FORCE v REDS in Perth, Thursday 9.30pm AEDT
The Storyline: Another Thursday night game, this one due to a Justin Bieber concert! (Seriously, look it up.) The Reds had a sloppy win last week against the Sharks, although Reds teams in the past would have lost those close ones. The Force battled well in Sydney but could only come away with one bonus point. These teams generally produce pretty tight games and this will show us who is on the right track.
The Stat: The Force have won only one of their last 14 games at nib Stadium, while the Reds have notched just two wins in their last 12 on the road.
It’s a Big Game for: Nick Frisby – Great last name, but he was woeful last week against the Sharks. Scrumhalf reserve James Tuttle came on and scored the winning try within three minutes. Frisby will need a big game to keep his starting spot.
The Verdict: It’s tough to say – your guess is as good as mine. The Reds can only get better after last week but it will all depends on the halves, Frisby and Quade Cooper. The Force are always hard to beat at home, generally because teams are on their way back from South Africa, but it’s only Round 2 so I think the talent of Queensland will be too much. Reds 12 and under
— Queensland Reds (@Reds_Rugby) March 1, 2017
CHIEFS v BLUES in Hamilton, Friday 5.35pm AEDT
The Storyline: Both teams got victories last week, the Blues thrashing the Rebels and the Chiefs defending well to upset the Highlanders. This will be the game of the round and will give us a fair indicator of who the real deal is. Are the Blues going to be consistent this year? Did the Chiefs win last week or did the Highlanders just lose it?
The Stat: The Chiefs are on a 10-match winning streak against the Blues.
It’s a Big Game for: Rieko Ioane – Can you he go back-to-back and produce another big game after last week’s hat-trick? The No.13 jersey is there for the taking in the All Blacks set-up as long as he can be consistently good each week.
The Verdict: Hopefully for our sake, this game will be a high-scoring affair. The Blues haven’t beaten the Chiefs in the last 10 matches and it doesn’t help that the Chiefs are at home. All the talk is about the Blues’ bench featuring five All Blacks, but to be honest it’s only really Faumuina and Kaino who are established All Blacks. This will go down to the wire and I think the Blues’ inexperience and inconsistent tendencies lose this one, just. Chiefs 12 and under
— Chiefs Rugby (@ChiefsRugby) March 1, 2017
HURRICANES v REBELS in Wellington, Saturday 3.15pm AEDT
The Storyline: The Hurricanes got close to 100 points last week and the Rebels got a hiding from the Blues at home. Enough said. Oh, and Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles and Nehe Milner-Skudder are back in the Hurricanes’ starting line-up.
The Stat: The Hurricanes have won their last four games against the Rebels by an average margin of 25 points.
It’s a Big Game for: Anyone playing for the Rebels. They will want to restore some pride after last week but it might be hard to do against the defending champions away from home.
The Verdict: If you need some money, put the house on the Hurricanes to win this one by heaps. Hurricanes 13 plus.
— Hurricanes Rugby (@Hurricanesrugby) March 1, 2017
HIGHLANDERS v CRUSADERS in Dunedin, Saturday 5.35pm AEDT
The Storyline: The Battle of the South. Being born in Invercargill, nothing gets my blood flowing more than a tussle with the one-eyed monster that is Canterbury. The Highlanders generally play the ‘little brother’ role, but after a disappointing game last week, they will be keen to get on track again. The Crusaders struggled their way through against the Brumbies last week which I think was surprising to everyone, and they have been dealt a blow with Richie Mo’unga ruled out for two months.
The Stat: The Crusaders have triumphed on three of their last four visits to Dunedin.
It’s a Big Game for: Liam Sopoaga – He may have been sticking to the game-plan last week but there was far too much kicking in the attacking zone. All he needs to do is pass the ball and let the Highlanders’ stacked backline do the rest.
The Verdict: The Highlanders were their own worst enemy last week – if they put away the kicking and flick passes, it will go a long way to winning not only this game, but all games. The Crusaders are the Crusaders, you can never count them out but missing their leader in Kieran Read really hurt them last week, and also the departure of Nadolo didn’t help. I’ve got to back the boys in blue at home this week. Highlanders 12 and under
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) March 1, 2017
BRUMBIES v SHARKS in Canberra, Saturday 7.45pm AEDT
The Storyline: Close loses last week for both teams so they both will be hurting. The Brumbies performance was probably more impressive than the Sharks. The Sharks blew a solid lead.
The Stat: The last six games between the Brumbies and Sharks in Canberra have been decided by seven points or less.
It’s a Big Game for: Tevita Kuridrani – in a desperately inexperienced backline to what he has become accustomed to at the Brumbies, the Wallabies centre is now the team’s senior player out wide. He needs to play like it, while also providing his trademark midfield punch.
The Verdict: This should be a very interesting game – the Sharks have a better side on paper but the Brumbies are at home. The Sharks are in their second week on Aussie soil which helps them get over their jetlag. It’s the new-look Brumbies first home game and they will want to give their home fans something to turn up for week in and week out. Sharks 12 and under.
— Brumbies (@BrumbiesRugby) March 1, 2017
SUNWOLVES v KINGS in Singapore, Saturday 9.55pm AEDT
Kings 12 and under
LIONS v WARATAHS in Johannesburg, Sunday 12.05am AEDT
Lions 13 plus
STORMERS v JAGUARES in Cape Town, Sunday 2.15am AEDT
Stormers 12 plus
CHEETAHS v BULLS in Bloemfontein, Sunday 4.30am AEDT
Cheetahs 12 and under