Super Rugby Round 11 was relatively easy with the exception of the Highlanders upset win over the Sharks, while the Blues and Cheetahs won at home in matches which also split the tipsters. Five out of six home teams won in Super Rugby Round 11, so when in doubt, pick the home team. The feature of Super Rugby Round 12 is the return to seven matches including three trans-tasman battles and only the Force have the bye. The probability of plenty of home wins continues in Super Rugby Round 12, although there are some games where the better ranked team is on the road making it difficult to know if the home advantage will get the lower placed team across the line. This happens when the Rebels, Stormers and Crusaders host better ranked teams. There should be two relatively easy picks with the Blues and Chiefs likely to win well.
In other matches, can the Highlanders and Hurricanes maintain their good form on the road against the Stormers and Waratahs? These home teams are the favourites in these matches. The Sharks are favoured to beat the Rebels in Melbourne on their first game on tour. These four games are the toughest ones to pick in Super Rugby Round 12.
Managers playing www.testrugby.com need to be weary as the Force have the bye, but Crusaders, Force and Rebels are back. There is still a week until managers get a new allotment of trades. With so many teams having byes, it is worth looking long term and selecting players you can get several weeks of games out of. It is also worth buying some players like Scott Higginbotham, Sam Whitelock and Jason Woodward.
For Super Rugby Round 12 Team Lists go to
Blues vs Reds
Super Rugby Round 12 starts in Auckland when the Blues host the Reds. Can the Blues retain their unbeaten record at home in 2014? The up and down Blues are sitting at the bottom of the New Zealand conference, but they are in ninth spot, six points behind New Zealand conference leaders the Crusaders, while the Reds are sitting 13th overall and bottom of the Australian conference. Will the 100th cap for Quade Cooper inspire the Queensland based side?
Both teams had contrasting weeks in Super Rugby Round 11 with the Waratahs grinding out a win over the Waratahs, while the Reds were stunned by the Hurricanes.
The Blues has an experienced look to it with players like Tony Woodcock, Ma’a Nonu, Keven Mealamu (captain), Jerome Kaino and Tom Donnelly. Luke Braid won’t be playing, while Steven Luatua will start off the bench. Simon Hickey will wear the Number 10 jersey. This Blues team has too many big names not to be a threat in Super Rugby with Frank Halai, Francis Saili, Charles Piutau start in a star studded backline.
The Reds were easily beaten by the Hurricanes last week and their team features a core of experienced players like James Horwill, Rob Simmons, Quade Cooper and Will Genia, but they haven’t been as effective in 2014.
Plenty will depend on which Blues team shows up, but they should be too strong and classy at home for the Reds.
My pick – Blues
Players to buy – www.testrugby.com – Jerome Kaino has been a beast in Super Rugby this season. Don’t forget, Luatua has been benched and Braid is out. It will be interesting to see how the All Blacks midfield of Ma’a Nonu and Francis Saili go in the Blues midfield, while Charles Piutau and Frank Halai are usually good points producers. Keven Mealamu could be a good option since he is captain, while Simon Hickey and Patrick Tuipulotu are bargains.
The Blues traditionally give up points to the tight forwards in the opposition, so for the Reds watch for James Horwill, Rob Simmons and Saia Faingaa. Quade Cooper is an inconsistent option with the potential to play well in his 100th match.
Rebels vs Sharks
The Sharks are still on the top of the table despite being shocked by the Highlanders in Super Rugby Round 11. They have responded by moving Franc Steyn into the Number 10 jersey to replace Tim Swiel.
The Rebels are coming off the bye, but have been a major hassle to play against in Melbourne.
The Sharks should dominate up front with Bismarck du Plessis leading the forward pack, assuming he plays this week. Jean Deysel and Ryan Kankowski are back from injury. They have a hard-nosed forward pack and will be hurting after the Highlanders loss.
It will be interesting to see how the Rebels go coming off the bye. If they hit the ground running then they could cause a boilover, otherwise expect the Sharks to win.
My pick: Sharks
Players to watch – www.testrugby.com – The Rebels haven’t been named yet but watch for Scott Higginbotham, Jason Woodward and Luke Jones assuming they are named.
The Sharks disappointed the scorers despite playing the lowly Cheetahs. Bismarck du Plessis, Lwazi Mvovo, Franc Steyn, Jean Deysel and Marcell Coetzee are good scorers while, lock Stephan Lewies could be a cheap option if he is named to start.
Crusaders vs Brumbies
The second trans-tasman battle in Super Rugby Round 11 is a beauty with a repeat of the rivalry which was strong during the 2000s. This is a battle between teams boasting nine Super Rugby titles between them.
Both teams have the amazing record of beating the Chiefs in their last matches with the Crusaders doing it in Round 10 while the Brumbies humbled the Chiefs in Round 11.
Both teams are yet to be named. The Crusaders welcome back Richie McCaw, while Kieran Read is still out with concussion.
The Brumbies are yet to be named, but watch for Christian Lealiifano to start in the midfield.
Both of these teams are in great form and it is a tough match to pick.
My pick – Crusaders
Players to watch: www.testrugby.com The Crusaders will miss Kieran Read. Watch for Sam Whitelock, Ryan Crotty and Colin Slade.
The Brumbies have won three from four in Canberra this season with their only slip up being against the Reds, while the Chiefs have hit some major turbulence after winning their opening three games they have lost two, drawn two and won one. The Chiefs only have a 33 percent winning record in Australia. Recent form suggests that the Chiefs will struggle in Canberra against the Brumbies.
The Brumbies haven’t been named yet, but watch for Christian Lealiifano returning from injury, while Ben Mowen, Stephen Moore, Robbie Coleman and Jesse Mogg have been productive so far in www.testrugby.com .
Chiefs vs Lions
Both the Chiefs and Lions started Super Rugby 2014 well, but both teams have got the speed wobbles and desperately need a victory in this game to stay in contention this season.
The Chiefs should win this match but have only won once in their last six games and really miss Aaron Cruden. They should be too strong for the Lions who are starting their tour and win it well.
The Chiefs were dismantled by the Brumbies in Super Rugby Round 11, while the Lions had the bye.
My pick – Chiefs
Players to watch – www.testrugby.com
For the Chiefs, their outside backs have the ability to score some big points, while loose forward Liam Messam and lock Brodie Retallick are two consistent performers. Gareth Anscombe is also worth consideration although he may not be as dominant from first five eighth without the extra space he used to get at fullback.
The Lions usually rely on Marnitz Boshoff, but he has been benched leaving their main options for managers to be loose forwards Derrick Minnie, Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel.
Waratahs vs Hurricanes
The third trans-tasman battle sees the inform Hurricanes playing the Waratahs. How the Waratahs bounce back from their loss to the Blues will be important in this one against the Hurricanes who are a team with a great deal of attacking potential and used this to beat the Reds easily in Super Rugby Round 11.
The Waratahs are losing ground on the leaders and now sit sixth on the points table behind the Hurricanes who are top of the New Zealand conference now.
The Hurricanes have the best attack in Super Rugby 2014 and they will need this to crack this Waratahs team who will want to maintain their impressive home record. The Waratahs should win at home.
My pick: Waratahs
Players to watch – Both teams have been named so managers playing www.testrugby.com have some certainty.
For the Waratahs watch for Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale, Micheal Hooper, Tatafu Polata-Nau and Wycliff Palu.
For the Hurricanes, Beauden Barrett is a stud, while backs like Andre Taylor, Cory Jane, Julian Savea, Alapati Leiua and Conrad Smith are always looking likely to score tries. Their forwards like Dane Coles, Jeremy Thrush and James Broadbent have been scoring some good points.
Stormers vs Highlanders
The Stormers host the high flying Highlanders in Super Rugby Round 12. The Cape Town side have been disappointing in Super Rugby 2014 and it will be interesting to see if they can win at home against the Highlanders who are surprisingly not the bookies favourite after their impressive win over the Sharks.
There will be plenty of interest to see if the Highlanders can compete with the Stormers pack which now includes Schalk Burger. If the Highlanders forwards can gain parity then their backline has the ability to cause some damage for the Stormers. They owe plenty to coach Tony Brown.
The Stormers are pretty much out of contention, while the Highlanders could end up in the Top Six at the end of the round, if results go their way.
The Stormers have made plenty of changes and are starting Kurt Coleman in the Number 10 jersey. The lack of a quality Number 10 cost the Sharks against the Highlanders last week. They seem to have too many good players to be sitting so low on the Super Rugby ladder.
The Highlanders haven’t been named but don’t seem to have too many injury concerns.
The battle between the midfields is exciting with Shaun Treeby and Malakai Fekitoa probably lining up against Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh.
I am picking the Highlanders to repeat their form from last week and beat the Stormers.
My pick – Highlanders
Players to watch – www.testrugby.com
The Stormers have some good players who score well with Jean de Villiers, Duane Vermeulen, Nizaam Carr and Michael Rhodes performing well. Deon Fourie starts from the bench.
Assuming bargains like Joe Wheeler and Malakai Fekitoa are playing then they can help get you below the salary cap. More established stars like Nasi Manu and Ben Smith have also been performing well.
Bulls vs Cheetahs
The Bulls will be hurting after an unsuccessful Super Rugby tour to Australasia. The Cheetahs will have gained some confidence after beating the Stormers last week.
The Bulls were humbled on tour but showed that they can dominate teams upfront, but just didn’t have the polished finish require.
The Bulls will rely heavily on their pack and it will be interesting to see how they go without Jacques-Louis Potgieter who has been benched and their locking duo of Victor Matfield and Paul Willemse have been playing well.
The Bulls are sitting 10th and the Cheetahs in 14th as part of the underperforming South African conference.
The Cheetahs have stuck with a largely unchanged team for this match which includes Willie Le Roux on the wing, while Johan Goosen is on the bench. Boom Prinsloo starts at Number Eight, allowing Heinrich Brussouw and Jean Cook to start.
This match is genuinely difficult to pick with the Bulls likely to be tired after their tour and the Cheetahs coming off a confidence boosting win.
My pick – Bulls
Players to watch – www.testrugby.com –
Players like Victor Matfield and Paul Willemse are two of the better point scorers for the Bulls. Jan Serfontein and Jacques du Plessis are also good value.
For the Cheetahs, Boom Prinsloo is starting at Number Eight and will get more opportunities there. Heinrich Brussouw, Adriaan Strauss and Willie Le Roux are other good performers.
Who are you picking to win Super 15 Rugby Round 12 matches?