Cape Town - Week 3 of Super Rugby went "according to plan" for a number of SuperBru tipsters. But how will Round 4 play out... ?
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FRIDAY, MARCH 6
Chiefs v Highlanders, Hamilton - 08:35
The Chiefs have been one of the standout teams of the tournament so far, sitting pretty on three wins from three games. The Highlanders notched their first win of the season last weekend, against the Reds, but their challenge this weekend is on a much bigger scale with a visit to Hamilton. The Highlanders last tasted victory in Dunedin in 2012, but that is their sole win there since 2003. The Chiefs put 40 points past the Crusaders last week, who had beaten the Highlanders the week before, which is hardly a good omen for the visitors.
Another Chiefs win, and another big one at that.
Prediction: Chiefs by 21
Brumbies v Force, Canberra - 10:40
The Force's astonishing win over the Waratahs in round one feels like an awfully long time ago now. They were comfortably dispatched at home to the Hurricanes last weekend, and it gets no easier this round as they travel to Australian favourites the Brumbies. They had to scrap hard for their win over the Rebels in round three, but back home in Canberra, where they demolished the Reds on the opening weekend, they are comfortable favourites for this one.
The Brumbies to heap more misery on the Force with a big win in front of their fans.
Prediction: Brumbies by 25
SATURDAY, MARCH 7
Blues v Lions, Auckland - 08:35
This is a clash between the only two teams left in the competition without a win - so, barring an unlikely draw, something has to give. The Blues were hugely impressive in attack against the Cheetahs last weekend, in what was an absolute belter of a game, but their defence was non-existent at times. Luckily for them, they play a Lions side who have managed to cross the whitewash just twice in three games.
The Blues have played far more rugby this season and look more likely to break their losing streak this weekend.
Prediction: Blues by 9
Reds v Waratahs, Brisbane - 10:40
The Reds have had an up and down start to the season, a solid win over the Force sandwiched in between a heavy loss to the Brumbies, and a narrower one to the Highlanders. The Waratahs have one away win to their name already, over the Rebels, and won both of the fixtures between these two sides last season (the game in Queensland ended, embarrassingly, 3-34 to the visitors). The Reds have looked a more accomplished side since moving James O'Connor to fly-half, however, and this has the potential to be a banana skin for the champions.
I do think they will triumph, but it'll be closer than perhaps many would expect.
Prediction: Waratahs by 5
Cheetahs v Bulls, Bloemfontein - 17:05
The Bulls got the monkey off their back with a hard-fought, thrilling win at home to the Sharks last weekend, a victory which was hugely necessary as they travel to the unbeaten Cheetahs. The hosts played out one of the most thrilling games for some time as they overcame the Blues 25-24 in Bloemfontein, and while they would probably settle for a similar scoreline this weekend, I'm sure their fans would prefer something that left them with fewer nails chewed off. The Bulls are unlikely to bring such an expansive running game with them, but that doesn't mean they are any less threatening - the challenge this week will likely come from the pack.
The Bulls will try to bully the Cheetahs up front, but if they stick to their guns and play their expansive attacking game, the home side can win this one.
Prediction: Cheetahs by 3
Stormers v Sharks, Cape Town - 19:10
The Stormers remain unbeaten but the manner of their victory over the Lions last weekend was far from convincing. That said, with two away trips already yielding wins, they are in a far better place than this time last year. The Sharks will have been bitterly disappointed not to have come away from Loftus with even a bonus point last week, a failure which heaps the pressure on them if they are to keep the pace in both their conference and the overall log. Their defence, so watertight last season, has been a real concern, having conceded 35+ points on two occasions already.
It probably won't be the prettiest game of the weekend, but in front of the Newlands faithful the Stormers should have enough to see off the Sharks.
Prediction: Stormers by 4
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