HURRICANES v STORMERS in Wellington, Friday 5.35pm AEST
The Storyline: The Stormers have gone from contenders to pretenders in record time, winning their first six before dropping three in a row – including 50-point thrashings from the Crusaders and Highlanders in the past fortnight. Unfortunately for the tackle-shy Cape Towners, they play the competition’s hottest attacking side tonight.
The Stat: The Stormers have won four of their last five against the Hurricanes.
Player to watch: Ardie Savea has been moved to No.8, which gives him a key opportunity to impress All Blacks selectors given Kieran Read’s ongoing injury problems just a few weeks out from the British and Irish Lions series.
The Verdict: Every team in Super Rugby bar the Lions is way below the New Zealand sides’ standards in 2017, a sad fact that has been best illustrated by the 114 points the Stormers have conceded in the Shaky Isles over the past two weeks. The Hurricanes are primed to go back-to-back this season despite some key absentees, and they should wipe the floor with the Stormers at the Cake Tin. Hurricanes 13 plus
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) May 4, 2017
CHEETAHS v HIGHLANDERS in Bloemfontein, Saturday 3am AEST
It will be interesting to see how the Highlanders go in South Africa. They are missing Ben Smith for two games. Too much X-factor not to win this one though. Highlanders 13 plus
— The Highlanders (@Highlanders) May 3, 2017
REBELS v LIONS in Melbourne, Saturday 3pm AEST
The Storyline: The Rebels drew with the Sharks – which was a huge accomplishment – and then ruined it all by getting beaten horrifically by the Kings. They return home where they have had some success this season. The Lions are the form team from South Africa and would like to pick up as many points as they can on their tour of Australia.
The Stat: The Lions are unbeaten in three previous clashes with the Rebels.
Player to watch: Reece Hodge – The tall youngster will play fullback this week. Tough to tackle because of his strength and speed. He will also nail a few long-range penalty goals.
The Verdict: The Rebels have had to travel back from South Africa so it will be a tough ask to beat last year’s finalists. I think it will be a close one with a bit of pride on the line for the Rebels. But the Lions are the superior team. Lions 12 and under.
Harrison Goddard may not have played Super Rugby yet but he has a big fan at Rebels after his man of the match in Randwicks win over Easts 😂 pic.twitter.com/Mo7J1kUg95
— Melbourne Rebels (@MelbourneRebels) May 4, 2017
CHIEFS v REDS in New Plymouth, Saturday 5.35pm AEST
The Storyline: Karmichael Hunt is out and Charlie Ngatai is back after a lengthy stint on the sidelines with concussion. The Chiefs nearly got embarrassed last week, only beating the Sunwolves by seven points. The Reds lost a close one in their ‘State of Origin’ clash with a last minute penalty to the Waratahs. They will be hurting.
The Stat: The Reds have won their last two away games against the Chiefs.
Player to watch: Semu Kerevi – It will be interesting to see how the Wallabies star goes away from his comfort zone of Suncorp Stadium and into the cold weather of New Zealand. Explosive on attack but there are still questions around his defence.
The Verdict: The Reds have upset the Chiefs over the years, but that was generally before they became one of Super Rugby’s bottom feeders. Both teams have a point to prove after last weekend’s performances and need to instil some pride back into their jumpers. It will be 0-16 for Aussie teams vs New Zealand teams at the end of this one. Chiefs 13 plus
"If you work hard on yourself off the field as a human being. You're going to be a better player." Captain, Samu Kerevi pic.twitter.com/hHKvHz9jYJ
— Queensland Reds (@Reds_Rugby) May 4, 2017
WARATAHS v BLUES in Sydney, Saturday 7.45pm AEST
The Storyline: Both teams have the biggest playing pool to choose from in their respective countries and both are not playing that well. The Waratahs got a win last week in a close one, as did the Blues. A stick-and-pick selection policy has been enforced for both teams over the past few weeks which should help with some continuity.
The Stat: The Blues have won only four of their last 19 away games, but they’re 2-0 in Australia this season.
Player to watch: Michael Hooper – He gets through a mountain of work and although he runs wide from the ruck and doesn’t hit many, he makes up for it in defence. Australia are lucky to have this guy and his enthusiasm is something to behold. He just wants to play rugby.
The Verdict: A bold prediction this week but after weeks and weeks of scrutiny and a great victory last week, the Waratahs will make it 1-16 in the Australia-New Zealand head-to-head count, getting the win this week against the flaky Blues. Waratahs 12 and under
— The Blues (@BluesRugbyTeam) May 3, 2017
SHARKS v FORCE in Durban, Saturday 11.05pm AEST
Sharks will win comfortably. Sharks 13 plus
A massive inclusion for our showdown with @TheSharksZA in Durban on Saturday night!
— Western Force (@westernforce) May 4, 2017
BULLS v CRUSADERS in Pretoria, Sunday 1.15am AEST
Bulls are always tough at home but the form the Crusaders are in, you can’t bet against them – even with the loss of their two leaders, Read and Whitelock. Crusaders 13 plus.
— BNZ Crusaders (@crusadersrugby) May 4, 2017
JAGUARES v SUNWOLVES in Buenos Aires, Sunday 7.40am AEST
Huge tour for the Sunwovles; they get a break next week while the Jaguares are playing to keep their finals hopes alive. Jaguares 13 plus
— HITO-Com SUNWOLVES (@sunwolves) May 5, 2017