The Brumbies, Bulls and Crusaders all sit out of action this weekend, which means there won’t be any change at the top of the South African and Australian tables as both the Brumbies and the Bulls are two points clear at the top of their respective conferences. The Crusaders could possibly climb into the wild card spots with their guaranteed four points if either the Blues or the Cheetahs fail to secure victories. There’s still a lot of rugby to be played before we can start making predictions about playoff spots, but time is running out for the likes of the Waratahs, Stormers, Sharks and Hurricanes, who are currently fighting it out in the the middle of the log.
Chiefs vs Force | Friday 10 May | ECOLight Stadium | 09:35
The Chiefs managed a less than impressive 39-33 victory over the Rebels last weekend and will have to up their game considerably when they take on the unpredictable Force. The Western Australian side have caused a fair few upsets this season, having already taken down the Reds and the Crusaders in the earlier rounds of this year’s competition. They will fancy their chances at another upset following their 11-all draw with the Queenslanders last Saturday.
To Win (80mins)
Chiefs (-14.5) 9/10
Force (+14.5) 9/10
Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has made several changes to his side, with Patrick Osborne starting on the wing this Friday and Ben Afeaki returning to the starting lineup to join Toby Smith and Hika Elliot in the front row. Aaron Cruden and Asaeli Tikoirotuma are allowed a break for the first time this season as they drop down to the bench to make way for Gareth Anscombe and Tawera Kerr-Barlow, who earns his first start since breaking his jaw.
The Force have not yet announced their final starting XV but loose forward Angus Cottrell and centre Chris Tuatara-Morrison have been added to the 22-man squad that managed to hold the Reds to an 11-11 draw last week.
VERDICT: Chiefs (-14.5) 9/10
Weaker teams don’t get lucky twice in a row in this competition, so I expect the Chiefs will put things back into perspective for the Force by taking them down by 20 points or so.
Reds vs Sharks | Friday 10 May | Suncorp Stadium | 11:40
Last weekend the Sharks managed to do something no other team has done this season; lose to the Highlanders. Having built up a reputation over the years for shying away from the easy route to the playoffs, this year they seem to have outdone themselves. They’ve now lost four in a row and find themselves occupying ninth spot on the overall standings. The Reds, on the other hand, looked unstoppable in the weeks preceding last week’s unfathomable draw to their 2013 bogey team. They will be looking to get their campaign back on track with a convincing home win over the troubled Sharks and with Plumtree’s men fighting for survival, this could prove to be the game of the weekend.
To Win (80mins)
Reds (-6.5) 9/10
Sharks (+6.5) 9/10
With Dom Shipperley out with injury, wing Rod Davies comes into the squad as the only change to the Reds for this week’s clash. Prop Greg Holmes earns his 100th Queensland cap this Friday.
The Sharks have suffered another two injury blows, with Frans Steyn and Lubabalo Mtembu ruled out for this weekend’s fixture. JP Pietersen moves across to centre for Steyn, which allows winger Piet Lindeque his second start in three games. Jannie du Plessis has been given a breather after having started most of the season. JC Janse van Rensburg will start at tighthead with Wiehahn Herbst moving across to loosehead. Willem Alberts returns from injury to take up a seat on the bench.
VERDICT: Sharks 2/1
It sounds crazy to back the Sharks in their current form but they managed to defy the odds against the Reds last year when they traveled to Queensland for the playoffs. I have a feeling they are going to do it again this Friday. It is not often you’ll find the Sharks at 2/1 for an outright win so I suggest throwing caution to the wind.
Cheetahs vs Hurricanes | Friday 10 May | Free State Stadium | 19:10
The Cheetahs will be well rested after their first bye of the season and with the Hurricanes limping into Free State following their humiliating 48-14 loss to the Bulls at Loftus last weekend, the Cheetahs should be feeling confident about their chances this Friday.
To Win (80mins)
Cheetahs (-7.5) 9/10
Hurricanes (+7.5) 9/10
Only one change to the Cheetahs team that took down the Kings two weeks ago, as Frans Viljoen comes in for Lappies Labuschagne. On the bench we see the return of Sarel Pretorius, coming in for Tewis de Bruyn, in the only other change to the squad.
The Hurricanes have not yet announced their final team to take on the Cheetahs but we do know they will be without skipper Conrad Smith, who has been ruled out following the brutal concussion he suffered during the Bulls game that had him out cold for 45 seconds.
VERDICT: Cheetahs (-7.5) 9/10
The Hurricanes have only managed one victory from their last four outings and with the loss of their captain, their South African tour is not about to get any more pleasant. The Cheetahs, rested and at home, should take this one by at least ten points.
Blues vs Rebels | Saturday 11 May | Eden Park | 09:35
The Blues managed a hard fought 18-17 victory over the Stormers last weekend, but should have an easier time of it this Saturday when they come up against considerably weaker opposition.
To Win (80mins)
Blues (-12.5) 9/10
Rebels (+12.5) 9/10
The Blues have made several changes for their clash against the Rebels with Brendon O’Connor starting at openide flanker, Tim Perry taking over from Tom McCartney at loosehead and Quentin MacDonald filling in for the injured Kevan Mealamu. Rene Ranger moves back to centre and opens a space on the wing for George Moala.
No final team announcement from the Rebels at the time of writing, but due to Kurtley Beale once again making headlines for the wrong reasons we do know that he will not be running out for the Rebels this weekend. It seems he has breached certain behavioral guidelines agreed to with the franchise, which led the union to announce that they would not consider their star playmaker for the clash.
VERDICT: Blues (-12.5) 9/10
The Rebels put up a decent enough fight against the Chiefs last week, ultimately going down 33-39 to last year’s champions. Realistically though, there was never really any danger of an upset and the Blues defence won’t allow as many negligent opportunities for the wild Rebels attack. The Blues should take it by 15 to 20 points.
Waratahs vs Stormers | Saturday 11 May | Allianz Stadium | 11:40
Only one point separates these two sides on the log which should give you some idea of how close this game is going to be. The Waratahs will feel overly confident in their attacking abilities after running in an impressive eleven tries against the hapless Kings last weekend. However, with the Stormers having one of the tightest defences in the competition, the Waratahs would be foolish to think they will be able to pull off a repeat of last weekend’s bloodbath.
To Win (80mins)
Waratahs (-1.5) 9/10
Stormers (+1.5) 9/10
The Waratahs have not yet released a final starting XV but will more than likely retain most of the side that made the Kings look like a high school second team last week.
The Stormers will be a little more than ecstatic to have powerhouse Eben Etzebeth back in the engine room, where he will team up with fellow springbok Andries Bekker. Specialist winger Gerhard van den Heever forces his way onto the bench at the expense of utility back Damien de Allende, who drops out of the squad completely.
VERDICT: Stormers 1/1
The toughest game of the weekend to call, I have decided to ignore the Waratahs’ brutal thrashing of the Kings last weekend and instead focused on their performances in the competition as a whole. The Stormers, to me at least, have been much more consistent during the season so I am going to take a gamble and back the men from the Cape. The handicaps are too negligible to be considered in the betting and with even money on offer for the Stormers, why would you want to bother anyway?
Kings vs Highlanders | Saturday 11 May | Mandela Bay Stadium | 17:05
The Kings were reminded of the massive difference in intensity that exists between Currie Cup first division rugby and the Super XV last week, when they were humiliated in front of a home crowd by the Waratahs. This week they face the Highlanders, fresh off their first win of the season against the Sharks and desperately looking for a second.
To Win (80mins)
Kings (+8.5) 9/10
Highlanders (-8.5) 9/10
Captain Luke Watson returns to the starting lineup at flank after playing the last two games off the bench, with Cornell du Preez shifting to number eight for Saturday’s clash. David Bulbring comes off the bench in a rotational change with Rynier Bernado, while in the backline Marcello Sampson replaces the injured Sergeal Petersen.
No final team announcements as of yet but considering the Highlanders secured their first win of the season last week I wouldn’t expect too many changes to the Otago based side for Saturday’s clash.
VERDICT: Highlanders (-8.5) 9/10
The cracks are starting to show as the competition newcomers begin to feel the effects of the exhaustive Super XV calendar for the first time. The Highlanders should manage a convincing 10 to 15 point victory this Saturday.
Think we've got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this is going to play out.
There will be weekly and monthly prizes in store! Follow the link below to join the pool!