Highlanders v Hurricanes
Round 6 starts with a difficult one to call. The Highlanders were looking good before their woeful loss at home to the Force last week, having beaten the Blues and pushed the Chiefs close. They were arguably a bit rusty coming off the back of a bye last week, so expect them to be better this time out. They’ll have to be, too, because their visitors this week will be brimming with confidence following their nine try demolition of the Cheetahs in round five. If they can reproduce anywhere near that sort of form here, they should have too much for the men from Otago. Expect another high-scoring Kiwi derby. Hurricanes by 6.
Waratahs v Rebels
The Waratahs’ early season momentum was halted by the Brumbies last week, in a ferocious Aussie derby. The Rebels played reasonably well at home to the Crusaders but have not hit the heights of their round two win over the Cheetahs since that day. Back in Sydney, the Tahs should be too good for the men from Melbourne, and with the firepower they have if the likes of Bernard Foley and Israel Folau get their tails up this could be a big one. Waratahs by 20.
Blues v Cheetahs
Neither of these sides have lived up to their pre-season hype yet. The Cheetahs have some serious work on to stop their tour being a complete and utter disaster, while the Blues will be happy to be back on home soil after an unsuccessful South African jaunt. These two have the most porous defences of the season so far, so expect plenty of tries in this one, and unless the visitors can rectify some serious problems in their defensive game then the Blues will have too much quality not to put them to the sword. Blues by 9.
Brumbies v Stormers
The Brumbies’ season started off erratically, but has steadied in recent weeks and their impressively composed win over rivals the Waratahs last week proves what a quality side they are. The Stormers, meanwhile, are in a spot of disarray, having won just once in their opening four games. They will be boosted by the arrival of Juan de Jongh to their tour party, who will hopefully spark some life into their backline. The Brumbies will be too good for a stuttering Stormers side in Canberra. Brumbies by 5.
Force v Chiefs
A few weeks ago this would have had ‘walkover’ written all over it. With the Force showing some impressive backbone and registering back-to-back bonus point wins – the first time they have ever achieved that – however, things are a little less clearcut. That said, the reigning champions have showed no sign of nerves at the prospect of competing for their third title on the bounce yet, so they should be too good for the hosts in Perth. Chiefs by 15.
Lions v Reds
The Reds arguably deserved to get more out of their game with the Sharks last weekend, dominating large swathes of the game only for imprecision to let them down. The Lions, as everyone keeps pointing out, have been a revelation. Marnitz Boshoff is arguably the player of the season so far, and as long as he stays in the no.10 shirt they’ll have a chance of beating anyone, especially at home. The Reds’ pack, however, showed up superbly well against the Sharks, and with the firepower they have behind it the visitors will be confident of winning this one. Reds by 7.
Bulls v Sharks
What a game to round the weekend off with. The Bulls have rallied brilliantly since their two defeats in the first two rounds, and have proved how dangerous they can be at Loftus. The Sharks, however, fear no-one and, despite not quite hitting their straps against the Reds, have still brushed past all before them this season. A trip to play at altitude represents undoubtedly the sternest test of their credentials yet, however, especially with the Bulls boasting a full squad to select from. It really could go either way, but the apparent Jake White-instilled belief could be enough to drag the Sharks over the line and see them continue their blistering start to the season. Sharks by 2.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43