Round 9 was a calamitous one for Grand Slam points in SuperBru, with upsets aplenty. Will that happen again in Round 10?
Hurricanes v Force, Wellington
A couple of weeks ago this one would have been set in stone, with the Force down and out and the Hurricanes gathering form. After their impressive win over the Crusaders last weekend, however, the Australian franchise cannot be written off. They have lost Salesi Ma’afu to a knee injury, but other than that the rest of the team that beat the Canterbury team will travel.
The Hurricanes’ loss to the Blues saw them leapfrogged on the log by the Auckland team, whilst also seeing a four game winning streak come to an end. Previously very threatening, their attacking edge looked dulled as they failed to cross the try-line.
The men from Wellington will be looking to bounce back with a win, and should do so at home.
Prediction: Hurricanes by 10
Waratahs v Chiefs, Sydney
Another Aussie v Kiwi game for which the side from New Zealand would have been heavy favourites a few weeks ago. Kiwi franchises have won just once against their bitter rivals across the Tasman Sea this year – although the Waratahs were that team to lose. They will be fresh from a bye last weekend, and although coach Michael Cheika has admitted the playoffs are out of their grasp this season, they will still want to win for their home fans.
The Chiefs suffered a shock home defeat to the Reds last weekend, and will have been shaken by that. They are still top of the NZ Conference, but their lead has been trimmed to just two points. Their crown is slipping and they will be desperate to win here to avoid sliding off top spot in the country.
The Chiefs may not be playing as well as they were at the beginning of the season, but they should have enough to see off the Waratahs – although it could be closer than expected.
Prediction: Chiefs by 5
Crusaders v Highlanders, Christchurch
This NZ derby sees two teams desperate for a win squaring off in Christchurch. The hosts are still without star men Kieran Read and Dan Carter, although coach Todd Blackadder has been quick to distance himself from using injuries as an excuse. Their understudies are more than good enough to win games, and they need to prove that they can do just that, after having lost their last two.
Where to start with the Highlanders? Their defence is woeful at the moment, with a lot of players just not looking interested against the Brumbies last weekend. It is all very well being able to score tries, but if you can’t defend your own line you are not going to win rugby matches. They have scored the fewest points and conceded the third-most. That stat speaks for itself.
The Crusaders may be missing big names but back at home against a Highlanders team that couldn’t buy a win at the moment, they will surely return to winning ways.
Prediction: Crusaders by 12
Reds v Brumbies, Brisbane
This is all set to be the tie of the round, featuring the top two points scoring teams who are separated by just two points. The Reds are in scintillating form, having won their last three, including two away in New Zealand. The Will Genia-Quade Cooper axis seems finally to be finding its feet, with the playmaker responding superbly well to his snub for the national team by Robbie Deans.
The Brumbies were rocked a couple of weeks ago by their last-gasp home draw to newbies the Kings, and responded superbly with a convincing win away at the Highlanders last weekend. Henry Speight is the form wing in Australia, if not the Southern Hemisphere, at the moment and the Reds will have their hands full trying to stop him.
It will be mightily close, but the Reds are back at home and should record a win.
Prediction: Reds by 5
Sharks v Cheetahs, Durban
Both of these teams lost South African derbies last weekend; one will emerge victorious this time (barring a draw). The Sharks are still top of the South African Conference despite losing to the Stormers, but they have not scored a try in their last two games. Their training this week has been severely disrupted by the loss of 13 players to the Springbok training camp, whilst they are also struggling with injuries to several of their biggest names such as Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts and Butch James.
The Cheetahs’ fine run of form came to an end against the Bulls, and they face another tough away assignment in Round 10. They managed a bonus point though, and sit just three points behind their opponents, second in the SA Conference. They have been somewhat of a surprise package this season and will be desperate not to let form slip and slide down the table.
It could be another incredibly tight South African derby – at home, the Sharks will fancy their chances.
Prediction: Sharks by 4
Kings v Bulls, Port Elizabeth
The Kings have more than proven their worth in this year’s Super Rugby tournament, and for that they deserve huge credit. The heart and desire they have shown to challenge and, on occasions such as last weekend, beat more established franchises has been commendable. This weekend they can welcome back controversial figure Luke Watson into the mix, who is bound to rile some of his compatriots on the opposing team.
The Bulls returned to action last weekend with a solid win over the Cheetahs and will be looking to carry their form away from home. They sit on equal points with the Cheetahs and know that a win will take them into the playoff spots. Morné Steyn will, as always, be important, and showed how influential he could be last week in pinning the Bulls’ opponents back in their own half has they chased the game.
The Kings are not to be written off and it is becoming increasingly difficult not to back them. However, the Bulls’ forward power and stifling game-plan should be enough to get them the win.
Prediction: Bulls by 7
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43