CHIEFS v BRUMBIES
6.35 GMT; Bay Park Stadium, Mount Maunganui
After a couple of morale-boosting wins to begin 2012, the Brumbies come up against their toughest test of the Super Rugby season so far as they travel to the high-flying Chiefs who have defied expectations thus far in the New Zealand conference.
The hosts have named a new back-row for the visit of the men from Canberra, switching Tanerau Latimer to blindside to accomodate the promising Sam Cane who comes in on the opposite flank; captain Liam Messam takes his position as Eighth Man and Scott Waldrom – outstanding in 2011 – makes his first match-day squad of the new campaign and will wear 19.
Richard Kahui shuffles out from centre to the right wing – where he so excelled at last year’s World Cup – in place of Asaeli Tikoirotuma, who was not considered on compassionate grounds. Jackson Willison takes the All Blacks’ place in midfield outside the imposing figure of Sonny Bill Williams at 12.
Josh Hohneck has been promoted to the bench as the Chiefs’ propping woes continue and Marcel Cummings-Toone provides Mahonri Schwalger’s cover at hooker.
For the Brumbies, Chris Lealiifano moves inside to fly-half in place of Matt Toomua who is ruled out with a knee injury.
Ian Prior (scrum-half) and Joe Tomane (inside centre) make first starts for the capital franchise; Leon Power and Peter Kimlin lock the scrum and Michael Hooper and Scott Fardy are the rookie wing-forwards that come into a back-row that has previously excelled in tight wins over Western Force and the Cheetahs.
The Brumbies have played with passion and desire so far in a season where nothing much has been expected of them. Similarly the Chiefs have overperformed with thrilling wins over the Blues and Crusaders, but it is the warriors from Waikato that have that extra bit of experience and Super Rugby know-how that will prove crucial over a Brumbies XV that are still growing and gelling as a group.
CHIEFS BY 16.
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Richard Kahui, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Tim Nanai-Williams, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Messam (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Tanerau Latimer, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Arizona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Marcel Cummings-Toone, 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Kane Thompson, 19 Scott Waldrom, 20 Augustine Pulu, 21 Andrew Horrell, 22 Maritino Nemani.
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Pat McCabe, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Joe Tomane, 11 Henry Speight, 10 Christian Lealiifano, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Ben Mowen, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Peter Kimlin, 4 Leon Power, 3 Dan Palmer, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Ben Alexander.
Replacements: 16 Anthony Hegarty, 17 Ruaidhri Murphy, 18 Sam Carter, 19 Ita Vaea, 20 Nic White, 21 Zack Holmes, 22 Cam Crawford.
STORMERS v BLUES
17.10 GMT; Newlands, Cape Town
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee makes one change to the side that beat the Sharks last time out, with the match-winner at Newlands, Peter Grant, starting at fly-half in place of the tepid Gary van Aswegen who has to make do with a bench spot.
The 5-cap Springbok forms part of a potentially stellar backs division, with half-back partner Dewalt Duvenhage and the likes of Bryan Habana, captain Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh and Gio Aplon outside; whilst Joe Petersen continues at full-back and will look to flourish now the goal-kicking responsibilities have been taken off his after misfiring last weekend.
Siya Kosili continues at blindside in Schalk Burger’s absence (knee ligament damage) with Duane Vermeuelen and Nick Koster completing and able back-row.
Injured Stormers Deon Carstons’ (prop) and Rynhardt Elstadt’s (second row) continued rehabilitation will see them turning out for Western Province in the Vodacom Cup on Saturday for their first rugby of 2012.
Pat Lam makes two enforced changes to his Blues side. Rene Ranger (ban) and Anthony Boric (neck injury) miss out after the team’s great 29-23 win over the Bulls in the first leg of their South African tour.
David Raikuna regains his place in the XV on the wing to deputise of Ranger, whilst Filo Paulo wins first start at lock for the Auckland franchise.
Gareth Anscombe retains the 10 jersey after a terrific showing in Pretoria and will be tutored by wiley old heads Piri Weepu and Ma’a Nonu at scrum-half and second-five-eighth respectively.
The Stormers haven’t really been tearing it up as many in pre-season had predicted, whilst the Blues have run hot and cold in the first three weeks of competition. Although the visitors are coming off the back of a fine away win we expect their hosts to start clicking on Friday night with a good win in a competitive fixture.
STORMERS BY 6.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nick Koster, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Skara Ntubeni, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schrueder, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Blues: 15 Lachie Munro, 14 David Raikuna, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Sherwin Stowers, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Filo Paulo, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Brad Mika, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Hadleigh Parkes, 22 Ben Lam.
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