SHARKS v VODACOM BULLS (Durban, Friday 7.10pm)
Both sides will be throwing in the kitchen sink in tonight’s test match encounter as a win will secure stand either side in good stead heading into the play-offs. Injuries to Patrick Lambie, Willem Alberts and Steven Sykes will be crucial omissions from the Sharks. The key players at the back, Frederic Michalak, Frans Steyn and Tim Whitehead, have not played together at all. But the Sharks do have a good record when they are playing a match that amounts to essentially a final for them, and they are playing at home. That, and the fact they have a marginally better back row and front-row, is the only reason they start this game as slight favourites.
BLUES v WESTERN FORCE (Auckland, Saturday 9.35am)
Early in the year the prediction would have been that the Blues would be facing an easy game in the run-in to what would surely have been play-off qualification. It hasn’t turned out that way, and instead they are inhabiting the dregs part of the Super Rugby barrel, as are the Force. Home ground advantage should and the lack of quality in the opposing lineup should see the Kiwi team to victory.
WARATAHS v BRUMBIES (Sydney, Saturday 11.40am)
The Waratahs have struggled this year but they enjoy a long sequence of success against the Brumbies at home, so it wouldn’t be wise to bet too much on the top team in the Australian conference prevailing. The visitors, who had not named their team at the time of writing, do though have the carrot of knowing that a win will put them one step away from the conference title.
TOYOTA CHEETAHS v DHL STORMERS (Bloemfontein, Saturday 3.00pm)
The Stormers management were a bit stung by the Superwrap’s assertion this week that they are the dullest team in the competition, but dull is what they need to be if they want to beat the Cheetahs on their home ground. It is when teams are duped into trying to slug it out with the Cheetahs in a try-fest that they make themselves vulnerable, and this was one of the reasons the Cheetahs were the only team to take a try scoring bonus point off the Stormers last year. Skipper Jean de Villiers says his players will stick with the plan, which means strangulation in the style of A python, which is never pretty but the victims also never live to give their view on it. If the Stormers stick to the tried and tested, they will win.
MTN LIONS v MELBOURNE REBELS (Johannesburg, Saturday 5.05pm)
The face-saving win over the Stormers was not forthcoming but the Lions players will be eager to show that they are a notch above the Rebels. And at home they should manage it.
- Super Rugby Week 17 predictions (davesviews.wordpress.com)