Right – I’m up early here in Denver, so let’s see if we can pick the right winners for this week’s games.
Hurricanes v Brumbies (Friday 09h35)
Hmmm, let’s see. It’s a Kiwi side – one of the best – taking on an Aussie side in Australia. The Brumbies are actually ahead of the ‘Canes on the stupid, non-sensical log despite have 11 fewer log points. Now, if you needed any more motivation than that to call a big win for the home side, then I just don’t know. Hurricanes to win by 12.
Lions v Jaguares (Friday 20h00)
The Jags are the only team to have beaten the Lions so far this year, with Johan Ackermann’s decision to send a second string team to Argentina once again biting him in the bum. The Argies, for all their improved home form in 2017, still aren’s managing to win games on the road, though and have their first-round success over the Kings a their only South African tour scalp to date. It would be great for the Sharks if they could win here, but let’s face it, any team who lose to the Bulls isn’t going to trouble the Lions. Lions to win by 15.
Highlanders v Sunwolves (Saturday 07h15)
Another non-contest, I’m afraid. Highlanders are going to win this by 25 points. Easy.
Crusaders v Stormers (Saturday 09h35)
Well, the Stormers’ bubble burst in dramatic style last week as they took a pasting from the Lions at home to give up their 100% record for the season. Not the ideal time, on other words, to tour New Zealand and play the former champion Crusaders who simply do not lose in Christchurch. I hope the Stormers will be competitive here, but I’m afraid there’s only going to be one winner. Crusaders by 10 points.
Waratahs v Kings (Saturday 11h45)
This should be another high-scoring affair, but as they showed against the Reds last week the Kings’ defence simply isn’t good enough at this stage for them to have a realistic hope of winning on the road. Waratahs by 20 points.
Force v Chiefs (Saturday 13h55)
Expect a one-sided affair and a big win for the visitors. Chiefs by 20.
Bulls v Cheetahs (Saturday 17h15)
This should be a good match – possibly quite ill-tempered and with plenty of drama. The Cheetahs made the Bulls look rather silly when these teams clashed earlier in the year, only to fall asleep late in the game and nearly lose. I wonder whether the Pretoria men will take any sort of confidence at all from their win over the Jaguares, or whether the dark rumours of internal strife there are on the money, with the problems in the side far too big to b e fixed by one scrappy victory. The Cheetahs are playing for their lives at the moment too, so I suspect they will have plenty of motivation here. Cheetahs by 5 points, is my call.
Sharks v Rebels (Saturday 19h30)
Which Sharks team will we see here, that’s the question? The side that nearly beat the Lions will put up a big score against these Rebels, but the error-ridden performance from the last match against the Jaguares will probably only lead to fan frustration. Let’s the back the boys, fresh from their bye, to turn it on this week. Sharks by 15.