Super Rugby Round 14 was the most difficult on record with four upsets to really test the tipsters, while only three home teams won which goes against recent history. The Highlanders, Sharks, Rebels and Cheetahs cost tipsters dearly. Super Rugby Round 15 doesn’t look much easier for tipsters. The high number of difficult to pick games is a potentially dangerous one for teams and tipsters alike with most matches featuring teams in finals contention. This means that this round could go amazingly right for some tipsters and horribly wrong for others. Several of these games will split tipsters fifty fifty.
Super Rugby Round 15 features seven matches with the Blues, Chiefs and Bulls returning from the bye and the Reds getting a chance to put their feet up.
There are some tough games to pick, with two New Zealand local derbies featuring the Highlanders vs Crusaders and Hurricanes vs Chiefs having a massive impact not only on the New Zealand conference, but the overall competition. There are some other tough matches to pick with the higher positioned teams like the Brumbies and Sharks on the road overseas against the Bulls and Blues who are both desperately needing the win to have a shot at the finals. It is tough to pick these types of matches as the home ground advantage is a great leveller. There are two other derbies with the fast finishing Stormers and Cheetahs meeting again. Both of these teams are in good form which belies their low positions on the table. The tricky Rebels host the Waratahs in an Australian derby. It will be interesting to see how travel affects the Force as they host the Lions and if the Chiefs, Bulls and Blues can bounce back after the bye in their must win matches.
Managers playing www.testrugby.com can grab some bargains with the Chiefs, Blues and Bulls coming off the bye, while the disappointing Reds have the bye this round although this may only affect some managers. Watch for the potential return of Aaron Cruden for the Chiefs, although the New Zealand teams have mainly derby matches left meaning that they probably won’t pull out those big weeks that most teams are having against the Lions at the moment. Be warned, just around the corner in Super Rugby Round 17 all five South African teams have the bye, so start planning for this.
For Super Rugby Round 15 Team Lists go to
Blues vs Sharks
The Blues and Sharks meet each other in a battle between two of the big forward packs in Super Rugby 2014.
The Sharks are still at the top of the Super Rugby table after an historical first win over the Crusaders in Christchurch. The Blues are coming off the bye, but will need to win to improve on their 10thposition. A win would move them close to the Top Six.
The Sharks will be missing the suspended Jean Deysel, while the Blues have rejigged their backline with Pita Ahki taking the vacant centre spot and Lolagi Visinia taking Charles Piutau’s fullback spot. The Blues have an impressive forward pack with All Blacks galore and plenty of experience, while their backline will rely on Ma’a Nonu to lead an exciting but inexperienced backline.
The Sharks relied heavily on their forward pack and Franc Steyn to guide the backline in Christchurch last week.
The Blues are tough to beat at home, while the Sharks may be stuffed after last week’s difficult win in Christchurch.
It will really compress the ladder if the Blues win this one and many teams won’t want the Sharks to win as it will make them tough to catch at the top of the ladder.
My pick – Blues
Players to watch: www.testrugby.com The Blues have some exciting players, but their experienced players like Keven Mealamu, Jerome Kaino and Ma’a Nonu are their players to watch. Simon Hickey is a good value goalkicker.
The Sharks have some powerful players but the team hasn’t been named yet, but watch for Bismarck du Plessis and Franc Steyn. Willem Alberts starts at Number Eight and could be a good option.
Rebels vs Waratahs
Both teams are coming off wins in Super Rugby Round 14. The Rebels have been difficult to beat despite their relatively low position on the table.
The Rebels won a controversial game against the Reds, while the Waratahs thrashed the Lions. It is sometimes difficult to bounce back after such an easy win, so the Waratahs will have to be careful.
The Waratahs have made some changes with Jacques Potgieter and Alofa Alofa back in the starting team.
My pick: Waratahs
Players to watch – www.testrugby.com –
For the Waratahs, Bernard Foley, Micheal Hooper, Israel Folau and Kurtley Beale are genuine gamebreakers.
For the Rebels, watch for Scott Higginbotham, while Tamati Ellison, Jason Woodward and Luke Jones are excellent value.
Bulls vs Brumbies
The Brumbies have been impressive in 2014, but were brought back down to earth by the lowly Cheetahs last week. These away fixtures for better ranked teams against lesser ranked teams usually have a potential banana skin feel about them. Do you think the Bulls can cause the Brumbies to slip up?
The Bulls are coming off the bye, but have been impressive at home in 2014, although the Brumbies will be disappointed after losing last week.
The Bulls welcome Jacques-Louis Potgieter back into their starting team and he is crucial to his team’s chances. The home advantage is crucial for the Bulls who are sitting in 9th position and must keep winning if they are to sneak into the Top Six.
The visitors have plenty to play for too. Their position at the top of the Australian conference is in jeopardy and their chance of overtaking the Sharks at the top of the table rests on winning games like this one.
My pick – Bulls
Players to watch: www.testrugby.com
The Bulls will rely on Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Victor Matfield and the bargain priced Jacques du Plessis and Callie Visagie. Remember, the Bulls won’t play in Super Rugby Round 17.
The Brumbies side hasn’t been named but they have some good value players with Christian Lealiifano, Robbie Coleman, Jesse Mogg, Ben Mowen and Stephen Moore some good players.
Highlanders vs Crusaders
If the Highlanders didn’t beat the Hurricanes and the Crusaders didn’t lose to the Sharks, I would have said that the Crusaders are hot favourites, but the form showed last week has made this match a tough one to pick.
The big brothers north of the Waitaki are sitting on 32 points, just behind the Highlanders on 34 points. This is a winner takes all battle!
The Crusaders have made six changes and will be without Kieran Read again as he recovers from a head knock and the flu, while the forward pack has been rotated with their All Blacks front row on the bench, while Tom Taylor starts at centre and Israel Dagg is back fullback. The Sharks showed some deficiencies in the Crusaders game and so player rotation is required to freshen up the squad.
The Highlanders have developed some depth this season, although it has been needed.
There will be some great battles with Israel Dagg vs Ben Smith set to be a classic. Former Highlanders first five Colin Slade will face his former team mates Lima Sopoaga and Andy Ellis faces All Black incumbent Aaron Smith. The rotating of the front row has levelled things up with the Crusaders likely to gain more than an edge up front given the calibre of their bench. Will the Crusaders who were largely disappointing against the Sharks be fresh enough to beat the Highlanders.
The Highlanders are playing with passion with their exciting players like Shane Christie, Liam Coltman, Malakai Fekitoa and Richard Buckman playing out of their skin this season.
This game is one of those where not only does the winner get points, but the loser doesn’t, potentially have the snakes and ladders effect on these teams.
My pick – Crusaders
Players to watch – www.testrugby.com
The Highlanders were not named at the time of writing this.
The Highlanders have some great value players in Joe Wheeler, Shane Christie, Richard Buckman and Malakai Fekitoa while Lima Sopoaga and Ben Smith are more expensive, but worth the investment.
The Crusaders tight five players could be worth buying since the Highlanders usually give away plenty of www.testrugby.com points. Watch for Sam Whitelock, the mercurial Colin Slade, Nemani Nadolo and Ryan Crotty. It will be interesting to see how Tom Taylor goes against Malakai Fekitoa.
Hurricanes vs Chiefs
This is the second of two tough derby matches in the New Zealand conference. Neither of these teams won in Super Rugby Round 14, with the Hurricanes losing to the Highlanders, while the Chiefs had the bye.
The Hurricanes are the best attacking team in the competition, they will need that flair to beat the strong defence of the Chiefs.
The Chiefs have overcome a midseason slump with two wins before they had the bye in Round 14. Their cause might be helped by returning players for this match with Aaron Cruden set to do battle with Beauden Barrett. Barrett himself is under an injury cloud which stopped him goal kicking last week.
The Hurricanes have more stars than the Chiefs, but the Chiefs have shown that you don’t need to have all the best players to produce good results in Super Rugby.
The Chiefs must win to have a shot at finishing on the top of the Super Rugby and New Zealand Conference ladder. The Chiefs are on 35 points, while the Hurricanes are on 31 points, so this is a crucial game. The Highlanders and Crusaders sit sandwiched between these teams.
My pick – Chiefs
Players to watch – www.testrugby.com
Neither team has been named, so double check!
For the Hurricanes watch for Julian Savea, Jeremy Thrush, Dane Coles, Jeremy Thrush, Beauden Barrett (if fit) and Cory Jane.
For the Chiefs, Aaron Cruden is worth picking if he is starting. Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick and Tim Nanai-Williams are some good points’ producers.
Force vs Lions
The Force return home after being in South Africa and face a Lions team licking their wounds after three loses on tour.
The Lions have faded after a strong start as the lesser teams struggle to have the depth required to be competitive in Super Rugby. The Force will be disappointed if they don’t score four tries and beat the Lions easily, although they won’t want to fall into the same trap that the Highlanders almost did after getting off to a strong start, on their return home.
A win for the Force will probably get them back into the Top Six with a shot at a wildcard spot for the playoffs. Who knows? If results go their way like the Brumbies and Waratahs losing, then the Force could end up at the top of the Australian conference.
The Lions have injury concerns and will have their mind on returning home.
My pick – Force
Players to watch – www.testrugby.com
Neither team has been named.
For the Force, you must back their big points scorers like Ben McCalman, Nathan Charles and Nick Cummins.
The Lions will rely on their loose forwards Derrick Minnie, Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel. They will have to make plenty of tackles.
Stormers vs Cheetahs
Both the Stormers and Cheetahs are finishing Super Rugby strongly, but unfortunately it seems that both teams left their runs a bit late!
These two teams were impressive in dispatching their Australian opponents last week.
Both teams took ages to register their second wins of the season, but once they got that confidence, both teams have done enough to move off the bottom of the table.
The Cheetahs are in 12th and the Stormers 13th heading into this game.
The Stormers welcome back the experienced duo of Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger, while the Cheetahs have named an unchanged team. Johan Goosen was on fire for the Cheetahs in their upset win over the Brumbies.
The Stormers have a strong home record and watch for this to get them home although this match shapes as a battle between the Stormers defence and the Cheetahs lack of defence, but ability to score tries.
My pick – Stormers
Players to watch – www.testrugby.com – Remember the South African teams have a bye in Round 17, so it is risky buying a player from these teams this week.
For the Stormers, Deon Fourie, Jaco Taute and Duane Vermeulen are good scorers while Damien de Allende, Nizaam Carr and Ruan Botha are bargains.
The Cheetahs have Johan Goosen, Boom Prinsloo, Heinrich Brussouw, Adriaan Strauss and Willie Le Roux.
Who are you picking to win Super 15 Rugby Round 15 matches?