Cheetahs v Hurricanes

Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein, Saturday 3.10am (AEST)Last meeting: Round 6 2012 – Cheetahs 47 bt Hurricanes 38 at Westpac StadiumHead-to-head: Played 8 Cheetahs 3 Hurricanes 5In Bloemfontein:  Played 4 Cheetahs 2 Hurricanes 2Referee: Stuart Berry (RSA)TV: Live, FoxSports 2TAB Sportsbet: Cheetahs $1.33 Hurricanes $3.15

Steve Samuelson writes: These matches are always high scoring affairs with the Cheetahs winning 47-38 last year while the Canes edged a 50-47 win in 2011. Victor Vito will lead the Hurricanes in the absence of star centre Conrad Smith (head knock).

AAP writes: The Cheetahs’ finals destiny is well and truly in their own hands, especially with their remaining six games all to be played in South Africa. But with tough games against the Reds, Bulls and Blues included in those fixtures a win against the hit-and-miss Hurricanes is a must.

The past two matches between these sides have produced a whopping 21 tries, so another entertaining affair could be on the cards. Inspirational Hurricanes captain Conrad Smith will miss this match after suffering a nasty concussion in last week’s 48-14 loss to the Bulls. The Cheetahs should be fresh and raring to go after a week off.

CHEETAHS: Hennie Daniller, Willie Le Roux, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule, Burton Francis, Piet van Zyl, Philip Van der Walt, Frans Viljoen, Heinrich Brussow, Francois Uys, Lodewyk de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss (capt), Coenie Oosthuizen. Reserves: Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Rynard Landman, Boom Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius, Elgar Watts, Rayno Benjamin

HURRICANES: Andre Taylor/James Marshall, Alapati Leiua, Reynold Lee-Lo, Tim Bateman, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Victor Vito (capt), Jack Lam/Karl Lowe, Faifili Levave, Jason Eaton, Jeremy Thrush, Ben May, Ash Dixon, Ben Franks. Reserves: Reggie Goodes, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, James Broadhurst, Brad Shields, Chris Smylie, Tusi Pisi, James Marshall/Karl Lowe

Reds v Sharks

Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Friday 7.40pm (AEST)Last meeting: Qualifying Finals 2012 – Sharks 30 bt Reds 17 at Suncorp StadiumHead-to-head: Played 18 Reds 10 Sharks 8In Brisbane: Played 9 Reds 6 Sharks 3Referee: Glen Jackson (NZL)TV: Live, FoxSports 1TAB Sportsbet: Reds $1.36 Sharks $3

Steve Samuelson writes: The Reds will be without skipper James Horwill (head knock) and are vulnerable after four tough matches in succession. The Sharks have beaten the Reds in six of their past seven games, including last year’s semi-final in Brisbane.

AAP writes: This is the last box to be ticked for the Reds under Ewen McKenzie and many would say they’ll never have a better chance to beat their hoodoo team. The Sharks are riddled by injuries with a dozen players sidelined after centre Frans Steyn and No.8 Lubabalo Mtembu became the latest to join the casualty list. Added to that, they come off four straight losses but Queensland certainly aren’t taking them for granted with three Boks on their bench. The Reds will also be without captain James Horwill (head knock) in a big loss.

Ewen McKenzie has reshuffled his backline, with Chris Feauai-Sautia playing in the centres, seeking extra punch after they scored just one try in the past two games. The Sharks have made their own interesting call at No.13 with JP Pietersen to start there.

REDS: Jonathan Lance, Rod Davies, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Anthony Faingaa, Digby Ioane, Quade Cooper, Will Genia (capt), Jake Schatz, Liam Gill, Ed Quirk, Ed O’Donoghue, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, Saia Faingaa, Greg Holmes. Reserves: James Hanson, Albert Anae, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Jarrad Butler, Beau Robinson, Ben Lucas, Ben Tapuai.

SHARKS: Riaan Viljoen, Piet Lindeque, JP Pietersen, Meyer Bosman, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel (capt), Jean Deysel, Marcell Coetzee, Franco van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Wiehahn Herbst, Kyle Cooper, JC Janse van Rensburg. Reserves: Monde Hadebe, Jannie du Plessis, Anton Bresler, Derick Minnie, Willem Alberts, Tian Meyer, Odwa Ndungane.

Chiefs v Force

ECOLight Stadium, Pukekohe, Friday 5.35pm (AEST)Last meeting: Round 7, 2012: Chiefs bt Force 20-12 at nib Stadium, Perth  Head-to-head: Played 6 Chiefs 5 Force 1In Pukekohe: First clashReferee: Mike Fraser (NZL) TV: Live, FoxSports 1TAB Sportsbet: Chiefs $1.10 Force $6.25

Steve Samuelson writes: Force halfback Brett Sheehan will play his first match of the year after injuring his ankle during the Wallabies’ spring tour with Alby Mathewson joining Sam Norton-Knight on the bench. The Force last beat the Chiefs in 2008.

AAP writes: The Force were magnificent in defence against the Reds last week. But was it legal? Queensland scrumhalf Will Genia questioned some of the Force’s defensive tactics, claiming he was held off the ball, tackled late, and unfairly pulled away from rucks. The Force’s line speed proved too much for the Reds to handle, and they’ll need a similar effort against the Chiefs, who are yet to hit top gear despite sitting second on the table. A six-day break and a long trek to New Zealand could leave the Force vulnerable.

The Chiefs have opted to give flyhalf Aaron Cruden a rest by naming him on the bench, while halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow returns from a broken jaw.

CHIEFS: Robbie Robinson, Lelia Masaga, Savenaca Tokula, Bundee Aki, Patrick Osborne, Gareth Anscombe, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Matt Vant-Leven, Sam Cane, Liam Messam, Brodie Retallick, Craig Clarke (capt), Ben Afeaki, Hikawera Elliott, Toby Smith. Reserves: Mahonri Schwalger, Ben Tameifuna, Michael Fitzgerald, Tanerau Latimer, Augustine Pulu, Aaron Cruden, Asaeli Tikoirotuma

FORCE: Jayden Hayward, Patrick Dellit, Ben Jacobs, Kyle Godwin, Nick Cummins, Sias Ebersohn, Brett Sheehan, Ben McCalman, Chris Alcock, Matt Hodgson (capt), Sam Wykes, Toby Lynn, Kieran Longbottom, Heath Tessmann, Pek Cowan. Reserves: James Hilterbrand, Tetera Faulkner, Rory Walton, Richard Brown, Alby Mathewson, Junior Rasolea, Sam Norton-Knight

Japanese to rekindle Cup memories

After seven years of being deprived of some of the world’s finest stayers, Racing Victoria officials are confident that this year’s Caulfield and Melbourne cups will again have Japanese representation.

Following key talks with Japanese officials and RVL’s international scout Leigh Jordon, the chances of possibly two starters from the world’s most progressive racing nation appear strong.

And five-year-old stayer Admire Rakti, who finished fourth in the group 1 Tenno Sho recently, could be the horse to revive memories of Japan’s Delta Blues and Pop Rock’s breathtaking tussle in the 2006 Melbourne Cup.

Admire Rakti, owned by businessman Richii Kondo, told Jordon recently that his five year-old was ”having the perfect Australian” lead-up to this year’s spring carnival.

”He was very upbeat about coming to Australia,” Jordon said. ”He wanted to know what a trip to Australia involved, and was very pleased at what we had to offer and what our racing had to offer.

”He has been a long-time owner in Japan and seemed genuinely excited by the challenge of coming to Australia.”

Admire Rakti will start in the group 2 Meguro Kinen over 2500 metres on Sunday week, the same race Pop Rock won before coming to Australia and finishing such a valiant second behind Delta Blues.

A forward showing in the Meguro Kinen could see Admire Rakti go into quarantine.

”We had some very encouraging talks in Japan about their horses coming out for our two main cups in the spring,” Jordon said. ”I think we have had just one runner from Japan in nearly eight years but we know the vast resources and depth of distance racehorses they have over there.

”We still want to build our major races in the spring with horses from across the world. They seem interested again in making the trip. We seem to have got over any quarantine problems.”

■ Two Victorian trainers charged over positive swabs will front Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board hearings in the coming weeks.

Darren Weir was charged by stewards after Doing Our Best tested positive to a banned substance after winning at Ballarat in February.

Doing Our Best’s sample contained traces of a diuretic.

Peter Gelagotis was charged after three-year-old Hvasstan returned a positive swab to Ibuprofen after his Alister Clark Stakes win in March.

Barnes and Mitchell return

Back to work: Utility back Berrick Barnes, who has played just 20 minutes this season. Photo: Anthony Johnson Waratahs coach Michael Cheika has taken out kicking insurance for his side’s must-win clash against the Stormers this weekend, backing Test back Berrick Barnes to start from the bench after just 20 minutes game time this season.

Barnes joins winger Drew Mitchell on the bench as the only two changes to the side involved in the Waratahs’ historic 72-10 rout of the Kings in Port Elizabeth.

After missing the first three games with a knee injury, Barnes played 19 minutes against the Cheetahs in round five before hurting his right hand. The injury to his thumb required surgery and kept him out of the game for the next seven weeks, leading team insiders to speculate Barnes would find it difficult to make it back into the squad with such limited time in the back line.

Despite their growing flair in attack, the Waratahs have struggled without a consistently competent kicker, and Barnes’ return to the match 22 for a game against a side with as strong a defensive line as the Stormers’ could be read as an extra option for Cheika. Earlier in the week, Barnes believed he was as likely to return to playing with Sydney University via the Shute Shield as he was for the Waratahs.

”I’m fully confident about the hand and feeling reasonably fit but you can’t get game fitness training,” Barnes said. ”You need to get that back playing, and either way I’m going to get that this weekend.”

Rookie Cam Crawford has been backed to continue his solid form on the wing with Peter Betham on Saturday, while Tom Kingston lost out to Mitchell for the final bench spot, after the Test wing recovered from a hamstring strain.

They will take on a Stormers’ back line stacked with Springboks, including departing great Bryan Habana, Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh.

But it is the forwards the Waratahs have spent most time preparing for this week, after their lineout and work in the collision was shown up against the Bulls in Pretoria two weeks ago.

”They are renowned for dominating teams physically, with their forwards carrying over you,” breakaway Michael Hooper said. ”We haven’t got a small pack by any means, but they’re good at what they do; they hold players and teams up. We’ve got to work on ways to combat that.”

Hooper said the Tahs could not afford to be too high in their ball carries, while captain Dave Dennis continued to press his teammates in their lineout work. ”[Tatafu Polota-Nau] and John [Ulugia] are good throwers when they’re on, and we’ve got good jumpers, so it’s a pretty simple area of the game that you can probably overcomplicate sometimes,” Dennis said. ”We’ll do some good work on it [so I’m] confident on how we go.”