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Dublin: 12 °C Thursday 4 June, 2020
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Hold on tight, the Super Rugby 1/4 finals are here

Can New Zealand shut out the rest of the southern hemisphere this weekend?

THE FRESH FAT has been trimmed off Super Rugby and we’re entering the business end.

The competition was at its largest ever this season with 18 teams from five different countries, but it’s the three original providers who make up the eight sides who remain in the quarter-finals.

As you might expect from back-to-back world champions, New Zealand provide the bulk of the title chasers and Sanzaar must be dreading the prospect of four Kiwi sides taking over the semi-final stage – though it’s hard to argue against that being the most entertaining outcome for neutrals on this side of the equator.

That said, top seeds the Hurricanes will host the only match in New Zealand this weekend, so there is plenty of excitement in store for the weekend ahead.

Brumbies v Highlanders

The knock-out stage begins with the reigning champions making the short dangerous trip across the ditch to Canberra (Sky Sports 1, 9am Friday). The south islanders haven’t won in the Australian capital in a decade, though that record only features four games and after last weekend’s win over the Chiefs, they’ll be confident and feeling they are again timing their run just right.

Dan Pryor runs in a try Highlanders back row Dan Pryor runs in a try against the Chiefs last weekend. Source: Photosport/Dianne Manson/INPHO

The Brumbies are on a roll of four straight home wins. And while the Bulls, Reds, Force and Sunwolves have hardly been form opposition, it’s difficult to write off a side with David Pocock returning to its back row.

Brumbies

15. Aidan Toua
14. Nigel Ah Wong
13. Tevita Kuridrani
12. Matt Toomua
11. Robbie Coleman
10. Christian Lealiifano
9. Tomas Cubelli

1. Scott Sio
2. Stephen Moore (c)
3. Ruan Smith
4. Blake Enever
5. Sam Carter
6. Scott Fardy
7. David Pocock
8. Jarrad Butler

Matt Toomua dejected Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Highlanders

15. Ben Smith (c)
14. Waisake Naholo
13. Matt Faddes
12. Malakai Fekitoa
11. Patrick Osborne
10. Lima Sopoaga
9.  Aaron Smith

1. Daniel Lienert-Brown
2. Ash Dixon
3. Josh Hohneck
4. Tom Franklin
5. Luke Whitelock
6. Elliot Dixon
7. Shane Christie
8. Liam Squire

Hurricanes v Sharks

The ‘Canes took over top spot in a dramatic final weekend shake-up that featured their fifth straight win. And against a Sharks (Sky Sports 3, 8.35am Saturday) who they haven’t lost at home to in the last four meetings there, the brilliant form of Beauden Barrett and James Marshall should give the Wellington side safe passage to the semi-finals.

Ardie Savea Ardie Savea has excelled while his brother struggles with form this season. Source: Photosport/John Davidson/INPHO

Leinster signing Jamison Gibson-Park is among the replacements for the hosts, and he’s in good company there with All Black wing Julian Savea also held in reserve behind Jason Woodward.

Paul Jordaan makes a break Centre Paul Jordaan is key for the Sharks. Source: Photosport/John Cowpland/INPHO

The Sharks welcome back Willie le Roux and will hope the power of Tendai Mtawarira and invention of Garth April can help them cause a big upset in the Kiwi capital.

Hurricanes

15. James Marshall
14. Cory Jane
13. Matt Proctor
12. Willis Halaholo
11. Jason Woodward
10. Beauden Barrett
9. TJ Perenara

1. Loni Uhila
2. Dane Coles (C)
3. Ben May
4. Vaea Fifita
5. Michael Fatialofa
6. Brad Shields
7. Ardie Savea
8. Victor Vito

Sharks

15. Willie le Roux
14. JP Pietersen
13. Paul Jordaan
12. Andre Esterhuizen
11. Lwazi Mvovo
10. Garth April
9. Michael Claassens

1. Tendai Mtawarira (C)
2. Franco marais
3. Coenie Oosthuizen
4. Etienne Oosthuozen
5. Stephen Lewies
6. Keegan Daniel
7. Jean Luc du Preez
8. Philip van der Walt

Lions v Crusaders

Come Saturday night, we’ll know if the Lions have regret or rejoice about their decision to rest their front-liners for last weekend’s trip to Buenos Aires.

Matt Todd offloads to Kieran Read Matt Todd offloading to Kieran Read earlier this season. Source: Photosport/John Davidson/INPHO

Johan Ackerman’s side could have made themselves top seeds with a win over the Jaguares, but their stand-ins faded in the second half and so they’re left facing challengers the Crusaders to Jo’burg.

At altitude, the Lions will hope to see Saturday’s (3.30pm, Sky Sports 3) game again tilt towards the hosts in the second period and they have been boosted by the presence of Warren Whiteley in the starting line-up — though he has cut it fine to be there.

Nobody likes playing in South Africa quite as much as the Crusaders do, and their trip there this season featured a 37 – 43 win over the Lions a week after seeing off the Sharks in Durban. However, powerful wing Nemani Nadolo is nursing a hamstring injury in Christchurch while his team prepare for the knock-outs on another continent.

Lions

15. Andries Coetzee
14. Ruan Combrinck
13. Lionel Mapoe
12. Rohan Janse Van Rensburg
11 Courtnal Skosan
10 Elton Jantjies
9. Francois De Klerk

1. Dylon Smith
2. Malcolm Marx
3. Julian Redelinghuys
4. Andries Ferreira
5. Franco Mostert
6 Jaco Kriel
7. Warwick Tecklenburg
8. Warren Whiteley (C)

Crusaders

15. Israel Dagg
14. Johnny McNicholl
13. Ryan Crotty
12. David Havili
11. Jone Macilai
10. Richie Mo’unga
9. Andy Ellis

1. Wyatt Crockett
2. Codie Taylor
3. Owen Franks
4. Luke Romano
5. Sam Whitelock
6. Jordan Taufua
7. Matt Todd
8. Kieran Read (C)

Stormers v Chiefs

The Chiefs, who set the pace and standard for so long this season, are on the road to Cape Town (Sky Sports 3, 6pm Saturday).

The Waikato side are the worst-performing Kiwi team on South African soil, but they face a side who topped the South African conference with the considerable helping hand of a fixture draw that ensure they avoided facing New Zealand teams until now.

Singapore Super Rugby Vincent Kock rumbles over for a try against the Sunwolves. Source: Wong Maye-E

The Stormers welcome back out-half Robert du Preez to the starting line-up despite him missing all but two games of the season with a knee injury. The Chiefs have yet to name their starting line-up, but have marked centre Seta Tamanivalu absent through injury, joining a list that also contains Michael Leitch and Charlie Ngatai.

Stormers

15. Jaco Taute
14. Kobus van Wyk
13. Huw Jones
12. Damian de Allende
11 Leolin Zas
10 Robert du Preez
9 Nic Groom

1. Alistair Vermaak
2. Bongi Mbonambi
3. Vincent Koch
4. Eben Ezebeth
5. Pieter-Steph du Toit
6. Sikhumbuzo Notshe
7. Siya Kolisi
8. Schalk Burger (C)

Chiefs

TBC

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Sean Farrell

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