With (hopefully) fewer tight games and therefore less scope to be tripped up, this weekend it could all come down to margin points to decide who goes shooting up the leaderboards and whose dreams of a yellow cap are extinguished.
Crusaders v Waratahs
Both these teams lost last weekend, and are similarly placed in the table with just three points separating them. The Waratahs, according to captain Dave Dennis, ‘didn’t have the right attitude’ as they went down to the Rebels, while the Crusaders lost far more understandably at log leaders the Chiefs. The Crusaders sit just inside the play-off spots at the moment, while the Waratahs know they need to get back to winning if they are to usurp the Reds or the Brumbies in the Aussie conference.
The Crusaders will return to winning ways in Christchurch.
Prediction: Crusaders by 8
Brumbies v Hurricanes
After a poor few weeks, the Brumbies roared back into form with an impressive win away at the Blues in round 15. Their performance was a clinical one, including a superb solo score from scrum-half Nic White and some deadeye kicking from Christian Lealiifano. The Hurricanes had a bye, but have been slipping down the log of late with losses to the Stormers, Bulls and Chiefs interspersed with a few sporadic wins over the likes of the Force.
The boys from Canberra, back on home soil, will look to consolidate last weekend’s win and take a step closer to topping the Australian log.
Prediction: Brumbies by 10
Highlanders v Blues
The Blues might be falling down the log, but with the Crusaders also failing to win last weekend they are equal on points with them and will still harbour strong aspirations of making the play-offs. The Highlanders have been in freefall all season, and last round’s game against fellow strugglers the Force represented the perfect opportunity to at least haul themselves off the foot of the log and lend some speck of respectability to their year. As it is, they narrowly lost out and are now six points adrift of the Force – who just so happen to have a bye this weekend. Lose this one and they are almost guaranteed bottom spot.
Sadly that is what is likely to happen as the Blues, chasing that play-off spot, have far more to play for and will simply want it more.
Prediction: Blues by 10
Reds v Rebels
Few would have expected the Rebels to be the form team coming into this one, but having won their last two games, and the Reds having lost theirs, that is precisely the case. With the Waratahs in decent form and sniffing a play-off spot, the home team here know they can’t afford to slip up against a Rebels team who shocked many with their impressive win over the men from New South Wales last round. Horwill has described this as ‘must-win’ for the club, and that is bang on the money. The Rebels, meanwhile, know they have nothing to lose, which could make it closer than expected.
The Reds will return to winning ways, but perhaps not by the margin many would have predicted earlier in the season.
Prediction: Reds by 7
Stormers v Southern Kings
Could they do it? The Stormers know they basically need to win every game from here on in to make the play-offs, but they certainly started to head in the right direction last weekend with a solid win over the Reds, a team who had had some success at Newlands in the past. With several home games still to come, they will back themselves even if few others will. The Kings have had an up and down season but can undoubtedly be proud of what they have achieved so far, including not being swept away last weekend against the hitherto impressive Cheetahs.
The Stormers should record a comfortable home victory and will look to chase a coveted bonus point, of which they have just one this season.
Prediction: Stormers by 20
Cheetahs v Bulls
This – the final game of the weekend – is the one that is most likely to decide your GSP. Both teams are in fantastic form, with just one loss between them since round 9, and are deservedly leading the way in the South African conference. The Cheetahs recorded an all-important bonus point away at the Kings in round 15, while the Bulls ground out a kick-fest of a win over the Sharks in Durban. With the Cheetahs likely to provide a sterner test, however, they may well need more than the boot of Morné Steyn to get them through this one. The Cheetahs have also never beaten the Bulls in Super Rugby, a fact that is likely to play on their mind.
The Cheetahs are a great team to watch but the Bulls are looking too clinical at the moment. It will be terrifically tight.
Prediction: Bulls by 2