Super 14 Rugby

Hopeful Teams focus on the Super 14 Semi-finals


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The derby between the Sharks and the Cheetahs in Durban and the clash between the Stormers and the Waratahs at Newlands, is where the South African Super 14 focus will be on a weekend that could see the end of a number of teams’ title hopes.

Just as important from a South African point of view will be whether the Stormers can still make a home semi-final.

For the Sharks, only a highly unlikely permutation of results can see them still achieve it.

In fact, only a five-pointer against the Cheetahs and also the following week against the Chiefs are likely to see the Sharks make the semi-finals at all after their dearth of tries and bonus points in the matches preceding their four losses in Australasia.

The Sharks will run virtually every ball against the Cheetahs.

They simply have to in order to secure four tries. And gay abandon on the attack could be what has been long overdue in a seasn of largely unconvincing wins.

However, it is also a near-certain way of losing structure – and the Cheetahs, for all their defensive lapses this season, are a side that can use turnover ball to great effect.

They are, after all, the South African side with the most tries to their credit. However, the possibility of a semifinal and greater efficiency should see the Sharks clinch this one.

* The Stormers have the chance of moving into second position on the log if they can see off the Waratahs. Although the Hurricanes are also above the Stormers, a loss by them on Friday against the Western Force could open the way for the Stormers.

But they have it all to do at Newlands on Saturday. The Waratahs are a difficult side. Their loss to the Bulls last weekend was an undoubted setback, and they know a win against the Stormers is necessary to keep up their challenge for a home semifinal.

They could swing matters their way in the scrums, and with the same resolute tackling on a wet field that they displayed against the Bulls last weekend. And, savour the idea of the battle on the ground between Phil Waugh, Luke Watson and Francois Louw. This could be where the game is clinched.

The Stormers, now focused on a semi-final and before their fanatical supporters, seem to have more punch, more confidence and probably greater motivation after last year’s near disastrous season, and should secure at least a win.

* At Ellis Park, it would only be the most adrent of Lions supporters who would wager against the Chiefs winning and winning well. The Lions have been decidedly sub-standard in this year’s competition.

The Chiefs need a five-pointer, and should get it. Motivation of the Lions side can take them only so far. Player quality – especially at the back – is what has been lacking, and the mere inclusion of Jaque Fourie will not solve that problem.

* In Saturday’s remaining two matches the Reds, even at home, are unlikely to beat even an out-of-sorts looking Crusaders side who have not been totally convincing throughout the season.

* Likewise the Highlanders could well leak four tries against the Blues who need two five-pointers in their last two matches to keep their semifinal aspirations alive.

This weekend’s matches are (SA times, home sides first):

Friday :

Hurricanes v Force, 9.35am;
Bulls v Brumbies, 7.10pm.

Highlanders v Blues, 9.35am;
Reds v Crusaders, 11.40am;
Sharks v Cheetahs, 3pm;
Lions v Chiefs, 5.05pm;
Stormers v Waratahs, 7.10pm.

Sapa –

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