Blues v Reds
There seems to be no such thing as a simple pick this season in Super Rugby, but but if there were this would probably be it. The Blues are unbeaten at home and vanquished the Waratahs, who have impressed more than the Reds, last week, while this week’s visitors haven’t won in their last three and haven’t been victorious on their travels since round two. Of course the way this season is going that all probably adds up to a Reds win. You’re a brave person if you pick it, though. Blues by 12.
Rebels v Sharks
Last week’s shock capitulation against the Highlanders from the Sharks has made this one a bit more tricky to pick. Before that they looked comfortable at the top of the log, and while they still sit there the manner in which they were outplayed by the men from Otago has seen their aura dimmed a bit. The Rebels, meanwhile, are coming off a bye, but before that had brought the Force’s winning run to an end, while also remaining competitive on tough trips to the Chiefs and Highlanders. It’s the Sharks’ first game of a difficult-looking tour, and after last week’s defeat they’ll be gunning to start it well. They should have enough to dispatch the Rebels. Sharks by 5.
Crusaders v Brumbies
This game sees two of the form sides come together, having both won their last three. And strangely enough, they both beat the defending champions in their last games – so confidence will not be lacking in either camp. It’s a difficult one to call – the Brumbies’ away form has been good and the Crusaders’ home form has been poor, but the hosts are starting to show their usual mid-season surge in form. Even so, the Brumbies are in insatiable form and destroyed the Chiefs last weekend – play like that again, and they will have too much for the Crusaders. Brumbies by 2.
Chiefs v Lions
The defending champions are in a bit of a crisis – shorn of their pivot Aaron Cruden through injury, they have looked somewhat rudderless in recent weeks. They’ve just one win in their last six, although that does include two 3-point draws. The Lions have lost their last three, with all margins being in double figures – that doesn’t bode well for them in this one as they begin the start of a gruelling tour. The Chiefs should get back to winning ways in this one, and comprehensively so. Chiefs by 20.
Waratahs v Hurricanes
These two have had reasonably contrasting seasons so far – the Waratahs started at break-neck speed with three bonus point wins from their first four games, before trailing off in recent weeks, while the Hurricanes were hit and miss early on but have won their last four, with three bonus points. So the form is with the Hurricanes, but home advantage is with the Waratahs – which is more important? That’s for you to decide, but with the Israel Folau factor thrown into the mix too, I’m backing a home win. Waratahs by 3.
Stormers v Highlanders
The Stormers have had a torrid season and sit bottom of the overall log. Their only saving grace is that they haven’t spent much time playing at Newlands, but with five of their last seven there, an upturn in form is not out of the question. That said, the Sharks did them no favours last weekend in losing to the Highlanders, who will arrive with the confidence taken from beating the log leaders on their own turf. They seem a happy bunch and in Malakai Fekitoa they have a genuine match-winner, while Lima Sopoaga and Shane Christie have also performed beyond all expectations. Another win for the visitors as they chase a play-off spot, for me. Highlanders by 9.
Bulls v Cheetahs
Oh how delighted the Bulls will be to be back at Loftus Versfeld. Away from their fortress at altitude they haven’t won a game this season, while at home they are yet to lose. The Cheetahs impressed in their bonus point win over the Stormers last weekend, with the influence of the returning Heinrich Brussouw not lost on anyone. With Willie le Roux also in excellent form, they stand a good chance, but the home team are desperate for a win and back in their familiar surroundings, I think they’ll get it. Bulls by 6.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43