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Super Rugby Round 9 preview panel

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 21/04/2016 Darren Walton, Melissa Woods and Roje Adaimy

Preview of Super Rugby Round 9 matches (all times NZT):

FRIDAY, April 22

Highlanders v Sharks at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin 7.35pm

Head to Head: Played 18 Highlanders 8 Sharks 10

In Dunedin: Played 9 Highlanders 5 Sharks 4

Last clash: Round 12 2015 - Highlanders 48 bt Sharks 15 at Forsyth Barr Stadium

Co-captain Ben Smith will return to right the Highlanders ship after their shock loss to the Reds two weeks ago. They had a bye to lick their wounds and will be raring to go against the Sharks. The visitors have a new playmaker in Garth April amongst four changes following their loss to the Blues but the Highlanders should make in nine straight at home.

Tip: Highlanders by 17

Rebels v Cheetahs at AAMI Park, Melbourne 9.45pm

Head to Head: Played 4 Rebels 1 Cheetahs 3

In Melbourne: Played 2 Rebels 1 Cheetahs 1

Last clash: Round 3 2014 - Rebels 35 bt Cheetahs 14 at AAMI Park

If the Rebels really want to be a finals force they need to step up in this match against the Cheetahs. They were disappointing against the Hurricanes while the Cheetahs came from nowhere to score 92 points in a 14-try romp over the Sunwolves. Melbourne winger Dom Shipperley is out for the season with a knee injury forcing a backline reshuffle with Reece Hodge given his first crack in the centres.

Tip: Rebels by 9

SATURDAY, April 23

Sunwolves v Jaguares at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo 5.15pm

Head to Head: first meeting

The Test-laden Buenos Aires team have been disappointing but not much compares to the car-crash that was the Sunwolves in their 75-point loss to the Cheetahs. Back in Tokyo the proud Sunwolves will be better but rebounding from a loss like that is tough work, with the Jaguares set to triumph.

Tip: Jaguares by 12

Hurricanes v Chiefs at Westpac Stadium, Wellington 7.35pm

Head to Head: Played 26 Hurricanes 14 Chiefs 11 Draws 1

In Wellington: Played 13 Hurricanes 9 Chiefs 4

Last clash: Round 18 2015 - Hurricanes 21 bt Chiefs 13 at Yarrow Stadium

A clash of the competition's most in-form teams. Both have won their past five matches and claimed a bonus point in all but one of them. The ladder-leading Chiefs return from a bye, but the Hurricanes hold the home-ground advantage - winning nine of their 10 previous meetings in Wellington. You can expect fireworks as flyhalves Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett go head to head as they battle for the All Blacks No.10 jersey following the retirement of Dan Carter.

Tip: Chiefs by 8

Western Force v NSW Waratahs at nib Stadium, Perth 9.45pm

Head to Head: Played 15 Force 5 Waratahs 9 drawn 1

In Perth: Played 8 Force 2 Waratahs 6

Last clash: Round 13 2015 - Force 18 bt Waratahs 11 at nib Stadium

There's no tomorrows for the Waratahs if they lose this fixture for the fourth straight time after slumping to 13th on the ladder and nine points adrift of the Brumbies in the Australian conference. The Tahs pack must stand up and secure front-foot possession for its slick backline, but that will be easier said than done against a Force outfit desperate to retain interstate bragging rights in a season already lost.

Tip: Waratahs by three

SUNDAY, April 24

Stormers v Queensland Reds at Newlands Rugby Stadium, Cape Town 1am

Head to Head: Played 18 Stormers 10 Reds 8

In Cape Town: Played 8 Stormers 6 Reds 2

Last clash: Round 7 2014 - Reds 22 bt Stormers 17 at Suncorp Stadium

While the Reds have shown some promise in recent weeks, the odds are well against them this weekend. The Stormers boast a strong record at home and are the standout South African side having won five of their last seven matches. Queensland, who will be without No.8 Jake Schatz (knee), have only twice tasted victory at DHL Newlands - their last in 2011.

Tip: Stormers by 21

Kings v Lions at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth 3.10am

Head to Head: first meeting

The Kings have enjoyed a much-needed week off but what help that will be as they chase their first win against a South African side remains to be seen. They have lost five of six games at home and face a Lions outfit riding high from their win over the Stormers. Playmaker Elton Jantjies, the competition's leading goal kicker, could do plenty of damage if let run wild.

Tip: Lions by 35

Brumbies v Crusaders at GIO Stadium, Canberra 6.05pm

Head to Head: Played 22 Brumbies 8 Crusaders 14

In Canberra: Played 11 Brumbies 6 Crusaders 5

Last clash: Round 18 2015 - Crusaders 37 bt Brumbies 24 at GIO Stadium

A huge game between Australia's most successful franchise and the competition's most prolific champions. The Brumbies are currently in charge of the Aussie conference but things can change quickly if they suffer a sixth successive loss to the Crusaders, who are riding a six-match winning streak and once again looking ominous. Regardless of the result, it'll be a special day for Michael and the Brumbies' Allan Alaalatoa, the first brothers to play against each other for Super Rugby teams from different sides of the Tasman.

Tip: Crusaders by three

BYE: Bulls, Blues

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