Thursday, March 29, 2007

Super 14 round 11 preview

April 20, 2006

Rugby Planet has their Super 14 Round 11 preview up.

The best match of the weekend sees the perennial contending ACT Brumbies hosting the plucky (and consistently heartbreaking) Hurricanes in Canberra. It should be a colossal contest as the 4th-place Brumbies look to claw some points off the 3rd-place ‘Canes. The Brumbies are currently sitting on 28 points, five in arrears of the Hurricanes.

In the Sydney Morning Herald, former Wallabies and ACT winger Joe Roff reckons the difference between the teams might be in the three-quarters. Roff rates the Hurricanes, and in particular their centre pairing, as being in best-ever form:

While the Canes were buoyed by the return last weekend of talismanic former captain Tana Umaga, the Brumbies have been weakened in just that area with the loss of both Stephen Larkham and Matt Giteau.

Larkham is gone for at least a month and Giteau is out for at least this week, and a question mark remains over captain Stirling Mortlock, who yesterday described himself as a "60-40 chance" to take the field.

Gene Fairbanks will start at five-eighth with Joel Wilson wearing No.12, with the two required to form a cohesive defensive combination against the twin predators of Umaga and Ma'a Nonu, who Roff yesterday described as a "nightmare".

"There's not many better centre pairings in the world than those two guys," Roff said. "I always used to have a few nightmares the night before playing those guys. They're a fantastic combination. That will be the big test of the combination for the Brumbies at 10, 12 and 13, to see if they can close down Tana and Ma'a Nonu. If they can do that, they'll go a long way to winning that game."

A log-jam of teams is tucked right behind and looking for breathing space to make the final four playoff spots.

The Bulls have 23 points and should grab a full five points on the table as they host the toothless Cats. The Sharks and Blues both sit on 22 points and face each other in South Africa, so the lean goes to the home side Sharks. The Chiefs also sit tied at 22 points and should beat the Cheetahs (18 points). The Reds and Stormers play a meaningless game – both are slumped in the standings.

The front-running Crusaders should run up a cricket score in Perth against the terrible expansion Western Force. The 2nd-place Waratahs and mid-table Highlanders have bye weeks.

Full official Super 14 fixtures & standings here.

Rugby channel button

Don't forget the Rugby Channel at Mediazone has full live coverage of all Super 14 games. The Brumbies-Hurricanes game goes at 5:40 am ET Saturday morning -- and if that's too early, the games are also available for download afterward.

Matt Brown also has a weekly preview and a longer highlight package. As I reported a week-or-so back, you are now required to register for the Rugby Channel, but it's worth it. Brown explains:

If you haven’t yet gotten into the habit of doing so, I encourage you to take a look at our Highlights page.

Now that you have to log in to view our packages, I’ve been able to increase their length to about five minutes apiece, which means they’ll take a bit longer to download but in exchange for the added wait of a few seconds you’ll get to see a more complete view of each try and the action that led up to it, not just the last movement.


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