Cape Town - It's Super Rugby predictions time again, which means you'd
better have a coin at the ready after Round 1 and it's almost unbelievable set
of upsets. Rather foolishly, we're going to attempt to make some predictions
again anyway, so read on.
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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 20
Chiefs vs Brumbies, New Plymouth - 08:35
These are the only two sides that won in round one who were
generally expected to. Their games were the only results that were not
considered an upset on SuperBru. None of which makes it any easier to pick a
winner this weekend. The Brumbies were immensely impressive as they dismantled
the Reds, but the Chiefs will provide a much sterner test this weekend after
their own rugged win over the Blues, orchestrated by precociously talented
young flyhalf Damien McKenzie.
The Brumbies were ominously good, however, and continuing
the theme of last weekend - namely, away wins - I'm backing the visitors here.
Prediction: Brumbies by 3
Rebels vs Waratahs, Melbourne - 10:40
Last weekend the Rebels were expected to lose away to the
Crusaders, while the Waratahs were comfortable favourites to beat the Force at
home. Neither results came to pass and it makes this game infinitely more
difficult to call. The Rebels impressed in Christchurch but the Crusaders were
truly insipid, offering very little in the way of attacking insight and it's
tough to see the Waratahs being that bad this week. Certainly, for the reigning
champions to lose two in a row at the beginning of the season would be almost
unheard of, and they will be keen to send a message out this time.
For that reason, I don't think the Rebels will back up their
astonishing win from round one.
Prediction: Waratahs by 5
Bulls vs Hurricanes, Pretoria - 19:10
They don't get any easier to predict. The Bulls were dire in
their home loss to the Stormers in round one, failing to conjure a shred of
attacking intent and losing at Loftus Versfeld, an event that doesn't happen
very often. The Hurricanes managed an impressive away win over the Lions, but
they were helped by the home side trying to match them at their own expansive
game. This weekend that is unlikely to happen, and ordinarily you would say
that the Bulls' power at the set piece might make the difference here, but they
have some horrendous injury issues in the tight five and that means their
prowess there is going to be compromised.
That said, the likelihood of them losing two in a row at
Loftus are thin, especially against a Hurricanes side that are notoriously
Prediction: Bulls by 3
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 21
Highlanders vs Crusaders, Dunedin - 08:35
The Crusaders' shock loss at home to the Rebels in the first
game of the tournament meant everyone was able to dust off their favourite
Super Rugby cliché: "Yeah, well, the Saders always start slowly, don't
they?" They played so poorly in a game that they were expected to win
comfortably, especially with big names like Dan Carter and Richie McCaw
featuring. The Highlanders had a bye and as such are an unknown quantity, but
they were one of the surprise packages of last year and had the season's
standout player in Malakai Fekitoa.
Unless the Crusaders show a huge improvement from last week,
it's difficult to see them avoiding two losses in a row.
Prediction: Highlanders by 5
Reds vs Force, Brisbane - 10:40
Pleasingly, this one is a little easier to call. Of all the
underwhelming performances from week one, the Reds were arguably the worst.
Their 44 point loss has shattered all hope they had that this might be the
season they return to past glories. Looking at the fixture list, they probably
would have penned this one in as an opportunity to get things back on track
with a sizeable win, but after last week's results, that is far from the case.
The Force were superb in demolishing the Waratahs in their own back garden, and
will be flying high on confidence as a result.
That will be enough to see them past a Reds side who seem
utterly devoid of ideas.
Prediction: Force by 9
Stormers vs Blues, Cape Town - 17:05
The Blues only have three home games in the opening eleven
rounds of the season, so to lose last weekend against the Chiefs was a crushing
blow. They now face the daunting task of travelling to Cape Town to take on a
Stormers side who stormed Loftus Versfeld and will do very well to come away
with anything from the game. The Stormers have had the better of this rivalry,
having won three of the last four encounters, although they did not face each
other last season.
This is one that has home win written all over it.
Sharks vs Lions, Durban - 19:10
After the Cheetahs showed how fallible the Sharks can be
last weekend, the Lions will fancy their chances in Durban. That said, they
have never beaten the Sharks at their home, not since they switched their name
from the Cats, anyway. The Sharks will be quick to move on from last week's
upset and desperately need a win to appease their fans. With Patrick Lambie in
fine form, they need the others to step up and join him.
Both sides lost last weekend, but the Sharks are most likely
to rectify that this weekend.
Prediction: Sharks by 12
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