Hurricanes v Chiefs, Super 15, Friday 13th July, 09:35
There may be only one match on Friday, but what a humdinger it should prove to be. There’s no easing into the weekend here, with the table topping Chiefs travelling to the “Cake Tin”, a venue they haven’t won at in over a decade. The Hurricane’s will need nothing short of a victory if they are to keep their slim hopes alive, and will be quietly confident having defeated the Crusaders in their last outing, before being handed a timely break.
To Win (80 Min)
Hurricanes (+4.5) 9/10
Chiefs (-4.5) 9/10
It’s do or die time for the Hurricane’s, but I don’t expect them to alter their expansive style of play at this late stage. It worked to perfection against the Crusaders last time out, with the irrepressive Conrad Smith running in two tries on the way to victory. His battle in the midfield with All Black partner Sonny Bill Williams will be key in determining the outcome of this one. The Chiefs were at their clinical best when these two met earlier this season, capitalizing on the ‘Canes array of mistakes to as they ran out comfortable 33-14 winners. With everything that is at stake, I expect this one to be a much closer affair.
VERDICT: Chiefs by 1-12 points 16/10
The Chiefs have managed to grind out the close ones so far this season, and this should be no different. I’d be wary about the ‘Canes though, as they proven themselves more than capable of causing a shock. Keep an eye on the live-in-running markets as this one could go either way.
Brumbies v Blues, Super 15, Saturday 14th July, 07:30
The Brumbies breathed a sigh of relief last weekend as they managed to win a game that they really should have lost. That win leaves them within a point of claiming the conference, something that they should do this weekend against the Blues. The boys from Auckland managed to pick up just their 3rd win of the season, but coming as it did against the Force, it’s not much to write home about.
To Win (80 Min)
Brumbies (-7.5) 9/10
Blues (+6.5) 9/10
The Brumbies, 5/1 outsiders to top the Aussie Conference pre-season, have surprised many with their run to 3rd on the log. We all knew of Jake White’s credentials, but could he honestly transform what was a bunch of unknowns into true title contenders? Playing percentage rugby, as White’s sides tend to do, they have managed to grind out the close games, which is imperative when it comes to knockout rugby. The less said about their opponents, the better. They only seem to be in this competition to lose punters money. They were improved last week though, with Ma’a Nonu looking imperious in the midfield as he notched up his 100th first-class try.
VERDICT: Brumbies by 1-12 points 16/10
I’m a huge fan of the 5-way total match points market, especially when you’re unsure on the ‘cap. The Brumbies should win this one, but going on last week’s performance (albeit against the Force) the Blues should put up a bit of a fight here.
Crusaders v Force, Super 15, Saturday 14th July, 09:35
“Is it over? Wait, what?! We still have to play the Crusaders?” The poor Force, shoveled into Super Rugby to line a couple more pockets, they have never looked even close to super, more akin to 15 Clark Kent’s running around on a field wandering what the hell is going on. This week will be no different as they head to Christchurch to face the Crusaders, who are waiting to tear them limb from limb like a pack of rabid dogs. Like those National Geographic documentaries with the baby Wildebeest, it’s not going to be fun to watch, unless of course you fancy a bit of ultra-violence.
|Lucky for him, his face broke his fall.|
To Win (80 Min)
Crusaders (-24.5) 9/10
Force (+24.5) 9/10
Following their shock loss to the ‘Canes, the Crusaders were back to their best last weekend, with the return of Dan Carter and more importantly Kieran Read offering them a new dimension. It was at set-piece time that they really shone though, pushing the Chiefs off their own ball and stealing line-outs almost at will. Heading into the playoffs they can never be written off, in fact it would surprise me if they weren’t in the final. As for the Force, will someone just put them out of their misery already? Injuries have taken their toll and without their only two decent players, David Pocock and Nathan Sharpe, they continue to look worse than the Lions, if that’s even possible.
VERDICT: Crusaders (-24.5) 9/10
I long for the Super 12, when it was the best of the best, not these watered down franchises that we see today. The Crusaders should pummel the Force here, stomping them into a quivering mess as they prepare for the knockouts. If this one starts to get out of hand, continue to ply the ‘Saders on the ‘cap during the game.
Reds v Waratahs, Super 15, Saturday 14th July, 11:40
|"He's a quick little dingo ain't he?"|
To Win (80 Min)
Reds (-8.5) 9/10
Waratahs (+8.5) 9/10
The meeting between these two on the opening day set the tone for each of their seasons, with the Waratahs somehow managing to lose after the hooter as Dom Shipperley ran in an 80m try. The game itself was far from a classic, but did you really expect anything more from an Australian derby? The ‘Tahs line-up seems to have been picked by pulling names out of a hat, with lock Dean Mumm packing down on the side of the scrum. The Reds will depend upon the mercurial talents of Quade Cooper, whose nifty footwork is almost as impressive as his thrifty fingers.
VERDICT: Reds (-8.5) 9/10
Another close call, but looking at the way the Waratah’s are lining up, with two relative rookies in the halfback positions, the Reds should be able to win well here. It probably won’t be enough though to keep them in the competition, but then again they don’t deserve to make it through.
Stormers v Rebels, Super 15, Saturday 14th July, 15:00
|The Stormers supporters know the drill by now.|
To Win (80 Min)
Stormers (-18.5) 9/10
Rebels (+18.5) 9/10
The Stormers picked up yet another 4 points against the Cheetahs, thanks in part to Peter Grant’s delightful little chip over the defence, that has Sir Alex Ferguson looking to sign him as a ‘keeper for his “distribution skills”. This weekend they start a hooker at eigthman (what is the game coming to) in an apparent bid to mock their opposition. Speaking of the Rebels, they will be wary of giving the opposition a 24 point head start, after that plan failed against the Lions last weekend. Somehow they managed to claw their way back into the game, despite fielding James Hilgendorf at flyhalf. He reminds me of a young Louis Koen, without the kicking game.
VERDICT: Stormers (-18.5) 9/10
I’m always a bit apprehensive to take the Stormers on the ‘cap given their inability to score tries. Having said that, I have to believe that they can notch up a couple against the Rebels, especially if it means a possible home final.
Sharks v Cheetahs, Super 15, Saturday 14th July, 17:05
The Sharks enter their second weekend of the “knockouts” this weekend, as they square off against former bogey team the Cheetahs. They finally managed to put together 80 minutes of rugby as they stomped the Bulls unapologetically into the Kings Park turf. The Cheetahs won the diligence award yet again, but were never really going to have enough to overcome the Stormers in Bloemfontein.
To Win (80 Min)
Sharks (-13.5) 9/10
Cheetahs (+13.5) 9/10
Last week’s victory was all the more impressive as they did it without the services of Lambie and Alberts. John Plumtree proved for once that he is a half-decent coach, as his selection of Kankowski over Deysel proved to be a stroke of genius. This week he’ll have a selection conundrum on his hands, but that will have the Kiwi grinning from ear to ear. One negative has been the knock picked up by Bismark Du Plessis, whose battle with Adriaan Strauss was undoubtedly the highlight of the earlier meeting between these two. All attention will now turn to the battle between Heinrich Brussow and young upstart Marcell Coetzee, which has the makings of a classic.
VERDICT: Sharks (-13.5) 9/10
The Sharks were simply sumptuous last week and should they replicate that performance there is no reason why they can’t win by a two try margin. With the added firepower provided by Lambie and Alberts, they should blow the Cheetahs off the park here.
Bulls v Lions, Super 15, Saturday 14th July, 19:10
|How about a kiss goodbye?|
To Win (80 Min)
Bulls (-16.5) 9/10
Lions (+16.5) 9/10
He will be looking for a much improved performance though as they gear up for the playoffs and a probable meeting with the Crusaders in Christchurch. Conspiracy theories abound about a wish to play the Brumbies, but I’m not buying them, or selling them for that matter. This is a Jukskei derby after all and they’ll want to stick it to the Lions in what will probably be their last Super Rugby match for quite some time. The Bulls haven’t lost to the Lions since 2002, when it was the Loftus based franchise that were the annual recipients of the wooden spoon.
VERDICT: Bulls (-16.5) 9/10
The Bulls will be hurting after last week, and the Lions will be the ones that will have to suffer the consequences. Expect sentiment to abound, as we bid farewell to Wynand Olivier and the Lions in the same game. I for one, won’t miss either of them.
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