After a fascinating opening weekend of Super Rugby, here are the predictions for Week Two:
We start on Friday back in Waikato with the Chiefs taking on the Blues, both smarting from their narrow defeats last weekend at home to Kiwi opposition. For the home side there will be no Brendan Leonard who is out for 10 weeks with a torn hamstring. His influence on last Saturday’s game was telling, with the Highlanders coming back after he departed. They also lost two props from their weak pack for a minimum of six weeks in Toby Smith and Ben Afeaki, so expect the Blues to win this up front.
Prediction: Blues by 6-8
Over to Melbourne, where the Rebels play their first game of the season against the wounded Waratahs. They will be without star signing Kurtley Beale but otherwise are at full strength, whereas the Waratahs will miss Rocky Elsom, Drew Mitchell and Berrick Barnes, not to mention Lachie Turner who is gone for the season. A shock therefore could be on the cards dependent on how well the Rebels pack fronts up, so back the home side for a surprise.
Prediction: Rebels by 3
Next up the touring Hurricanes head north from Cape Town to Johannesburg to take on the Lions. The Wellington outfit showed some spirit coming back from 23-9 down last weekend but were hammered upfront, so expect the same again from a Josh Strauss-led pack at Ellis Park.
Prediction: Lions by 7
Saturday starts in Otago, with the Highlanders running out at their new Forsyth Barr Stadium for the first time this season against last year’s finalists the Crusaders. Picking a winner here isn’t easy. Colin Slade is not expected to take part against his old side after recovering from his groin injury from World Cup, whilst a number of others are still out including Jarrad Hoeata and Kade Poki. That should make the Crusaders favourites, but the Highlanders have a lot of spirit.
Prediction: Crusaders by 5
The following match in Brisbane sees the Reds take on the Force. This should be a lot simpler, confidence on a high in the Reds camp after last week’s smash and grab in Sydney.
Prediction: Reds by 15
The Bulls then travel to the Cheetahs in the first South African derby of the weekend. The 2010 champions will be without star signing Johann Sadie for three weeks, but Morné Steyn’s boot was dead on last week and could prove the difference in Bloemfontein. His duel with Johan Goosen though will be special, with the youngster impressing with his kicking last week against the Lions.
Prediction: Bulls by 6
Finally to Cape Town, where the Stormers face the Sharks in the second South African derby of the weekend. As previously mentioned the home side will be missing their captain Burger but could have Peter Grant back from the bench. The Sharks have injury concerns of their own with Ryan Kankowski and Beast Mtawarira both ruled out, but after the disappointment of last weekend, will keen to make amends. It will come down the battle upfront, so the Stormers might edge it.
Prediction: Stormers by 3
by Ben Coles
This article was also published on Sport24.