Wow is it round eight already? There are some very exciting matches this week including the Reds v Stormers and Crusaders v Bulls games, they certainly look set to be of blockbuster proportion. Here are my predictions for the round.
Highlanders v Cheetahs – Carisbrook, Dunedin
The Highlanders come into this game on a high after beating the hapless Brumbies but they shouldn’t get too far ahead of themselves. They will definitely need to improve their game, particularly in the second half, if they are to tame the touring Cheetah’s side. Expectations are quite high that the Highlanders should take this one comfortably but I wouldn’t discount the Cheetahs too easily. Their lowly position in the standings doesn’t truly reflect their performance and although they haven’t converted a win since the Tahs in round five, they will certainly take it to the Highlanders. They haven’t been helped by their injury count and are also on the last legs of their road tour so ultimately the Highlanders will get the win, but only by a few points.
Crusaders v Bulls – Alpine Energy Stadium, Timaru
This certainly looks set to be one of the top matches of this round. The Crusaders are in mighty fine form and are arguably making a bold statement with their stylish running rugby and dominant defence. They do come into this match without the gorgeous Dan Carter so we won’t get to watch the Carter, Sonny Bill Williams show this week. The Bulls will be quite happy to have heard this, and will fancy their chances now that we won’t get to see the much anticipated face-off with the in-form Morne Steyn. Ultimately this game will be tight with the Crusaders coming away with the points.
Brumbies v Hurricanes – Canberra Stadium, Canberra
What a ho-hum game this is expected to be. Both teams are in desperate need of a win and are both lacking in well let’s face it, stylish rugby. The Brumbies have lost five matches in a row (all since firing their coach) and need this win to satisfy their loyal fans at home. Giteau needs to up his game and get his boot back on song to ensure their efforts aren’t for nothing. The Hurricanes have been in a downward spiral since their shock loss to the Rebels and can’t seem to shake whatever hoodoo has come over them. Going to pick the Brumbies for the win, simply because they are at home and are more desperate.
Force v Waratahs – nib Stadium, Perth
The Waratahs finally made it back to the winner’s circle last week albeit limping compared to their blockbuster form in the first few rounds. Once again they are without stalwart captain Phil Waugh, which let’s face it will have a huge impact on this game. When he wasn’t on the pitch last week, the Tahs lost direction and seemed to stumble so it will be interesting to see if they cope this week. The Force have shown some flashes of brilliance but have been let down by simple errors and lack of concentration. James O’Connor has been brilliant throughout and if he is accurate with the boot at home, the Force will win.
Stormers v Reds – Newlands, Cape Town
This is THE game of the round! The top of the table clash is certainly setting the scene for an epic encounter. The Reds wobbled to victory against the Lions last week in Johannesburg, and despite two yellow cards, managed to turn the game around thanks to likes of Quade Cooper and Digby Ioane. With no injuries this week, coach Ewen McKenzie has shuffled the starting line-up and brought in Mike Harris who impressed last week with the boot. The Reds will need to have all systems blazing though if they are to crack the impenetrable force that is the Stormers. They haven’t really been tested thus far, expect for the Waratahs (who they lost to), so this will be a real test to see if they are real contenders for the title.
Yet to lose a game, the Stormers have put their hands up as likely Super Rugby champions going on their current form. Despite starting slowly, they are now looking really solid at the breakdown and know how to put points on the board. We still haven’t seen the flair from last year, but that won’t affect their winning ways. The Stormers have faced tougher sides, including the Bulls, before this match so have a slight edge against the Reds.
It will be tight, but the Stormers will prove to classy for the visitors.
Sharks v Lions – ABSA Stadium, Durban
The Lions really took it to the Reds last week and quite like the Force have been unable to close out the games for the win. The Sharks have been a little bit disappointing the past few weeks but despite that, their defensive line has been impressive and I can’t see the Lions penetrating. The Sharks are also at home and will have the fire in the belly after a run of three straight losses.