Cape Town - Round 8 was a horror show for the South African teams in action. How will they fare this weekend... ?
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FRIDAY, APRIL 10
Blues v Brumbies, Auckland - 09:35
The Blues are still winless and again in round eight it was
a case of what could have been for John Kirwan's side. They grabbed a losing
bonus point away at the Chiefs - no mean feat and something many sides that
finish above them will fail to do - but their win column still has a big, fat
zero in it. Something will give at some point, although it's unlikely to be
this weekend against a Brumbies side that cruised past the Cheetahs last
weekend, never really leaving third gear and paying for it by failing to snare
a bonus point.
The Blues have only played twice at home this season, but
their fans aren't likely to get anything better than another losing bonus point
Prediction: Brumbies by 5
SATURDAY, APRIL 11
Crusaders v Highlanders, Christchurch - 09:35
The Crusaders' utter dismantling of the Sharks saw them
return to top form and make their loss to the Bulls the week previously look
nothing more than a blip. It is not often that a team puts 52 points past the
Sharks at their tank, and while they were helped by a red card they were also brilliant
with ball in hand. The Highlanders had a bye last weekend but are in equally
good form, their only loss in their last five games coming at home to the
Hurricanes, and their one away game this year - at the Chiefs - yielded a win.
That said, the Highlanders have lost their last six games in
a row to the Crusaders and after their insatiable performance last weekend it's
tough to look past the hosts here.
Prediction: Crusaders by 9
Waratahs v Stormers, Sydney - 11:40
After their red-hot start the wheels have firmly come off
the Stormers' season. Three consecutive losses in a row to New Zealand
opposition makes for pretty grim reading, and their recent history against the
Waratahs won't cheer them up either - they haven't won in Sydney since 2007.
The Waratahs are starting to look more like the side that swept to the title
last season, recording comfortable victories over the Brumbies and the Blues in
their most recent two games leading into their bye last weekend.
Home advantage seems to count for a lot in this fixture, and
given the Stormers' poor form on their Australasian tour it's tough to look
past the home side.
Prediction: Waratahs by 7
Force v Cheetahs, Perth - 13:45
Something's got to give here. These sides have just three
wins between them, the most recent of which was achieved by the Cheetahs in
round two, so barring a draw, one of the longer losing streaks in the
competition will be broken this weekend. Recent history doesn't really help
much here either - the Force won in Bloemfontein last year but the Cheetahs had
won the three previous games between the two teams, but only one of those was
in Perth. The Force are in desperate need of a win to prove that last season,
when they came so close to a shock playoff berth, was not a blip.
In the end my mind is made up by the Cheetahs' horrendous
injury list, more than anything else.
Prediction: Force by 2
Bulls v Reds, Pretoria - 17:05
The Bulls' impressive winning streak was brought to an
abrupt end last weekend by the Lions, and they return to Loftus with their
tails firmly between their legs. A game against a team in disarray, with a
solitary win to its name this year, is exactly what the doctor ordered. The
Reds' terrible form has seen them slip perilously close to the bottom of the
table, and they are now just one point above the Blues despite the fact the
basement team haven't won a game. They beat the Bulls the last time the two sides
met in 2013, but their last visit to Loftus was a horror show, ending in a 53
It likely won't be any where near as big a margin this
weekend, but it is with some certainty we can pick a home win here.
Prediction: Bulls by
Lions v Sharks, Johannesburg - 19:10
The Sharks' horror story continued last weekend as another
of their players saw red, Jean Deysel the latest to cop a card and the
accompanying ban. As if to rub salt in the wound, captain and kicker Patrick
Lambie has been ruled out with an injury and with Frans Steyn already on the
touchline with a ban they are worn thin in the midfield. The Lions showed last
weekend that their good form on tour was transferrable to home, dispatching the
previously impressive Bulls with relative ease. The Lions have won just two
games against the Sharks in the last 10 years, however.
If there was ever a time to overturn that poor record, it is
now. The Sharks' playing staff are in disarray, and the Lions, on a hot streak
of form, should take advantage.
Prediction: Lions by 6
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