Saturday 16 December 2017 / 06:46 AM

SUPER RUGBY FINALS WEEK 1 PREVIEW

Brumbies v Hurricanes – 7.35pm (AEST), Friday, July 21 @ GIO Stadium, Canberra

The Storyline: The Brumbies finished the season on top of the Australian Conference with 34 points and just six wins. That is enough to give them a home quarter versus the Hurricanes, who finished with 58 points and 12 wins. The Brumbies lost 28-10 last week away to the Chiefs while the Hurricanes took down the previously undefeated Crusaders.

The Stat: The last three games between these sides were decided by 20-plus margins.

Player to watch: Jordie Barrett – After his starting Test debut two weeks ago, the younger Barrett has set himself up well for the Super Rugby finals. With Vince Aso again out he will line up at centre after playing most of the year at fullback, which means an intriguing match-up with Tevita Kuridrani.

The Verdict: 0-25. That’s the 2017 record the Australian teams have against the Kiwis. The trend will continue this weekend. The Brumbies are always hard to play at home but they don’t possess the attacking threats that the Hurricanes have.  Not to mention that the ’Canes’ defence is the second -best behind the Lions this year.

Crusaders v Highlanders – 5.35pm (AEST), Saturday, July 22 @ AMI Stadium, Christchurch

The Storyline: One of the best games of the season was when these two played each other in Christchurch back in Round 15. Mitchell Hunt sunk a 45-metre drop goal to win the match after the siren, adding another chapter to this storied southern rivalry. The Crusaders suffered their first defeat last week against the Hurricanes, while the Highlanders made mince meat of the Reds.

The Stat: The Highlanders have won just four of the 16 away games against the Crusaders, and only two of the last 10 southern derbies at all venues.

Player to watch: Aaron Smith – He will have to step up and take control of this game if the Highlanders have any chance. His box kicking will have to be very accurate and passing silky smooth.

The Verdict: This will be another tight encounter. The Crusaders like to play a controlled game with great line speed in defence. The Highlanders like to play off turnover ball. So if the Crusaders can keep their errors down to a minimum they should be able to win this game. If the Highlanders can force errors then they are in with a shot.

Lions v Sharks – 10.30pm (AEST), Saturday, July 22 @ Ellis Park, Johannesburg

The Storyline: The Lions flew through the season with only one loss, keeping in mind they didn’t have to play any Kiwi teams. The Sharks would have finished seventh under the traditional points system, so they deserve to be here. The Durbanites have been up and down all year with nine wins from 15 games.

The Stat: The Lions are unbeaten in their last 16 games against South African opposition, winning 12 of those by 13+ margins.

Player to watch: Kwagga Smith – How good is that name?! The flanker has been a revelation for the Lions this year. Coming off the bench early in the season, he has taken his starting role by the horns: 24 defenders beaten, 11 line breaks and seven tries all from 78 carries. Pretty impressive.

The Verdict: These two teams played only a week ago at Shark Park and the Lions won 27-10. Last time they played in Johannesburg the Lions only got up by five points. It will be close initially but the Lions are a far superior team and have weapons all over the park. They should win comfortably.

Stormers v Chiefs – 1.00am (AEST), Sunday, July 23 @ Newlands, Cape Town

The Storyline: The Stormers have played all the Kiwi teams this year but their tour of New Zealand did not end well, with an average score of 52-20 against them. That does not bode well for them this weekend. They did however bet the Blues 30-22 at home and also the team they are playing this week, the Chiefs, 34-26 at Newlands back in Round 7. The Chiefs have only lost to the Crusaders since then and a draw to the Blues, and have a 60-21 away victory over the Stormers in the corresponding match last year to draw upon.

The Stat: The last six games between the sides produced 47 points or more.

Player to watch: Damien McKenzie – Did you see him last week? How he didn’t make the All Blacks I have no idea. He is a machine, a pocket rocket. Only small in frame, he can break tackles, run through holes and create tries from nothing.

The Verdict: Interesting to know that the Stormers beat the Chiefs this year…before the Stormers came to New Zealand and got absolutely destroyed by the Kiwi teams. It’s always hard to travel to Newlands and the Stormers tend to grow an extra leg at home. The Chiefs, however, have been playing some entertaining football and I think will get up in this match.

Semi-final Predictions

Lions vs Highlanders

Hurricanes vs Chiefs

 

 

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About the author

Ryan Frisby

Sunshine Coast-based Ryan is proud product of Southland, NZ, and was unsurprisingly brought up on a steady diet of ruby union - which has led him to provide CBS with his forthright views on the 15-a-side code.

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