Last week was a disappointing week for the Aussie teams with none of the sides getting up for a win. This week is crucial for them if they want to prove themselves against the more dominant New Zealand and South African sides. Funnily enough, without realising it, I have tipped all of the Aussie teams to win. Of course the toughest decision for me was the Reds v Rebels match. I came close to tipping the Rebels, but eventually sided with the Reds to get up. Hopefully my predictions come true.
Chiefs v Sharks – Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
This is a tough one to pick this week. The Chiefs are coming off a soft loss and will need to pull out all the stops to front up against an undefeated Sharks team. They have been boosted by the return of Richard Kahui who will partner the awesome Tana Umaga so it should be a fascinating game at the breakdown. In saying that, the Sharks were very lucky to get away with a win last week against a Rebels outfit that are starting to ask the tough questions so they will be ready to prove themselves. I still think they will out muscle the Chiefs and continue their winning streak.
Reds v Rebels – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
This is going to be a cracker of a game and I can’t wait to see how these teams match up against each other. The Rebels were unlucky not to win against the Sharks last week but were let down eventually by silly errors. If they can tighten that part of their game up, they will most certainly start to put some wins on the board. The loss of Mark Gerrard and Michael Lipman to injury is certainly a blow as they have been impressive the last few weeks.
The Reds on the other hand are rested after their bye week and have home ground advantage. Though their start to the season hasn’t been as sensational as expected, I expect they will be looking to change that this week. A few changes have been made to the starting line-up with Ben Tapuai replacing the out of form Will Chambers and Van Humphries out due to injury. If Quade Cooper can start directing the play and getting the ball out to the likes of Digby Ioane they will be unstoppable.
Lions v Force – Ellis Park, Johannesburg
The Lions have made huge improvements this season and recorded their first win against the Cheetahs last week. Their midfield could cause the Force some issues but I’m not sure if they will be strong enough against the Force’s defence. The Force wilted against the Blues last week so they will need to focus on the maintaining momentum for the last 10-15 minutes to ensure victory. They are missing a lot of players through injury but with the slick looking backline that includes James ‘Beiber’ O’Connor I think they will prevail.
Highlanders v Crusaders – Carisbrook Stadium, Dunedin
This is going to be one of the matches of the round this week. These two teams are playing some blockbuster rugby and I expect the intensity to be high. The Highlanders have had a great season so far, with a minor stumbling black occurring last week with a loss to the Stormers. The Crusaders are looking really good at the moment and with the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Dan Carter and Israel Dagg in the lineup I expect them to win this game comfortably.
Bulls v Stormers – Loftus, Pretoria
A replay of last year’s grand final marks the potential for a scintillating game. Both teams have not been playing to their potential this year so far, so I expect them to lift for this game. The Bulls are coming off a loss to the Highlanders last week so will need to improve their handling and strength in defence. While the Stormers are still unbeaten, they have not scored a try since their first game. They can on rely on the boot of Peter Grant for so long and I expect the Bulls will eventually sneak the win.
Blues v Hurricanes – Eden Park, Auckland
The Blues were lucky to get away with a draw last week against a resilient Force side. The Blues have been inconsistent so far and will need to make an impression in this game. Ma’a Nonu is back this week for the Hurricanes after his suspension in round one, which will be a huge boost to the side. They have been playing some nice rugby and I expect to see some running rugby to take it to the Blues. This is a hard one to pick but going on last week’s form, I have to choose the Hurricanes to win.
Waratahs v Cheetahs – Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney
The Waratahs are doing it a bit tough at the moment with Rob Horne, Phil Waugh and Tatafu Polota-Nauall out through injury. They still have a star-studded line up so I don’t see the Cheetahs being too much of an issue for the Waratahs. The Cheetahs are still yet to win a match and despite their improvements, I can’t see them winning this round.