Last week’s Super Rugby action certainly changed the dynamics of the series and the top teams are now starting to hit their stride. The Reds and Crusaders sit atop the ladder and they now need to consolidate their position with a win this week. Hopefully we can see Link (Red’s coach Ewen McKenzie) crack another smile!
Chiefs v Crusades – Baypark Stadium, Mt Maunganui
The Crusaders come into this game as definite favourites after their magnificent performance against the Bulls last weekend. Despite missing Dan Carter, they were superb and really dominated the Bulls in every way possible. They are boosted this week with the return of Richie McCaw, albeit on the bench, and with Sonny Bill Williams proving to be a superstar they should easily dismiss the Chiefs.
Rebels v Highlanders – AAMI Park, Melbourne
The Rebels have lost stalwart captain Stirling Mortlock to injury this week, which is surely a big loss to the side. They have been playing some good rugby of late and after their nail-biting win against the Force in Perth, they will be determined to keep their home winning record. The Highlanders won’t let them get away with too much though and will try to beat them with their strong pack and will really take it to the team. I’m going with the Rebels to win, simply because the Rebel Army and the strong home ground advantage are factors not to dismiss.
Lions v Stormers – Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
Ah the Stormers! They were really quite off their game last week against the Reds weren’t they? They will be without Habana, de Villiers and Elstadt because of injury but they shouldn’t be too hampered with some good replacements being named. The Lions were thumped by the Sharks last week and will be no match for the men from Cape Town.
Cheetahs v Hurricanes – Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
The Hurricanes have been the biggest disappointment so far this season and will need to put together a decent performance to beat the ever-improving Cheetah’s side. The Cheetahs are certainly starting to make improvements and really took it to the Highlanders last week, eventually losing by only 3 points. With the Cheetahs playing at home, I’m tipping them to upset the travelling Hurricanes.
Blues v Waratahs – Eden Park, Auckland
This is going to be one of the games of this round. Both teams have played some great rugby, particularly the Waratahs with their win last week over the Force. Jerome Kaino returns for the Blues this week and should add depth to their already strong pack and will prove a challenge for the Waratahs. The Waratahs are again without captain Phil Waugh that could prove detrimental for the visitors. This will be their biggest challenge since the Crusaders and may prove too difficult at Eden Park.
Reds v Bulls – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
After the impressive win against the Stormers last weekend at Newlands, the Reds will be looking to consolidate their spot at the top with a win over the so far uninspiring Bulls side. The Reds were dominant in the breakdown, created a lot of space and punished the Stormers for every mistake made. Their only downfall last week was the lineout but this should be rectified with the return of Saia Faingaa to the starting lineup. The Bulls have looked out of sorts all season and were easily dismissed by the Crusaders last week. They will definitely need to up their game, particularly at the breakdown, if they are to beat the Reds at home.
Brumbies v Force – Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Both teams are circling the bottom of the Australian conference so will be desperate to win. The Brumbies finally got a win last week, albeit by 1 point, and will need to remain calm to beat a Force side who are, despite their devastating loss last week, capable of winning. Brumbies are at home, so it may just prove too much for the men from Perth.