Chiefs v Hurricanes
The Chiefs, almost unbelievably, have slipped to the bottom of the New Zealand rankings after last weekend’s loss to the Highlanders. They know a defeat here would all but end the defence of their title, while the Hurricanes come into this buoyed by their impressive win over the Crusaders last weekend. It’s their last chance to score points with a bye still to come, so it’s must win for them too. All of which makes this almost impossible to call – as if kiwi derbies haven’t been unpredictable enough yet this season. The Hurricanes’ away form has been patchy, but they pumped the Chiefs a few weeks ago, and I think that’ll be enough to see them through here – just. Hurricanes by 3.
Lions v Rebels
There’s not been a great deal to shout about for either of these sides this season. The Rebels capitulated fairly poorly against the Reds last week and look ready for the end of the season – the Lions will be rusty having not had a game for over a month. Ellis Park is not an easy place to travel to, so home advantage should do the trick here. Lions by 10.
Crusaders v Blues
Before last weekend this looked an easy one to pick – now, not so much. The Blues brought their awful away form to an emphatic end as they brutalised the Force in Perth, while the Crusaders looked toothless as they failed to score a try in going down to the Hurricanes. The home side’s fate is in their own hands, with the visit of the Highlanders to follow, and a win here would all but confirm their play-off spot ahead of time. The Blues will put up a stern challenge, but I’d expect this to be the end of the road for their knockout hopes. Crusaders by 7.
Force v Reds
The Force came crashing down to earth last weekend as they were demolished by the Blues at home, while the Reds seem to play to a considerably higher standard when neither of their biggest names – Genia and Cooper – are playing. Go figure. Form says the Reds should win this one, and comfortably, but with the Force’s play-off hopes hanging by a thread I expect to see them bounce back this weekend with a win. Force by 5.
Stormers v Bulls
It’s tough to predict form coming back from an international break, but before it the Stormers had begun to turn their season around somewhat, having won four of their last five games. The Bulls haven’t won away from home yet this season, but they did beat the Stormers by 16 in the return fixture this season, so will bring confidence into the game from that. That said, in Cape Town, the home side have the edge. Stormers by 6.
Cheetahs v Sharks
It’s not all been going the Sharks’ way in recent rounds, but they’re still comfortably clear at the top of the South African conference and guaranteed a play-off place. The Cheetahs have had a season to forget and have been hit with more bad news this week after captain and talisman Adriaan Strauss confirmed he would be leaving for the Bulls next season. They’re not in a good place, and even Willie le Roux’s never-ending brilliance won’t get them a win here. Sharks by 12.
Waratahs v Highlanders
The scoreline may have flattered the Waratahs against the Brumbies last weekend, but there’s still no doubt that they were highly impressive on their way to their seventh bonus point win of the season. The Highlanders also impressed in their win over the Chiefs, but in a different way, with their last ditch defence securing a win that keeps them very much in the hunt for a knockout spot. They’ve got to travel to the Crusaders after this too, so they know a win here would be invaluable – but I just can’t see it happening, the way the hosts are playing. Waratahs by 10.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43