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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Super Rugby plays its eighth round on the weekend with four teams trying to change a dominant trend this season — no South African team has won in New Zealand or Australia, and no team from the Antipodes has won in South Africa. The Johannesburg-based Bulls travel to play the Hurricanes in Wellington, while the New Zealand-based Chiefs and Crusaders and the Sydney-based Waratahs are chasing wins in South Africa.
Here are five things to know about the round:
MATFIELD'S ROLE MORE OFF-FIELD THAN ON-FIELD — Veteran lock Victor Matfield will take a coaching rather than playing role during the Bulls' four-match tour to Australia and New Zealand which begins against the Hurricanes on Saturday. Coach Frans Ludeke said Matfield would only play on tour in "special circumstances" — mainly in the event of injuries — in accordance with an agreement reached when he returned to Super Rugby. Springboks lock Flip van der Merwe will take over from Matfield in the starting Bulls' lineup and will resume the captaincy. All Blacks Victor Vito and Cory Jane return to the Hurricanes' lineup for the Napier match.
CARDS, MILKSHAKES TO BOOST CRUSADERS — Scrumhalf Andy Ellis says a trip to South Africa might be the tonic the Crusaders need to revive their faltering season. New Zealand teams typically regard a trip to South Africa as the toughest part of their season but Ellis sees the Crusaders' tour, including matches against the Lions and Sharks, as an opportunity. "I really think it's going to help us get things back to the way they should be," he said. "There will be a lot of time together drinking milkshakes and playing cards and just being a team, which will be good. We are well aware things aren't quite going the way they should be and this trip will give us the chance to try and sort that out."
REBELS TARGET AN AWAY WIN — The Melbourne Rebels hope to achieve their first-ever Super Rugby win outside Australia when they play the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday. The Rebels haven't won overseas since they joined the tournament in 2011, though they lost two matches in New Zealand last season by only four points. Last weekend's win over the Australian conference-leading Brumbies has given the Rebels confidence they can beat the Highlanders, who share their 2-3 win-loss record. "It's a real shame that we've never been able to win out of Australia," flanker Scott Fuglistaller said. "This year we've put in policies about the training week and the load to try and get the best out of our players in a different country."
MOORE INJURY KNOCKS BRUMBIES — Wallabies hooker Stephen Moore will miss the ACT Brumbies' clash with the Auckland-based Blues on Friday, adding to an already long injury list. Moore will likely miss only one match but joins a list that includes David Pocock, Fotu Auelua, Henry Speight, Scott Sio, Leon Power and Clyde Rathbone. Youngsters Siliva Siliva and Josh Mann-Rea will share the hooking role. The teams are meeting for the first time since Auckland sank the Brumbies' playoff hopes in the last match of the 2012 season. "They've got some of the same big blokes that touched us up that day," Brumbies prop Ben Alexander said. "It's going to be incredibly, incredibly tough against them again but it should be an entertaining game."
LINEOUT THE CHIEF CONCERN — The reigning champion Chiefs say it's no secret their lineout is a weak point and they expect the Cheetahs to try to exploit it when they meet in Bloemfontein on Saturday. The Hamilton-based club won its second-straight Super Rugby title last season despite having the worst lineout success rate in the tournament. Their problems continued when they conceded two tries from lineout drives in a drawn match with the Bulls last weekend. "If I was coaching a team to play the Chiefs I'd certainly be having a crack at that area of the game," forwards coach Tom Coventry said. Captain Liam Messam is equally forthright. "Our set piece needs to be a lot better," he said. "That's something we addressed as a forward pack. The big lineout maul that the South Africans love to do, we need to have plans to dismantle that as quick as we can."