When the Bones rolled a Lions win against the Brumbies there was ridicule. This week the bones have rolled a Highlanders win against the Bulls.
What is it with the Bones and the Bulls on tour? Last week they rolled in favour of the Hurricanes battering the Bully Boys, but clearly they did not factor in the garden gnome Matt Goddard or the giant enforcer Bakkies Botha. Between the two of them they made a meal of the Hurricanes, even though the Hurricanes seemed pretty chuffed to get one league point from their head on collision. The defining image of the match was seeing Hurricanes hooker Andrew Hore giving the bench the signal he’d had enough. He looked like a boxer put down for the third time in a minute. Absolutely finished.
So how can the bones roll against the big boys from Pretoria. There’s no logic to this one, other than that the Highlanders, less talented than the Canes, play a more intelligent and robust game than the Wellington-based outfit. Ludicrously, this is being billed as a home game for the Highlanders, even though the match is being played in Palmerston North, which is home to Manawatu, formerly of the Hurricanes region. For those not familiar with New Zealand geography, it is the equivalent of the Bulls playing their home game in George or Wellington in the Southern and Western Cape.
For all this something is telling the bones that the Bulls could find the demands of their defensive effort last week have a delayed effect.
The match-ups this weekend have intrigue because just when you think one team is gone for the season they pull off a win, alternatively the pace setters drop a match.
Whereas all predictions last weekend were of a South African struggle, the reality was different in three SA wins out of four. This week team line-ups, home ground advantage and quality of squads could easily see all four South African teams in action victorious, only the Bones haven’t been rolled quite as favourably.
The bones are picking all four South African teams to lose. And if correct, those bones are going in the grinder on Saturday night because that kind of accuracy won’t be tolerated.
BLUES vs WARATAHS, AUCKLAND, FRIDAY 08:35
Tahs captain Grumpy and his Sydneysider dwarfs will find the going tough in Auckland and they’ll go down to an Blues side humiliated in Hamilton but decent enough to get a win at home.
HIGHLANDERS vs BULLS, PALMERSTON NORTH, SATURDAY 06:30
This is going to be an entertaining game and the Bulls are going to make the mistake of underestimating the Highlanders. The Bulls will try and play too expansively and get punished.
CRUSADERS v STORMERS, CHRISTCHURCH, SATURDAY 08:35
If matches are won on paper the Stormers would have as many Super rugby titles as the Crusaders. Only they aren’t and for all their talent over the years the Stormers have never made it to a final. This is their best chance of blowing away the Crusaders since the first year they played them as Western Province in 1996. This Crusaders team is as inexperienced and vulnerable as the side that finished last in the first year of the competition. But for all this the Crusaders will win because they aren’t as poor as their two wins and a draw from five matches suggests. It could easily have been four wins from five with an injury-time defeat to the Brumbies in Canberra and Stephen Brett’s awful late miss denying them what would have been two deserved victories. They’re not as talented as the Stormers, but at home they’ll have an edge over a team that is also coming off a bye.
REDS vs CHIEFS, BRISBANE, SATURDAY 11:05
The Chiefs are never as good away from home as in Hickville and I have to concede there has been a bit more razzle than rubble to the Reds of late. Good on them. The competition needs Queensland to be a destination to be feared by opposition. This one will be close, but the bones have rolled in favour of the high-flying Kiwis. Just don’t expect a romp.
SHARKS vs BRUMBIES, DURBAN, SATURDAY 17:00
The Sharks, tournament favourites, defied history in dealing with the Force in Perth. Can they do it again? History suggests the Brumbies are always a greater threat in week two on tour and a couple of seasons ago the Brumbies took 50 from the Cheetahs and then beat a quality Sharks team in Durban a week later. The Sharks have just got back from a month tour and the travel will have taken its toll. This is an unpopular roll. Brumbies to win it.
LIONS vs HURRICANES, JOHANNESBURG, SATURDAY, 19:10
The Bones rolled for the Lions a week ago only because of who they were playing. This week there is no such favour and the Canes, if they have title aspirations, can’t drop this game on the road. Loffie’s Lions to limp overseas for more pain and suffering.
Week 1: 5/7
Week 2: 7/7
Week 3: 2/7
Week 4: 5/6
Week 5: 3/6
Week 6: 3/6