The Sharks will turn their 60 minute form into 80 minutes on Saturday morning and score an invaluable away win at the weekend. And the Blues will do the dirty on the Brumbies.
Those will be the two upsets of the weekend.
The bones, five from six in the last two weekends respectively, are up to 67 percent success rate, which is more that we can say for the Stormers, Cats, Cheetahs and Sharks.
But this weekend, there is good fortune for the South African sides.
The Cats, well on principle the bones don’t fall for them. So they’ll go down in Christchurch to a Crusaders team that won’t get out of third gear for much of the match. The bones don’t see a walloping, but a comfortable cruise for the champions, who will then go into the break with six from six. Traditionally, the slow starters of the competition, they couldn’t have asked for much better.
The Waratahs will thump the feeble farce in Perth. Five points for the men in the pale blue and more heartache for John Mitchell’s mob who wear the darker blue.
In the Friday evening game the Bully Boys will get heavy with the Hurricanes and send the Kiwis home with a reminder that life in the Republic is never easy. The Canes, fortunate winners against the Stormers, will have lost two in South Africa. And it should have been three. Imagine if these buggers still had to stay here for another two weeks (ala the SA teams five weeks on the road) or had to still play two more in Australia on the way home? They’d even have come unstuck against the Spears!
The tournament will always be weighted against the South African teams because of the travel. You hear the New Zealand and Aus players talking about the demands of being on the road for three weeks. For goodness sake, our blokes would give their anything to know it was only three weeks. Those who put together the new SANZAR deal sold out on the SA players once again. If they had applied their minds more to the well-being of South Africa’s challenge, the travel would have been evened out.
And so we stumble, as South African teams, from one town to another.
A team that won’t be stumbling is the Sharks. They’ve been very good on the road, but the close misses now have to become a good win. The Highlanders have blown hot and cold and will be a weaker team in Nick Evans’s absence. They have also travelled from Pretoria to Invercargill and only got home on Tuesday. If the Sharks don’t stick them away on Saturday, they never wilJohn Smit is back to lead the Sharks, Tony Brown will be influential against his old teammates and AJ Venter is back to his best.
In the early game on Saturday morning David Nucifora’s Blues will finally come good in Auckland and put one over the Brumbies, who have vulnerabilities, despite a very good start to the season and an impressive league placing. Nucifora, the former Brumbies coach who was axed by his own players in the year they won the Super 12, got the better of the Brumbies last year. This year he will do the double.
In SA on Saturday night the Cheetahs will add to the misery of the Stormers and beat them by seven points. The derby element will make it closer than it should be, but this Stormers outfit doesn’t know how to win and frankly they don’t have a team good enough to win.
The Stormers have played like individuals, while the Cheetahs greatest attribute this season has been their ability to put the team ethic first and gel as a unit.
The bones have been rolled.
Crusaders to beat Cats by 15 plus
Waratahs to beat Farce by 15 plus
Bully Boys to thump Canes by 15 plus
Blues to pip Brumbies by 5
Sharks to do Highlanders by 10, although we’ll take a win even if it is by one
Cheetahs to cruise past Stormers by 7
Week one: 4/7
Week two: 4/7
Week three: 4/7
Week four: 5/6
Week five: 5/6
22/33 = 67%