Super Rugga Watch 2018 – Round 7

The South African teams are really dropping the ball in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby competition and along with it our weekly predictions.

This week we have a special guest piece from one of our many loyal supporters of in Graham Wiggill and we hope you guys give him a follow as he is always up for great banter and all-round sports advice.

Without any further waffling, let’s see what Graham has to say about this coming weekend!

Friday 30 March 2018 – Chiefs v Highlanders, FMG Stadium Waikato – 08h35*

 Highlanders, ex-perennial underperformers, have become a real Vodacom Super Rugby force over the last 5 years, and have showed hot form up until their loss last week against the Hurricanes. The Chiefs are a powerful team, though I reckon the loss of Aaron Cruden (his influence on the field, not his lack of sense of humour off it) may be too much to bear this year and may be fighting the Blues for the New Zealand wooden spoon this year, though that’s more a statement of New Zealand’s depth than an indictment of the Chiefs. The loss of All Black Malakai Fekitoa hasn’t impacted the Highlanders whatsoever, with Rob Thomson stepping up and putting in consistently subtle, yet brilliant performances in the 13 shirt.  Prepare for genuine aggression from these two powerful forward packs, particularly All Blacks Elliot Dixon, Sam Cane, and Brodie Retallick. I expect the battle between two-time Super Rugby player of the year Damian Mckenzie, and the departing Lima Sopoaga to be massive, though ultimately, I expect Sopoaga’s experience in the flyhalf channel to prove too much for “D’Mac”. Keep your eyes peeled for Matt Faddes off the bench, the ex jersey-salesman is far faster and definitely has better feet than your average retail worker, and as the 2016 Highlanders’ player of the year will be looking to show the All Black selectors what they’re missing out on. Should be a cracking, high intensity game.

PREDICTION: Highlanders by 7-14

Friday 30 March 2018 – Rebels v Hurricanes, AAMI Park – 10h35*

Before I say anything about this game, let me just say that AAMI Park, also known as “Melbourne Rectangular Stadium” is by far the kakkest name a rugby stadium has ever had, no matter how geometrically accurate it is. The rugby on display should be far from it though. The Melbourne Force… uh sorry… Rebels have been a far improved outfit this year (currently first on the log mind you) with Will Genia leading the charge like the world class scrumhalf he is. So world class is he that he makes up for the fact that they completely lack a flyhalf, which is where the Rebels will lose this game. The men from Melbourne’s scrum should at least have parity or even superiority over the Hurrianes, but I expect Beauden Barrett and the boys in the back to do what they do best, tear holes through defences. Finally, Ben Lam vs Jack Maddocks will be a spectacle, even if their names aren’t the first that spring to attention on the team sheets. Watch this game for them if nothing else.

PREDICTION: Canes to win by 12’ish

Saturday 31 March 2018 – Blues vs Cell C Sharks, Eden Park – 08h35*

The Cell C Sharks aren’t living up to the potential touted by so many optimists preseason, and so too the Blues, besides their win against the frankly porous Emirates Lions in Jo’burg. The Blues will have to contain guns like Akker van der Merwe and Robert du Preez jnr, who will hope to win his clash with rookies Stephen Perofeta and Bryn Gatland. The Durbanites, weary and winless on tour, will have to deal with not-only the big brothers Ioane, but also with the dangerous Blues back three. I honestly don’t think they’ll manage.

PREDICTION: Blues by 5

Saturday 31 March 2018 – Waratahs v Brumbiues, GIUO Stadium – 10h45*

Probably the least interesting game of the weekend from a South African perspective, these two struggling ex-titans will be looking to secure some valuable points and put some pressure on the Rebels, who as we’ve said, are rebelling against their ascribed role of Australian whipping boys. Most were surprised to see Israel Folau moved to the wing a few weeks back, few were surprised how effective he was, and I think that will be the story of the day here too. I expect the Tahs to win, partly because this game is in Sydney and partly because of their result against the Rebels two weeks ago.

PREDICTION: Tahs to take the Brumbies by like 7 or 8 or something I don’t really care except for SuperBru

Saturday 31 March 2018 – Vodacom Bulls v DHL Stormers, Loftus Versfeld – 17h15*

Finally the good stuff. The DHL Stormers have come into some form recently, partially due to the magic of Damian Willemse, partially due to defences being surprised when Damian de Allende does stuff other than put his head down and run, and hugely due to the magic of their deadly forward pack. The Vodacom Bulls are coming back from a tough tour which has many fans wondering whether their win over the Hurricanes was a fluke. I fully expect them to step up and surprise the Capetonians with some clever play and if the team that played the first half against the Chiefs arrives the Stormers are in for a shock. Jesse Kriel is also in career best form; his crab running has become perfect line running seemingly out of nowhere. Toughest game of the weekend to call.

PREDICTION: DHL Stormers should scrape this by 3 to 5 points

Sunday 1 April 2018 – Emirates Lions v Crusaders, Emirates Airline Park – 14h30*

A rematch of last year’s Final, should this time be an altogether different affair. Last time these 2 teams clashed there was a roaring (for the first 35minutes) crowd of 65 000 people, but the Emirates Lions stocks in many positions were considerably better, and they hadn’t left “Ellis Park” in a good few weeks. This time, they play on Easter Sunday, in what is sure to be a relatively empty stadium, they’re on the return from Buenos Aires, with injuries to key men like Jaco Kriel, and every wing available to them just about, except for the underrated Sylvian Mahuza. The Lions will take heart from the lack of Richie Mo’unga in the Crusaders starting lineup, but few would bet against the Saders even with them utilizing Mitchell “Clutch” Hunt, I mean, he earned that nickname somehow.

PREDICTION: Crusaders by 10

* – denotes kick-off South Africa Time

Big thanks Graham, you have made sure I had a great 10th wedding anniversary, cause as they say, “Happy wife, happy life!”

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