With the regular season over and only six teams left with a chance of winning the title, it’s time for the Qualifiers. With the two games likely to be mightily close, where will this week’s customary upset come from?
Crusaders v Reds
The Reds have not lost a game this season to a franchise from across the Tasman – but then they have not played the Crusaders this term. The men from Christchurch could be handed a huge boost with the inclusion of talisman and legend Richie McCaw, most likely from the bench. The Reds are likely to be able to welcome back Wallaby stalwarts James Horwill and Will Genia, important figureheads of the team who will be needed if the Reds are to stand a chance of winning in Christchurch.
The Crusaders, as they so often do, have timed their run to perfection and should continue their good form by defeating the Reds at home and progressing to the semi-finals.
Prediction: Crusaders by 9
Brumbies v Cheetahs
As with the first game, the Cheetahs are yet to lost to an Australian franchise this season – but, crucially, they have not played the Brumbies. The Free State team has been one of the surprise packages of the season and more than deserve their shot at progressing through the final rounds – the first time they have made it this far in their Super Rugby history. They comprehensively outplayed the Blues in their last game, which will give them hope that they can perform once again under the pressure of knockout rugby. With the Bulls losing, the Brumbies will be ruing missing the chance to go straight into the semi-finals after coming unstuck against the Force last weekend. They are likely to welcome back George Smith, who sat out last round’s loss.
The Force loss will have come as a wake-up call to the Brumbies, who have been near the top of the log all season. It may not be easy, but they will overcome a defiant Cheetahs outfit.
Prediction: Brumbies by 5
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43