Tank Lanning - Sport24 editor
I am back! After a pretty pathetic two correct predictions out of six last weekend, you would think that I might rather crawl up and support the local crochet league. Nope, not this rhino skinned cheerful chunky. But here’s the warning – do NOT use these predictions when filling in your Superbru predictions …
Friday, March 27
Blues v Waratahs, Auckland 08:35
As a top half of the log clash, this should make for an entertaining start to the weekend, but both sides will be looking to get back to winning ways after their relatively surprising losses last weekend. Especially the Blues, who were given a real rugby lesson by the Chiefs last weekend. Just the Anthony Tuitavake and Joe Rokocoko vs Lachlan Turner and Lote Tuqiri battle should make it worth setting up a little “breakfast meeting”. I truly believe this game could go either way, but given that they are at Eden Park, and that the home side will be looking to remove a little of last week’s embarrassment, I going with the Blues by 4.
Saturday, March 28
Highlanders v Bulls, Palmerston North 06:30
A fantastic reason to perhaps hold back a little on the Friday night thirst quenchers? The bookies have the Bulls taking this encounter at a canter, and given the results thus far and present log standings, one can understand their thinking. But even though it was against the Cheetahs, the Highlanders are fresh off their second win of the season, and are looking a lot better than they did at the beginning of the tournament. The Bulls have Jaco Pretorius back to partner Wynand Olivier, and outside Morne Steyn, this should make for some outstanding interplay. Ryno Gerber is back at tighthead, but could find the going tough against junior giant, Jamie McIntosh. The big question is still about how well these guys will tour. I reckon that win last week will have settled them nicely, and given that the game will not be at the House of Pain, I am going with the Bulls by 8.
Crusaders v Stormers, Christchurch 08:35
My oath but this is tough one to call. The Stormers traditionally tour quite well, and will be pretty fired up after their win against the Lions, but Leon MacDonald is back for the Crusaders and they will have taken a fair amount joy out of their win against the high riding Waratahs. I can understand the Peter Grant selection at centre and resultant move of Gcoboni Bobo to the wing, but Luke Watson’s return to 8th man is something I can’t really fathom. Why mess with a loose trio that worked so well together in the last game? Duane Vermeulen is quite obviously a true 8th man, and Schalk Burger, allowed to play the fetcher role without Watson in the side, had his best game of the season. Yes Watson is playing fantastic rugby, but that does not mean you need to find a space for him. The bench is a vital part of the game these days. Rather rotate Burger and Watson at open side. But AJ Venter in as a replacement for the injured Andries Bekker is the largest concern. Crusaders by 3.
Reds v Chiefs, Brisbane 11:05
Given the Chiefs display against Blues last weekend, surely a no-brainer? But these Brisbane boys have had a weekend away from rugby surfing at the Gold Coast, and their last 80 minutes between the white lines saw them beat the Sharks! The Chiefs on the other hand, have had to cross the Tasman, and will surely struggle to get up for the game after THAT performance last week. Look, I still think they will have enough to win the game, but perhaps not by as much as some people might think. Chiefs by 5.
Sharks v Brumbies, Durban 17:00
The Sharks are back at ABSA Park! Just imagine the party … if they win that is. The Brumbies will be smarting pretty seriously after their loss to the Lions and they will be looking to get their tour back on track. And it will be the Sharks who have crossed the Indian Ocean this week and not the visitors. Clyde Rathbone is also back in the mix, but a lot will depend on whether Stirling Mortlock plays or not. But this Sharks side is not number 2 on the log for nothing, and they really showed their mettle by bouncing back from the defeat against the Reds to beat the Force last weekend. It has the potential to be a festival game, but probably more likely to be an arm wrestle of sorts. Sharks by 8.
Lions v Hurricanes, Joburg 19:10
Another of those “no-brainers” hey? But – the Lions beat the Brumbies last weekend while the Hurricanes hardly pitched for the game against the Bulls and went down. The ‘Canes have travelled a long way for this game, while the Lions have been at home losing forward coaches for “Inappropriate speech”. Cobus Grobbelaar and Jano Vermaak were on fire last weekend and will have to produce similar games on Saturday if the home side are to pull off another upset. But it is outside Vermaak where the Lions are going to have to up their game. Ma'a Nonu was pretty damn poor last weekend but I can’t see that happening two weekends in a row. Hurricanes by 12.
It’s another monster Saturday of Super14 rugby that could see you damaging your couch for close on fourteen hours. Perhaps take in one of the games while on a bike at the local Virgin Active, lest you really do turn into that sloth your wife keeps comparing you to?