Super Rugby always takes on a brutal edge as the playoffs loom, and 2012 is no different. Nine sides are technically still vying for a playoff spot and none will be going down without a fight. Epic clashes this weekend includes the Chiefs v Crusaders opener and Sharks v Bulls. However, Reds v Highlanders and Brumbies v Waratahs are all sure to have venom.
The Crusaders will be a wounded beast after last week’s shock loss to the Hurricanes and on the cusp of missing out on the playoffs altogether. The Chiefs, having secured the top NZ spot but wanting the top table spot would have been wishing for a slightly less motivated Crusaders side, preferably without the recalled Kieran Read, Dan Carter and Israel Dagg.
The Springboks will be hoping to have some players to pick from if the Sharks v Bulls match lives up to the hype. Both teams desperately need victory. When picking South Africa derbies, our default pick is usually the home side, but this one could go either way.
Over in South Africa the Stormers will be looking to phone in a victory and coast to the top of the table, but no one spoils better than the Cheetahs. The Stormers will need to guard against complacency.
We’ve picked the Waratahs to win against the Brumbies at home. However, if the Brumbies are truly contenders they’ll need to be able to deal to a Waratahs team who have had one of their worst seasons ever.
The Rebels, without key players Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor will meet the Lions at home. Either the Lions will unleash all the fury of a year of dire results, off field drama and future uncertainty, or they will capitulate under their own misery. It’s a similar situation for the Blues who take on a Force team without star captain David Pocock. The Blues’ Charles Piutau becomes the 40th player to don the Blue jersey in a season ravaged by injury.
Chiefs v Crusaders
Friday 6 July at 19:35 Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
RugbyFix Pick: CRUSADERS to beat Chiefs by 1
Reds v Highlanders
Friday 6 July at 19:40 Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
RugbyFix Pick: REDS to beat Highlanders by 7
Blues v W Force
Saturday 7 July at 19:35 Eden Park, Auckland
RugbyFix Pick: BLUES to beat Force by 17
Waratahs v Brumbies
Saturday 7 July at 19:40 ANZ Stadium, Sydney
RugbyFix Pick: WARATAHS to beat Brumbies by 6
Cheetahs v Stormers
Saturday 7 July at 15:00 Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
RugbyFix Pick: STORMERS to beat Cheetahs by 13
Lions v Rebels
Saturday 7 July at 17:05 Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
RugbyFix Pick: LIONS to beat Rebels by 15
Sharks v Bulls
Saturday 7 July at 19:10 Kings Park, Durban
RugbyFix Pick: SHARKS to beat Bulls by 3