Super Rugby
Super Rugby preview, round 12
Greg Growden
May 1, 2014
Will Aaron Smith and the Highlanders back-up their victory against the Sharks when they play the Stormers? © Getty Images

Friday, May 2

Blues v Reds, Eden Park, Auckland

19:35 local, 07:35 GMT, 17:35 EST, 17:05 CST, 15:35 WST

Head to head: Played 19; Blues 8, Reds 10, Drawn 1

In Auckland: Played 8; Blues 5, Reds 2, Drawn 1

Last clash: Round 11, 2013 - Reds 12-11 Blues, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Super Rugby Preview: Round 12

Preview: Eden Park remains the graveyard for several Australian sides, and the ground continues to claim its victims with the Blues' superb display against the Waratahs last week. The Blues took advantage of loose Waratahs play to score two tries, and they maintained strong defence to keep the Tahs tryless until the 57th minute. With experienced leaders Jerome Kaino, Tony Woodcock and Ma'a Nonu taking charge, the side found momentum and fluidity in their attack to maintain their undefeated record at home in 2014.

The Reds travel to Auckland on a three-match losing streak, with just three wins from nine matches. A shadow of the team that had won 11 of its previous 14 games against Kiwi rivals, the Reds were blown away by a rampaging Hurricanes side last week. Fighting tooth and nail for their four-point lead in the first half, loose defence and lack of penetration in attack cost the side and they were flattered by the scoreline. Bolstered with the return of Liam Gill, the Reds still have a long way to go to turn around their losing streak.

Greg Growden's verdict: Forget the denials from the coach. The Reds are in disarray. There is division among the troops and with the coaching staff. The Blues will take advantage of an opposition that has lost its way.

Tips - Greg Growden: Blues by 10 Brittany Mitchell: Blues by 10 Brett McKay: Blues by 7.

Rebels v Sharks, AAMI Park, Melbourne

19:40 local, 09:40 GMT, 19:40 EST, 19:10 CST, 17:40 WST

Head to head: Played 2; Rebels 0, Sharks 2

In Melbourne: Played 1; Rebels 0, Sharks 1

Last clash: Round 6, 2013 - Sharks 64-7 Rebels, Kings Park, Durban

Preview: The Rebels come off the bye full of confidence following their hard-earned win over Western Force two weeks ago, a much-needed victory as they continued to prove they are giant-slayers. They earning bragging rights in the scrum contest and maintained an almost impenetrable defence, but they need to pull out all the stops if they hope to take down the competition leaders.

The high-flying Sharks hit a stumbling block last week when they struggled to find rhythm - and the try line - and they lost their first match at home this season. Leading the competition and looking almost unbeatable at home, the Sharks faltered against the Highlanders - unable to hold back the rampaging visitors as they conceded 22 turnovers. They must re-discover their rhythm if they are to be the first South African touring side to win this season.

Greg Growden's verdict: The Rebels are triers, play above their weight, but the class of the Sharks will be too much.

Tips - Greg Growden: Sharks by 9 Brittany Mitchell: Sharks by 6 Brett McKay: Rebels by 3.

Saturday, May 3

Crusaders v Brumbies, Rugby League Park, Christchurch

16:35 local, 04:35 GMT, 14:35 EST, 14:05 CST, 12:35 WST

Head to head: Played 20; Crusaders 12, Brumbies 8

In Christchurch: Played 10; Crusaders 8, Brumbies 2

Last clash: Round 12, 2013 - Brumbies 23-30 Crusaders, Canberra Stadium, Canberra

Preview: The Crusaders stumbled early in the season, but they turned their campaign around with two wins in South Africa and then defeated the Chiefs in Hamilton on their return before the bye. The Crusaders will be ready and fresh to take on the Australian conference leaders as they bid to win only their second home match this season. All Blacks captain Richie McCaw returns to the side, but the absence of Kieran Read, through concussion, is a blow.

The Brumbies were unstoppable against the Chiefs last weekend, running in five-tries to two as they claimed some little revenge for the 2013 grand final loss. Holding just 41% possession and 40% territory, the Brumbies took advantage of every opportunity with fly-half Matt Toomua steering the side around the park and bagging himself a double. Fluid in attack and strong in defence, the Brumbies continue to play smart football and prove they are the real deal for the 2014 title.

Greg Growden's verdict: The Brumbies were outstanding against the Chiefs, proving they are the smartest Australian province running around. But this is usually the time of the year when the Crusaders start getting their act together, especially when playing at home.

Tips - Greg Growden: Crusaders by 4 Brittany Mitchell: Brumbies by 4 Brett McKay: Brumbies by 5.

Chiefs v Lions, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

19:35 local, 07:35 GMT, 17:35 EST, 17:05 CST, 15:35 WST

Head to head: Played 17; Chiefs 12, Lions 5

In Hamilton: Played 7; Chiefs 7, Lions 0

Last clash: Round 11, 2012 - Chiefs 34-21 Lions, Growers Stadium, Pukekohe

Preview: Yet to shift from second gear, the Chiefs have puttered along since their loss to Western Force in round five. They have won only one game from their past six outings, and they were outplayed and outgunned by the Brumbies. Starting slowly again last week, the Chiefs gave the Brumbies an early lead and were unable to pull the runaway visitors back. The Chiefs should return to winning form back at home, but they shouldn't get complacent facing the 11th-placed Lions.

The Lions will be rested following their bye week, but they face a tough task on their first Australasian tour match. They have crossed the whitewash the least amount of times this season, relying heavily on Marnitz Boshoff to kick them to their four victories, and they were tryless against the Stormers two weeks ago. They will need more finesse in attack if they hope to win their first match on tour.

Greg Growden's verdict: The Chiefs will be more settled back at home after the Canberra blemish, even though they are shackled by an overwhelming injury toll.

Tips - Greg Growden: Chiefs by 15 Brittany Mitchell: Chiefs by 8 Brett McKay: Chiefs by 15.

Waratahs v Hurricanes, Allianz Stadium, Sydney

19:40 local, 09:40 GMT, 19:40 EST, 19:10 CST, 17:40 WST

Head to head: Played 19; Waratahs 8, Hurricanes 11

In Sydney: Played 9; Waratahs 6, Hurricanes 3

Last clash: Round 8, 2013 - Hurricanes 41-29 Waratahs, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Preview: Perhaps Mark Hammett announced that he was leaving too early, or maybe his side has just begun to relax, but the Hurricanes have enjoyed sudden success with four wins on the trot and a rejuvenated backline. They overpowered the struggling Reds last week, running in five tries. Thriving off the loose contest, the Hurricanes made easy work punching holes up the middle and finding space out wide to put Cory Jane over for a hat-trick..

The Waratahs no doubt have potential, but they will fall short again unless they remove the kinks in their game plan. The conceded a mammoth 26 turnovers against the Blues last week, when poor handling saw them stumble around the park and lose any momentum they had gained in the opening minutes. Wycliff Palu returns to provide muscle up front, and they certainly have the avbility at their best to maintain this season's undefeated home record.

Greg Growden's verdict: The Waratahs certainly know how to play dumb, and their midfield is looking shaky, while the Hurricanes have started to string some reasonable performances together. Tough to pick.

Tips - Greg Growden: Draw Brittany Mitchell: Waratahs by 7 Brett McKay: Hurricanes by 7.

Stormers v Highlanders, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town

15:00 local, 13:00 GMT, 23:00 EST, 22:30 CST, 21:00 WST

Head to head: Played 17; Stormers 7, Highlanders 9, Drawn 1

In Cape Town: Played 9; Stormers 5, Highlanders 4

Last clash: Round 7, 2012 - Highlanders 6-21 Stormers, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Preview: The Stormers sit at the bottom of the competition table with just two wins from nine matches, and they still face a longer road ahead. They broke their five-game losing streak with a home win over the Lions after their failed Australasian tour but then came unstuck early against the similarly struggling Cheetahs. Lack of discipline and weak defence saw the Cheetahs take full advantage. The Stormers will be happier back at home, but they need to take control early.

The Highlanders produced one of the biggest upsets of the year, taking down the ladder-leading Sharks in Durban; they matched the Sharks' huge forward pack and outplayed them tactically in scoring four tries to none. The Highlanders have confidence and momentum, and they will be hard to take down if their backs dominate again..

Greg Growden's verdict: The Stormers have been the great disappointment of the tournament, and it would be rousing if one of the more entertaining teams in the competition keep performing. Go the Highlanders.

Tips - Greg Growden: Highlanders by 6 Brittany Mitchell: Highlanders by 10 Brett McKay: Highlanders by 10.

Bulls v Cheetahs, Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria

17:05 local, 15:05 GMT, 01:05 EST +1d, 00:35 CST +1d, 23:05 WST

Head to head: Played 13; Bulls 11, Cheetahs 2

In Pretoria: Played 5; Bulls 5, Cheetahs 0

Last clash: Round 2, 2014 - Cheetahs 15-9 Bulls, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

Preview: "Boasting" the longest losing streak of the season, the Cheetahs earned their first win since round two when they took down the Stormers with strong attacking brilliance last week. They have struggled to close out games, but amazingly sit second on the table for most tries this season having added another five last week with Willie le Roux brilliant in attack.

The Bulls cracked under Western Force's defensive pressure last week, when they were kept tryless in a gritty match. Poor discipline and handling cost them at the final match of their winless tour - conceding 22 turnovers and 11 penalties - and they will certainly be glad to have returned home.

Greg Growden's verdict: In the most dreadful game of the year, the Bulls fell apart against the Force last weekend. The Bulls are hopeless. At least the Cheetahs seem to have some idea. Only the lost, lonely and desperate will watch this game.

Tips - Greg Growden: Cheetahs by 10 Brittany Mitchell: Cheetahs by 9 Brett McKay: Bulls by 10.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

Live Sports

Communication error please reload the page.