Round five threw up a couple of surprising results, and with the injury count mounting for many sides making your SuperBru picks is becoming more and more difficult. Here are some game previews to hopefully help you out.
Chiefs v Highlanders
This is a repeat of the round two fixture, which the Chiefs won convincingly. At home this time round, they will expect a similar result against a Highlanders team that is really struggling.
The Chiefs have been scoring tries for fun, and were handed a boost in the week as Richard Kahui, Brendon Leonard and Robbie Robinson were all declared fit for the weekend. The Highlanders have injury issues at hooker, with captain Andrew Hore and replacement Brayden Mitchell both having to leave the pitch last weekend.
These two teams are at opposite ends of the table and it is tough to see how the Highlanders are going to get a win in Hamilton.
Prediction: Chiefs by 18
Crusaders v Kings
The Crusaders finally got the ball rolling with an impressive win over the Bulls last weekend, while the Kings again showed superb spirit in their loss to the Chiefs.
The home side have found their feet with their new attacking game, and have run in ten tries in their last two games. With talisman Dan Carter insisting this new style of play is here to stay, the Kings will have to be watertight in defence if they are to avoid a walloping. The new South African franchise have impressed so far, not succumbing to the margins of defeat many predicted pre-season. They do have issues though, with influential captain Luke Watson missing for the tour and the SARU investigating them for allegedly breaking the foreign player rules.
The Kings may have impressed but with the Crusaders finally finding their mojo there will be nothing but misery for the South Africans in Christchurch.
Prediction: Crusaders by 27
Reds v Bulls
Both of these teams lost in disappointing fashion last weekend, the Bulls shipping six tries at the Crusaders while the Reds were humiliated at home to the previously winless Force.
The Aussie franchise confirmed in the week that coach Ewen McKenzie is to leave at the end of the season, while flanker and fetcher Liam Gill is an injury doubt at the time of writing. They desperately need Will Genia to find some form after returning from injury. The Bulls, much like their opponents, have been a bit hit and miss so far and are another team to have a long injury bulletin. Springboks Wynand Olivier, Francois Hougaard and Akona Ndungane are all out, while lock Flip Van de Merwe is a doubt.
This is one of the more difficult ones to pick this weekend, with both teams stuttering for form. Despite their injuries, if the Bulls can shut the Reds down they can come away from Brisbane with a win.
Prediction: Bulls by 6
Force v Cheetahs
The Western Force halted their run of losses last weekend with an impressive victory over the Reds at Suncorp Stadium, while the Cheetahs sneaked past the Waratahs in Sydney to continue their good form.
The visitors were handed a hammer-blow this week, however, when they learned fly-half and playmaker Johan Goosen would be out for the rest of the season. Whoever fills his shoes has a big role to play. For the Force Alfi Mafi is in scintillating form with four tries in as many games, and with half-back partners Alby Matthewson and Sias Ebersohn pulling the strings to good effect they will be confident that they can build on their first ever Super Rugby win in Brisbane.
Had Goosen been playing it would have been a Cheetahs pick. Without him though, they could struggle against a rejuvenated Force.
Prediction: Force by 5
Sharks v Rebels
The Rebels had a bye last week, but have not won since the opening round, while the Sharks looked poor in their defeat at home to the Brumbies.
The Natal franchise have scored just one try in four games, relying otherwise on the boot of Patrick Lambie. Coach John Plumtree has spoken in the week of how the Brumbies result has left them ‘embarrassed and hurt’ – fans will be hoping that this will spur them on to a win this weekend. The Rebels will be well rested as they start their tour, although they have been rocked by the news that scrum half Nick Phipps will leave next season and join the Waratahs.
The Sharks may not have been playing great rugby, but at home they will have too much for the Rebels.
Prediction: Sharks by 13
Stormers v Brumbies
The Stormers have got off to a rocky start, with two losses in their first three games, and will have to up their game for the visit of the all-conquering Brumbies.
The team from Canberra, masterminded by Springbok Jake White, have beaten all comers thus far and have try bonus points from three of their four matches. An injury to David Pocock has been brushed under the rug with the arrival and immediate impact of Wallaby legend George Smith. The Stormers have passed Juan de Jongh and Michael Rhodes fit for the weekend, although Schalk Burger is likely to miss out. They had a bye last weekend, and have only had one game at home at Newlands so far – the 36-34 victory over the Chiefs.
Jake White returns to Cape Town to take on his former Springbok assistant Allister Coetzee, which will add extra spice to this already mouth-watering encounter. It is a superbly tough one to call, but at Newlands the Stormers could just edge it.
Prediction: Stormers by 2
Waratahs v Blues
Last weekend saw more woe for the Waratahs as their home loss to the Cheetahs was compounded by the injury to the returning Berrick Barnes, who will now be out for a further six weeks. Their sole victory thus far came against the Rebels in round three, and coach Michael Cheika has blamed an inability to be clinical for their poor form.
The Blues, after such a strong start, were brought back down to earth in round four with a home loss to the Bulls. They had a bye last week, and after coming in for some criticism for making wholesale changes for that Bulls game coach John Kirwan will have a rested squad to pick from, and should name the strongest team possible.
The Waratahs are in a poor run of form and hit by the news that they will be without talisman Barnes for even longer, the pacey and powerful Blues will be too strong for them.
Prediction: Blues by 8
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43