SportGuru fans, last week went almost according to plan apart from one major surprise in Christchurch where the Hurricanes went completely off script against the Crusaders by snatching a one point victory.
Moving on to Round 18, the Chiefs are the only side who have already qualified for the playoffs, leaving six more still in with a chance of making it to the next round. Here is all the advice you need for your SportGuru picks:
The Hurricanes are the only side not in action this weekend, giving the Crusaders the chance to edge clear from them in 2nd spot of the New Zealand Conference. The only problem is, they face the Chiefs, who with 12 wins out of 14 are high on confidence and also playing at home. Israel Dagg and Kieran Read look set to return for the Saders but Dan Carter will not, leaving Tom Taylor under pressure to pull the strings. Home win. Chiefs by 6
That game is followed on Friday by two sides desperate to secure Wildcard spots in the Reds and the Highlanders. Returning to Suncorp should weigh in the Reds favour and they have found their groove again, even if Quade Cooper is not quite firing on all cylinders yet. This will be a huge challenge though against a resurgent Highlanders outfit despite home advantage. Reds by 3
Finally on Friday, the Sharks host the Bulls in a must-win clash for both sides. A win could see the Sharks move back into the Wildcard spots depending on other results, whilst the Bulls are just four points behind the Stormers at the top of the South African Conference. Another close one. Bulls by 5
Saturday starts in Auckland with the Blues still looking for only their 3rd win of the season against the Western Force, who have only won three times themselves and will be without talismanic captain David Pocock. Pat Lam’s side went close in their last outing against the Chiefs, going down 34-41, so this could be their week. Blues by 8
Next up are the Waratahs against the Brumbies in Sydney. It has been a truly miserable season for Michael Foley’s side, with only four wins out of 14 seeing them finish nowhere near the Wildcard spots. With only pride to play for and a look ahead to next season by going for a new half-back combination in debutant Grayson Hart and Bernard Foley, the in-form Brumbies are on a march to secure their playoffs spot and could do so this weekend. Brumbies by 9
Back in South Africa, the Lions then host the Rebels in Johannesburg looking to capitalise on the positive aspects of their match against the Stormers last weekend. The Rebels arrive in town without star duo James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale, heavily tipping the odds in the home side’s favour. Is this their week? Lions by 5
Last but not least, the Cheetahs are at home against the Stormers. Coming back from 40-0 down to pick up a try bonus point is no mean feat, but the defence was too poor in the first half. The Stormers might not have racked up as many tries as the Bulls this year but their defence has been resolute. Despite the significant injuries to their back row, they should be able to keep the Cheetahs out. Stormers by 6
That’s all for this week, good luck with your SportGuru picks and see you ahead of Round 18.
by Ben Coles