Super Rugby
Super Rugby preview, team news, line-ups: Round 4
ESPN Staff
March 6, 2015
Greg Growden and Sam Bruce run an eye over Super Rugby R4

Friday, March 6

Chiefs v Highlanders, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

Head-to-head: Played 23, Won 15, Lost 8

In Hamilton: Played 12, Won 8, Lost 4

Last clash: Round 17, 2014 - Highlanders 29-25 Chiefs, Dunedin

Key Stats (Opta Sports)

  • The Chiefs won their first three games of the season in 2010 and 2014, but went on to lose their fourth in each of those years.
  • No side has shipped more penalties per game than the Chiefs this season (12.7), and they have benefitted from fewer opposition penalties per game (8.7) than any other team.
  • The Highlanders rank second for turnovers won this season, with an average of nine per game. The Dunedin-based side has limited their opponents to a ruck success rate of 91%; no team in Super Rugby has had their opponents average a lower success rate at the ruck.


  • Chiefs: Tom Marshall; Hosea Gear , Charlie Ngatai, Sonny Bill Williams, James Lowe; Aaron Cruden, Augustine Pulu; Liam Messam (captain) /Maama Vaipulu, Sam Cane, Johan Bardoul; Michael Fitzgerald, Matt Symons; Ben Tameifuna, Hika Elliot, Pauliasi Manu. Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, Siate Tokolahi, Mitchell Graham, Michael Allardice, Michael Leitch / Maama Vaipulu, Brad Weber, Damian McKenzie, Andrew Horrell.
  • Highlanders: Ben Smith (co-captain); Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Shaun Treeby, Patrick Osborne; Lima Sopoaga, Aaron Smith; Nasi Manu (co-captain), Elliot Dixon, Gareth Evans; Joe Wheeler, Mark Reddish; Ma'afu Fia, Liam Coltman, Josh Hohneck. Replacements: Ash Dixon, Brendon Edmonds, Ross Geldenhuys, Tom Franklin, Dan Pryor, Fumiaki Tanaka, Marty Banks, Jason Emery.


  • Chiefs: Nathan Harris (Ankle, TBC), Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Knee, Season), Tevita Koloamatangi (Ankle, TBC), Tim Nanai-Williams (Calf, TBC)
  • Highlanders: Richard Buckman (Knee, TBC), Shane Christie (Knee, TBC), Kane Hames (Suspension, Round 9), Pingi Tala'apitaga (Knee, TBC)

Team News

  • Liam Messam has been bracketed with Maama Vaipulu at No 8 in the Chiefs back-row as he still awaits a concussion clearance, while Michael Fitzgerald replaces World Player of the Year Brodie Retallick, who is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks with a grade 3 AC joint injury. Vaipulu is returning from a shoulder injury. Hosea Gear comes back into the side on the right wing, while Michael Allardice and Japan captain Michael Leitch each get the chance to make their Super Rugby debut off the bench. Andrew Horrell will also get his first match of the season from the bench.
  • Ma'afu Fia will make his first start of the season, alongside Josh Hohneck and Liam Coltman in a new-look front-row, after Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph made five personnel changes and one positional change to his starting forward pack. Tom Franklin, who has started both games, is benched as Joe Wheeler and Mark Reddish combine in the second-row, while Gareth Evans makes his first appearance of 2015 on the blindside with Elliot Dixon shifting to the openside. In the backs, Lima Sopoaga returns after a one-week break to combine with Shaun Treeby in midfield. Marty Banks, who made his debut last week, returns to the bench with Jason Emery.

Greg Growden's Verdict: It's now down to four unbeaten teams, and by far the best of the unconquered are the Chiefs. Their defeat of the Crusaders was so conclusive. And the Highlanders will be easier foes.

Tips - Greg Growden: Chiefs by 8 Sam Bruce: Chiefs Brett McKay: Chiefs Brittany Mitchell: Chiefs Andy Withers: Chiefs

Johan Bardoul starts in the Chiefs' back-row having replaced Brodie Retallick in the tight five against the Crusaders © Getty Images

Brumbies v Force, Canberra Stadium, Canberra

Head-to-head: Played 13, Won 8, Lost 4

In Canberra: Played 6, Won 4, Lost 2

Last clash: Round 19, 2014 - Brumbies 47-25 Force, Canberra

Key Stats (Opta Sports)

  • The Force rank last when it comes to tackling (82%) and scrum (58%) success rates in 2015.
  • The Brumbies have averaged fewer metres (281) and breaks (4) per game than any other side this season, despite kicking from hand less often than any other side on average (17.3).
  • The Brumbies have been awarded more penalties per game (15) than any other team, as well as conceding the fewest (9 per game).


  • Brumbies: Robbie Coleman, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali'ifano, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ita Vaea, Jarrad Butler, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Rory Arnold, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio. Replacements: Josh Mann-Rea, JP Smith, Ruan Smith, Jordan Smiler, Blake Enever, Michael Dowsett, James Dargaville, Jesse Mogg.
  • Force: Luke Morahan; Marcel Brache, Kyle Godwin, Solomoni Jnr Rasolea, Nick Cummins; Zack Holmes, Alby Mathewson; Ben McCalman, Chris Alcock, Brynard Stander; Steve Mafi, Sam Wykes (captain); Tetera Faulkner, Nathan Charles, Pekahou Cowan. Replacements: Heath Tessmann, Chris Heiberg, Oliver Hoskins, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Kane Koteka, Ian Prior, Sias Ebersohn, Luke Burton.


  • Brumbies: David Pocock (Ankle, TBC)
  • Force: Dane Haylett-Petty (Foot, Round 6-7), Matt Hodgson (Hamstring, Round 9), Francois van Wyk (Chest, Season)

Team News

  • Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has retained the same side that held on for a 20-15 victory over the Rebels in Melbourne last Saturday.
  • Nick Cummins make his first start for Western Force since returning from Japan, the winger having finally recovered fully from ankle surgery. Chris Alcock also returns after he was sidelined with a leg injury sustained against Queensland Reds in Brisbane a fortnight ago. Brynard Stander moves to the blindside flank to replace Angus Cottrell, who has an ankle injury. Lock Wilhelm Steenkamp is also set to make his first appearance of the season having replaced Rory Walton on the bench.

Greg Growden's Verdict: The Brumbies have become a more rounded team under Stephen Larkham's command, with their excellent defence crucial in thwarting the Rebels last weekend. As the Force are so infuriatingly one dimensional, it could be like the Hurricanes encounter … a belting

Tips - Greg Growden: Brumbies by 12 Sam Bruce: Brumbies Brett McKay: Brumbies Brittany Mitchell: Brumbies Andy Withers: Brumbies

Fair to say that Western Force and the Sea of Blue have missed Nick Cummins © Getty Images

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The Blues' Keven Mealamu barks instructions, Blues v Hurricanes, Super Rugby, Eden Park, Auckland, May 31, 2014
Keven Mealamu: 162 Super Rugby games and counting © Getty Images

Saturday, March 7

Blues v Lions, QBE Stadium, Albany

Head-to-head: Played 16, Won 12, Lost 4

In Auckland: Played 7, Won 6, Lost 1

Last clash: Round 5, 2014 - Lions 39-36 Blues, Johannesburg

Key Stats (opta Sports)

  • Ihaia West has the best goal-kicking success rate (14/15; 93%) of any player to attempt more than two shots at goal this season.
  • The Blues rank joint-first for average clean breaks (9) while the Lions rank joint-last (4).
  • The Lions (85) and Blues (89) have averaged the lowest number of completed tackles per game, however no team has missed fewer than the Lions (10).


  • Blues: Lolagi Visinia; Frank Halai,Charles Piutau, Francis Saili, Melani Nanai; Ihaia West, Jimmy Cowan; Jerome Kaino (captain), Luke Braid, Steven Luatua ; Patrick Tuipulotu, Josh Bekhuis,; Charlie Faumuina, Keven Mealamu, Ofa Tu'ungafasi. Replacements: James Parsons, Sam Prattley, Angus Ta'avao, Hayden Triggs, Brendon O'Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Simon Hickey, Hamish Northcott.
  • Lions: Andries Coetzee; Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Sampie Mastriet; Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje; Warren Whiteley (captain), Warwick Tecklenburg, Jaco Kriel; Martin Muller, Franco Mostert; Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee, Corne Fourie. Replacements: Armand van der Merwe, Jacques van Rooyen, Ruan Dreyer, Robert Kruger, Derick Minnie, Faf de Klerk, Jaco van der Walt, Howard Mnisi.


  • Blues: Daniel Bowden (Foot, TBC), Blake Gibson (Jaw, TBC), George Moala (Knee, TBC)
  • Lions: MB Lusaseni (Knee, Round 5)

Team News

  • Keven Mealamu will establish a Super Rugby record having been named in to start against the Lions from South Africa, as it will be his 163rd appearance in Super Rugby. He currently shares the mark at 162 retired former Reds, Force and Wallabies lock Nathan Sharpe. Ofa Tu'ungafasi and Frank Halai, each make their first start of the season, while Steven Luatua moves back to his regular starting spot in the loose forwards with captain Jerome Kaino and Luke Braid.
  • Lions coach Johann Ackermann has made just two changes to the side the pushed the undefeated Stormers hard last week, with Corne Fourie named for the first time this season at loose-head and Ross Cronje preferred at scrum-half.

Greg Growden's Verdict: Wooden spoon encounter already? Maybe. Endless questions about Sir John Kirwan's coaching capabilities abound as the Blues again dither about, while the Lions have tapered off since last year's encouraging Currie Cup campaign. The Lions are triers, but struggle to finish off games.

Tips - Greg Growden: Blues by 1 Sam Bruce: Blues Brett McKay: Blues Brittany Mitchell: Blues Andy Withers: Blues

Reds v Waratahs, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Head-to-head: Played 23, Won 13, Lost 9, Drawn 1

In Brisbane: Played 12, Won 7, Lost 4, Drawn 1

Last clash: Round 19, 2014 - Reds 3-34 Waratahs, Brisbane

Key Stats (opta Sports)

  • Liam Gill has won at least three more turnovers than any other player (9) this season.
  • Reminiscent of 2014, the Waratahs rank top for carries, metres, breaks, defenders beaten and passes this year.
  • Opponents of the Reds have a season-low scrum success rate (54%) but the Waratahs have won five opposition scrums in two matches.
James O'Connor retains the No.10 jumper © Getty Images


  • Reds: Lachie Turner; Chris Kuridrani, Ben Tapuai, Anthony Fainga'a, Chris Feauai-Sautia; James O'Connor, Will Genia; Jake Schatz. Liam Gill, Adam Thomson; James Horwill, Dave McDuling; Sam Talakai, Saia Fainga'a, James Slipper. Replacements: James Hanson, Ben Daley, Sef Faagase, Marco Kotze, Curtis Browning, Nick Frisby, Sam Johnson, Campbell Magnay.
  • Waratahs: Israel Folau; Peter Betham, Matt Carraro, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne; Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Jacques Potgieter, David Dennis (captain), Will Skelton; Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Replacements: Tolu Latu, Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Sam Lousi, Mitchell Chapman, Stephen Hoiles, Brendan McKibbin, Jono Lance, Taqele Naiyaravoro.


  • Reds: Quade Cooper (Shoulder, Round 7-10), Greg Holmes (Thumb, Round 7), Karmichael Hunt (Unavailable, TBC), Eddie Quirk (Knee, TBC), Duncan Paia'aua (Concussion, TBC), Beau Robinson (Calf, TBC), Rob Simmons (Shoulder, TBC), Ben Tapuai (Hamstring, TBC), Jamie-Jerry Taulagi (Knee, Round 8-10)
  • Waratahs: Adam Ashley-Cooper (Ankle, TBC)

Team News

  • James Horwill returns to the reds' starting line-up after missing the defeat by the Highlanders in Dunedin last week with the hand injury he sustained against Western Force the week before. He replaces Marco Kotze, with the South African moving to the bench, while Ben Tapuai replaces Samu Kerevi in the centres. Kerevi has not oversome the cork he sustained in Dunedin. "James Horwill's hand has mended well and it's good to get him back," Reds coach Richard Hraham said. "Ben Tapuai is itching to be involved after a longer than expected pre-season as a result of his hamstring injury. He has spent the last few weeks with the team and is familiar with the way we want to play."
  • Wycliff Palu returns to the Waratahs' back-row having overcome the knee injury that forced his absence from the pre-bye match against Melbourne Rebels, while Adam Ashley-Cooper is omitted due to an ankle injury, replaced by Matt Carraro who features in the run-on side for the first time this season. There will be one omission to come from the bench that has been listed.

Greg Growden's Verdict: The two key figures in the late night Wallabies Melbourne junk food debacle are up against each other this week: Beale v O'Connor. Some were raving about O'Connor's first appearance in the Reds No.10 jersey last weekend. Not me. Still some way to go … so Waratahs by a sizeable margin.

Tips - Greg Growden: Waratahs by 16 Sam Bruce: Waratahs Brett McKay: Waratahs Brittany Mitchell: Waratahs Andy Withers: Waratahs

Dave Dennis and his Waratahs are ready to rip in after the bye in round three © Getty Images

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Try-scorer Boom Prinsloo is back in the Cheetahs' starting XV © Getty Images

Cheetahs v Bulls, Free State Stadium, Bloemfotein

Head-to-head: Played 13, Won 1, Lost 12

In Bloemfontein: Played 7, Won 1, Lost 6

Last clash: Round 12, 2014 - Bulls 26-21 Cheetahs, Pretoria

Key Stats (opta Sports)

  • Willie le Roux has assisted at least two more tries (5) than any other player this season.
  • The Cheetahs have scored 60 points in two outings, despite an average of 10min 26sec in possession; no other side has averaged less than 13 minutes.
  • The Cheetahs' sole victory in this fixture, in Round 2 last year, produced fewer points in total (15-9) than any other match between the teams.


  • Cheetahs: Willie le Roux; Cornal Hendricks, Francois Venter, Michael van der Spuy, Raymond Rhule; Joe Pietersen, Sarel Pretorius; Jean Cook, Oupa Mohoje, Boom Prinsloo; Francois Uys (captain), Carl Wegner; Coenie Oosthuizen, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Danie Mienie. Replacements: Stephan Coetzee, BG Uys, Maks van Dyk, Tienie Burger, Steven Sykes, Tian Meyer, Willie du Plessis, Johann Sadie.
  • Bulls: Jesse Kriel; Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Francois Hougaard; Handre Pollard, Rudy Paige; Pierre Spies (captain), Lappies Labuschagne, Deon Stegmann; Victor Matfield, Jacques du Plessis; Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Morne Mellett. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Dean Greyling, Marcel van der Merwe, Grant Hattingh, Hanro Liebenberg, Tian Schoeman, Piet van Zyl, Jurgen Visser.


  • Cheetahs: Willie Britz (Hamstring, Round 6-7), Lood de Jager (Elbow, Round 15), Armandt Koster (Back, TBC), Hilton Lobberts (Knee, Round 15), Sergeal Peterson (Jaw, Round 9-10), Willem Serfontein (Knee, Round 7-8), Ewald van der Westhuizen (Pinched Nerve, TBC), Elgar Watts (Knee, Round 7-8)
  • Bulls: Arno Botha (Chest, Round 5), Werner Kruger (Ankle, Round 8-10), Bandise Maku (Chest, season), Burger Odendaal (Knee, Round 5-7), Pierre Schoeman (Knee, season), William Small-Smith (Foot, Round 11), Flip van der Merwe (Chest, Round 10)

Team News

  • Boom Prinsloo has replaced Willie Britz in the Cheetahs' back-row, starting at openside flank with Jean Cook moving to No 8. Britz has a hamstring injury that is likely to keep him out of action for two to three weeks. The other change is on the bench, where former Sharks and Southern Kings lock Steven Sykes is set to debut for his third Super Rugby side.
  • Bulls: Frans Ludeke has retained the run-on team that defeated the Sharks in Pretoria, making just one change to the bench for the Bulls' first away trip of the campaign. Piet van Zyl returns to Bloemfontein to face his former Super Rugby team.

Greg Growden's Verdict: Don't expect too much froth and bubble at Bloemfontein. Just an old-fashioned grind-a-thon on the veldt. Sleep appears preferable.

Tips - Greg Growden: Bulls by 4 Sam Bruce: Bulls Brett McKay: Bulls Brittany Mitchell: Cheetahs Andy Withers: Bulls

Stormers v Sharks, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town

Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth runs the ball, Stormers v Bulls, Super Rugby, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town, July 13, 2013
Eben Etzebeth returns to Super Rugby for the first time since July 2013 © Getty Images

Head-to-head: Played 22, Won 11, Lost 11

In Cape Town: Played 11, Won 6, Lost 5

Last clash: Round 19, 2014 - Stormers 10-34 Sharks, Cape Town

Key Stats (Opta Sports)

  • Patrick Lambie has 58 points in three games, more than anybody else. He has kicked 20/24 - more than anybody else, while Demetri Catrakilis has kicked the second-most goals (15/19).
  • The Sharks average more points scored (31) and conceded (30) per game than any other side this year. They have scored 93 points in three matches, and no less than 29 in any of these outings
  • The Stormers are aiming to win their first four matches for the first time since 2012, when they won their opening six.


  • Stormers: Cheslin Kolbe; Johnny Kotze, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende, Dillyn Leyds; Demetri Catrakilis, Nic Groom; Duane Vermeulen (captain), Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr; Manuel Carizza, Eben Etzebeth; Vincent Koch, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Neil Rautenbach, Alistair Vermaak, Frans Malherbe, Jean Kleyn, Schalk Burger, Louis Schreuder, Kurt Coleman, Huw Jones.
  • Sharks: SP Marais; Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo; Patrick Lambie, Cobus Reinach; Ryan Kankowski, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee; Pieter-Steph du Toit, Lubabalo Mtyanda; Matt Stevens, Bismarck du Plessis (captain), Thomas du Toit. Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Marco Wentzel, Renaldo Bothma, Conrad Hoffman, Andre Esterhuizen, Jack Wilson.


  • Stormers: Ruan Botha (Ankle and Concussion, TBC), Rynhardt Elstadt (Leg, Indefinite), Jean de Villiers (Knee, Season), Siya Kolisi (Hamstring, TBC), ongi Mbonambi (Shoulder, Round 5), Michael Rhodes (Shoulder, Round 5), Jaco Taute (Knee, Round 4), Jurie van Vuuren (shoulder, TBC), Kobus van Wyk (Calf, TBC)
  • Sharks: Tendai Mtawarira (Calf, Round 4-5), Jean Deysel (Foot, Round 8-9)
The Sharks'  Willem Alberts powers through a tackle, Sharks v Lions, Super Rugby, Kings Park, Durban, March 8, 2014
Willem Alberts has finally overcome his hamstring issues © Getty Images

Team News

  • Eben Etzebeth makes his first competitive appearance for the Stormers since July 2013, whilst Schalk Burger, named on the bench, is back in the selection mix after returning from club rugby commitments in Japan. Etzebeth replaces Jurie van Vuuren (shoulder injury) alongside Argentina international Manuel Carizza in an all-new second-row. Carizza replaces Ruan Botha, who sustained a minor concussion last week. Siya Kolisi replaces Mike Rhodes at blindside, after the latter knocked a knee last week, whilst Scarra Ntubeni starts at hooker after Bongi Mbonambi sustained a shoulder injury at training. Alistair Vermaak, Jean Kleyn and uncapped hooker Neil Rautenbach feature alongside Burger as changes to the bench.
  • Willam Alberts makes his seasonal debut for the Sharks after finally overcoming a long-term hamstring injury. He replaces Renaldo Bothmawho, who take Jean Deysel's spot on the bench after the latter sustained a foot injury. Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold has also rung changes in the front-row, with Jannie du Plessis dropped from the squad as per agreement with South African Rugby. Matt Stevens replaces him at tight-head, with Thomas du Toit replacing Dale Chadwick at loose-head prop. In the backs, JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn replace Andre Esterhuizen and Waylon Murray in the centres.

Greg Growden's Verdict: Maybe the Stormers, rather than the Sharks, are the team that will be South Africa's biggest Super Rugby threat - especially with Schalk Burger and Eben Etzebeth returning for the home team. This game will provide an early pecking order.

Tips - Greg Growden: Stormers by 5 Sam Bruce: Stormers Brett McKay: Stormers Brittany Mitchell: Stormers Andy Withers: Sharks

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