Highlanders v Chiefs
The Highlanders have been a revelation this season, and they welcome back the likes of Aaron and Ben Smith, as well as Malakai Fekitoa, all of whom starred for the national side in the series win over England. The Chiefs have returning internationals too, though, in the form of Brodie Retallick, Aaron Cruden and Liam Messam, so this is a pretty evenly matched game, on paper. It’s difficult to predict how the break will affect teams, but the Chiefs were in woeful form going into it, so I’m backing the home team here. Highlanders by 10.
Rebels v Reds
It’s not been a great season for either of these two franchises, and their league table positions reflect that. They sit in 14th and 12th respectively, but they will at least welcome back their Wallabies with confidence buoyed from a morale-boosting series whitewash against the French. The Rebels won their first ever game at Suncorp Stadium earlier in the season, in an absolute thriller, so they’ll have the mental edge. They’re at home, too, so I’m picking them here – just. Rebels by 3.
Hurricanes v Crusaders
Another New Zealand derby, another obscene amount of attacking talent on show. Nemani Nadolo has been a try-scoring revelation for the Crusaders this season, and although he will likely still be missing due to Fiji’s final RWC qualifier, the away side still have plenty of talent to pick from. There are rumours that Dan Carter could return, too, while their run out against England last week means they could be more match-ready than the Hurricanes here. The Canes, as always, will likely provide us with great entertainment, but I can see the Crusaders having too much for them as they look to peak at the traditional time. Crusaders by 6.
Waratahs v Brumbies
This is a mouthwatering fixture between the two sides at the top of the Australian conference, and the two likely to be in contention for honours at the end of the season (no offence to the Force). The Brumbies won the reverse fixture earlier in the year, but the Waratahs bring better form into the game, with four wins (and three bonus points) in their last four games. Both sides welcome back plenty of internationals, which will add even more spice to what was already a tasty-looking fixture. Home advantage to seal it. Waratahs by 5.
Force v Blues
The Blues haven’t managed a win away from home all season, while the Force have lost just once at NIB Stadium in Perth – that pretty much tells you all you need to know about this one. Historically, however, the Blues have always had the better of the Force, and this game last season was a draw, so I wouldn’t expect it to be a massive margin of victory. In Perth, though, and on the back of an astonishingly good season so far, I expect the Force to be too good for a disjointed Blues outfit. Force by 6.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43