It’s probably one of the top two competitions under test match rugby in the world and the Super Rugby series has been very close this season, but it is simply one of those weekends where almost every result can be rather confidently predicted.
The Blues are first up in their match on Friday (09:35) against the Bulls, who have only one of the 12 matches between the two teams and are also without their playmaker and captain Handré Pollard and the man who keeps the pack together and was their number two choice as captain, Duane Vermeulen.
The Blues, having their best season in many years, are outright favourites despite only five wins from 13 matches. But they are at home, and the Bulls in addition to their two great personnel losses, have generally not convinced in recent outings. Their persistence to run regardless of the situation to prove that they can play the running game has led to some unnecessary handling errors and their tackling of late has been poor.
♦ Next up on Friday (11:45) are the Melbourne Rebels, one point behind the Brumbies who lead the Australian Conference. The Rebels are at home to the Waratahs who have had a topsy-turvy season and should comfortably beat the NSW side by more than one scored.
♦ The Brumbies could make sure of a bonus points when they face the Sunwolves in Tokyo on Saturday (07:15) where the Japan side have not won yet this season with both their victors coming on tour. A 20-point difference is on the cards.
♦ The next one (Saturday 09:35) is another easy result to predict, albeit a derby where the defending champions had a home scare against the Blues last weekend. They play the Chiefs in Suva in Fiji.
This is another plus for Saders as it is supposed to be a home game for the Chiefs that has been moved to provide the island fans with some live Super Rugby as has been done for the past few years.
Crusaders should win by at least 10 points.
♦ Then follows the clash between the Reds and the Jaguares Saturday (11:45) at the Suncorp Stadium. It’s of particular importance to the four the SA franchises who are all four still in the run to make the play-offs. The Argentinians, leading the SA Conference should, win what could be a close match.
They have shrugged off their indifferent form in Australasia when they won all four their matches on tour last year and should add this one as well after beating the Waratahs at home last weekend and the Hurricanes the week before.
It could perhaps be close, even as close as one score, but the Jaguares should win.
♦ Then follow the two matches in South Africa. The Hurricanes have selected their big guns for the Sharks (Kings park 15:05) who will have to do better than they did in the struggle for possession last weekend when the Lions dominated virtually all facets but gave away victory with intercept tries to the Durban side.
The Sharks, with only Aphelele Fassi of the backs still without a Bok blazer, will have to produce more flair and penetration on attack. Two intercepts and a rolling maul provided their only tries.
The Hurricanes as a quality side and on performances just seem the more logical team to back as winners.
♦ And then the Stormers, after two good performances at home where they drew with Crusaders and came out tops against the Highlanders, take on the Lions at Ellis Park at 17:15.
The Capetonians should have the edge in this derby between South Africa’s to bottom sides (until the weekend, that is) with a more impressive pack and a backline that at last started showing some teeth on attack.
But the Lions will be hungry for a win at home. They are still smarting after controlling matters except the early scrums against the Sharks and showed some real promise in the centre where Harold Vorster and Lions Mapoe were better than the two incumbent Boks, Lukhanyo Am and André Esterhuizen.
But the form team is the Stormers, and a wager on them would probably yield a few rand.