Highlanders v Rebels – A big ask for the mighty Rebels to come away with points even with Twinkle Toes and Kurtley back. Inbredcargill is a bit of a fortress for the Highlanders, the weather looks Ok though so that gives me a small hope. But the Rebels forwards have been under some ppressure the last couple of weeks and will need to front here – scrums especially have been a worry, and we gave away a truckload of ball at the breakdown, though Pocock is a freak. This is a very strong looking Highlanders side, even without Hore or their injured 1 5/8′s Treeby and Thommo are pretty good ins – how big is the Highlanders forward pack, well over 900kg. The way JJ has these forwards playing, breakdowns especially (warning signs flashing for the Rebels)and the excellent work of the likes of Ellison and Smith out back will be too much for the mighty Rebels. I hope we get to see some TT and Kurtley magic, but feel it is really the big boys bashing up the small boys,
Hurricanes v Cheetahs – A bit of a danger game for the Hurricanes – why so many changes? The Cheetahs have been very competitive in all their games in Australasia, going right to the wire in all 3. They will be keen to keep this momentum up and in The Goose they have a player that could be the difference. Don’t like that Hammett has made 4 changes to the forwards, sureone was forced, but the likes of Thrush and Lam have been important with their workrates, and their replacements will have to really step up as the Cheetahs will surely test them up front. I would be particularly nervous at scrum time where JTA and Moran will struggle. HAmmett though seems to be pulling the right strings so we should give them the benefit of the doubt, and with so many players performing for him you would be silly not to back them. Can we in fact say they have lost their flakiness?
Hurricanes 1 – 12
Chiefs v Waratahs – Probably the game of the round. The Waraths are talking themselves up again, well the press are anyway, saying they have turned the corner and their new attitude is the way of the future. This would be the "run the ball and minimise kicking when under pressure" plan. Blah blah blah – what is the bet they will revert to type sooner rather than later. The press over here love a bandwagon, currently it ia Tom Carter as a Wallaby bolter, 2 weeks ago it was Harris – both a long way off test standard. Anyway the big question for this game is how the Chiefs will front after the bye. They are fielding a pretty good lineup with few injuries, and if they can get their backline combinations running smoothly and continue their good work at the breakdown and set oieces they should be too strong. A must watch on Wynot and the Flying Affro, if these two get a roll on they give the Waratahs huge go forward.
Chiefs 1 – 12
Brumbies v Sharks – There have been a few surprises in this years comp, and the Brumbies are one of the big ones. This bunch of no names has floruished under Jake White and with the aid of a good draw sit comfortably on top of the Aus conference. But things are going to start to heat up in the Brumbies kitchen starting with the Sharks. Slighty unlucky to lose to the Waratahs the Sharks have a strong team named with dangers all over the park. Led by the Battleship (who was interviewed on Inside Rugby last week, andwhat a nice humble guy, came across very well, still hate the prick though) I think they will be just too stron for a tenacious Brumbies team. The Brumbies need to be watched, they are very good at converting chances into points, ask the Highlanders, but with that game in mind the Sharks will be too pragmatic and should win. Only one win in CAnberra for the Sharks though -mmmmmmmmm.
Sharks 1 – 12
Force v Reds – Have we ever seen the previous years champs get walloped like the Reds were last week? What a shallacking, embarassing to say the least.They are nowhere near the potent force of last year without The Burglar and Diggers. Link will be hoping last week was an anomoly but they will find it tough in Perth where they have only won once. Injuries are playing havoc and the likes of Genia are probably trying too hard and thus the team is suffering as a consequence. Relax fellas, you still have a formidable team and if you play to give your speedy back three some space then this is very winnable. The Force are predictable, they will attacke the breakdown with Pocock and Brown and use the inevitable turnovers to get them in a position to score. Defence is the key, to be always aware that a turnover will come and defend accordingly. The reds to bounce back for me.
Reds 1 – 12
Lions v Crusaders – Did we finally see something of the real Crusaders last week? At times they were very good, scrum awesome again and some very good tries, but defensively they are still looking a bit suspect, lineouts were a bit wobbly, and some combinations are still not gelling. The Man is back this weekand you would think he will add significantly to their options, he makes those around him look so much better. Can’t say much about the Lions, don’t know where they are going to find an edge that will win them this game. I actually expect the Crusaders will turn it up a notch now, class cannot be kept down for too long and the SA grounds may be just what the Crusaders need to finally click.
Stormers v Bulls – Wow this should be a thriller! The strong defensive mindset of the Stormers v a Bulls side bound to revert to type knowing they won’t get anywhere near the opportunities that the Reds offered. I expect this to be a close game with theStormers too strong at home.
Stormers 1 – 12