The Super Rugby juggernaut rolls on but the SuperBru picks remain as hard to call as ever. Here are our picks for Round 9:
We begin this week on Friday morning in Dunedin, with the Highlanders looking to get back to winning ways against the suffering Blues. The home side’s first loss at the Forsyth Barr Stadium this season came against the Stormers back in Round 7, which given their bye week in Round 8 means that the Highlanders have now dropped out of the top three spots on the log. Injuries have caused them to bring in Mike Delany and Hale T-Pole as cover, which is essential given Colin Slade is out for the season.
The Blues though are facing worse problems. Pat Lam’s team threw the game away last weekend by conceding two soft tries early on against the Sharks. Although they rallied to finish within six points, their confidence is at a real low. With that, it’s difficult given their current problems to see them picking up an away victory. Highlanders by 8.
Next on Friday we’re in Brisbane to see the Reds take on the Stormers. A nightmare four weeks for the champions came to an end with victory over the Brumbies in Round 7, so now having had an extra week to get their walking wounded fit again they will be in better shape. Mike Harris returns at inside centre, whilst Jean de Villiers and Andries Bekker are out for the visitors. That said, a home win seems unlikely. Stormers by 5.
First up on Saturday we have a New Zealand derby in Wellington with the Hurricanes taking on the Crusaders. Tom Taylor was outstanding with his haul of 31 points for the visitors last week over the Stormers, so the battle between him and Beauden Barrett should be a cracker. Crusaders by 7.
The Waratahs then host the Melbourne Rebels in Sydney looking to follow up their win over the Western Force. Some of the tackling from the Rebels last weekend was unacceptable, so if they play like that again away to the Tahs, this could be a heavy scoreline. Waratahs by 12.
Next we cross the Pacific to see the Sharks finally return home from tour to face the table-topping Chiefs. It feels as though the Sharks have been away forever, but this won’t be an easy homecoming against the league’s form side. John Plumtree has spoken this week about his team needing to put in an excellent all-round performance, but this might prove beyond them. Chiefs by 6.
Last but not least we travel north to Pretoria, where the Bulls host Jake White’s Brumbies. The comforts of playing at home have played a big part in the Australian side’s rise up the log, but travelling to South Africa is the true test of a great team and after the hammering the Reds received here earlier in the season, they will be wary. Bulls by 9.
That’s all for this week, best of luck with all your SuperBru picks and see you ahead of Round 10.
by Ben Coles