It’s round four of the Super14 and we have four sides in action, two of which are playing against each other, meaning we are at least guaranteed one South African winner. Which is just as well, because I do not see ticker tape parades being organised for either the Cheetahs or the Sharks …
Chiefs v Western Force, Hamilton 08:35
Pretty tough prediction to get off the mark with! The Force love to travel (oh how I wish a few of our boys could learn from them) and are fresh off a victory over the Brumbies in Canberra. The Chiefs are the under achievers of the tournament, but can beat any side on their day, and they are fresh off a seriously unlucky loss to the Sharks at home. The home side should rule when umming and arring, but I am going to go with the side who has the momentum. Force by 4 points.
Waratahs v Reds, Sydney 10:40
Now this is a classic and old school derby! Some brilliant banter seen on Sport24 this week as well, with Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper kicking it off, branding the table-topping Waratahs as "boring". Tahs wing Lote Tuqiri hit back with the legendary "I know I would rather be entertaining the crowd come Super 14 semi-final time rather than entertaining friends at an end-of-season barbecue." Certainly had me loughing out loud, and given the Reds performance to date, especially against the bumbling Cheetahs last weekend, I think I might be keeping my mouth shut. Tahs by 18 points.
Hurricanes v Cheetahs, New Plymouth 04:30
Hell of a start to Saturday, especially if one has had a few too many cold ones the night before to celebrate the arrival of the weekend. But I would rather have the worst hangover on earth than be a Cheetah trundling out to take on a side that smashed the Super Rugby dominators last weekend – in their own backyard nogal! Especially one lacking inspirational leader Juan Smith due to heat stroke, and one with ten other changes to it. Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu are going to think they are playing against revolving doors! If both sides play in their original kit, it might look a lot like a technicolor vomit as the yellow marauders smash their way through the orange also rans. Hurricanes by 32!
Blues v Sharks, Auckland 06:30
It’s not often that a New Zealand side playing at home is at the disadvantage because of travel, but that’s exactly the case as the Blues head back from their reputation ruining trip to Cape Town, while the Sharks ease into game two of their tour after scraping in against the Chiefs last weekend. The TMO surely cannot save them again? The question is – will they need it? To my mind a side with an All Black front row and the likes of Isaia Toeava, Anthony Tuitavake, and Joe Rokocoko out wide should never lose a game … ever. But they have travelled a long way and this Sharks side has not only talent but team spirit and gumption. They believe they can beat any side put in front of them, and that is often half the battle won. But I am going with the home side. Blues by 3.
Highlanders v Crusaders, Dunedin 08:35
And to round off one hell of a Saturday morning, the kickoff still well before a lot of people will even be waking up, a Kiwi derby made up of two sides that lost last weekend. The Highlanders are zero from three, probably for good reason, while the Crusaders, not shy of a slow start, are one from three. But in the past this great Super Rugby side has had the likes of Dan Carter and Robbie Deans to lean on as they made their way back to the more familiar top tier of the log. Now real questions are being asked of the McCaw led boys. Ross Filipo and Brad Thorn are the difference for me, though, and I think the Saders will indeed answer a few questions. Saders by 12.
Bulls v Stormers, Loftus Versfeld 17:00
Like the sports pages at the back of a newspaper – the pudding of the weekend’s rugby. And if the Sharks have come unstuck in Auckland, at least we are guaranteed a win by a South African team! I went fairly hard at Rassie Erasmus in a blog post this week, saying, amongst other things, that Naqelevuki, Grant and Fondse have been the stars in a depressing start to the season for the Stormers, yet they all get sent to gather splinters. By an 8th man clearly not yet comfortable on the wing, by a player who’s hand was in a cast just a few days ago, and by an over age ex-player brought out to enjoy his pension under Table Mountain … Against a high riding side introducing the likes of Victor Matfield and Ryno Gerber from the bench. Of course the Cape side has the ability to turn on the charm, especially in a power derby such as this one, but I smell trouble for the mountain goats. Bulls by 18!
Bacon, eggs and Bucks Fizz for the Sharks duel, where we hope like hell that I know nothing about rugby, and then a serious onslaught on the Weber and cooler box for the evening game, concentrating more on the cooler box if you are from the Cape, me thinks. Enjoy …