Another truncated preview this week as your correspondent is travelling away from home and has not had the usual amount of time to produce this post this week. Apologies in advance for those of you awaiting the normal “full” preview: normal service will resume tomorrow.
Chiefs v Blues, Taranaki
The first match of the round coms from the unfamiliar territory of Yarrow Stadium, Taranaki. This season the Chiefs have been strong in their home games having won 4 of 5 games where they have been the home team. Conversely the Blues have been horrid away from home and have yet to open their account in five attempts away from Auckland. Indeed, the Blues have not won an away game since February 2013. I do not expect that trend to end in this game and am tipping the Chiefs to win in what will I predict to be hard fought encounter.
Prediction: Chiefs by 8
Rebels v Hurricanes, Melbourne
The second Friday night match of the round comes from Melbourne with the Hurricanes travelling to face the Rebels. Given the short time that Rebels have been in the competition there is no significant form line between the two teams. The Rebels have been solid at home this season winning 3 from 5 in their friendly confines. The Hurricanes were the form team of Super Rugby before last week’s loss to the Waratahs. I think this is the most complete Hurricanes team we have seen for a number of season and I expect them to have too much class for the Rebels.
Prediction: Hurricanes by 7
Highlanders v Lions, Dunedin
The first Saturday game of Round 13 pits the travelling Lions against the Highlanders who are returning home from South Africa. The Highlanders have dominated encounters between these teams in Dunedin in the past and with the Lions patchy away record this season, despite having their best season in Super Rugby in some time, I cannot see them losing here. Obviously a big question mark will be whether they areeffected by travel however off the back of a great African tour for them you would expect them to be up for this.
Prediction: Highlander by 14
Brumbies v Sharks, Canberra
Are we witnessing a prelude to the Grand Final in this Round 13 encounter between the Australian Conference leading Brumbies and overall leader of the competition in the Sharks? It is a game that certainly has that feel about it and the Brumbies must go into this fixture confident of a win given that Sharks were not all that impressive in defeating the Rebels last week and have not won in Canberra since 1998. The Brumbies have not lost at home since Round 1 and got a massive wake up call last week and that makes me lean towards them in what presents as a cracking and close game.
Prediction: Brumbies by 4
Cheetahs v Force, Bloemfontein
The Force are having their best season ever in Super Rugby and now travel to South Africa to face this perennially tough leg of Super Rugby competition. They open proceedings on tour against the very disappointing, so far, Cheetahs. This looks a simple game on paper: the Force are in piping hot form and the Cheetahs will likely receive the South African conference wooden spoon. The only concern I have is whether the Force’s traditional struggles away from home will surface. That makes this one a flip of the coin for me but I am going to back the Force, albeit with little confidence!
Prediction: Force by 6
Bulls v Stormers, Pretoria
This game is probably the easiest one of the round to tip. TheStormers, last week’s win notwithstanding, have been very ordinary this year and are replete for this game with a number of few players on debut. The Bulls are undefeated at home and have done very little tinkering to their squad, which bested the Cheetahs last week. This is a bonus point win for the Bulls for mine. Get on them and then go and get in the collect queue!
Prediction: Bulls by 17
Reds v Crusaders, Brisbane
Sunday football at Lang Park = a traditionalists dream and that is what we have this weekend to round out Round 13 with the Reds hosting the Crusaders. On paper this really ought be a simple game to tip: the Crusaders, again, are flying home with a wet sail and are in the midst of a 4 game winning streak whilst the Reds, now further injury decimated, have lost 4 in a row and lost them pretty badly of late. Sad to say it but form does not lie and whilst I want to believe the Reds can win (and my heart says they can) I just cannot tip them here.
Prediction: Crusaders by 10