Blues v Waratahs
The Blues have been so Jekyll and Hyde this season it’s incredibly difficult to pick their games. At home, however, they are yet to lose, which throws a spanner in the works. The Waratahs have cooled somewhat since their insatiable early season form, but recorded an important, if not stylish, win over the Bulls in the last round. In many ways this is the most difficult one to call this weekend, and even though it would be an upset, I think the Blues, back in Auckland, could catch the Waratahs out. Blues by 5.
Brumbies v Chiefs
The Chiefs came unstuck against the Crusaders last weekend, and to be honest, it wasn’t before time. They wobbled on tour and at home to the Rebels, and look a different side without Aaron Cruden. The Brumbies, meanwhile, are going about their business with quiet efficiency. Last week’s bye came on the back of six wins in eight games, which leaves them on equal points with their opponents this weekend. Against a Cruden-less Chiefs, and back in Canberra, the Brumbies should triumph in this one. Brumbies by 8.
Sharks v Highlanders
The Sharks sit top of the log and while the quality of rugby they have been playing in recent weeks seems to have dropped a bit, they are still winning. They have won ugly against South African franchises in the last few rounds, but against the more free-flowing game of the Highlanders they will likely have to play a bit more rugby. The visitors, for their part, are in decent form but have not won away from home yet this year – a stat that is unlikely to change at King’s Park. Sharks by 15.
Hurricanes v Reds
It’s all gone a bit pear-shaped for the Reds. One win in their last five, against the even further under par Stormers, has seen them slip to second bottom in the Australian confidence. Quade Cooper has, for some reason, reigned himself in a bit, but the Reds will need him to open his game up a bit against the sublime attack of the Hurricanes and their conductor, Beauden Barrett. With Alapati Leiua and Julian Savea in insatiable form outside him, this could be another high scoring thriller in Wellington. Hurricanes by 10.
Force v Bulls
The Bulls still show no sign of being able to win away from Loftus, going down to the Waratahs last weekend, although they have registered losing bonus points in their last three. It has been a long tour for them, and had the Force have won last weekend I wouldn’t have given them a chance in this one. However, their gravy train came to a halt against the Rebels in Round 10, so an element of doubt could creep into their psyche. That said, in front of their fervent fans I’d back them to win against the Bulls who just can’t seem to work it out on the road. Force by 3.
Cheetahs v Stormers
This is unlikely to be a classic. Although the Cheetahs do like to score points, their opponents are incredibly try averse, and most South African derbies this season have been dull affairs. These two sit bottom of the log and have three wins between them, so there is little more than pride on the line here. The Stormers finally bagged a win last weekend and will bring the confidence from that into this one, but then the Cheetahs also played well in a far tougher fixture against the Sharks. Both sides’ abysmal season thus far makes it a tough one to call, but home advantage could just swing it. Cheetahs by 3.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43