With Super Rugby set to kick off for the weekend tomorrow, we take a look at two important games that have the potential of upsetting the log at this critical stage of the season.
In the first game of the weekend the Hurricanes take on the Crusaders at the Westpac stadium. With the Hurricanes and Crusaders having each played 6 games, each won four and sitting with 19 points apiece on the log both, teams have everything to play for. The Crusaders presently sit at the top of the log by virtue of their higher point’s difference but this could all change with a Hurricanes win.
The Crusaders are coming off of a narrow loss to the Waratahs last weekend and the draw due to the cancelled match the week before. Whilst they will be looking to get their season back on track after a monstrous start, they will also be more than pleased by the return of numerous All Blacks, most notably Kieran Read.
The Hurricanes having beaten the Stormers last weekend, come into the game carrying some momentum and after welcoming back star players a few weeks ago they seem to have regained their edge after suffering an early season defeat. Under the direction of Beauden Barrett and with the form of Ngani Laumape they are a strong title contender at this stage. The Hurricanes only loss of the year was against the Crusaders.
Steve Hansen, as coach of the All Blacks will surely have his eyes glued to the game as many of the players he will be eyeing out for the World Cup will face up with one another this weekend. Close attention will be paid to the battle between Barret and Mo’unga as well as that of Crotty and Laumape.
On Saturday the Sharks play host to the Blue Bulls in Durban in a return match after the Bulls beat the Sharks 37-14 at Loftus earlier in March. The Sharks will definitely be seeking revenge for that game as it put them on the back foot shortly before their bye week. The Sharks are currently 2nd in the South African Conference on 15 points whilst the Bulls are 3rd on 13. Either side having the potential to steal 1st place from the Lions this weekend.
The Sharks enter the game after a hard fought win against the Rebels and will have gained some much needed confidence from the manner in which that victory was achieved. Whilst the Bulls are coming off of a heavy loss to the Chiefs (56-20). Both teams have it all to fight for this weekend as home play-off spots are decided in these derbies and every team in the competition knows the value of playing at home.
Rassie Erasmus, like Hansen will also be watching keenly as many Springboks are set to clash in this game. Special focus will be on the forward packs, as the Sharks boast numerous internationals in the front row but the bulls have Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits who are important figures in Erasmus’ plans.
No matter who you support, these are two games not to be missed.
Written by: Nicholas Halsey
Image credit: stuff.co.nz