The first full round of Super Rugby matches hits our screens this weekend, and here is our SuperBru preview for Round 2.
Crusaders v Chiefs
First up is an almighty clash between the two teams tipped to top the New Zealand conference – last year’s Champions the Chiefs heading to Christchurch to take on the Crusaders. The away side boasts back-to-back Super Rugby titles, whilst the Crusaders – Super Rugby’s most successful team overall – have not lifted the trophy since 2008, and both teams will want a fast start to the tournament. It’s almost too tight to call, but I’m going for home advantage and Crusaders by 3.
Cheetahs v Bulls
These two teams were hugely underwhelming in Round 1 and looked as if their minds hadn’t quite awoken from a summer slumber. It makes for an interesting clash in Bloemfontein this weekend, as they’ll each have a point to prove following heavy criticism and back-to-back defeats would be disastrous for their prospects. I’m leaning towards the Cheetahs to cut out sloppy mistakes, whereas the Bulls look like they have further to go to improve. Cheetahs by 5.
Highlanders v Blues
The Highlanders have disappointed for the last couple of seasons, despite boasting a stellar cast of players – this year, they have said goodbye to the likes of Andrew Hore, Jamie Mackintosh, Tony Woodcock, Hosea Gear and Ma’a Nonu and look set for another unremarkable season. The Blues have more quality about them, and I’d expect them to win on the road this weekend. Blues by 8.
Brumbies v Reds
These two sides approach the new season with new coaches – Stephen Larkham takes the helm at the Brumbies after Jake White departed for the Sharks, and Richard Graham takes over from Ewen McKenzie, now the Wallaby coach. The Brumbies reached the Super Rugby final last year, but it’s difficult to see them being so competitive without White’s tactical nous, and I’d expect the Reds to edge this derby. Reds by 3.
Sharks v Hurricanes
The Sharks lived up to the hype with a bonus point victory over the Bulls in Round 1, and will be looking for the same again this weekend. The travelling Hurricanes tend to blow hot and cold, but there’s unlikely to be enough puff to stop a rampant Sharks side in front of their own fans and with a competitive game already under their belt. Sharks by 13.
Lions v Stormers
Only 12% of players on SuperBru backed the Lions to beat the Cheetahs last weekend, but a sterling performance from fly-half Marnitz Boshoff sealed an unlikely victory. Can they back it up with a win over the Stormers? It’s unlikely they’ll enjoy as many chances as the profligate Cheetahs offered them in Round 1 – the Cheetahs could and should have been out of sight in the second half – and the away side will start as favourites. Stormers by 10.
Waratahs v Force
This Aussie derby is unlikely to shake many people out of a Sunday morning slumber, but if there’s a SuperBru GSP on the line, it might just be worth a watch. The Force have a habit of causing an upset every now and then, and have beaten the Tahs twice before in Sydney, but the home side have a lot more star quality about them, fielding headline players such as Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale, Michael Hooper and Jacques Potgeiter. Waratahs by 13.