With results getting closer (last weekend’s Kings game aside) and the log getting tighter, there is all to play for as we head into the thick of the second half of the Super Rugby season. Here are your SuperBru previews for round 13.
Chiefs v Force
The Force are by no means the whipping boys they appeared to be earlier in the season, and a hard-earned draw against the high-flying Reds last week will give them confidence coming into this one. The Chiefs snuck past the Rebels in a game that was noteworthy as much for their scintillating attack as their porous defence – the latter ruining most people’s margin points. They suffered a big blow in the week with the news Richard Kahui will be out for the season after needing further surgery on his shoulder, but can call on enough quality to plug the resulting gap in the midfield.
The Force won’t roll over, but the top Kiwi franchise will simply have too much for them in attack even if they decide they don’t fancy defending again this week.
Prediction: Chiefs by 10
Reds v Sharks
The Reds will be disappointed to have only managed a draw against the Force last weekend, a result that angered the SuperBru community, as it meant not a single person managed a Grand Slam Point. They look like a potential title-contender, but seem to lack a bit of consistency. The Sharks’ injury woes continued this week with the news that centre Frans Steyn (who admittedly hasn’t been in great form) is out for the rest of the season, while no.8 Lubabalo Mtembu will miss the rest of the tour. It is unfathomably cruel that one franchise should suffer with injuries in the way that they have.
It is tough to look past the long list of casualties for the Sharks, which is why the Reds should win fairly comfortably at home.
Prediction: Reds by 14
Cheetahs v Hurricanes
The Canes’ form has slipped alarmingly in the last few weeks, with just one win from their previous four games. Last weekend they showed glimpses of their immense attacking prowess, but were once again woeful in defence, shipping six tries. Their cause has not been helped by the loss for this game of midfield general and talisman Conrad Smith. The Cheetahs, after their bye, are now sitting pretty in second place in the South African conference and will be fresh and raring to go this week.
Surely the Hurricanes will have worked on their defence this week, meaning they are unlikely to lose by the same margin again – but they are unlikely to win in the backyard of a confident Cheetahs side, either.
Prediction: Cheetahs by 7
Blues v Rebels
The Blues edged past the Stormers last weekend in a game won by the boot of stand-off Chris Noakes. Coach Kirwan said he was proud of the grit they showed to hang on for that victory, but he would surely have preferred them to score a few tries. The Rebels showed they can mix it with the best with their impressive performance to grab a bonus point at the Chiefs last weekend, but also have the second most porous defence in the league – not what you want when travelling to New Zealand. The combo of O’Connor and Beale reigniting was a welcome sight for their fans, however.
Despite the Australian sides’ good record against their Tasman neighbours this season, the Rebels are unlikely to have much joy in Auckland.
Prediction: Blues by 13
Waratahs v Stormers
This is probably the most difficult one to call of the week, and therefore the game most likely to scupper your GSP. The Waratahs trounced the Kings last weekend, but is that really a fair gauge of where they are as a side? This game will tell us a lot more about them. Still, the likes of Israel Folau and Adam Ashley-Cooper are hitting some fine form at a useful time for them, and they have shot up the log in recent weeks. The Stormers were within a whisker of snatching a win at the Blues last weekend, and will wonder why they can’t perform like they did in the last twenty minutes for the whole of games. If they can, they have chance this weekend.
The Waratahs’ away record may not be great, but at home they have only lost once – by one point against the then-rampant Chiefs. It will be close, but they could continue their winning home streak this weekend.
Prediction: Waratahs by 3
Kings v Highlanders
The battle of the bottom two is one with a surprisingly obvious favourite, given recent results. For all the Kings’ grit and pluck in the early rounds, they have only managed two wins. Despite that being one more than their opponents this week, they have been comprehensively outplayed at times, none more so than last weekend at home to the Waratahs, where they shipped an incredible 72 points. They have recalled Luke Watson to hopefully add a bit of fight to their line-up. The Highlanders finally got the monkey off their back with a win against the Sharks last weekend, and will be desperately hoping to back that up and get off the bottom of the log. The injured Ma’a Nonu and Kade Poki are left at home, but the return to fitness and form of Tamati Ellison last weekend will be a huge bonus for them going forwards.
The Kings may have been brought brutally back down to earth, but will fancy this one as a good way to bounce back. Now the Highlanders’ have that monkey off their back, however, they could go on to win a few more, starting here.
Prediction: Highlanders by 10
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43