Apologies to regular follows of this preview: I am away on holidays at the moment and thus have not had as much time to assess the games this weekend. What follows are my general views of the games for this weekend. Enjoy the rugby this weekend: I know I will be!
Blues v Waratahs
The first match of round 11 comes from Eden Park with the Blues hosting the Waratahs. The Blues were smashed by the Hurricanes last week away and have had the drama of Benji Marshall’s departure to deal with. The Waratahs ground out a win against the travelling Bulls as they welcomed back to their team Israel Folau. The Tahs look like they have more class across the ground and I can not see them being bested here.
Prediction: Waratahs by 8
Brumbies v Chiefs
The second game this ANZAC day is a rematch of last sessions grand final with the Brumbies hosting the Chiefs. The Chiefs have not been in the best of form of late and lost last week to the Crusaders. They are persisting with their rotation policy in this game and have made 6 changes. The Brumbies had a bye last week and love nothing more than playing at home. I am tipping the Brumbies to retain their place at the top of the Australian Conference with a win here.
Prediction: Brumbies by 6
Sharks v Highlanders
The Sharks host the Highlanders in a rare African Friday night game to round out the ANZAC day triple header. The Highlanders have improved significantly since last season and have the benefit of the bye last week albeit they are on the road which is rarely a positive for them. The Sharks are the team many are continuing to tip to win the whole competition and whilst their win last week was not pretty they, again, got the job. The Sharks will be too good in this game.
Prediction: Sharks by 17
Hurricanes v Reds
Saturday afternoon rugby comes from Westpac Stadium with the Hurricanes hosting the Reds. The ‘Canes ought be confident coming into this game having won their last 3 fixtures after a patchy start to the season. The Reds have lost some close games of late but one could not say that they have been playing high quality rugby deserving of victory by the same token. The Reds have to win this game to have any chance to make the finals and the Hurricanes are due a loss: that being said, I have to concede there is more than a bit of my heart defeating my head in tipping the Reds in an upset.
Prediction: Reds by 8
Force v Bulls
The story of the year, regardless of what happens from here, has been the force of the Western Force whose record setting winning streak was broken in a shock result against the Rebels. Before that they were unbeatable against some of the best teams in the competition. They host the Bulls here who have had a rough tour both results and injury wise but who were very impressive last week in defeat to the Waratahs. I can not tip away from the Force at home in this game given the Bulls’ travelling form.
Prediction: Force by 6
Cheetahs v Stormers
The final match of the round pits two of the more disappointing teams this season against each other. Neither the Cheetahs nor the Stormers have done much to impress this season. The Stormers broke a long losing streak last week against the Lions whilst the Cheetahs have not won since Round 2. The Stormers have a great record against the Cheetahs and I am tipping them to leave Bloemfontein with the points.
Prediction: Stormers by 4
Bye: Crusaders, Lions, Rebels