Hurricanes v Brumbies
The Hurricanes return from their South African tour with a mere losing bonus point to their game, but were moments away from getting more against the Stormers last week. They played all the rugby, but were ultimately overcome by the power of the Newlands outfit’s pack. This week they face the Brumbies, who shot into a comfortable lead against the Force only to take their foot off the gas and fail to get a try bonus point. They don’t have the power up front of the South African teams, so I can see the Canes’ backs shining here, and am backing a home win. Hurricanes by 5.
Reds v Cheetahs
It was a dark round for both these teams last time out, conceding four and five tries respectively. For the Reds, it was the biggest loss in a NSW-Queensland fixture ever – surely a stat that will wound their pride significantly. The Cheetahs seemed disinterested in the face of a fired-up Rebels outfit, and were comprehensively outgunned in most departments. Against a Reds side that has already ripped through the Brumbies, they will have to be far more aware. Reds by 10.
Crusaders v Stormers
Both of these sides have had fairly abject seasons thus far, the Crusaders sitting at the bottom of their log without a win from two, and the Stormers sneaking past the Hurricanes in round three to record their first win of the season, despite being outplayed for the majority of the game. The Crusaders start notoriously slowly, so expect them to pick it up at some stage, but you just wonder how much they are missing Carter and Fruean. The Stormers simply have to find a way of playing something other than 10 man rugby if they are to have any luck against the Kiwi franchises. Crusaders by 15.
Force v Rebels
Last season this would have been a tough one to call, but the way these two have started this year it seems anything but that right now. The Force have been woedul and are without a point, while the Rebels crushed the Cheetahs last round, showing a togetherness and an understanding that was not seen last season. Away from home they will find it more difficult, and the Force will target this as a winnable game, but the confidence the Rebels bring from last week should be enough to get them a win in Perth. Rebels by 6.
Bulls v Blues
This is a tricky one to call. The Bulls have not played brilliantly so far, but did enough last round to overcome the resurgent Lions, and looked much more confortable playing at Loftus Versfeld than they had away in the opening two rounds. The Blues, meanwhile, have played some scintillating rugby, but have also been leaky in defence. The Bulls will not offer the attacking threat of the Crusaders or the Highlanders, however, and so if they continue playing their attacking game, I’d expect them to simply outscore the hosts in this one. Blues by 5.
Sharks v Lions
The Sharks will be well rested from their bye last round, and will be keen to get back to the form that saw them score six tries in the opening two rounds. They have the comfort of home once again, and this week welcome a Lions team who have already surprised the Cheetahs and the Stormers. The Sharks will be wary of that fact and will not take their challenge lightly, but the boys from Durban look like the real deal this season, and should win fairly comfortably at home. Sharks by 16.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43