Super 14 Rugby

Make or break time at Newlands

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For two sides on the up after a topsy-turvy start to the season Saturday’s Super 14 clash at Newlands between the Stormers and the Brumbies could be make or break.


A loss for either of the two adversaries will not necessarily end their semifinal aspirations but will certainly seriously dent them.


For the Brumbies, in particular, a loss could spell the end, as they also have to play what seems a resurgent Bulls outfit and Western Force in their remaining two matches — both away from their home in Canberra.


The clash on Saturday will be between two sides who have largely shuffled last weekend’s winning combinations. Rassie Erasmus has lost two Springboks in hooker Tiaan Liebenberg and Schalk Burger, and is also without prop JD Moller after the previous week’s injury.


He has a new, albeit fairly experienced, No 8 in Robbie Diack who comes in as Luke Watson moves to flank for Burger. The effective loose forward trio of Burger, Watson and Francois Louw is therefore no more — a fact that could have a huge bearing on the match.


They will be up against that fetcher of class, George Smith, the much underrated Stephen Hoiles and Julian Salvi as loose trio – and it will depend on the Stormers’ tight five whether they can weather the Brumbies storm in the loose. The Brumbies backline is unchanged.


Captain Stirling Mortlock will undoubtedly again have a huge influence on the game with his play and leadership, and once again it prompts one to say that the home side’s tight five hold the key to success.


The Brumbies will be jittery after their close squeak against the Lions last weekend and they’re away from home – and perhaps ripe for the plucking.


** The Bulls had a break at the right time – but it was also at the wrong time.


They needed a lay-off to regroup, but their bye of last weekend comes on the heels of arguably their best performance this season when they at last turned back to winning ways with a victory over the Highlanders the preceding weekend.


Continuity could have been a great ally against theWaratahs on Saturday. Coach Frans Ludeke has not tampered with the side, and the visitors — who beat a decidedly average Sharks side in Sydney last weekend — will have to earn their sixth successive win the hard way at Loftus.


They are currently second on the log – but hope springs eternal in Pretoria, and this could be their high point of a very average season and a huge favour for the Sharks and the Stormers if they could beat the Waratahs.


** The Lions play the Hurricanes in Wellington, and have performed admirably in the first half of all three their last matches — and also in the second half against the Brumbies last weekend when the Lions lost with the last move of the day.


If they can keep this up, the hometown favourites could be jolted — especially after three weeks away from home and just back from their South African sojourn.


A new-look Lions backline is not the ideal way to run onto the field, but could perhaps bring the needed enthusiasm. The Hurricanes should win and do it quite comfortably, but Eugene Eloff’s charges won’t go down without a fight – hopefully for both halves.


** The Blues, after their close loss to Crusaders in last weekend’s round, will be confident that they can maintain their challenge for a semifinal spot – albeit a faint one – when they play the Reds in Brisbane.


This could be a match to savour between two sides that produced the best in rugby entertainment in their matches last weekend.


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


Friday: (SA times, home teams first)


Crusaders v Sharks, 9.35am;
Force v Chiefs, 1.05pm;
Cheetahs v Highlanders, 7.10pm

Saturday:


Hurricanes v Lions, 9.35am;
Reds v Blues, 11.40am;
Bulls v Waratahs, 3pm;
Stormers v Brumbies, 5.05pm.


Sapa – Super14.com

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