15 May 2019, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld


The shootout for supremacy in the South African Conference intensifies with two crucial clashes on foreign soil to kick-off Round 14 of Super Rugby on Friday.

The Jaguares and Bulls are both on 28 points, one behind leaders the Sharks, who have a bye this weekend. Both teams will look to rebound and finish the round in pole position when they take on the Hurricanes and Melbourne Rebels respectively.

The fourth-placed Lions (26) and fifth-placed Stormers (24) are in action against New Zealand sides on Saturday. The pride of Johannesburg host the Highlanders and the Cape Town team take on the Crusaders.

With much to play for and the play-offs fast approaching, I suspect it’ll largely be a round to remember for visiting teams.

Hurricanes v Jaguares (Friday - 09:35 SA time)

The Jaguares’ four-match winning streak died in Dunedin last weekend, and the Argentinians are in for another uphill battle here, with the Hurricanes riding high following five consecutive wins. The Highlanders offered the blueprint to beating the men from Buenos Aires and even without Beauden Barrett, who’s being rested, the ‘Canes will clinch a comfortable victory.

Prediction: Hurricanes by 10. (Suggested BET – Hurricanes by 1-12 points)

Melbourne Rebels v Bulls (Friday - 11:45 SA time)

After last weekend, which saw the Rebels beat the Reds 30-24 and the Bulls being slaughtered 45-13 by the Crusaders, the safe bet is on the men from Melbourne. I’m disregarding the Bulls’ dreadful display and going against the grain here. The Pretoria outfit will be plotting a backlash and teams always target their tour opener, so I’m expecting a much-improved performance from the visitors. Prior to the weekend’s win, the Rebels had lost three in a row, so they’re not a picture of dominance. The Bulls pack and pivot Handre Pollard will propel them to a narrow win.

Prediction: Bulls by 2. (Suggested BET – Bulls to win)

Blues v Chiefs (Saturday - 09:35 SA time)

While this is a basement battle in the New Zealand Conference, with the Chiefs fourth on 23 and the Blues fifth on 21, it should produce plenty of fireworks. Their first encounter was a thriller, with the Chiefs coming out 33-29 victors. The Blues have a dreadful record against fellow New Zealand teams. Their 33-26 win over the Highlanders in Round Six snapped a 20-match winless run and was their only derby win this season, so history suggests the Chiefs will come away with the victory.

Prediction: Chiefs by 3. (Suggested BET – Chiefs to win)

Reds v Waratahs (Saturday - 11:45 SA time)

An Australian dance of the desperates with both lowly-ranked teams coming off away losses, the Reds (11th) to the Rebels (30-24) and the Waratahs (13th) to the Lions (29-28). The ‘Tahs won the meeting earlier this season fairly convincingly (28-17) and will call on their experienced Wallaby stars in key positions to steer them to a double.

Prediction: Waratahs by 2. (Suggested BET –  Waratahs to win)

Lions v Highlanders (Saturday - 15:05 SA time)

The Lions were unconvincing and had the rub of the green in their one-point win over the Waratahs last weekend. The Highlanders are a big step-up in competition. They’re unbeaten in their last four outings and ended the Jaguares’ hot streak last time out. The ‘Landers are a well-rounded side, able to compete up front – particularly with their driving mauls – and punish out wide. Even with home ground advantage, I can’t see the Lions holding off the Highlanders.

Prediction: Highlanders by 5. (Suggested BET – Highlanders by 1-12 points)

Stormers v Crusaders (Saturday - 17:15 SA time)

Having won just five of their 11 fixtures, the Stormers are rooted at the bottom of the South African Conference and will be the ones looking into the eye of the storm come Saturday. Wins over the Bulls at home and Rebels in Melbourne showed what the Capetonians are capable of, but they’ve largely struggled to get going this season. The Crusaders, in contrast, are firing on all cylinders and embarrassed the Bulls at Loftus last weekend. Fresh off a bye, the Stormers will come out with intensity but won’t be able to match the intensity of the log leaders from Christchurch over the 80 minutes.

Prediction: Crusaders by 15. (Suggested BET – Crusaders -12.5)

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