Hurricanes vs Highlanders
This is a repeat of last season’s final, which the Highlanders won to most people’s surprise. Both sides should be fresh after a week off, and the battle between Naholo and Savea on the wing should be worth the entry fee alone. For me Landers have stronger backs and better defence , Ill go with Landers by 3.
Waratahs vs Chiefs
Tags haven’t had a strong run at home, losing to Rebels and Brumbies . They haven’t beaten a New Zealand side this season, having previously been denied by the Highlanders at home. The Chiefs returned to winning ways with a second-gear victory over the Rebels. They’ll need to step it up this weekend in Sydney.The Chiefs are a much more complete side now than they were then. Chiefs by 2.
Kings vs Jaguares
The Jaguares’ miserable performances have been one of the great disappointments of this season. Their most recent ignominy came in the form of a 50 point drubbing by the Lions. The perfect tonic, however, is a game against the Kings, whom themselves lost by 53 points last week. The Jaguares put 73 points past the Kings in the Buenos Aires leg of this fixture, and while it won’t be the same margin, I still expect them to win in Port Elizabeth. Jaguares by 12.
Blues vs Crusaders
The Blues may sit bottom of the Kiwi conference, but they have won five of their last seven matches. They won’t roll over for the Crusaders, especially at home where they have lost just once this season. The Saders though have made mincemeat of many a side this season, especially those that cannot match them up front – as the Blues will undoubtedly struggle to do.
Crusaders by 6.
Brumbies vs Sunwolves
The Sunwolves battled valiantly against the Reds, and scored some wonder tries in their 10 point loss. They are improving as the season goes on, but this will be another match that is beyond their capabilities for now. The Brumbies have injury issues – particularly in the backs – but those that are fit will be sufficiently rested from a bye week to blow the newbies away in Canberra.
Brumbies by 25.
Stormers vs Cheetahs
The Stormers have slipped to fourth on the South African log and as it stands, would miss out on knockout rugby. Given the start they made to the season, this would not be acceptable to them, but one win in their last four has derailed their campaign somewhat. The Cheetahs have only beaten the Kings and the Sunwolves this season, and haven’t won at Newlands since 2006. The home side should get things back on track this weekend. Stormers by 18.
Bulls vs Lions
This is certainly up there with your most difficult picks this weekend. The Bulls lost all the statistical duels against the Stormers last weekend, yet proved to be much more clinical when opportunities popped up. The Lions have played much the better rugby this season, but they themselves have squandered many chances against the bigger teams. Their record at Loftus makes for dire reading – they have not won there since 2002. That said, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that their more exciting brand of rugby can get them over the line this weekend. Lions by 5.
Rebels vs Force
The weekend ends with an Aussie derby on Sunday morning between two of the bottom three sides in the Australasian conference. Of the two, the Rebels have looked far the more convincing this season, and given that they are at home, it’s difficult to see anything other than a reasonably convincing win for the men from Melbourne. Rebels by 12.