A month of high-drama has failed to subside for the New South Wales Waratahs, with hooker Tolu Latu stood down pending his court appearance for drink driving.
Round 6 of Super Rugby kicks off with three intriguing matches.
The Highlanders take on another Aussie opponent in Round 6 of Super Rugby 2017. Considering all of the injuries the Highlanders have suffered, they picked up an important win in Canberra last weekend and now enter a run of easier fixtures having faced all four New Zealand franchises in the opening rounds of their campaign.
The Highlanders have picked up three straight wins against Australian franchises, two of those over the Brumbies. They face a Rebels side that looked the part in an entertaining first half in Melbourne last week, the Rebels certainly showed some intent and if they put an 80-minute performance together they could trouble a Highlanders side that has practically limped through the last 3 weeks.
The average points margin between the two doesn’t accurately reflect the nature of the games played between the two sides, with the Highlanders winning big, by 20+ or the game being settled by less than 3, but with the Highlanders still limping around at the moment we could see a points margin somewhere close to the average this weekend.
Highlanders by 10
Highlanders record vs Rebels (2011)
PPG HOME: 38
PM AVG: 12
PM HOME: 17
Previous results (Forsyth Barr Stadium)
Highlanders 43 – 12 Rebels (2012) – Highlanders by 31
Highlanders 33 – 30 Rebels (2014) – Highlanders by 3
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Another Trans-Tasman battle played on New Zealand soil follows the Highlanders versus Rebels game and you have to feel with both the Rebels and Force travelling to venues they do not have great records at, at least one if not both of them will be on the receiving end of a Kiwi rugby lesson.
The last time the Force beat the Blues was back in week 5 of the 2008 competition, that stands alone as their only victory against the Blues since joining Super rugby in 2006, interestingly that win was in Dunedin and is also the only time the Force have not conceded 30+ points playing at Eden Park.
Since then, in 2010, ’12 and ’15 they have conceded an average of 37 points against the Blues when playing in Auckland.
There is always hope in sport and the Blues are the kind of side that could leave the back door open if the Force can produce a quality defensive display that allows them to feed off Blues mistakes and stay in the contest.
The other side of that coin is that if the Blues execute and keep hold of the pill without giving away penalties (something they have done well this season) they will despatch the Force with ease, much like they did against the Bulls last week.
The Force will not be lacking motivation with all the rumours afloat that they are one of the sides up for the axe come 2020, this extra fuel could make them, the Rebels and the Cheetahs all a little more dangerous over the coming weeks of super rugby.
The Blues, however, will be well aware that playing against overseas opposition is their best bet of picking up wins and staying in touch with their franchise counterparts, which should stave off any form of complacency.
Blues by 20
Blues record vs Force
WON: 4 (1 Draw)
PPG HOME: 36
PM AVG: 18
PM HOME: 25
Previous results (Eden Park)
Blues 32 – 9 Force (2012) – Blues by 23
Blues 41 – 24 Force (2015) – Blues by 27
To our minds, this is one of those games that history cannot account for accurately, what will more than likely take place on Saturday will according to the numbers, be somewhat of an anomaly.
If you go far enough back you can find the Bulls destroying the Chiefs by 40 points in the 2009 Super Rugby final.
The reality is that since their last Super Rugby title in 2010 the Bulls have only had one semi-final appearance, which they lost to the Brumbies at Loftus in 2013.
Log finishes of 7th (2011), 5th (2012), 3rd (2013), 9th (2014, 2015, 2016) is not the work of a championship quality side, which is exactly what they will be coming up against in their second fixture against the Chiefs who top the New Zealand log at the moment, no small feat and one that should pretty much scare anyone who has to face them.
Since 2011 these two have only met four times and the numbers tell a tight story but in reality, over this period of time, it’s the Chiefs who have been superior.
Both sides have hosted twice and the winner has always had home comforts, the only other result was the 34-34 draw at Loftus in 2014.
The Bulls look a side devoid of any real passion and desire to win, the players seem to embody the fact that they are in a transitional phase, which sadly means that they simply are not playing to be the best and it shows.
Against a Chiefs side that is playing with a renewed vigour and accuracy that attitude will not do for the Bulls, and unless they pick themselves up for this one in the mental department, they will be handsomely dispatched.
Chiefs by 30
Chiefs record vs Bulls
WON: 2 (1 Draw, 1 Loss)
PPG HOME: 31
PM AVG: 12
PM HOME: 15
Previous results (Waikato Stadium)
Chiefs 28 – 22 Bulls (2012) – Chiefs by 6
Chiefs 34 – 20 Bulls (2015) – Chiefs by 14