Cape Town - After a couple of major shocks upset the applecart in Super
Rugby round four, what's in store this weekend?
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FRIDAY, MARCH 13
Hurricanes v Blues, New Plymouth - 08:35
This is an easy one on paper, as one of the most successful
sides so far takes on one of the least successful. The Hurricanes are unbeaten
and the Blues are yet to win. The Auckland-based side had looked better than
their record suggested, but no excuses can be made for a home loss to the
Lions. Encounters between these two in recent times have been high-scoring
affairs, sticking to the blueprint for New Zealand derbies, with the two games
in 2014 yielding a whopping 120 points in total. Both home sides won last year,
and given the way the two have started this year, it's tough to see anything
other than that trend continuing.
The Hurricanes to continue their fine start to the season
with a comfortable win.
Prediction: Hurricanes by 15
Force v Rebels, Perth - 13:00
Neither of these sides have registered a win since round
one, when both shocked the SuperBru community with unlikely wins over the
Waratahs and Crusaders respectively. The Force have played better than their
record since then - no points from three games - suggests. The Rebels have the
better of this rivalry historically, but by and large the margin of victories
have been immensely small.
It's a difficult one to call, and home advantage swings it
Prediction: Force by 3
SATURDAY, MARCH 14
Crusaders v Lions, Christchurch - 05:00
Astonishingly, 19% of the SuperBru community picked the
Lions' win at the Blues last weekend - so kudos if you managed that. Can they
make it two unlikely wins in a row on New Zealand soil? Surely not. The
Crusaders have made their customary snail-paced start to the Super Rugby
season, but they are aristocrats when it comes to this competition and
historically this is the kind of game they can win without playing well.
The last time they lost to the Lions was way back in 2007,
so despite the away side's heroics last weekend, I think they'll be brought
back down to earth in Christchurch.
Prediction: Crusaders by 10
Highlanders v Waratahs, Dunedin - 08:35
The Waratahs have bounced back from their opening weekend
loss with two wins, but they haven't hit anywhere near the heights of last season
in terms of the rugby they have been playing. The Highlanders are similarly two
from three, with the same amount of points as the Waratahs, too. Their win
away at the Chiefs last week was one of the upsets of the season so far, with
just 1% picking it on SuperBru - back at home, they will have much more of the
community behind them for this one, you suspect.
This is another hugely difficult one to call. Had the
Highlanders lost last week, I'd back the Tahs, but given the momentum that win
over the Chiefs will give them, and home advantage, I think the men from Otago
will record another impressive win.
Prediction: Highlanders by 2
Reds vs Brumbies, Brisbane - 10:40
The Brumbies are playing with a ruthless efficiency at the
moment, as their win over the Force proved last weekend. They did not blow the
Perth side out of the water, but they did enough to get a bonus point without
ever really being troubled. The Reds, on the other hand, look all at sea, one
win over the Force at home punctuating a mediocre season that has included
losses to the Waratahs, Highlanders, and an absolute spanking on the opening
weekend at the hands of their opponents this weekend (tangent: it seems
remarkably soon to be having repeat fixtures, doesn't it?).
Home advantage won't help the Reds, with the memory of the
lesson the Brumbies taught them in opening weekend still painfully fresh in the
Prediction: Brumbies by 12
Stormers v Chiefs, Cape Town - 15:00
This is comfortably the game of the round. The Stormers are
one of two teams left unbeaten, and the only side to have put together a run of
four victories in a row. Their win over the Sharks last time out might not have
been especially easy on the eye, but it confirmed that you are going to need to
possess a hell of a powerful pack if you want to beat them. The Chiefs might
just have that, but their baffling defeat at home to the Highlanders brought
into question their temperament and composure for the first time in a while. If
they can match the Stormers up front, they have enough game-changers to win,
especially if Aaron Cruden can re-locate his kicking boots.
I think the away side will bounce back with a win, and end
the Stormers' winning run.
Prediction: Chiefs by 3
Cheetahs v Sharks, Bloemfontein - 17:05
The Cheetahs were brought crashing back down to earth by the
Bulls last weekend, as the men from Pretoria halted their winning run. The
Sharks were dire in their loss against the Stormers, showing precisely no guile
in a game that the men from Cape Town were allowed to win without ever really
getting out of second gear. This is another repeat of a round one fixture, in
which the Cheetahs shocked everyone to win in Durban. Have the Sharks made
enough recovery strides to allow them to overturn that result away from home?
There hasn't been much proof of that, and the Cheetahs have
now won three of the last four games between the two sides. I've got to go with
home advantage here.
Prediction: Cheetahs by 5
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