Blues v Chiefs
It’s been a hugely difficult season for making SuperBru picks, and it doesn’t get any easier at the beginning of the final round of regular fixtures. Just four points separate the Blues and the Chiefs, with both sides needing a win to confirm a place in the play-offs. The Blues know they probably need a bonus point, too, so expect it to be fairly open from quite early on. The Chiefs have the better of the recent history between these two, having not lost since 2011, but the Blues have lost only once in Auckland this season. All of which means it’s pretty much even. Got a coin handy? Flip it. Chiefs by 2.
Brumbies v Force
The Force have been one of the biggest success stories of the season, and led (off the field, at least) by the effervescent Nick ‘Honey Badger’ Cummins they’re a tough team not to like. Their performances have been strong, too, and this is essentially a straight shootout for second place on the Australian log and spot in the play-offs. The Brumbies’ form has been patchy at best recently, smashing the Rebels but getting trounced themselves by the Waratahs and the Bulls. The difference? That Rebels game was in Canberra, where they have not lost since their opening game. That’ll be enough to see them past a resilient Force side. Brumbies by 5.
Bulls v Rebels
Comfortably the easiest game to call of the weekend. The Rebels seemed to switch to holiday at the end of round 14 – the date of their last win, way back in the middle of May. The Bulls are unbeaten at home, and despite being out of the running for a play-off place, will want to sign off in style in front of their home fans. Expect a rout. Bulls by 25.
Crusaders v Highlanders
Another intriguing all-New Zealand match up. The Crusaders are safe, but will be desperate for a home spot in the play-offs, whichever stage that might be. The Highlanders’ position is less clear-cut – they could make the knockouts even if they lose, but they won’t want to leave that in other sides’ hands, and will be gunning for the victory that would guarantee them that, and, potentially, a home tie. The Crusaders’ home form is good, although they made hard work of it against the Blues last week, and won the reverse of this fixture a few weeks ago. The home side holds the advantage. Crusaders by 6.
Reds v Waratahs
This is difficult to call without seeing the team-sheets, as there is every chance the Waratahs will decide to rest some players, given that they are already guaranteed to top the overall log (an impressive feat with one round still to play). The Reds have had a mini-upturn in fortunes in recent weeks, halting a run of six straight defeats with bonus point wins over the Highlanders and Rebels before returning to losing ways against the Force. The Waratahs may rest players but their whole squad is on such a high that I’d expect them to win this one regardless. Waratahs by 5.
Lions v Cheetahs
The Cheetahs shocked us all last weekend with their win over the Sharks, while the Lions have been doing just that all season – winning when no-one gave them a chance. Given that there will be no relegation/promotion play-off in the South African conference for the 2015 season, there is little to play for other than pride in this one, but there’s still plenty of that on the line, and after an impressive season back in the big time, the Lions will be looking to go out with a bang in front of their home fans. Lions by 3.
Stormers v Sharks
What a game to round off the weekend. The two side’s form charts couldn’t be more different – the Stormers have returned home from a gruelling tour schedule to win four on the bounce in South Africa, including a shock away win against this weekend’s opponents in Durban back in May. The Sharks do not look like the same side that set such an impressive early pace in the tournament, and while they are guaranteed a spot in the play-offs – something that is beyond the Stormers – they need a win to guarantee a home tie and potentially a top two spot. That should be motivation enough, and I think they’ll upset the odds and come out on top against a resurgent Stormers. Sharks by 2.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43