Highlanders v Rebels
The Highlanders have already been more impressive in five games than they were throughout last season – but that’s not saying a great deal, mind. They enter this one off the back of a poor loss to the Blues, while their visitors the Rebels bring the confidence of an impressive win over the Brumbies to Dunedin. That said, the Rebels have been very average away from home this season, scoring just 15 points from their two games on their travels. Both sides’ form has been topsy-turvy which makes this a very difficult one to call, but the Rebels will be aware that the Force have already won at Forsyth Barr and that, along with last week’s victory, will give them enough confidence to win this one. Rebels by 5.
Brumbies v Blues
Despite outscoring the Rebels three tries to two last weekend the Brumbies still managed to fall to an ignominious defeat to their less illustrious opponents. The form of the Australian franchises has been a complete lottery this season – back at home in Canberra, you’d expect the Brumbies to beat the Blues fairly comfortably, but it’s impossible to be certain of anything in this crazy season. The Blues swotted aside the Highlanders last time out, but will need to step it up to win away in Australia. Brumbies by 10.
Hurricanes v Bulls
The Hurricanes have started to add a ruthless edge to their thrilling attacking game – an away win in Christchurch is proof enough of that. The Bulls provide a different kind of challenge this week, however, and it will be a real test of the Canes’ forward metal. If they can get something near parity in the set piece and ruck/maul, then they have the talent in the backs to run riot (the Cheetahs will tell you that). The Bulls, playing their first game outside of South Africa this season, could well be caught out here. Hurricanes by 6.
Reds v Force
On paper, this should be a walk in the park for the Reds. They have a squad teeming with Wallabies, compared to the Force’s relative unknowns, and are unbeaten at home this season. But doubt still lingers in this most unpredictable of seasons, with the Force having won their last three and sitting on equal points with their opponents this week despite having played one fewer game. They were so impressive in beating the champions Chiefs, so will hold no fear coming into this one. The Reds should still record a win, and if they start to get their mojo going this could be one of the bigger margins of the weekend. Reds by 15.
Cheetahs v Chiefs
The Chiefs will be desperate to win this one, having drawn and lost their last two. They are still top of the Kiwi conference, but have the Blues breathing down their neck. The resilience and accuracy they showed to come back from a 16-point deficit against the Bulls last weekend means they will not panic if they fall behind this weekend, and their ability to score from anywhere on the pitch means that if they up their defence and discipline, they should beat a Cheetahs team that has seemed in disarray so far this season fairly comfortably. Chiefs by 12.
Lions v Crusaders
The Crusaders do like to make things difficult for the SuperBru community. They have so much talent on paper, which makes it very tough not to pick them in most games, but always start the season frustratingly slowly. They must start winning at some stage, but even by their slow-starting standards this season has been a disaster so far. So what about this week? Again, looking at the teamsheets they should beat the Lions, but this season’s surprise package is hardly going to roll over lightly. They are unbeaten at Ellis Park and with Marnitz Boshoff on fire, they should beat the under-par Crusaders there on Saturday. Lions by 3.
Stormers v Waratahs
Continuing an obvious theme so far this season, this is a very tough game to pick. The Waratahs started their South Africa tour very poorly against the dominant Sharks last weekend, and while the Stormers have hit no-where near the heights of the log-leaders this season, they are still a tough nut to crack at Newlands. The Tahs are likely to welcome back Israel Folau, however, and do not underestimate how much of a boost that could be for them. The Stormers have just one win this season and are returning from a disastrous tour, but don’t expect them to find any respite against a Waratahs team that, last week’s blip aside, has looked lethal so far. Waratahs by 10.
How do you see this weekend going?
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43