Blues v Lions – The battle for the wooden spoon, who’d of thought! This game absolutely terrifies me! More injuries, even less confidence, if that were possible, after last weeks 9th loss in a row, media blasting from all corners – it has the makings of a friggin disaster. And you know the Lions are going to come out smelling blood, and with their future in serious doubt they will be a team very keen to prove a point. And just as aside – how bizarre would it be that the largest rugby stadium in SA has no Soopa rugby for 2013 – only in SA! So the trials of the Blues have been well documented and there is no point going over where they have to improve and how they should play it. Nothing less than a 100% improvement on the dross they served up last week is going to suffice. The Lions will go for the bash, they have big forwards and will simply look to use them to break holes and get Jantjies into some space. I pray for a Blues win – one with accurate lineouts, good ball control and defensive intensity! So come on big fella when you support the 2 teams that I do surely the Blues can get over the line here and I can celebrate a win for the first time in 6 weeks! Oh and if the Blues need anymore motivation there is a poll currently running in Rugby Heaven (Aus) asking which is the worst team in the S15 – Blues, Rebels, Lions or Force – it is running at 51% for the Blues at the moment – stick that on the wall LamB!!!!!
Blues 1 – 12
Waratahs v Bulls – Big game for the Waratahs, they are getting very close to the Last Chance Saloon and another season of underachievement. They have made a raft of changes, 5 in the backs alone, mind you there were pretty dire last week so something had to be done. Another 4 changes in the pack speaks of desperation and history tells us that an under pressure Waratahs side does not often produce. Having said that this is a not a bad team on paper, though combinations will be rusty, and they have probably given themselves the best chance to get a win. The Bulls continue to march on, they did just enough to get the 5 points last week, combining impressive attack where they seemed to have plenty of options with Steyn and Hougaard taking all the right options, with some flakey defense. Perhaps the travel took the edge off, but they will be well rested and though forced to make a few changes due to injury, they will be formidable. I doubt whether there will be much in this one and perhaps give it to the Bulls who have won the last 6 played between these 2.
Bulls 1 – 12
Highlanders v Hurricanes – Close to the game of the round, this is an intriguing clash. The Highlanders have injury problems and have travelled back from SA after a disappointing loss to the Sharks – so probably not in the best shape they have ever been in. But they are a determined mob and I reckon match up very well with the Hurricanes. No Highlanders team as yet, still pissing me off no end, so don’t know who will be fronting where, but the Highlanders have covered well all season with good depth. But they need to get the edge back into their game, that extra 5% of aggression that seems to be missing at the moment, and use Thommo more as a running weapon, he is a not a crasher and basher so don’t use him as that type of player. They meet the Hurricanes coming off a good win, an 8 day rest and all to play for. They have made only one change and are a team that takes its chances, competes well in every aspect and has the likes of Vito, Smith Taylor and Jane who are such good players that really lift this team. I tend towards the hurricanes – they are just travelling better at the moment, but look it could go either way.
Hurricanes 1 – 12
Rebels v Crusaders – Contrasting performances from both sides last week gives this game some appeal. I thought the Rebels were great – yes they let in a few points but they never gave up and scored a couple of cracking tries. And how good was Kurtley – he probably tried too much and he was taken off with 5 minutes to go as I don’t think he could run another metre, but easily the best player on the park, ahead of the Mornenator, who was also very good, just less dynamic. The issue withe Rebels here will be if they can break even at scrum time, and keep manning up on defence. These have been their 2 consistent weaknesses all season and of course the Crusaders have the players to really exploit this. But! But the sort of attacking crap that the Crusaders dished up last week maybe puts a lie to this. Have they got the best combination on the field, I’d be swapping Carter and Taylor around for a game, to me the more ball in Carters hands the better. Can’t fault their defence or set pieces, ball retention OK, attack flat as a pancake. It is great if Fruean or Fred have a good day, but too hot and cold woth the talent available for me. Still they might, probably will, get a roll on tomoz. But the Rebels – they love playing at home!!!!
Sharks v Force – This should be a comfortable win for the Sharks. The Force can’t seem to get anything going this year, and whilst they certainly have some very good players they just don’t seem to be able to click as a team. The Sharks are going OK, winning the games that they should and will be too strong at home.
Sharks 1 – 12
Stormers v Cheetahs – The who cares game of the week. A nice tough encounter for the Stormers to get back into the groove after the bye. Might be close, but a full strength Stormers backline might run away with it as well. Might might might!!
Reds v Chiefs – For me this is the game of the round. The Reds are on the improve, were a bit unlucky to lose last week, and have a look about them now that suggests they are getting back to a bit of their 2012 form. Higgo, Simmo, Gillie and the Slipper are starting to turn it up, and put real pressure on the Crusaders last week, well everywhere except the scrum which was ultimately the losing of the game for them. But the Chiefs don’t have as big a weapon at scrumtime – and for me the forward battle is really a break even. The backs, well Cruden is in the form of his life, has a very very solid midfield outside of him with plenty of zip provided by the back 3 – they are still a work on in getting the combo really clicking but still do plenty right now. Expect Diggers to defend in the 1 5/8 channel at set pieces to try and nullify SBW. And that is the probably the defining aspect of this game – defence. The Reds have really stepped up here of late and the Chiefs have been defensive misers all season, only the Stormers have had less points against. The key here is Cruden, his ability to break the line as soon as an opportunity rises is the best in the comp, and you can’t keep an eye on all the Chiefs backs so those opportunities will come.
Chiefs 1 -12