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Super 14 Rugby Week - 14th Round

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Contributor:
Scott Newman
Scott Newman

This coming weekend is the final week of the Super 14 round robin. Seven teams are contesting for the final four playoff spots making this the closest competition in recent memory.  It is pleasing to say that three of the New Zealand franchises are right in it. The South African & Australian teams are going to factor in the last week also.

Here is a preview and team summary of the final round to decide the top 4.

11. Lions (24pts) vs. 07. Waratahs (36pts) at Ellis Park

Lions

The worse defence of the competition. If they played 80mins every week they could do so much more. Sometimes exciting to watch, especially when Jaque Fourie is in the line up he has been outstanding. Too many injuries for key games. Look good when they run the ball. Have performed within expectation.

Waratahs

The ugly winners. Keep games close and rely on a tight defence and kicking game. When they are relatively error free they look good.  The better of the Australian teams in term of consistency. Phil Waugh has been a hero/villain? Terrier on the ball. They have the talent to make the final four. Every point will count.

Prediction :  Waratahs 12 or under (I can't see them pounding the Lions who will contest as they have nothing to lose but pride)

02. Chiefs (41pts) vs. 05. Brumbies (37pts) at Waikato Stadium

Chiefs

Could be the most exciting team of the competition. Own the best back line. Forwards especially in the loose dominating the ball and distribution. Defence is sound, attack is fine. Home support fantastic. Stephen Donald has put up his hand for first five honours. A Waikato team that finally got it together. Can the win it from here?

Brumbies

They have been through a lot this season. Tragedy and heroics. Peaking at the right time of the contest. Stirling Mortlock clocks up the highest Super rugby points. They have shown a lot of heart in games. Injuries have played a part in their run. More attacking than the Tahs and give a good game to watch usually.

Prediction : Chiefs 12 or under (Brumbies are fighting for everything and this game may be a thriller)

14. Cheetahs (11pts) vs. 12. Stormers (23pts) at Free State Stadium

Cheetahs

Unlucky to have so many away games to end their campaign before it started. Showed immense heart at home beating top teams.  Let in too many tries and worse offence of competition. Looks exciting at times and then brain explosions the next. Fast Wingers. Heinrich Brussouw plays out of his mind every week. Last place!

Stormers

Disappointing they could be better than this. Too many close results and no true desire to finish games. (Except highlanders in NZ) Injuries to Jean De Villiers & Schalk Burger turned them inside out. They have ability when the game plan works. Big pack. Under achievers and have been this way too many seasons now.

Prediction : Cheetahs 12 or under (This game is hard to pick as they are both unpredictable but can both turn it on as there is nothing on this one ... just bragging rights + dark green jumper dreams)

06. Sharks (36pts) vs. 01. Bulls (42pts) at ABSA Stadium

Sharks

Played at the top all season. Good all round game. Constructive criticism for this team would be stop kicking for territory all the time and chance the arm as when this had happened the points clocked up. Steady in close games. Plenty of leaders. Big role from John Smit often playing impact player from bench.  A good side.

Bulls

South African form team meets the other in the big clash of the round. This Bulls team does not show much weakness and has a good all round game. Winning a home playoff spot is a top priority as they are very tough at home. Huge pack and pace out wide. Springbok laden team. Wynand Olivier has been amazing at times.

Prediction : Bulls 13 plus (The Bulls will chuck the kitchen sink at the sharks may be caught defending way too much to counter the Big Blue Bulls)

09. Blues (31pts) vs. 04. Crusaders (37pts) at Eden Park

Blues

Are giving me the blues! (My team) Under-achieved cannot blame the injuries. Play expansive and try to outscore the other teams and rely on keeping close to play an error free game which requires huge discipline. Plenty of individuals to commend though Isaia Toe'ava in particular. No overall consistency at all. Hard to watch.

Crusaders

A franchise that proves they can play through adversity. No Deans, Carter and sometimes no McCaw or Macdonald. Take a look where they are? Discipline, good ball speed, solid defence & enough attack to trouble teams by only scoring 2 or 3 tries. Thomas Waldrom has been a tank engine, outstanding. Good team work.

Prediction : Crusaders 12 or under (Love to think we are a bogie team for the Crusaders. To knock them out of the playoffs but on form I must be kidding, right???)

13. Reds (18pts) vs. 03. Hurricanes (39pts) at Ballymore

Reds

Which team is going to turn up? Injuries have torn them apart. Digby Ioane has been a hero for them. Look good with the ball in hand when it is all working for them. Entertaining. Haven't been able to play consistently. So much potential within this team. One season these guys may get it together. Sorry, not this one at all.

Hurricanes

Chance to win the competition outright. Who is the first Five? Ripia, Weepu or Kirkpatrick? Great forwards and backs. Plenty of leadership and speed around park. Outside three all threats. Not relying on All Blacks to win games. Have rescued games. (Ask the Force) Cory Jane has been impressive again. Clutch team. Patience.

Prediction : Hurricanes 13 plus (Reds will throw it around and the canes will play in their half clocking up points)

08. Force (31pts) vs. 10. Highlanders (24pts) at Subiaco Oval

Force

Biggest improvers of the competition. Unlucky in some games. Unfortunate in injuries. Have shown that patient build ups can bring results. Confidence within team. Good coaching from Mitch. Matt Giteau easily the best first five of the round robin. Good team work. Must be disappointed with the finish here. Bright future in Perth.

Highlanders

Kept it close again. Threatens every team with a good counter attack. Workhorse defence. Adam Thomson has played himself back into a black jersey. Good leaders. Timely injuries and suspensions had shaken the team a bit. Travelled well.  Proved they are no mugs in my opinion. What jersey will they wear each week?

Prediction : Force 12 or under (Force will want to finish well in front of the home faithful they have played good enough to come just short of the top teams. Highlanders to keep them honest though)

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