Highlanders v Hurricanes – With the NZ conference looking to be an even affair a win here is a must for the bottom 2 NZ sides.A few changes for both teams, but the Highlanders are a team with a lot of question marks, and with 8 AB’s in the starting XV they should be performing better than they are – perhaps not together as a team yet. The Hurricanes were bloody lucky to get the win last week, but showed enough in staying with the Crusaders that they are coming right.And they more than any other NZ team need to have all facets working well to be competitive, and with the likes of Perenara, Barrett and Savea having more influence over a game, all marshalled by the wonderful Conrad Smith, a strong bench, and with Dunedin holding no fears,I fancy they will be too strong. What do the Highlanders need to do – get on top up front with a bit of mongrel needed by some perhaps, or, dare I say it, are they too old in the T5. Slade needs to find form straight away, andI wonder if Ben Smith shouldn’t be at centre, with Poki at fullback – would give them more strike weapons. But I just don’t think the Highlanders are playing well enough. Mmmm could be win-less after 5 rounds – JJ who. So that will come back to bite me no doubt.
Hurricanes 1 – 12
Waratahs v Cheetahs – Plenty of changes for the Waratahs after a pretty woeful performance last week. Wouldn’t want to be the Waratahs coach under any circumstances – they just lack heart;something is not right. They look like they need a Hurricanes/Blues type clean out. But they will need to beswitched on to beat this enterprising and opportunistic Cheetahs outfit. Boy dothey give it a go and they upset the Waratahs here 2 years ago with a 4 trys to nil spanking, and I certainly wouldn’t say they couldn’tdo it again. In fact so woeful are the Waratahs , can anyone even work out their game plan, and how accomplished were the Cheetahs when in possession with Pretorius (and this guy sums up the Waratahs, discarded by them after 3 early games, he has shown what a good player he is given the right circumstances or perhaps better environment)and Goosen great at making play, you’d have to back the Cheetahs. The latter also a dead-eye dick.
Cheetahs 1 – 12
Kings v Chiefs – Well the Kings havebeen a bit of a surprise package so far, 8 out of 14 available points is not to be laughed at. But the Chiefs will present a different challenge thanwhat they have faced to date with their running game,and especially what Cruden brings to the table, especially against a less than top class team. With their ability to score plenty of tries the Chiefs should win this relatively easily.
Crusaders v Bulls – The game of the round for me. And absolutely crucial for the Crusaders, last year 10 wins was required to get into the play-offs. If the Crusaders lose this weekend they will have to win 10 of 13 probably to qualify, 11 of 13 to be sure and more if they want to be top 4. So tomorrow will be all about the forwards, well you know how the Bulls are going to play and the Crusaders are not going to stand around and let them do what they want. they willreally have a go at taking them on at the breakdown I reckon. And expect to see the Crusaders move the ball around as well, hopefully not that across the fieldcrap of a few weeks ago but plays that will run the Bulls around, they tired a bit last week, the Blues were just not good enough to take advantage of it, the Crusaders should be. At home, and with more to play for, and with players having more game time under their belts, the Crusaders by not many.
Crusaders 1 – 12
Reds v Force – The Force can’t take a trick – injuries and travelare against them here. And who is the person who scheduled them to play in BrisVegas after returning from South Africa, very stiff. The Reds are slowly building, Geniaback this week is a huge in, and you would think would be too strong all round for the Force. Mind you the Force don’t give in, they just aren’t good enough yet, and any slackening in attitude by the Reds will be used by the Force – ask the Bulls. Like the Reds industry in the forwards, hardworking and hard running loosies and midfield, and if Rocky comes right it could get ugly. McKenzie is not going to allow any minds to wonder I reckon.
Sharks v Brumbies – Can’t pick this one. Two teams unbeaten so far, but in contrasting ways. The Sharks have been very dour, there last two wins on the back of penalties. The Brumbies are very much a pressure side as well but have been able to score a lot more tries using their outside backs. But Durban has been a hard place for them to win in, only once so far, and the Sharks will look to grind them down again with their narrow game and kick the inevitable penalties.
Sharks 1 – 12