I had a spring in my step this Monday, after an impressive six from seven in my predictions last week. If I was a betting man I would have been pretty wealthy from what I hear. Unfortunately all that I managed was to inflate my ego which could very well be bruised this week, writes Benedict Chanakira
Four sides have a bye this week and we talking about the Waratahs, Crusaders, Blue Bulls and the Jaguares. So what will this week’s line up look like:
Blues vs Hurricanes
Three defeats in a row for the Hurricanes and the dream start of 2015 is all but forgotten. Have teams worked them out? The Blues made too many changes from week one and got caught out by the Crusaders. It will be a battle of two scrumming units that have looked below average and the Hurricanes are missing the stalwarts that moved on from the pack and the backs.
It is going to be an exciting clash none the less and both sides will be out to write all wrongs right. I expect Ihaia West to be at the helm for the Blues and to showcase his playmaking abilities.
Prediction: Blues to win.
Force vs Brumbies
The best side in the tournament at the moment will take on the battling Western Force. The Brumbies have been playing to win. They have exciting backs, formidable pack and a sharp shooter at goal. The Brumbies will face a Force side that has a decent backrow but week tight 5. The Force have also shown a lack of attacking edge with just two this season compared to the Brumbies’ 11.
Top try scorers against the worst try scorers. This will be one way traffic.
Prediction: Brumbies to win.
Western Force: TBA
Saturday 12 March 2016
The champions managed to grind out a win last week and will be looking to take that momentum forward against a strong Highlanders side. Two solid scrums come up against each other this weekend but the Lions seem to edge the home side when its down to attacking edge so far.
The Lions are riding a wave and at some point they will have to be brought back to earth will it be this weekend? The Highlanders have not looked sharp but have showed glimpses of what made them champions. Malakai Fekitoa is looking in some form and by miles the form centre in Super Rugby.
The Lions are likely to start with young centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg and it will be the ultimate test. A World Cup winner against a rookie who is cut from the winner’s cloth. This will be an exciting game that will see the Highlanders play a lot more expansive. The Lions backs will need to make hits that stick or those big Highlanders boys will run riot.
Prediction: Lions to win.
Melbourne Rebels vs Reds
Two bottom feeders will contest yet another Australian derby. It will be less dull than the last one and I expect the Reds to have a little more bite to their team. Teams always have a spark when an underperforming coach is kicked to the curb. The side from Queensland looks as poor as it get but need to play around their strong scrum.
Ben Daley, Saia Fainga’a and Greg Holmes have been impressive. Some injury returnees will no doubt boost the side. For now, they must rediscover themselves against a Rebels side that showed promise in the last twenty minutes of the Bulls game.
Prediction: Melbourne Rebels for the win.
Melbourne Rebels: TBA
Queensland Reds: TBA
Sunwolves vs Cheetahs
One of these sides will get an opportunity for a first win of the season unless it is a draw. The Cheetahs looked good in patches against the Stormers. They have shown progress in their scrummaging but battled in the line outs. They will be taking on the new boys who got an early Bye and will no doubt have refreshed a bit and worked on some weaknesses.
The Cheetahs will need to fix their defensive woes a lot more. The Sunwolves are a tricky side and have shown an intent to play running rugby and will surprise the Cheetahs this weekend. The travel could play a part on who wins and the omission of Lood de Jager further hampers the Cheetahs chances.
While their line out showed lethargic athleticism off the ground and in their lifting, naïve in-play decisions and an inability for break down the Stormers defence regularly they can take heart from the performance of their centres William Small-Smith and Francois Venter who are playing impressive rugby.
Prediction: Upset alert, Sunwolves to win.
Kings vs Chiefs
The Kings have been working hard behind the scenes. They have been running up dunes and looking to address their fitness problems. They will be taking on an angry Chiefs side and should be wary of a backlash. Their vulnerability in defence will targeted.
What the Kings should look to do is fix their set piece and look to survive on any mistakes the Chiefs make. The abilities of Aaron Cruden and Damian McKenzie in particular will be key to how this game goes. The loose forwards and outside backs must look to close down their threat on the inside and outside channels from the line outs and break up play.
The Kings have not been as bad as many perceive them. Their tackling has been better than most sides, it’s their defensive realignment that is poor. Their ruck success has been one of the best in the tournament. This side would have been a lot more competitive without the race wars and late start.
Prediction: It will not be a thrashing, but Chiefs to win.
Southern Kings: Southern Kings:
- Jurgen Visser 14. Luzuko Vulindlu 13. Stefan Watermeyer 12. Shane Gates 11. Malcolm Jaer 10. Louis Fouche 9. Ntando Kebe 8. Jacques Engelbrecht 7. Thembelani Bholi 6. Chris Cloete 5. JC Astle 4. Steven Sykes (capt) 3. Jacobie Adriaanse 2. Edgar Marutlulle 1. Schalk Feirreira
- Sithembiso Sithole 17. Martin Bezuidenhout 18. Tom Botha 19. Schalk Oelofse 20. CJ Velleman 21. Kevin Luiters 22. Elgar Watts 23. Jaco van Tonder
Stormers vs Sharks
The game of the weekend. The Line out of the Stormers is looking exquisite. Their depth at lock is great especially with the fighter JD Schickerling in the mix. He came on and even stole a line out against the woeful Cheetahs. The Sharks are in even more worse state as they are on a 78, 8% line out success.
One of the worst in Super Rugby (15th). What will be interesting is how Pieter Steph will deal with the line out he was touted to be a general of one day. The scrums will be interesting considering that, the Stormers have arguably their strong front row on the bench over the weeks just like the Sharks will have their stronger tighthead on the bench.
Could this be an area of focus? Two defences that are looking good with the Stormers the very best. Will Kurt Coleman continue his good start this season? I believe he will steer the backs to a strong game. The Sharks backs have got attacking edge. All that talk has not been proven. Their inability to open up a 13 man side was evidence of this. To make it worse two flankers. A lot of stepping up needed on that note.
Prediction: Stormers to win.
What do you think fans?