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Super 15 preview: Round 14

HERALD rugby writer Dylan Cleaver breaks down the six Super 15 matches taking place over the next three days.

BLUES v STORMERS

Auckland, tonight, 7.35
Referee: Steve Walsh

TIPS

Mike Greenaway (Natal Mercury) - 61/87 70%: Blues
Dylan Cleaver (NZ Herald) - 59/87 68%: Blues
Andrew Slack (Wallaby legend) - 59/87 68%: Blues
Wynne Gray (NZ Herald) - 58/87 66%: Blues
Rachel Glucina (Herald on Sunday) - 57/87 65%: Blues

THE MATCH

A spicy little encounter to open up round 14.

Last year, the Stormers breezed into the North Island and took the Blues and the Chiefs to school. Last week they got a rude awakening from the suddenly resurgent Chiefs and would be wise to assume that this is a vastly different Blues team than they faced in 2010.

WHAT TO WATCH

You have to question how much thought goes into a schedule that twice sees the biggest rugby market in the country starved of action for more a month or more. Eden Park last hosted the Blues on April 16, so the crowd size should at least indicate as to how much Aucklanders missed them.

CRUSADERS v CHIEFS

Napier, tomorrow, 7.35pm
Referee: Stuart Dickinson

TIPS

Mike Greenaway: Crusaders
Dylan Cleaver: Chiefs
Andrew Slack: Crusaders
Wynne Gray: Crusaders
Rachel Glucina: Crusaders

THE MATCH

Talking of teams unfamiliar with home. It speaks volumes for the obstacles the Crusaders are attempting to overcome that Cape Town was longest time they have been together in any one place this season. Now more than ever they needed to be able to come home, settle in with family and play in front of some friendly faces. Instead, they hop on a plane to Napier to take on a team that is finding their feet after an awful start.

WHAT TO WATCH

Lot's of one-off, possession rugby. It's not pretty, but it can be effective. The Chiefs will know the Crusaders are just hanging in there physically and will surely ask them to make tackle after tackle.

WARATAHS v LIONS

Sydney, tomorrow, 9.40pm
Referee: Marius Jonker

TIPS

Mike Greenaway: Waratahs
Dylan Cleaver: Waratahs
Andrew Slack: Waratahs
Wynne Gray: Waratahs
Rachel Glucina: Waratahs

THE MATCH

The natives are restless in old Sydney town, booing their team not because the results are terrible, but because they are playing a style of rugby that makes the 1973 All Blacks look like the Barbarians. It's takes two to tango, said Chris Hickey this week, trying to absolve his side from all the blame. We get a chance to see how true that is, with the free-ranging Lions coming to town.

WHAT TO WATCH

Keep an eye on Elton Jantjies. In the formative years of a promising career, Jantjies still makes some elementary errors, but he can run.

FORCE v BRUMBIES

Perth, Sunday, 12.05am
Referee: Ian Smith

TIPS

Mike Greenaway: Force
Dylan Cleaver: Force
Andrew Slack: Force
Wynne Gray: Force
Rachel Glucina: Force

THE MATCH

If you need to save a bit of space on your hard drive, this is the one to miss. One awful team travels to one very dull team. Trying to drum up an interesting angle for this is as challenging as being an image consultant for Gaddafi. The Brumbies have not beaten an Australian team and the Force have scored fewer tries than anybody this season.

WHAT TO WATCH

Brumbies lock Mark Chisholm will notch his 100th Super rugby cap this weekend in what must be the most under-the-radar century since Jeet Raval's even 100 for Auckland against Central Districts in a rain-hit match in Napier this year (what, you don't remember?).

CHEETAHS v REBELS

Bloemfontein, Sunday, 3.05am
Referee: Pro Legoete

TIPS

Mike Greenaway: Cheetahs
Dylan Cleaver: Cheetahs
Andrew Slack: Cheetahs
Wynne Gray: Cheetahs
Rachel Glucina: Cheetahs

THE MATCH

Let's hazard a guess and assume this is the first time in Super rugby history that the Cheetahs have been shortest-priced favourites for the week at the TAB. They deserve it too. Or, more pointedly, the Rebels deserve their long odds.

WHAT TO WATCH

If the Chiefs are still holding on to the hope they can steamroll their way into playoff contention, why not the Cheetahs? They'll probably get the five points here, they'll get four for the bye in round 17 and their remaining three games are against the three South African teams above them in the ladder - the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers. Intriguing.

SHARKS v BULLS

Durban, Sunday, 5.10am
Referee: Bryce Lawrence

TIPS

Mike Greenaway: Sharks
Dylan Cleaver: Sharks
Andrew Slack: Sharks
Wynne Gray: Sharks
Rachel Glucina: Sharks

THE MATCH

A cracking derby to end the round. If the Bulls are to have any hope of defending their title they need to win here and the return match against the Sharks in the final round. It's not beyond the realms of possibility as they are beginning to look like the Bulls of old and the Sharks have struggled against the big guns this year.

WHAT TO WATCH

Goalkicking. This game will likely be decided by who can get the ball through the sticks more accurately. So are you going to take Morne Steyn's 79 percent success rate or Patrick Lambie's 79 percent success rate?

BYE

Hurricanes, Highlanders, Reds

Topics:  super 15


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