Super Rugby
Super Rugby preview: round 13
Greg Growden and Brittany Mitchell
May 7, 2014
Greg Growden and Russ Barwick preview Super Rugby round 13

Friday, May 9

Chiefs v Blues, Yarrow Stadium, New Plymouth

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

Head to head: Played 21; Chiefs 11, Blues 10

In New Plymouth: First game at this venue

In Hamilton: Played 10; Chiefs 5, Blues 5

Last clash: Round 20, 2013 - Blues 16-26 Chiefs, Eden Park, Auckland

Preview: The Chiefs are playing their first home game in traditional Hurricanes territory, after their new Super Rugby partnership with Taranaki province, and the level of crowd support will be interesting to gauge. The Chiefs turned their season around last week, winning for the first time since round eight, but they have found it difficult to win away from home and the move down south may prove costly. They were dominant against the struggling Lions, running in six tries and dominating possession, but will face a harder task against the resurgent Blues.

The Blues are bottom of the New Zealand conference but they sit within one bonus-point win of the conference-leading Chiefs and they head to New Plymouth after back-to-back home wins against Australian rivals. The Blues were dominant in every aspect against Queensland Reds last week, almost unstoppable in attack as they ran in five tries and kept the visitors scoreless until the 54th minute. The Blues are hard to stop once they rumble for the try line, and they are sure to cause damage to the Chiefs with the brilliance of Ma'a Nonu in the backline. They are, however, without an away win since beating the Hurricanes in wellington in the opening round of the 2013 season.

Greg Growden's verdict: It's the trickiest tipping round for some time, and this will be tight. The Chiefs are still injury struck, but usually fire up against their closest rivals.

Tips - Greg Growden: Chiefs by 7 Brittany Mitchell: Blues by 5 Brett McKay: Chiefs by 9.

Rebels v Hurricanes, AAMI Park, Melbourne

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

Head to head: Played 2; Rebels 1, Hurricanes 1

In Melbourne: Played 1; Rebels 1, Hurricanes 0

Last clash: Round 14, 2012 - Hurricanes 66-24 Rebels, Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Preview: The Rebels were unlucky to fall short to the Sharks last week after remaining in touch throughout the match. They held the competition leaders to one try, but their discipline and lack of execution proved costly. As coach Tony McGahan stated, the Rebels "let the win slip away". Taking on a Hurricanes side that thrives on loose play, the Rebels must keep control of play and watch their discipline if they hope to win at home.

The Hurricanes saw their winning streak end in Sydney last weekend after claiming a big lead early in the match. Loose play (22 turnovers) - and turnstile defence (28 missed tackles) - cost them dear. The Hurricanes are a strong, aggressive side that thrives on loose play, and they are happy to run the ball from within their own half, But equally they suffer defensively and concede points. Involved in high-scoring matches this season, the Hurricanes will back their attack against anyone but they have to hold strong in defence if they are not to risk a second loss in Australia.

Greg Growden's verdict: The Hurricanes were a tad unlucky last weekend against the Waratahs as several tough refereeing decisions went against them. The Rebels will be easier to encounter.

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

Saturday, May 10

Highlanders v Lions, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

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

Head to head: Played 16; Highlanders 10, Lions 6

In Dunedin: Played 8; Highlanders 7, Lions 1

Last clash: Round 15, 2011 - Highlanders 22-26 Lions, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Preview: Returning home from a mixed tour of South Africa, where they shocked the competition-leading Sharks in Durban but fell agonisingly short to the Stormers in Cape Town, the Highlanders will be happy to return home where they have enjoyed most of their season's success. The Highlanders are a high-scoring side, brilliant on attack, and they continued their try scoring in South Africa, crashing over for four tries in each of their matches. They will be hard to stop at home.

The Lions were outgunned in Hamilton, where they fell to their fourth loss on the trot this season, and they have struggled to post points since their win over the Reds in round six. They have the fewest tries in Super Rugby this season (12), but have the most successful scrum (92%) and must use the set-piece to their advantage in order to leave New Zealand with a win.

Greg Growden's verdict: The Highlanders are the big improvers, and play a refreshing style of football. You have to get behind them.

Tips - Greg Growden: Highlanders by 12 Brittany Mitchell: Highlanders by 10 Brett McKay: Highlanders by 15.

Brumbies v Sharks, Canberra Stadium, Canberra

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

Head to head: Played 19; Brumbies 10, Sharks 9

In Canberra: Played 9; Brumbies 7, Sharks 2

Last clash: Round 5, 2013 - Sharks 10-29 Brumbies, Kings Park, Durban

Preview: This is certain to be the biggest clash of the weekend, and the Brumbies are ready to prove to former coach Jake White that they have evolved since his departure. The Brumbies were out-muscled and out-played by the Crusaders in Christchurch last week, with the side making too many mistakes early in the match, but they have found only success at home since their loss to the Reds in round two. With similar playing styles, the Brumbies must use their strength out wide and the best lineout in the competition (93%) while maintaining their discipline, to minimise penalty attempts by Frans Steyn, if they are to defeat the Sharks.

The Sharks became the first South African side to find success on tour this year when they turned around from their shock home loss to the Highlanders at home to record a hard-fought win over the Rebels in Melbourne. But the Sharks were unconvincing in a tight contest, kept tryless until the 63rd minute as they held only 37% possession. The Sharks have adopted Jake White's territory-first game plan, but their tackling, scrum and ruck is not as good as last year and they will find it hard to defeat the Brumbies in Canberra.

Greg Growden's verdict: Jake the Snake White is back in Canberra, and the woes for his old team could continue. They were flat against the Crusaders, and the Sharks will be waiting. Too many Brumbies forwards in authority are not doing enough.

Tips - Greg Growden: Sharks by 3 Brittany Mitchell: Brumbies by 8 Brett McKay: Brumbies by 5.

Cheetahs v Force, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

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

Head to head: Played 5; Cheetahs 3, Force 2

In Bloemfontein: Played 4; Cheetahs 2, Force 2

Last clash: Round 6, 2013 - Force 10-19 Cheetahs, nib Stadium, Perth

Preview: The Cheetahs have one of the best try-scoring records for the 2014 season, but they have struggled to gain momentum and win matches. Falling devastatingly short to the Bulls last week, after they let opportunities slip, the Cheetahs will be desperate for their third win of the season, but they will need to improve their possession and defence in order to take the win.

The Force will be fresh and ready coming off a bye as they look to continue their success from home on tour. The Force are one of the hardest sides to crack in defence, with one of the best tackle rates (88%) of 2014, and they will surely maintain the simple game play that has proved successful to this point. The Force will be happy to put a stranglehold on the Cheetahs' attack and make use of any loose ball.

Greg Growden's verdict: Bloemfontein is the perfect spot for the Force. Both dull, boring and predictable. But they will need more than "we showed the critics" to beat the Cheetahs.

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

Bulls v Stormers, Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria

19:10 local, 17:10 GMT, 03:10 EST +1d, 02:40 CST +1d, 01:10 WST +1d

Head to head: Played 21; Bulls 9, Stormers 11, Drawn 1

In Pretoria: Played 10; Bulls 5, Stormers 5

Last clash: Round 20, 2013 - Stormers 30-13 Bulls, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town

Preview: The Bulls sit second on the South African conference table with four wins after kicking their way to victory over the Cheetahs last week, putting their miserable Australasian tour behind them but missing several try-scoring opportunities.

The Stormers recorded an improved performance to claim a one-point victory over the Highlanders last week - earning a four-try bonus point in the process. They have struggled this season, but that win will surely give them confidence as they head to Pretoria. The Stormers dominated possession against the Highlanders only for lapses in defence to hurt them. Their traditional defensive structure seems to have disappeared this year, and they have had to make six injury-enforced changes to their squad.

Greg Growden's verdict: The Bulls have completely lost the plot, and the Stormers aren't much better. Next.

Tips - Greg Growden: Stormers by 2 Brittany Mitchell: Bulls by 10 Brett McKay: Bulls by 9.

Sunday, May 11

Reds v Crusaders, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

16:05 local, 06:05 GMT, 16:05 EST, 15:35 CST, 14:05 WST

Head to head: Played 20; Reds 6, Crusaders 14

In Auckland: Played 11; Reds 5, Crusaders 6

Last clash: Finals, 2013 - Crusaders 38-9 Reds, AMI Stadium, Christchurch

Preview: Unluckily for the Reds it is unlikely this match will be a replay of their 2011 triumph over the Crusaders, but closer to their 38-9 hammering in last years elimination final. The Reds are struggling in all facets of the game, and this fixture is more likely to be a replay of 38-9 hammering in the 2013 elimination finals than their 2011 grand final victory - especially after the loss of Liam Gill, Chris Feauai-Sautia and Ed Quirk. The Reds were completely outplayed by the Blues in Auckland last week - disjointed in attack and poor in defence - and they are likely to find it hard to stop a rampaging Crusaders side.

The Crusaders have turned their season around since they left New Zealand to tour South Africa, winning four matches on the bounce including victories over the Chiefs and the Brumbies. They will miss captain Kieran Read and Matt Todd, but they are bolstered by the return of Richie McCaw in the No.7 jersey and seem sure to be too good for the wayward Reds.

Greg Growden's verdict: The Reds are a mess, with reports of in-fighting and lack of confidence in their hierarchy. And it shows. The Crusaders, even without some well-known names, should cruise past.

Tips - Greg Growden: Crusaders by 7 Brittany Mitchell: Crusaders by 15 Brett McKay: Crusaders by 15.

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