Chiefs v Crusaders
There were a total of eight tries between these two last week, and with some of the talent on show there’s no reason why that number can’t be repeated or topped this week. New Zealand derbies are more often than not great to watch and with these two at the top of their conference, this could be a special game. Aaron Cruden has been in sublime form and Dan Carter put in a stirling performance last weekend – their battle will be fascinating.
The Chiefs have already qualified for the play-offs, whereas the Crusaders haven’t, which gives them a bit more motivation to get the win. It will be close, though.
Prediction: Crusaders by 4
Hurricanes v Highlanders
Neither of these sides has anything left to play for – although that has been true of the Highlanders for quite some time. They have become renowned for mixing the sublime – Tamati Ellison’s sensational round-the-back pass – with the farcical – Ma’a Nonu’s season (outside of a black shirt) in general. They do, however, continue to entertain, as do their opponents this week, with Beauden Barrett, buoyed by outings for the All Blacks, in particularly good form.
It will be an open and entertaining game that the home side will win.
Prediction: Hurricanes by 10
Cheetahs v Blues
This is another game that could be a belter. The Cheetahs like to play the most rugby of any of the South African franchises, while the Blues have some outrageously talented backs the likes of Rene Ranger and Frank Halai, to name but two. The Cheetahs sit in the play-off spots at the moment but will be looking nervously over their shoulders at the Sharks and the Stormers, both of whom are only four points behind them. With a bye left if they win here they are all but guaranteed a spot in the play-offs.
Despite being comprehensively beaten last weekend, the Cheetahs should bounce back with a win here.
Prediction: Cheetahs by 5
Kings v Stormers
The Kings have added much in their debut season in Super Rugby, but victories have sadly been few and far between for them. They remain two points ahead of the Highlanders, and will be keen to finish off the bottom off the log, but the Stormers have, in reality, much more to play for here. They are in a good run of form, but it was disappointing that they did not kick on last week and chase an all-important bonus point against the Cheetahs. Five points here is a must if they are to leapfrog the Cheetahs into the play-off spots.
This will be a regulation win for the away team.
Prediction: Stormers by 23
Bulls v Sharks
The Bulls just cannot stop winning. They have been victorious in their last eight games, a quite ridiculous run of form that has seen them jump to second place on the overall log and a whopping thirteen points ahead of their closest South African challengers. Last week’s dismantling of the Kings was their third win by more than 30 of the season, so keep that in mind when picking your margin. The Sharks snuck past the Blues last week and have actually lost to the Bulls as recently as the end of May. They may have players returning from injury but to beat the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld will surely be a bridge too far, and the end of their challenge for the play-offs.
The Bulls should record a comfortable win.
Prediction: Bulls by 14