How exciting that this week Super Rugby will be showcased in the Northern Hemisphere for the very first time. About 55,000 seats are available for the Crusaders v Sharks earthquake fundraiser at the home of rugby, Twickenham. I hope that all of the expat Kiwis and Saffas go close to packing out the stadium.
On another note, if the Queensland Reds beat the Cheetahs this week it will see them consolidate their spot on top of the Aussie Conference.
Rebels v Hurricanes – AAMI Park, Melbourne
The Rebels were very poor last week in Brisbane against a resurgent Reds side so they will want to make amends back at home. They will have great support from the Rebel Army which seems to make them lift but their hugely inconsistent form makes it difficult to predict which way they will play. The Hurricanes played a better game last week but let themselves down at the business end of the game. Cory Jane, Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu should star for the Hurricanes and give them victory.
Reds v Cheetahs – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
The Reds were a back to 2010 winning style last week with a 53-3 drubbing of the Rebels. Quade Cooper was back to form and should lead from the front. Captain James Horwill returns from injury this week which will help to steady the ship and ensure the team remains focused on a Cheetah’s side that surprised everyone by beating the Waratahs last week. If they continue to pass the ball out to the likes of Rocket Rod and Superhero Ioane we should see some slick scoring. They shouldn’t underestimate a Cheetah’s side that beat the Waratahs. They showed a lot commitment and great defence last week and will be hoping to repeat the result. They are without Captain Andries Strauss though which doesn’t help their chances.
Stormers v Force – DHL Newlands, Capetown
The Force kicked off their South African leg by beating the Lions in Johannesburg last week. They will definitely need to keep their wits about them this week going up against a so far unbeaten Stormers side. Captain, Nathan Sharpe will become the most capped player in Super Rugby history at Newlands, overtaking George Gregan’s mark of 136 so I’m sure the team would like to give him a win to celebrate the occasion. The Stormers haven’t been too impressive in the competition thus far with only two tries in the four wins so it will be interesting to see what type of game is played. If it comes down to a goal kicking battle, O’Conner may just boot the Force to victory. In saying that, I predict the Stormers pack will be too strong for the Force and will see them secure the win.
Bulls v Lions – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
The Bulls haven’t been playing to their usual style and after losing to the Highlanders and Stormers consecutively, the defending champions need to get a win here to turn things around. The Lions are hugely improved this year and their loss to the Force last week was a definite blow. The Bulls should be too good for the Lions up front though and should take away the win.
Chiefs vs. Blues Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
This has the hallmarks to be one of the games to watch this week. Both teams have been playing decent rugby and are coming in with wins last week. The Chiefs took it to the Sharks with a lot of class and basic rugby which got them over the line. The Blues were suprisingly good against the Hurricanes last week, running in several tries towards the end of the game. If they continue this running style of rugby they should take this one out.
Brumbies v Waratahs – Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Wow who would have thought that this match up would be filled with desperation at the beginning of the season? Both teams will be attempted to win this match to regain respect after their poor performances. The Brumbies haven’t put together any form of decent play since they sacked their coach weeks ago and need to settle down if they are to beat the Waratahs. The Waratahs sorely missed their Captain Phil Waugh last week and with his return this week it should put them in good stead to beat a forlorn Brumbies side. It will be interesting to watch.
Crusaders v Sharks – AMI Stadium, Christchurch
This is surely the highlight of the round. This is the first time a Super Rugby game will be played in the Northern Hemisphere and at no less than the home of England rugby, Twickenham. The Crusaders are still without Richie McCaw but seem to be improving with each game and are playing a great style of rugby. The Sharks lost a close one last week to the Chiefs and are now without Pat Lambie which is a massive blow. They have also been on a long road trip which may take its toll at Twickenham. They would need to pull out something really extraordinary though to beat the likes of Sonny-Bill Williams, Dan Carter and Robbie Fruean carving it up at the moment for the Crusaders.