We start this week’s Super Rugby action with the announcement that Qld Red’s star Digby Ioane received a $2000 fine by SANZAR for his tweet ‘worst ref ever’. Ioane removed the tweet quickly and apologised but was made an example of by the governing body. While I don’t wholly agree with this decision, I do understand the need for the game to ensure their rules and regulations are enforced. Danny Cipriani and Richard Kingi were also reprimanded this week after disobeying Rebels rules by going out on the lash after their game last week. Hopefully they will learn after being sidelined for this week’s game against the Reds.
Hurricanes v Blues – Carisbrook Stadium, Dunedin
The Blues come into the game sitting atop the NZ conference after their hard-won affair against the Highlanders. Though they were held try-less last week they remained composed and maintained enough pressure to close out the match. The Hurricanes were surprise winners last week against an unrecognisable Reds team but wobbled in the second half. With the lead they had after the first 40 minutes they should have been able to close with a wider margin. Having won their last 5 encounters, the Blues should make it 6 this week.
Rebels v Reds – AAMI Park, Melbourne
An unrecognisable Reds outfit last week lost to a gutsy Hurricanes side that stole victory in the final moments of the game. A lot were angry about the last penalty given, but the Reds weren’t playing to their best and were punished for their lack of focus and direction in the first half. They are boosted this week with the return of play-makers Digby Ioane and Ben Daley, who were sorely missed last week and this should make an impact especially in the pack where it was sorely missed last week. The Rebels are without Cipriani and Kingi after they were sidelined due to player behaviour, so it will be interesting to see if this will have a huge impact on the game. The likes of Mortlock and Gerrard will make life hard for the Reds, but they will ultimately be too good for the men from the South.
Lions v Cheetahs – Ellis Park, Johannesburg
The bottom of the table in the South African derby should be a gutsy fought affair. The Cheetahs had a good game against the Brumbies last week so if they can maintain the attack they should take this one out. The Lions only win this season was against the Cheetahs so they will be hoping to secure their second victory. They will need to improve on defence if they are to take this one out.
Chiefs v Highlanders – Westpac Stadium, Wellington
The Chiefs season has been a topsy turvy one so far and after a thumping last week by the Bulls they will return home from their South African tour worse for wear. They will need something special to come up against a Highlanders side that will be kicking themselves for not beating the Blues last week. The Highlanders should easily take this one.
Waratahs v Force – Sydney Football Stadium
The Waratahs come into this game without captain Phil Waugh and hard-man Tatafu Polota Nau which will have a huge impact on the game. Their scrappy win against the Rebels last week did nothing to instill confidence in a side that is desperate to stay within reach of the top six. The Force on the other hand looked pretty good against the Crusaders last week with the final score not truly reflect the game. David Pocock’s return from injury last week was impressive and I expect him to have a huge impact on the game this week. It will be a close one with the Force coming out on top.
Stormers v Crusaders – Ellis Park, Cape Town
This is going to be the game of the season, with most tipping this match as a preview of this year’s Grand Final. The Stormers are without key player Habana, but have home ground advantage and a sell-out crowd. The Crusaders have also lost Richie McCaw in a late withdrawal due to a head knock last week and Dan Carter also remains injured. Their backups have proved more than capable and I think with their attacking style of play, the Stormers will have a difficult time stopping them.
Sharks v Brumbies – ABSA Stadium
The Sharks were surprisingly lackluster last week against a Stormers side that dominated at every turn so they will be looking to make amends and get back on track. The Brumbies, well what can I say, they are dismal at the moment and will also be desperate to make a point after losing to the Cheetahs last week. This will be a case of who is more desperate to win. Brumbies are away from home so I expect the Sharks to take it.