Cape Town - Round 13 was a middling one in terms of upsets, most games
going largely to plan, apart from the Force's win over the Waratahs that was
picked by just 5% - presumably those that are so far adrift in their pools that
they are desperate for big points swings. What does Round 14 have in store?
Read on to find out our thoughts.
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FRIDAY, MAY 15
Blues v Bulls, Auckland - 09:35
The Bulls have had a week off to gather themselves for what
is a gruelling end of season tour. They have played just three away games this
season, all within South Africa, and now face a long, four-game tour of
Australasia. At least they start it off in reasonably easy fashion - against a
Blues team with only two wins to its name this season. Neither of those have
come against South African opposition and they will likely once again struggle
to contain the Bulls' powerful set of forwards.
For all the Blues' brilliance behind the scrum, that deficit
up front, allied with a leaky defence, means they are unlikely to add a third
win this weekend.
Prediction: Bulls by 5
Reds v Rebels, Brisbane - 11:40
In a similar vein to their colourful cousins, the Reds have
just two wins this season. They have been firmly usurped by the Rebels, who
have impressed everyone with their powerful but precise rugby, that has seen
them in with a chance of securing knockout rugby for the first time since their
inception. They won the return fixture earlier this season, and have tasted
victory in Brisbane before, as recently as last year.
Against a Reds side woefully low on confidence, the visitors
will continue their playoff charge.
Prediction: Rebels by 9
SATURDAY, MAY 16
Hurricanes v Chiefs, Wellington - 09:35
Now we come to a humdinger of a New Zealand derby. The top
two in their conference do battle in Wellington with the Chiefs desperate for a
win to claw back some ground on the tournament leaders - a loss would leave
them nervously looking over their shoulders at the Highlanders and the
Crusaders, and even potentially dropping out of the wildcard spots to the
former. The Chiefs have only won once at Westpac Stadium in over 11 years, and
with the Hurricanes welcoming back their Kiwi stars, it looks a tough
proposition to see how they can add to that tally this weekend.
It should be quite some game, but the Chiefs have, more
often than not, come out on the wrong side of these close fixtures this season,
whereas the Canes have been winning them.
Prediction: Hurricanes by 3
Waratahs v Sharks, Sydney - 11:40
You sense that the Sharks fans will just want this season to
be over and done with. Arguably they played well enough to beat the Hurricanes
last weekend, but they still walked away from the game with nothing, adding to
a dire run of five losses in a row. They are out of the play-off race, which is
not something you can say about the Waratahs, despite the champions shooting
themselves in the foot last round with their second loss to the Force of the
If the 'Tahs have any designs on defending their crown, they
must win this one - and win it well.
Prediction: Waratahs by 12
Lions v Brumbies, Johannesburg - 17:05
The playoff intrigue continues with this fixture, with both
the Lions and Brumbies hunting end of season glory. The Brumbies top their
conference at the moment, but sit just two points ahead of the Lions - who are
third in theirs. All of which means a result for either side will lead to
plenty of fluctuation on the log. The visitors are in dire form, with just one
win from their last five games, while conversely the hosts have just a solitary
loss in their last seven.
All of which makes this an easy pick, right? If there's one
thing this Super Rugby season has taught us, it's to expect the unexpected. I'm
calling a slightly surprising away win here.
Prediction: Brumbies by 3
Cheetahs v Highlanders, Bloemfontein - 19:10
The Cheetahs have salvaged a measure of pride with a couple
of wins from their last four games, and are now just one point away from moving
off the bottom of their conference. That will provide them with motivation
against a Highlanders side who are hunting the play-offs, and after throwing
away a huge lead to the Lions last weekend they will be desperate to get their
first win on tour in Bloemfontein. These two sides have not played each other
since 2013, the year that saw the Cheetahs notch their first win in this
fixture since 1997.
The Highlanders have more motivation to win this, especially
after they were knocked off their perch by the Lions last weekend.
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