As is customary with Super Rugby, there were a couple of astonishing results last weekend. What does Round 3 hold? Here are some previews to (hopefully) help you with your SuperBru picks!
Blues v Crusaders
The Blues shocked us all last week with a comprehensive win against the Hurricanes. Wing Frank Halai will want more of the brace of tries he scored but less of the yellow card he received, while Charles Piutau and Piri Weepu also impressed. The latter’s control of the game is vital.
The Crusaders make their Super Rugby 2013 bow this weekend after having a bye in the first two rounds. They have a core of quality few other teams can match, with new captain Kieran Read captaining the side. Even without Richie McCaw their line-up will be impressive and with Dan Carter unburdened by vice-captaincy duties, he can fully focus on coach Todd Blackadder’s new attacking game plan.
The Blues were impressive last weekend, but the Crusaders should make a winning start to their season.
Prediction: Crusaders by 9
Waratahs v Rebels
An Aussie derby sees the Waratahs take on the Rebels in Sydney on Friday night. The Rebels have won one and lost one so far, and much will depend on new captain James O’Connor. With the captaincy and the kicking duties, it will be interesting to see if his overall game suffers. The Rebels were ahead at half time last weekend before imploding in the second 40 minutes, and will be keen to play a full-match this time around.
The Waratahs were beaten at the death against the Reds, after battling back into contention from 17-3 down. Captain Dave Dennis has said that their character and ambition was impressive, but they were let down by their execution.
If they can get that right, they should have too much for the Rebels at home.
Prediction: Waratahs by 15
Reds v Hurricanes
The Reds bounced back from their opening round defeat to the Brumbies with an impressive win over the Waratahs last weekend, and will look to continue that good home form. Skipper James Horwill has ruled himself out, so prop James Slipper continues as captain. Will Genia is still some way from fitness so half-back partner Quade Cooper will once again find himself with responsibility aplenty.
The Hurricanes suffered a disappointing defeat to the Blues in Round 2, and will be looking for a marked improvement this week. Luckily for them, influential captain Conrad Smith has passed a fitness test after suffering a concussion last weekend.
It’s a tough one to call as it’s difficult to see the Hurricanes being so lacklustre two weeks in a row, but the Reds were impressive at home last week.
Prediction: Reds by 4
Chiefs v Cheetahs
The Chiefs were one half of an exhilarating encounter in Round 2, and will be looking for more of the same against the Cheetahs. Their one wish might be for some improved defence. If they can manage to open the game up and not let the Cheetahs slow them down too much, they have the quality (with the likes of Tim Nanai-Williams particularly impressive last week) to blow the Cheetahs away.
The Cheetahs put in a Jekyll-and-Hyde performance last weekend as they found themselves 26-5 down before rallying to secure a losing bonus point against the Sharks. Impressive as that was, they cannot afford to give the Chiefs such breathing room as they are unlikely to go to sleep and let them back into it.
After last week’s brilliance, the Chiefs should win comfortably here.
Prediction: Chiefs by 23
Bulls v Force
The Bulls’ 25-17 victory over the Stormers last weekend has come at a price for the Pretoria side, as they have lost Dewald Potgieter, JJ Engelbrecht and Deon Stegmann to injury. It was a victory built on defence and the boot of Morné Steyn, but that won’t bother many Bulls fans. Steyn scored 20 points and if the Force are to stand any chance of winning their discipline will have to be exemplary.
The Australian franchise were embarrassed by new boys the Kings last week, and allied with their opening round loss to the Rebels they will be smarting. With internationals the likes of Hugh McMeniman, Nick Cummins and Ben McCalman in their ranks, they would have expected to win that match.
It is not going to get any easier for them with a trip to Pretoria, where the Bulls are likely to record a comfortable win.
Prediction: Bulls by 18
Sharks v Stormers
The Sharks registered a win last weekend, and while they will be happy with that they will not have liked how they tailed off in the second half, allowing the Cheetahs back into the game. They will not be allowed such let-offs against the Stormers. Patrick Lambie was on the money with seven from seven with the boot, which was vital in the end.
The Stormers could count themselves a little unlucky last weekend in terms of the try they conceded, but coach Alistair Coetzee has admitted that they were poor against the Bulls. Elton Jantjies, whose misery from the tee can be counted as one of the reasons for their loss, is likely to be given another shot despite the return from Japan of Peter Grant. If he has another poor day with the boot the Stormers are unlikely to get anything from this game.
It is a very difficult one to call, but at home the Sharks could just edge it.
Prediction: Sharks by 3
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43