So how is any self respecting sports fanatic supposed to get through the next 5 or so weeks without 1) life threatening sleep deprivation, 2) loss of job, 3) divorce!! Wimbledon, Tour de France, Olympics, cricket (yeah I know we are crap but still it is on and – OK fair enough we could miss that)- and then there are the oval ball codes…. It is enough to drive anyone to upgrade their plasma to a bigger size!!!
Some great games this weekend – well the first 3 are, then it pretty much turns to crap – so enjoy tonight then watch replays of Federer v Djokovic (probably the match of the weekend between guys who aren’t overly fond of each other).
Chiefs v Crusaders – Oh the hype for this game, hope it lives up to it. Should be a beauty. Lots of great match ups, the need for points from both sides and their earlier encounter all bring a great edge to this. The keys for me – will the Chiefs scrum hold up this time, the midfield defences of both teams and the form of Dan Carter. The Crusaders will no doubt attack the Chiefs scrum, and with the Crusaders scrum wanting to prove a point but more importantly gain an edge in this game it is crucial the Chiefs hold up. I thought the Crusaders failed to use their scrum advantage as much as they could have last week and need to get that right, Read will of course help that as McCaw seemed to struggle at times with his timing last week. Then the Crusaders need to hold SBW, but equally the debutante centre in Horrell will be tested by Fruean and Fred – tackle drop offs here could well mean points. The match up of Carter and Cruden is of course critical to edge sides fortunes. Cruden is playing great rugby, consistent, inventive and accurate, he has arguably been the player of the year so far for the Chiefs. Carter will need to be at his best for the Crusaders to get a win here – the Chiefs defence is up there with the best and there is none better that Carter at breaching defences, whether by hand or foot. And I’m just looking forward to seeing the front rows square off, Romano v Retallick, Cane v McCAw, TKB v Ellis, Carter v Cruden and on it goes. Weather looks good – can’t wait. And I just think the little extra class will come through in the end.
Crusaders 1 – 12
Reds v Highlanders – What a great follow up. So two teams here that are hanging on to play off hopes by the skin of their teeth and really need a bonus point win to stay in the hunt. This brings a different pressure to bearof course and I wonder if the Highlanders have it in them to score those 4 tries, especially away and having Ellison out also a handicap. Still they will give it their all as usual and cause problems with their disruptive game plan. But the Reds are looking batter and better and turned in some quality play last week to have the Rebels done and dusted quite early on. Diggers is a big out, but they still have plenty of speed out wide and with the Burglar geting more match fit each week they will ask plenty of questions.Expect the forwards to break even with the more stable and creativeaxis of the Reds to steer them to a win.
Sharks v Bulls – And then we get this beauty. The Bulls were fantastic last week. They switched off late, but prior to that were almost scoring at will, including an absolute cracker from Basson (arguably the individual try of the season). On that form they will be very very hard to beat. The Sharks had a bye last week and whilst that will freshen up their test players nicely, the changes they have made may well offset that in terms of stable combinations. The bus that is Frans Steyn is a great in for the Sharks,but his combination with Freddie is uncertain, and a new 8, 9, 10 in itself could be problematic though they are all experienced players. I think the more settled Bulls team in great form will shade this one.
Bulls 1 – 12
Blues v Force – hard to get enthused about this. Crowd numbers could be a worry. The Blues should get up. The Force have been as horrible as the Blues and with some key players missing will struggle. The Blues have a good blend of youth and experience and should have too many options for the Force.
Waratahs v Brumbies – this is an intriguing game. The Waratahs have been horrible this year, shocking tactics, woeful execution and just plain dumb. So what do they now the season has gone, pull a selection rabbit out of the hat and go with a new halfback ( Grayson Hart no less) and a rookie 1 5/8. The rest of the back-line are all tried and tested Wallabies, some in good form and they will be up for this. Apart from Queensland this is the game they really set themselves for. The Brumbies need to keep winning to ensure themseleves a play off spot, any slip ups and the Reds could well take that one spot that seems likely for the Australian conference. There consistency has beenthe key, but they looked a little shaky last week and will need to tighten their defence.
Waratahs 1 – 12
Cheetahs v Stormers – The Cheetahs were horrible last week, the Stormers weren’t that flash themselves though they have that defence. And how does a side with that much talent in the backline score so few tries?
Lions v Rebels – Mmmmm. The mighty Rebels have too many outs for me.