Blues v Cheetahs – 5.35pm (AEST), Friday, May 12 @ Eden Park
The Storyline: The Blues are on a two-game winning streak and are now starting to click into gear. They beat the Brumbies and Waratahs away which is no mean feat. The Cheetahs, on the other hand, have lost 7 straight after starting the season with 2-1 – including coughing up a 17-point lead against the Highlanders with less than five minutes left.
The Stat: The Blues are unbeaten in four home games against the Cheetahs.
Player to watch: Rieko Ioane – After playing much of the year in the No.13 outside George Moala, he has found his position in the Blues’ side on the left wing. More space, more freedom and more ball! He is killing it at the moment and is definitely someone to watch.
The Verdict: The Cheetahs can’t win at home so I don’t expect them to win away. The Blues are on a roll and should continue that this weekend. Blues 13 plus
Brumbies v Lions – 7.45pm (AEST), Friday, May 12 @ GIO Stadium, Canberra
The Storyline: An intriguing match-up as it defines how far or how close the Aussie teams are to the South African teams. The Lions have only lost one all season while the top Aussie team, the Brumbies, have only won three of nine games. Canberra is usually hard to win at so we will see how the Lions deal with the cold.
The Stat: The Lions have tasted victory just once in 10 visits to Canberra.
Player to watch: Tevita Kuridrani – With the Test window approaching fast, Tevita is in a battle to retain his position in the Wallabies. A couple of strong performances in the next few weeks will help his cause.
The Verdict: It’s been well-documented that Aussie rugby is at an all time low, and I’ve put some faith in my tipping Australian teams with no reward. I can’t see that changing anytime soon. The Lions are a top-four team this year and with the way the draw is, they could well make their second straight final. Lions 13 plus
Crusaders v Hurricanes – 5.35pm (AEST), Saturday, May 13 @ AMI Stadium, Christchurch
The Storyline: This is the game of the round, two of the top teams going head to head in Christchurch. The Crusaders are back home from their South African tour after demolishing the Cheetahs and the Bulls. The Hurricanes beat the Stormers comfortably last week. The Barrett and Savea Brothers are on fire but the ’Canes are still missing captain Dane Coles and Nehe Milner-Skudder. The Crusaders are the only undefeated team left and their new kids on the block are having great debut seasons, with Jack Goodhue and George Bridge beating defenders at will. The Crusaders are also missing their captain in Sam Whitelock and All Blacks skipper Kieran Read.
The Stat: The Hurricanes have won 6 of the last 8 between the Kiwi heavyweights.
Player to watch: David Havili – The centre-turned-fullback has been tremendous since Israel Dagg has been injured. Only 22 years old, he has played nine games and beaten 39 defenders while running the ball 110 times for 745 metres.
The Verdict: This would be a lot easier to pick if the Crusaders didn’t just come back from South Africa. On paper the Hurricanes are better by far, but the new guys in the Crusaders team are really stepping up and the team is gelling well. I’m definitely going to sit on the fence for this one because it is just too hard to pick. I’m leaning towards the Crusaders though, purely because they are at home. Draw
Rebels v Reds – 7.45pm (AEST), Saturday, May 13 @ AAMI Park, Melbourne
The Storyline: A combined three wins from both teams this season. The irony is, if either team wins four of their last six games, they will probably take out the Australian Conference and get a home semi-final. This week is hugely important.
The Stat: The Reds have won just two of 18 away games since start of 2015.
Player to watch: Reece Hodge – Could win the game on his own with his prolific boot, kicking penalties from 50-plus metres. He’s got an awkward running style that is hard to defend against.
The Verdict: Let’s just hope for our sake that it’s an entertaining match with limited handling errors. Out of the two I think they have been even form-wise, but the Rebels get my tip. Rebels 12 and under
Bulls v Highlanders – 11.05pm (AEST), Saturday, May 13 @ Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
The Bulls are no longer a team to be scared of. The extra week in South Africa will help the Highlanders, so they won’t have to score three tries in five minutes again! Highlanders 12 and under
Kings v Sharks – 1.15am (AEST), Sunday, May 14 @ Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
This will be a closer match than expected, but I can’t go past the Sharks. Sharks 12 and under
Jaguares v Force – 7.40am (AEST), Sunday, May 14 @ Velez Sarsfield, Buenos Aries
The Jags only just beat the Sunwolves last week so they will be wary of the Force this week. Jaguares 12 and under