It is an abridged round of Super Rugby this week with the New Zealanders and South Africans on test match duty. The Reds have a bye but are playing the British and Irish Lions on Saturday night. The other Australian conference teams are undermanned with their respective Wallabies players not available, bizarrely, for this game.
Brumbies v Rebels
In the first meeting of these teams this season in Melbourne the Brumbies were victorious. Since giving the Rebels their first Super Rugby victory when they joined the competition, the Brumbies have won the last four encounters between the teams. The Brumbies and the Melbourne Rebels have already played each other once this year and the first match between the teams was won by the Brumbies.
The Brumbies come into this fixture off the back of close victory against the Hurricanes 30-27 in Canberra but this week due principally to Wallaby call ups they have had to make eight changes to their line-up including Pat McCabe for Christian Lealiifano and Clyde Rathbone coming in for Joe Tomane. It is a very different looking back row for the Brumbies with Peter Kimlin and Scott Fardy coming into the line-up. The desperately unlucky, in my view, Nic White will lead the team.
The Rebels come into this fixture off the back of the galling loss the Reds. That was a game where the Rebels were on top for a large portion of the game but ran out of gas in the last 20 minutes. The lose there 8, 9 and 10 for this fixture to a mix of injury and Wallabies selection and, frankly, that leaves a massive hole for them to fill.
This is a must win game for the Brumbies if ever there was one. A loss here will put them on equal terms with the Reds and facing the real prospect of a one game “play off” in the last round to see who takes the top spot in the Australian conference. That has all of the hallmarks of last year for the Brumbies so they will want to lock up their finals spot this weekend.
I think that fact will be a significant enough driver for them to repel the plucky Rebels and I expect them to run away with the game and grab a bonus point here.
Prediction: Brumbies by 18
Western Force v Waratahs
Again this is the second meeting between their two franchises this season with the first game going to the Waratahs at home by four points. The Force have a poor overall record against the Waratahs but, frankly, that could be said of every team they face in the competition. A more interesting statistic though is that the Force have never bested the Waratahs at home in 5 outings.
The Force enter this fixture having played a mid week fixture against the British and Irish Lions in which they were thrashed 69-17. Tipsters should read nothing into that result given the decidedly second string line-up the Force ran out in that game. Given their poor form this season to date they have a limited level of selection in the Wallabies team and thus I expect them to name a nearly full strength team here.
Conversely, the Waratahs have been forced, by they inexplicably high level of Wallabies selections despite obvious deficiencies in form, to call a number of fringe players and players from the Sydney grade rugby competition to fill their jerseys for this game. In total they have 10 players on Wallabies duty as well as 6 regulars out injured so this fixture presents a massive challenge for the men from Sydney.
If the Force were ever going to break their duck at home against the Waratahs Sunday is the day that they will do it. Their full strength line up against the Sydney Club XV should be successful in this fixture in my view and I am tipping them to win well.
Prediction: Force by 14