5 things to know about Super Rugby round 10
Apr. 17, 2014
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The 10th round of Super Rugby may be one of the most influential of the season so far, containing four derby matches and potentially difficult encounters for tournament front-runners.
The first-placed Sharks face the 14th-placed Cheetahs in a South African derby which might be more troublesome than it seems: the Cheetahs have scored more points than any other team, posting 31 last week in losing to the Crusaders.
The ACT Brumbies could give up second place overall and their lead in the Australian conference during their bye week. The Western Force, who play the Melbourne Rebels, and the New South Wales Waratahs, who play the Bulls, can overtake the Brumbies.
In New Zealand, the defending champion Chiefs face the seven-time champion Crusaders who are coming off a winning double in South Africa, while the 10th placed Hurricanes face the 11th-placed Blues in a match which will impact both teams' playoff chances.
Five things to know about the tournament's 10th round:
NO PLACE LIKE HOME — The Auckland-based Blues will have to overcome an 11-match losing streak away from home if they are to beat the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday. The Blues' only away win under head coach John Kirwan came on Feb. 23 last year when they beat the Hurricanes 34-20 in what was also Kirwan's first match in charge. Chris Noakes, who will start at flyhalf for the first time since the third round, said he is aware of Auckland's poor away record. "If you think about it too much it's just an added pressure that you don't need."
THE HONEY BADGER SPEAKS — The Western Force have not only been the surprise packet of this Super Rugby season, they have provided one of the tournament's most vivid personalities. Winger Nick "The Honey Badger" Cummins, who scored three tries in last weekend's win over the Waratahs, has become one of the most quotable figures in Super Rugby. He says a heavy injury toll won't stop the Force's five-match winning run when they play the Rebels on Friday. "It's not always about what the names are, but the feeling and the attitude the culture has brought on," Cummins said. "Sometimes it's just the mind — if you get that right, everyone performs together. There's been some dark times, some medieval times early on (at the Force). But we've come good now."
CRUSADERS, CHIEF RIVALS FOR CHAMPS — The defending champion Chiefs say they'll have to overcome a recent run of "patchy" form if they are to beat the Crusaders in Hamilton on Saturday. This will be the second head-to-head meeting this year and the eighth over the past three seasons: two were semifinals which the Chiefs won on their way to championships in 2012 and 2013. All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, who has been cleared to play after an injury scare, said the Chiefs' form has been frustrating. "Obviously we're sitting at the top of the conference, which we've got to be happy with, but at the same time everyone knows we can play a lot better and it needs to be a lot better if we want to ... stay at the top."
FOLAU FIT TO FACE BULLS — Israel Folau will return at fullback for the Waratahs who face South Africa's Bulls on Saturday, this time with the approval of the Australian Rugby Union. Folau had been expected to return from a throat injury last weekend against the Force but was withdrawn by the ARU despite having a clearance from the Waratahs' doctor and a specialist. Folau expressed anger at the ARU's intervention and Waratahs assistant coach Nathan Grey feared the decision set a precedent. "You would like to think that the most important person concerned in the whole situation would be consulted," he said.
SHARKS BACK IN THEIR OWN POND — The Sharks return to their home ground at King's Park in Durban Saturday after pulling off their first away win of the season over the Lions at Johannesburg last weekend. That win improved the Sharks' record to six wins and one loss but five of those wins have come at home. The importance of the win wasn't lost on Sharks coach Jake White, with six of the team's next eight matches on the road. "If you look at the competition, generally teams don't win away from home," White said. "So any away win, no matter if it is a derby or if people think the one team is stronger than the other, is significant."