Cape Town - Round 9 brought upsets aplenty, and yet an impressive
401 people managed GSP points. What's in store in round 10? Read on for our
verdict on who to pick this weekend.
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FRIDAY, APRIL 17
Crusaders v Chiefs, Christchurch - 09:35
The Crusaders followed up their thumping of the Sharks away
from home with an insipid loss to the Highlanders in front of their own fans.
They need to make amends this week, or risk losing pace with the frontrunners
in their conference - only the Blues now sit below them, and both the
Highlanders and Hurricanes have a game in hand. The Chiefs have had a week off
and know a win is vital if they are to keep the conference-leading 'Canes within
The Chiefs slammed the Saders by 24 points back in round
three, their biggest win of the season so far. I reckon, however, the home side
will bounce back this weekend with a much-needed win of their own.
Prediction: Crusaders by
SATURDAY, APRIL 18
Hurricanes v Waratahs, Wellington - 06:30
This is a hum-dinger of a match-up, between the team that
have set the pace this season and the side that did similar last year. The
Hurricanes have put together an astonishing run of seven wins on the bounce -
it's one that has to come to an end at some stage, but the question is, when?
The Waratahs certainly possess the quality to be the side to put them to the
sword, but are not playing like champions elect at the moment.
Their loss to the Stormers was a surprise one but it showed
the soft underbelly to this Tahs side. Expect the Hurricanes to take full
advantage in front of their fans, who are becoming ever greedier for wins.
Prediction: Hurricanes by 7
Highlanders v Blues, Dunedin - 09:35
The Blues finally got the monkey off their back with a win
in round nine, and it was no less than some of their play has deserved. Dan
Bowden was instrumental to their win and proved why he was so criminally
underused during his time in England. This week they travel to a Highlanders
side with their tails firmly up after their ransacking of Christchurch last
weekend. In Waisake Naholo they have one of the most dangerous predators in the
competition, and confidence will be sky high.
This fixture has typically gone the way of the home side in
recent years - that's unlikely to change this weekend.
Prediction: Highlanders by 9
Brumbies v Rebels, Canberra - 11:40
The Rebels were the only Australian side not to lose in
round nine - by virtue of it being their bye weekend. It has sent the Aussie
media into a spin, but there will at least be one win for their sides this
weekend (barring a draw in this one). The Brumbies lead the Australian
conference but have had a blip in form with two losses from their last three,
including handing the Blues their first win of the season last weekend. The
Rebels tasted success in this fixture last season, but in Melbourne - they have
never won in Canberra since their inception in 2011.
It's not a pretty statistic for the franchise, but it's a
losing run that's unlikely to come to an end this weekend.
Prediction: Brumbies by 10
Force v Stormers, Perth - 13:45
The Force's season plummeted to new lows in round nine with
the loss at home to the Cheetahs, a side that were on a similarly dire losing
run and that boasted significant injury issues. That the men from Perth could
not even grab a bonus point was merely a rub of salt into the wounds. The Stormers,
by contrast, halted their own (admittedly lesser) losing run with a hugely
gutsy win over the Waratahs in Sydney, and if they can back it up with a
victory this weekend they will head home with their tour approaching something
like a success.
It would be typical of this Super Rugby season for the Force
to pull a win out of nowhere in this game, but I just can't bring myself to
Prediction: Stormers by 6
Sharks v Bulls, Durban - 17:05
The Sharks' topsy-turvy season continued with a loss to the
Lions that could have been salvaged had a last minute kick gone over, but it
would hardly have been a deserved win for the men from Durban. Once again they
will enter this game with a long list of senior players absent through injury
and suspension, but they are at least back at home. The Bulls are flying the
flag for the South African conference at the moment, and with just one loss in
their last six games they will rightly bring plenty of confidence into this
The visitors have a good record against the Sharks and have
tasted victory in Durban as recently as 2013. With the Sharks in disarray it is
the perfect time to reset that record.
Prediction: Bulls by 3
Cheetahs v Reds, Bloemfontein - 19:10
Neither of these sides is having a season to remember, but
the Cheetahs at least managed to halt a five game losing streak with their win
over the Force last round. The Reds had no such luck against the Bulls, taking
their number of games without a win to six, and making it seven losses from
eight games this season. They did play some good rugby but their defence was
astonishingly porous. The Cheetahs have similar issues, so this could well be
an entertaining game.
The Reds have had a horrific season both on and off the
pitch, and while this will be the least troublesome game of their brief South
African sojourn, it remains unlikely to lead to a win.
Prediction: Cheetahs by 6
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