Super Rugby continues this weekend with seven matches on the slate.
The action gets underway on Friday as the Blues host the Chiefs in a fascinating New Zealand Conference tussle while the Reds take on the Brumbies before a quintet of games on Saturday.
The Highlanders have a bye this week but all other 14 teams are in action
Blues vs Chiefs
If you haven’t looked at Matt Duffie’s try from last weekend, then do so immediately.
It’ll be very interesting to see how Damian McKenzie goes at 10, he assisted two tries against the Crusaders but also gifted them a try, by throwing an intercept pass, towards the end.
There are no questions about McKenzie’s ability as a rugby player, but some fickle observers will point to last week’s performance as an example of why he should be playing as a full-back.
Even though Sonny Bill Williams is missing, I think the Blues will edge this one to end their drought of not having beat another New Zealand side in two years.
Prediction: Blues by four
Reds vs Brumbies
What is there to say about the Reds? They were absolutely terrible against the Rebels, it doesn’t help when your captain gets sent off after ten minutes.
The Brumbies performance is harder to judge, they weren’t fantastic for sure, but it is difficult to say how good the Sunwolves were until we see them playing again.
Prediction: Brumbies by 12.
Crusaders vs Stormers
The Crusaders were excellent last week. The best example of this is when Richie Mo’unga got a yellow for cynically stopping a Chiefs attack, they outscored the Chiefs 7–0 while their star out-half was off the field.
The Stormers went score-for-score with the Waratahs in Sydney, before a poor line-out, which their skills coach is refusing to blame on their hooker, and then a poor tackle from Raymond Rhule, handed the Waratahs the victory.
The Crusaders will be far too good in this one but will look for better discipline than last week against the Chiefs.
Prediction: Crusaders by 20
Sunwolves vs Rebels
The Sunwolves were decent last week against the Brumbies but they faded badly in the second half, and while Tevita Kuridrani’s try was a fluke, the Brumbies were looking ominous anyway.
The Rebels thrashed the Reds, and while the Queensland side were bad, the Rebels still had to take their opportunities.
Their backline looks very exciting for the year ahead, with Will Genia providing quick service to the playmaker Jack Debreczeni, who has Sefa Naivalu, Tom English and the ever-impressive Dane Haylett-Petty outside them.
Prediction: Rebels by 10
Sharks vs Waratahs
It would have been frustrating for the Sharks to not have been given the opportunity to back up their solid performance against the Lions with a match the next week.
The Waratahs, meanwhile, stole a win against the Stormers last week, but impressed with the variety of their tries, using their kicking game to good effect, along with a try from a line-out maul.
The Sharks’ freshness from a week off will tell in this one.
Prediction: Sharks by seven
Bulls vs Lions
The Bulls delivered the surprise result of round 2 by beating the Hurricanes, while the Lions beat the Jaguares fairly convincingly, following on from their win over the Sharks.
If Aphiwe Dyantyi keeps up the form he’s shown so far this season he’ll surely make his Springboks debut in the summer Tests against Wales and England.
While the Bulls’ Jesse Kriel was very impressive against the Hurricanes, if he and Handre Pollard can show the talent they undoubtedly possess this season, then the Bulls could challenge for a play-off position.
The Lions attack should be too much in this one, though.
Prediction: Lions by seven
Jaguares vs Hurricanes
Some great attacking tries and plenty of offloads combined with poor discipline and porous defence have been the stand-out factors for the Jaguares so far.
The Hurricanes made some bad defensive errors against the Bulls, the chase back to support an attacking ruck, that led to a turnover and a try for the Bulls to win the match, being particularly poor.
That being said, they should be better in this match and edge a high-scoring affair.
Prediction: Hurricanes by 10
Evan O’Connor, Pundit Arena