Rugby Planet previews HUGE club finals weekend
There's a huge weekend of rugby starting tomorrow, and very little of it having anything to do with the Churchill Cup test match between Canada and Ireland 'A' (see that preview posted below).
The international club calendar comes to a close with three big finals. As always, Rugby Planet has their invaluable previews and starting line-ups.
* The SANZAR Super 14 final sees the table-leading Sharks host the Bulls in a all-South African final that ensures for the first time in the history of the competition that the champion will be from the Republic.
Super 14 Final: SHARKS vs. BULLS
Sharks: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Francois Steyn, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Butch James, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 AJ Venter, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Johan Ackermann, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Deon Carstens. Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Warren Britz, 20 Bob Skinstad, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Adrian Jacobs.
Bulls: 15 Johan Roets, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JP Nel, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Derick Hougaard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Pedrie Wannenburg, 5 Victor Matfield (c), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Rayno Gerber, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp. Replacements: 16 Jaco Engels, 17 Danie Thiart, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Derick Kuün, 20 Heinie Adams, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Jaco van der Westhuyzen.
Date: Saturday 19 May 2007
Venue: ABSA Stadium, Durban
Kick-off: 15.00 (13.00 GMT) 09:00 AM ET.
Referee: Steve Walsh (New Zealand)
Touch judges: Lyndon Bray (New Zealand), Bryce Lawrence (New Zealand)
Television match official: Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand)
Assessor: Tappe Henning (South Africa)
Read the entire preview here. Rugby Planet prediction: Bulls by less than 10 points.
The game will be broadcast live on Mediazone Rugby Channel starting at 09:00 AM ET (Toronto, New York, etc.).
If you really want to sink your teeth into this juicy all-South African battle, be sure to bookmark Mark Keohane's website for all the latest developments. (And don't forget to check out his flaming comments sections!) Like RP, Keo is also predicting glory for the Bulls.
** Same day, Clermont face Bath in the European Challenge Cup Final at the Twickenham Stoop. Rugby Planet previews:
European Challenge Cup Final: ASM CLERMONT AUVERGNE vs. BATHRead the entire preview here. Rugby Planet prediction: Bath by 6.
Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 David Bory, 10 Shaun Berne, 9 Nick Walshe, 8 Zak Feaunati, 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Barnes. Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Peter Short, 19 James Scaysbrook, 20 Andy Williams, 21 Chris Malone, 22 Tom Cheeseman.
ASM Clermont Auvergne: 15 Anthony Floch, 14 Aurélien Rougerie (c), 13 Grant Esterhuizen, 12 Tony Marsh, 11 Julien Malzieu, 10 Brock James, 9 Pierre Mignoni, 8 Elvis Vermeulen, 7 Michel Dieude, 6 Sam Broomhall, 5 Thibaut Privat, 4 Jamie Cudmore, 3 Martin Scelzo, 2 Mario Ledesma, 1 Laurent Emmanuelli. Replacements: 16 Brice Miguel, 17 Goderzi Shvelidze, 18 Loic Jacquet, 19 Gonzalo Longo, 20 Alessandro Troncon, 21 Seremaïa Bai, 22 Raphael Chanal.
Date: Saturday 19th May 2007
Time: 17.30 (16.30 BST)
Venue: Twickenham Stoop
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Touch judges: High Watkins (Wales), Tim Hayes (Wales)
Television match official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
*** On Sunday, Wasps meet Leicester in the final of the Heineken Cup at Twickenham. Rugby Planet is hyping this baby Big-Time:
Heineken Cup Final: LONDON WASPS vs. LEICESTER TIGERS
Leicester and Wasps have somehow managed the impossible.
The all-English cast and the Twickenham surrounds give the impression of a domestic cup final, but we must remind ourselves - with a stout pinch - that this is the Big One.
This is the one that they all wanted. This is the one that the French crave. This is the one that the Welsh and the Scottish and the Italians can only dream about. This is the one that the Irish cotton-balled their biggest stars for, thereby sacrificing their Magners League pretensions at Europe's highest alter.
Forgive the triumphalism, but even the weakest drizzle is cause for celebration during a severe drought. No matter what transpires on Sunday, the event has already secured its status as England's finest hour since that distant night in Sydney in November 2003.
With the nationalist tub-thumping now out of the our system, we can turn to domestic hostilities, and rivalries don't get much bigger than the one shared by Wasps and Leicester.
The marketeers have billed Sunday's final as 'the biggest club game ever', and for once the blurb seems to do the occasion justice.
Ticket sales indicate that attendance is likely to surpass the world record for a Rugby Union club match. That current mark stands at the 79,741 who were at Stade de France to see Stade Français Paris beat Toulouse 22-20 in a Top 14 contest earlier this year, but Twickenham could be full to its new capacity of 82,000. [...]
Leicester Tigers: 15 Geordan Murphy, 14 Seru Rabeni, 13 Danny Hipkiss, 12 Daryl Gibson, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Andy Goode, 9 Frank Murphy , 8 Martin Corry (c), 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Lewis Moody, 5 Ben Kay, 4 Louis Deacon, 3 Julian White, 2 George Chuter, 1 Marcos Ayerza. Replacements: 16 James Buckland, 17 Alex Moreno, 18 Leo Cullen, 19 Brett Deacon, 20 Ian Humphreys, 21 Sam Vesty, 22 Ollie Smith.
London Wasps: 15 Danny Cipriani, 14 Paul Sackey, 13 Fraser Waters, 12 Josh Lewsey, 11 Tom Voyce, 10 Alex King, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Lawrence Dallaglio (c), 7 Tom Rees, 6 Joe Worsley, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Simon Shaw, 3 Peter Bracken, 2 Raphaël Ibañez, 1 Phil Vickery. Replacements: 16 Joe Ward, 17 Tom French, 18 Dan Leo, 19 James Haskell, 20 Mark McMillan, 21 Dominic Waldouck, 22 Mark van Gisbergen.
Date: Sunday 20 May 2007
Venue: Twickenham, London
Kick-off: 14:30 BST (13:30 GMT) 09:30 AM ET.
Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)
Touch judges: Alain Rolland (Ireland), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Television match official: David McHugh (Ireland)
Read the entire preview here. Rugby Planet prediction: Leicester by ten.
The game will be broadcast live on Mediazone Rugby Channel starting at 9:30 AM ET (Toronto, New York, etc.)