Crusaders v Force
Two teams that returned to winning ways in round 15 do battle this weekend as the Force travel to Christchurch. The Crusaders snuck past the Highlanders last weekend in what was a classic New Zealand derby, while the Force dispatched the Lions without too much trouble. The men from Perth have a decent record against the Crusaders historically, but have never beaten them in Christchurch. The home side should win this one reasonably comfortably. Crusaders by 9.
Reds v Highlanders
There’s very little for the Reds left to play for, other than pride. This weekend they face a Highlanders side that will be smarting from not quite completing what would have been an epic comeback against the Crusaders. They still grabbed two log points, however, which keeps them firmly in the hunt for a play-off spot. The Queenslanders haven’t lost this fixture since 2009, but I’d expect that to change this weekend. Highlanders by 5.
Chiefs v Waratahs
This is a tough one to call. The Waratahs have roared back into form with three bonus point wins on the bounce, while the Chiefs have, incredibly, only won three of their last nine games – hardly champion form. That said, they’ve only lost once at home this season and know how important a win is in the New Zealand conference – comfortably the tightest of the three – especially after the humbling they received at the hands of the Hurricanes last weekend. Aaron Cruden should return, which just swings the pendulum in the hosts’ favour for me. Chiefs by 2.
Blues v Hurricanes
The Hurricanes comfortably won the reverse of this fixture earlier in the season, and bring much better form into this one having completely dismantled reigning champions the Chiefs last weekend. The Blues lost their first home game of the season to the all-conquering Sharks, and that will have knocked their confidence going into this one. They are realistically out of the running for the play-offs now, and given the same cannot be said of their visitors this weekend, I think they have the edge. Hurricanes by 3.
Brumbies v Rebels
The Rebels stunned everyone with a win against the Brumbies earlier this season – just 3% of the SuperBru community picked it – so will hold no fears coming into this one. The Brumbies return home after a bruising two game tour to South Africa, from which they took a single point. They will be happy to be back on home turf and should make it count against the Rebels. Brumbies by 15.
Lions v Bulls
The Lions finally return home after a gruelling five game tour from which they took just two points. Having had considerable success at Ellis Park earlier in the season, they will be glad to be back at their home ground. The Bulls impressed against the Brumbies last weekend, racking up just their second bonus point win. They are a different side away from Loftus Versfeld, however, so this could well end up being a close game. I’m still backing the away side, though. Bulls by 5.
Sharks v Stormers
Both of these sides were hugely impressive last weekend, the Sharks in condemning the Blues to their first home defeat of the season and the Stormers in crushing the Cheetahs and keeping them scoreless – an always admirable achievement. Recent history between the two sides is fairly even, but the Stormers have not won in Durban since 2011 – that’s not likely to change this weekend as the Sharks look to consolidate their stranglehold on the top of the log. Sharks by 6.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43