It’s the final round of the regular Super Rugby season this weekend, and it always makes predictions tricky. Some teams are fighting to make the playoffs, others are just playing for pride, and there’s a chance that the rest won’t care that much.
First up is the Blues v Highlanders. The Blues have had a dreadful run of late, with defeats to Reds, Stormers, Chiefs and Crusaders in the last five rounds – and the other round was a bye. The Highlanders haven’t been much better though, so I’m backing a home win.
The Rebels v Force is a battle of Australian underperformers, and any prediction is a lottery at this stage of the season. I was going to go for a home win for the Melbourne side as they look to end their inaugural season on a high, but the Force have been playing reasonably over the last few weeks and deserved to beat the Reds. David Pocock to carry his side to victory.
In the Chiefs v Reds match, the home side cannot qualify, but they’d still love to topple the Queenslanders. The wheels have been coming off for the Reds a little recently, and they’ll be more focused on the weeks to follow, so I’m predicting a victory for the Chiefs
I can see relatively comfortable wins for the Crusaders and the Waratahs over the Hurricanes and Brumbies respectively, and then we’re left with two South African derbies.
At Loftus Versfeld, it’s difficult to pick against the Bulls, particularly when a home defeat would probably mean the end of the season. The Sharks are also gunning for the playoffs though, and it looks like a winner-takes-all encounter – I’m edging towards the Bulls with home advantage.
Finally, I can see the Cheetahs beating the Stormers, who have a tendency to go missing when the pressure mounts. A defeat would see them drop out of the top two, giving them an extra game to contend (teams 3rd to 6th play each other in a sort of quarter-final, before the winners take on the top two teams). It won’t be a popular pick, but I’m going for a Cheetahs win.
Here are my Super Rugby predictions for Round 18, and alongside is how that will leave the table:
Blues v Highlanders: Blues by 8
Rebels v Force: Force by 9
Chiefs v Reds: Chiefs by 6
Crusaders v Hurricanes: Crusaders by 13
Waratahs v Brumbies: Waratahs by 10
Bulls v Sharks: Bulls by 7
Cheetahs v Stormers: Cheetahs by 5