Cape Town – Super Rugby 2016 heads into Week 2 after a fairly predictable opening round. What’s in store this weekend?
FRIDAY, MARCH 4
Crusaders v Blues, Christchurch – 08:35
The Blues burst out of the blocks with a well deserved win
over last season’s champions the Highlanders in round one, and back that up
with a stiff test in Christchurch. The Crusaders underwhelmed on opening
weekend as they were downed at home by the Chiefs. They don’t look like they’ve
quite settled into the post-McCaw/Carter era just yet, and this could be
another sobering occasion for the former heavyweights.
Prediction: Blues by 2
Brumbies v Waratahs, Canberra – 10:45
What a game this could be. The Brumbies roared out of the blocks
to put a half century on last season’s finalists the Hurricanes last weekend,
while the Waratahs dispatched the Reds with ease. The Australian conference
will be between these two and both look strong enough already to say with some
certainty that they will have a tilt at the title. The Waratahs’ pack will
provide a sterner test than the Hurricanes’ powder-puff unit did, but home
advantage should still swing it in the Brumbies’ favour.
Prediction: Brumbies by 9
SATURDAY, MARCH 5
Chiefs v Lions, Waikato – 06:15
Another two sides that won on opening weekend come together
in round two as the Lions look for another win on the road. They impressed in
dispatches against the Sunwolves, but will need to seriously up their game if
they are to beat a Chiefs side that pounced on the Crusaders in round one.
These two did not meet last year but you have to go all the way back to 2008
for the last time the Lions won this fixture.
Prediction: Chiefs by 10
Highlanders v Hurricanes, Dunedin – 08:35
After their spanking at the hands of the Brumbies, the last
thing the Canes would have wanted is a trip to the reigning champions. The good
news is that the Highlanders’ pack is nowhere near as fearsome as the Brumbies,
and they should be able to play the wider, freer game that they generally
enjoy. The Highlanders will also be smarting from an opening round loss, and
although the Canes did win here last season, I can see a repeat of the result
in last year’s final.
Prediction: Highlanders by 6
Reds v Force, Brisbane – 10:45
Neither side covered themselves in glory on opening weekend,
which makes this one very difficult to call. The Reds did the damage twice over
the Force last season though, and that, coupled with home advantage, makes them
just about favourites.
Prediction: Reds by 3
Bulls v Rebels, Pretoria – 15:00
The Rebels were one of the teams that caught people out on
opening weekend – they, along with the Blues, were the prime GSP-killers in the
first round. Many Australian commentators have been backing them for a good
year, so can they make it two from two in Pretoria? The Rebels have never won
at Loftus, and while they do look like they might have quite a good season, the
Bulls’ record at their lofty home speaks for itself – they should have enough
to grind out a win.
Prediction: Bulls by 2
Cheetahs v Stormers, Bloemfontein – 17:10
The Stormers opened their campaign with a mightily
impressive win over the Bulls, while it may take some time for the Cheetahs to
get over the fact that they threw away a 21 point lead against the Jaguares.
Their defence will certainly need to tighten up, as the Stormers will look to
grind them down then punch holes when they are tired – as they certainly looked
in week one. An away win.
Prediction: Stormers by 9
Sharks v Jaguares, Durban – 19:20
The Sharks romped to a win over the Kings in round one but
that tells us very little about them – this will be a much sterner test. The
Jaguares deserve great credit for turning around a huge deficit in their first
game of Super Rugby, but they will find the Sharks’ defence far less
accommodating. The home side will make sure this is more of an attritional
affair and could bring the Argentinian side back down to earth with a bump.
Prediction: Sharks by 5