date Saturday 2 March
Kick-off 19:35 local; 06h35 GMT; 08h35 SA Time
Referee Federico Anselmi
AR1 Nick Briant
AR2 Dan Waenga
TMO Shane McDermott

I do not want to be a Sunwolves supporter when this game kicks off on Saturday. 

The Chiefs will be looking for something akin to redemption after their worst start to a Super season since Pa fell off the bus. Their usually slick running game with offloads a-plenty, broken play attacks and counter attacks, with that superb fluidity and highly entertaining skills seems to have deserted the Chiefs in 2019.

A first round loss to the Highlanders, and then an abject day in Canberra has left the Chiefs looking more than just a bit ragged and out of sorts, occupying the very bottom rung on the overall Super Log, even below the Sunwolves because the latter have a superior points difference! (-36 versus -40)

Have no doubt that the Chiefs will take to the field in Hamilton with some serious intent and mayhem in mind.

Team News:

The Chiefs: 

The Chiefs see the return of winger Sean Wainuiand and midfielder Alex Nankivell, who will make their first appearance of the 2019 Super Rugby competition.

Samisoni Taukei’aho will have his first start in the Chiefs jersey in a new front row combination of Aidan Ross, Taukei’aho and Angus Ta’avao. Brodie Retallick and Michael Allardice complete the tight five. 

Mitchell Brown will play at six and Mitchell Karpik at seven, with Lachlan Boshier named in the reserves. Taleni Seu moves into No.8 for the starting XV after Tyler Ardron was ruled out with concussion. Taranaki’s Jesse Parete will provide cover on the bench.

Brad Weber returns to start at halfback, with Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi moving to the bench. Damian McKenzie continues at flyhalf. 

Orbyn Leger will start at his preferred inside centre position combining with outside centre Tumua Manu in the midfield. The back three sees returning winger Wainui named on the right wing ahead of Ataata Moeakiola who gone onto the bench.

In the reserves, hooker Bradley Slater who will be looking to make his Super Rugby debut off the bench. Slater will be joined by Tasman midfielder Nankivell who will don jersey number 22. Propping duo Tevita Mafielo and Sosefo Kautai maintain their position in the 23 as cover.

The Sunwolves:

As has become standard practice for the Sunwolves, they have announced a match-day squad with sweeping changes in the starting XV and a whole bunch of changes on the bench too.

The starting XV sees Ryoto Nakamura, Semisi Masirewa, Ed Quirk, Tom Rowe, Jaba Bregvadze, and Craig Millar all left out, while last week’s Atsushi Sakate, Pauliasi Manu, Awe Helu, Keisuke Uchida, and Michael Little (elevated to start)  are all off the previous week’s bench.

The entire starting backline, save for scrumhalf Shigeno, are non-Japanese. Five of the 8 forwards are foreigners too.  

With eleven changes to the 23 from the previous week the Sunwolves simply cannot build any continuity. 

The Teams:

Chiefs: 15 Shaun Stevenson, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Orbyn Leger, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Taleni Seu, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Mitchell Brown, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Brodie Retallick (c), 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho, 1 Aidan Ross 
Replacements: 16 Bradley Slater, 17 Tevita Mafileo, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Alex Nankivell, 23 Ataata Moeakiola

Sunwolves: 15 Jason Emery, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Shane Gates, 12 Michael Little, 11 Jamie Henry, 10 Hayden Parker, 9 Kaito Shigeno, 8 Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Hendrik Tui, 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Atsushi Sakate, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Nathan Vella, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Asaeli Ai Valu, 19 Tom Rowe, 20 James Moore, 21 Jamie Booth, 22 Phil Burleigh, 23 Rikiya Matsuda

Thoughts:

The Sunwolves at home always have a chance for an upset. Away from home they struggle. This has been the norm for the first three years of their existence, and I cannot see that changing in 2019.

Their policy of making sweeping changes from one week to the next is also not conducive to building any kind of momentum and continuity of play.

The Chiefs undoubtedly have a point to prove after their worst start to a season, ever! 

One expects nothing less than a complete turn-around from the Chiefs. We also know that they are a confidence team. Once the passes start finding players in space, and the offloads start sticking, the Chiefs spell trouble for anyone. 

We can expect a ramped up effort from the Chiefs forwards, with a focus on the scrum and sorting out a wobbly lineout. They will know that the Sunwolves in New Zealand is probably the easiest of their fixtures in 2019, and they need to take full advantage of the opportunity to get that engine working again.

As for the Sunwolves? We know that they thrive on a loose, fluid game with plenty of broken play, and they will be hoping for the Chiefs to continue with the inaccuracies and errors of the previous two weeks.

Prediction:

I cannot see Damian McKenzie having another iffy day as he had in his first outing last week. I cannot see the Chiefs continuing to make the kind of tactical and handling errors of their first two games.

I cannot see the Sunwolves winning this one.

The Chiefs, by around 25 points.

Reds v Crusaders

Venue Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Date Saturday 2 March
Kick-off 18:45 local; 08h45 GMY; 10h45 SA Time
Referee Marius van der Westhuizen
AR1 AJ Jacobs
AR2 Damon Murphy
TMO George Ayoub

Even when they are not playing at full throttle the Crusaders spell trouble for their opponents. Last week they disposed of the Hurricanes in a display of focussed, clinical rugby, with just a few glitches, mostly towards the end of the game when they seemed to take their foot off the pedal.

The Reds lost to the Highlanders in their only game of 2019, and will take some heart from the fact that they could easily have won that game. They talk about losing despite playing well.

They are going to have to produce something special to knock over the Crusaders, who already seem to be building a head of steam in 2019. 

Team News:

The Reds:

The Reds have retained the same backline as they deployed against the Highlanders last week.

Amongst the forwards, Angus Scott-Young switches from the flank to start at No.8 with Caleb Timu dropping to the bench. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto shifts from the second row to start on the blindside flank, while Harry Hockings starts at lock in his place. The front three are unchanged.

The bench sees JP Smith join his brother Ruan as a replacement, with Harry Hoopert dropping out of the match-day 23. Scott Higginbotham comes onto the bench in the place of Fraser McReight.

The Crusaders:

Scott Robertson has made five changes to his starting XV for their Super Rugby clash with the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.

The tight five remains the same, but in the loose forwards Tom Sanders earns his first start of the 2019 season in the number six jersey, and Jordan Taufua moves to the bench.

In the back-line, Mitch Drummond and Bryn Hall swap this week, so that Drummond starts at scrum-half. Tim Bateman also steps in at inside centre in the absence of vice-captain Ryan Crotty, who is on an All Blacks rest week and won’t travel to Brisbane.

Braydon Ennor will return to the starting team in Brisbane, replacing the injured Manasa Mataele on the right wing. The final change sees Will Jordan earn his first Super Rugby start at full-back, with David Havili providing cover in the reserves.

The Teams:

Reds: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Hamish Stewart, 9 Moses Sorovi, 8 Angus Scott-Young, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 1 Feao Fotuaika 
Replacements: 16 Alex Mafi, 17 JP Smith, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Caleb Timu, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Tate McDermott, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Isaac Lucas

Crusaders: 15 Will Jordan, 14 Braydon Ennor, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mounga, 9 Mitch Drummond, 8 Whetu Douglas, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Tom Sanders, 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 Jordan Taufua, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 David Havili

Thoughts:

The Crusaders had to dig deep, and call on the assistance of Lady Luck, to beat the Blues in round one, as the Blues missed two goal attempts at the death. A week later and the Crusaders were up and running against the Hurricanes in the second round of 2019. They claimed a comfortable 38-22 win.

Somehow, however, the ‘Saders allowed the Hurricanes to score a late try that denied the Crusaders a bonus point. 

They may just want to prove a point this weekend with an 80-minute showing against the Reds.

The Reds have some exciting young players in their back division, and a very solid, hardworking forward unit. Those forwards will need to subdue the Crusaders’ forwards if they want to take anything from this game. That will be a mammoth task. The Crusaders pack are renowned for their set piece dominance, especially the scrums, an area where the Reds have been fairly consistent in the last 18 months, so the battle may get a little intense before this game is done and dusted.  

Where the Reds might struggle is in the lineouts where they have the worst record in 2019, albeit from just one game.  They will have to step up a gear to stop the Crusaders’ impressive, almost scary maul.  

Defence will also be key, and the Reds are a little off the average with an 85% tackle success ratio, but this is only after one game. The Crusader’s win over the Blues was built on some of the most ferocious first time tackling seen in a long while.

The Crusader’s back division is heavy on experience and firepower, and the Reds youngsters will have their hands full if they want to contain the likes of Braydon Ennor, Jack Goodhue, Tim Bateman, George Bridge, and Richie Mo’unga.

In reality, this is a team that is still building, against the salted, battle hardened veterans from New Zealand.

Prediction:

I do not think that just a powerful scrum is enough for the Reds to subdue the Crusaders. It will take a supreme all-round effort, and I do not think the Reds are ready for that kind of game yet.

The Crusaders, by at least 10.

Lions v Bulls

Venue Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Date Saturday 2 March
Kick-off 15:05 local (SA Time); 13h05 GMT
Referee Paul Williams
AR1 Cwengile Jadezweni
AR2 Griffon Colby
TMO Marius Jonker

The Bulls started their 2019 campaign with a resounding thumping of the Stormers, playing a direct, focussed, clinical game of rugby. They then went to the opposite end of the rugby spectrum as they slithered and slopped their way to a loss to the Jaguares in Argentina. It seemed as if their away-game bogey was back! 

Once again they are away from home this week, but only some 70km away from Loftus Versveld as they visit Ellis Park, home of the Lions.

In an ideal world, the Bulls would want to take on the Lions with their best possible squad available for the game. Sadly, this is not going to happen this week. The Bulls are already without the likes of Marco van Staden, RG Snyman, Travis Ismaiel, Marnitz Boshoff, Duncan Matthews, Edgar Marutlule, Jano Venter, Roelof Smit and Jaco Visage.  On Saturday against the Jaguares, they added to the problem with Lood de Jager and Johnny Kotze joining the already long list of injured players in the rehab and recovery ward.

Just when they thought it could not get any worse, Burger Odendaal suffered a shoulder injury at Tuesday’s training session, and he is out of contention for the clash with the Lions.

The odds seem stacked against the Bulls.

Team News:

The Lions:

Malcolm Marx will take over the captaincy of the Lions on Saturday, when they host the Bulls at Ellis Park.

The team for this weekend shows three changes in the starting line-up and one positional.

Rhyno Herbst comes in for Marvin Orie (slight groin niggle) at lock.

Aphiwe Dyantyi replaces Courtnall Skosan in a rotational move.

Hacjivah Dayimani comes in for the injured Warren Whiteley – sidelined for six to eight weeks with a pectoral muscle tear.

Ruan Combrinck moves from left with to the right wing.

On the bench Springbok scrumhalf Ross Cronje makes his return from injury.

The Bulls:

The Bulls were forced into a couple of truly unwanted changes for their encounter with the Lions.

On top of the already extraordinary injury list, midfielder Burger Odendaal suffered a shoulder injury in training on Tuesday and has been replaced by Dylan Sage at centre in the team that will travel to Ellis Park on Saturday.

Eli Snyman comes in for Lood De Jager – This change sees Jannes Kirsten come onto the bench to fill the vacancy created by Snyman’s promotion to the starting XV.

Tim Agaba replaces Thembelani Bholi on the bench, while Manie Libbock and Divan Rossow are the other additions to the bench.

The Teams:

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Marnus Schoeman, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx (captain), 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Vincent Tshituka, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Franco Naude, 23 Courtnall Skosan.

Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Dylan Sage, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Eli Snyman, 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 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Tim Agaba, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbock, 23 Divan Rossow.

Thoughts:

Elton Jantjies is set to come upon a still-rare Super Rugby milestone this weekend.

The Lions flyhalf has scored 996 points across his Super Rugby career to date, and is just four points shy of becoming the fifth player in the history of the competition to score 1,000 points.

Ahead of him we find Dan Carter, with 1,708, Morné Steyn on 1,449, Beauden Barrett on 1,120 (before Friday’s game against the Brumbies), and Stirling Mortlock  with 1,036.

As much as Jantjies is something of a point-scoring machine, he  will need to step up a couple of other aspects of his play as he faces off against Handré Pollard. Last week’s performance against the Stormers was not one that Jantjies will want to remember, he missed a whopping 7 tackles, with the Stormers quickly identifying that he was not at his defensive best and focussing their ball-carrying by targeting their runs directly at him. Damian de Allende actually ran over him twice. Even the Stormers 13, Ruhan Nel chose to run at Jantjies as the Lion’s man struggled with his defensive commitment.

This is nothing new for Elton Jantjies. His defence has never been a strength, and when he is rattled or underperforming, it shows.

Handré Pollard has produced one superb game and one mediocre game so far this season – he was almost majestic against the Stormers, but a bit ordinary against the Jaguares last week. However, we know that he likes to take the ball to the gain line, and likes to run at his opposing number, so it is likely that he will target Jantjies on Saturday.

I have no doubt that Duane Vermeulen and his forwards will also be picking Jantjies as his target when carrying the ball off the base or in broken play.

The Lions forwards have been pretty good in 2019, although perhaps not as clinical as they could and should have been against the Stormers. Their disciplines wobbled as they conceded dominance to the Stormers, especially after Eben Etzebeth returned to Super Rugby. However, a week earlier those same Lions forwards produced a focussed determination as they ground the Jaguares into the dirt.

They will be looking for a repeat of that first performance against the Bulls.

The loss of Lood de Jager to an injury deprives the Bulls of their leader and motivator. His lineout management will be missed too. 

The departure of De Jager from the second row, together with a starting front row of Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Brits, Lizo Gqoboka that has not looked entirely convincing in the set-pieces will give the Lions a point of focus on Saturday. They are likely to target the Bulls in the set-pieces.

The Lions are known as the best attacking side in South Africa, yet they have not been anything close to convincing in 2019. They will be looking to step up their game this weekend. The Bulls had a very poor defensive weekend against the Jaguares and the Lions will be looking to pick some holes in the midfield and out wide, especially with Burger Odendaal missing out on this game.
I do, however, expect the Bulls to be far more direct and accurate this week. Last week’s mud and slush game was not to their liking, and they will be happy to be back at high altitude and on a dry field. We can expect much more running from them too.

I am guessing that this game will revolve around the respective defences, and that is perhaps where both teams have a bit if a problem. The one that blinks first, or the most, is likely to lose.

Prediction:

Both teams have a point to prove. The Bulls want to show that their performance against the Stormers was not a once-off, much as last year’s early season win against the Hurricanes.

The Lions need to stamp their authority on the game again, and play the kind of rugby we all expect from them. They have the home ground advantage, coupled to possible travel fatigue affecting the Bulls after their trip to Argentina and back. That gives them a distinct edge.

The Lions simply look the better of the two teams, both on paper and over the last two weeks.

The Lions, by 9 points.

Sharks v Stormers

Venue Kings Park, Durban
Date Saturday 2 March
Kick-off 17:15 local (SA Time); 15h15 GMT
Referee Jaco Peyper
AR1 Egon Seconds
AR2 Divan Uys
TMO Willie Vos

I said it last week, on paper the Stormers have a very good side, but that there are so many side-issues and distractions that hamper their preparations, impacting on their focus and disabling a team that should be so much better than they have been in their first couple of outings in 2019.

I also went where no sane man would venture, and tipped them to beat the Lions. My tongue was very firmly in my cheek when I made that prediction, and no one was more surprised than I when they actually managed to pull the cat from the bag in the very last play of the game. They had looked a poorly coached and motivated team right throughout the first 60 minutes of the game, and only started to show some spine after the long-awaited introduction of Eben Etzebeth into Super Rugby 2019.

From anyone’s perspective the Stormers are still nowhere near the side they could be, and I still have my doubts whether they will get any better than they are at the moment.

During the past week yet another distraction has reared its ugly head. 

There are rumours that the players, or at least some of the players, have not been paid their monthly salaries! At this time this is merely a rumour and I have no substantiating evidence whatsoever, but nothing would surprise me in a union that has gone into what seems to be an administrative death spiral.

The Sharks have had two weeks of success to build on and prepare themselves for the game against their coastal rivals. A practice run against a woeful Sunwolves cannot be used as any measure of the Sharks’ form or fitness, but they did produce a half of very good, clinical rugby against the Blues a week ago, before subsiding into what can only be termed poor rugby in the second half. When you throw away three clear scoring opportunities in five minutes, it is a signal of silly over-confidence if not gross incompetence. It required a late game intercept try to guarantee a bonus point that should have been in the bank a good 35 minutes earlier.

Thus, we have  totally out of form Stormers playing a Sharks team that might or might not be in good form, we cannot be too sure as the Sharks have not really played against really testing opponents yet.

Team News:

The Sharks:

The Sharks have named the same starting XV for the third successive week for their match against the Stormers at Kings Park. It is also the same Match-Day 23 as last week.

S’bu Nkosi was stretchered from the field in last week’s win over the Blues, but it was more of a precautionary move and he is able to take his position on the right wing.

While there were changes to the Sharks bench ahead of that Blues game, coach Robert du Preez has made no changes this time around.

The Stormers:

There are three changes to the Stormers starting line-up to face the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

Lock Eben Etzebeth, scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies and centre Dan du Plessis will all make their first start of the season on Saturday.

Etzebeth’s inclusion in the second row is the only change to the forward pack, with fit-again prop Wilco Louw among the replacements.

Jantjies replaces the injured Jano Vermaak and as a result Justin Phillips will provide scrumhalf cover, with Ruhan Nel and Dillyn Leyds alongside him on the replacements bench.

The Teams:

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

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

Thoughts:

While the Stormers just might click into gear and start playing the kind of rugby they are capable of as a collection of talented individuals, huge question marks hang over the team’s motivation as well as the quality of the coaching and game planning that is being dished up to the players.

I am sure we could measure each Stormers player against his Sharks opposite number, and the scale would tilt towards the Stormers from a pure quality and talent perspective.

However, this is not a happy team, despite Robbie Fleck’s constant denials of the unhappiness and the impact of off-field distractions. 

They face a Sharks outfit that will be brimming with the confidence that comes from winning. You cannot buy that winning experience and focus, it only comes from the playing field. The Sharks have it!

This should be a difficult hurdle for both teams, one where on-field fortunes pendulum back and forth all afternoon, with the smallest error by one side giving the other the win.

But that is what it should be.

Whether it will is entirely a different matter.

Prediction:

The Stormers have the quality, but they do not seem to have the mindset or motivation. 

The Sharks have two good wins in the bank, two bonus points, that winning confidence, and home advantage.

It has to be the Sharks, by around 12 points.

Jaguares v Blues

Venue Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires
Date Saturday 2 March
Kick-off 18:40 local; 21h40 GMT; 23h40 SA Time
Referee Rasta Rasivhenge
AR1 Mike Fraser
AR2 Brendon Pickerill
TMO Santiago Borsani

I have absolutely no idea what to expect from either side in this match-up. Both sides have shown some good and plenty of bad in 2019, and both sides have the reputation of being able to play a good game, but also to implode at unlikely moments.

I would suggest that the Jaguares will consider themselves the favourites for this one, based on last week’s win over the Bulls and the Blues abject first-half surrender to the Sharks.

The Blues have the additional problem of long distance travel to add to their woes, with a trip from Auckland to Durban and then on to Buenos Aires just to add to their problems.. 

The hosts may be regarded as favourites for this one, but these are two unpredictable teams.

Team News:

The Jaguares:

The Jaguares have made some changes to their starting XV for this game. Joaquin Tucelet is given a rest on the bench, so Juan Cruz Mallia starts at full back, Jeronimo de le Fuente is dropped from the match-day 23, which sees Matias Moroni start at 13, with last week’s outside centre, Matias Orlando switching to the 12 jersey. 

The forward pack is unchanged from last week. The only changes on the bench are Santiago González Iglesias taking Mallia’s 22 jersey, while Joaquín Tuculet will wear 23.

The Blues:

The Blues have rung the changes too. Taniela Tele’a takes over the 14 jersey from Caleb Clarke. Ma’a Nonu starts in the 12 jersey as Sonny Bill Williams drops to the bench. 

Augustine Pulu replaces Jonathan Ruruas starting 9, as Ruru rotates to the bench. 

There is only one change in the forwards, Alex Hodgman will start in the No.1 jersey as Karl Tu’inukuafe rotates to the bench.

The Teams:

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

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

Thoughts:

The Blues will probably continue to play an ambitious, fluid game of rugby, they have done it so for a while. In the last two weeks they continued with this game plan, but an awful lot of individual plays were seen, often not backed up by supporting runners. It seems to me that the Blues struggle to introduce width into the support play, there are a lot of runners directly on and up with the ball carrier, but nobody running into spaces. 

If they add that element of space, running off-the-ball rather than on to it, they will test the Jaguares sometimes leaky defences.

The battle between the two forward packs is perhaps slightly tilted in favour of the home side, but only slightly.

The Jaguares will continue to play their own brand of hugely disruptive rugby, inserting themselves into the spaces between their opposite numbers, thrusting a leg or an arm into awkward gaps and slowing or preventing the opposition from mounting a smooth, fluid attack. This is the Jaguares way, and it works for them, often frustrating opponents into taking silly risks and making errors.

And very few teams can pounce on an error and turn it into an advantage the way the Jaguares can! They feed off the scraps, and the more scraps they eat, the more the opposition tend to give them…..

Prediction:

I wonder whether this Blues outfit can overcome the mental pressure of two defeats in two games? I wonder whether they can gather themselves, put aside the losses, forget about travel fatigue and weird sleeping patterns? I wonder whether the demons are shouting inside their heads again?

On paper, it should be the Blues, but……………….

The Jaguares, at home, riding on last week’s win, must have all the advantages.

The Jaguares, by 9.