Predictions: Champions Cup, Super Rugby…

Date published: April 21 2017

We're down to the final four in Europe while there are plenty of Super Rugby matches to tuck into over a busy weekend.

Saracens will be hoping to move one step closer to defending their Champions Cup title when they make the trip to Dublin to take on Munster, while Leinster are in France looking to end Clermont's European dream once again.

Let's see who will come out on top.

CHAMPIONS CUP

Munster v Saracens

Rassie Erasmus has been a breath of fresh air for Munster this season, and the Irish province who are rock-solid upfront and not afraid to get their backs into the game either out wide are back in the big time after a few years in the European wilderness. Saracens in that time have established themselves as a continental juggernaut, boasting more Lions selections this week than any other club with six. 

The quarter-final win over Glasgow Warriors was Saracens at their best, with the forwards waring down the defence before the precision passing of Owen Farrell and the rest of the Saracens backs made chances in the wide channels for Sean Maitland and Chris Ashton. Peter O'Mahony has to get stuck into an impressive Saracens lineout run by fellow Lion, George Kruis.

Munster were just too powerful around the fringes of the ruck for Toulouse to cope, with Saracens unlikely to be as soft, but backed by a roaring crowd at the Aviva Stadium this already feels like a ready-made Euro classic. Goalkicking will be vital, which means advantage Owen Farrell, and therefore advantage Saracens. Saracens by six.

Clermont v Leinster

Sunday's semi-final features a re-match between the two European giants, with Clermont still gunning for a first title and having been knocked out by Leinster back in 2012 before Joe Schmidt's side went on to win their third title in four years.

Les Jaunards' desperation for a European trophy is no secret, having come so close yet fallen short in recent times with defeats in the 2013 and 2015 finals, and had Wesley Fofana's season not been cut short then given the rugby Clermont played throughout the group stages, it would not have come as a shock to see them listed as favourites.

Leinster's quarter-final triumph over Wasps was highly impressive, particularly the gelling combination in midfield of Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose. But Clermont's pack have outmuscled many a side so far this season, and this feels like another occasion for the Top 14 side's set of forwards to dictate proceedings even up against Leinster's many Ireland international forwards. Clermont by three.


CHALLENGE CUP

La Rochelle v Gloucester: La Rochelle by 9
Stade Français v Bath: Stade by 3


SUPER RUGBY

Lions v Jaguares

Preview: Despite being one of the tournament’s top sides over the past two seasons, the home side have been on the losing side in both their previous matches against the Jaguares although both those encounters were played in Buenos Aires.

Prediction: The home side are on a high and will take revenge for their loss in the corresponding fixture in Buenos Aires. Lions to win by 15 points.

Highlanders v Sunwolves

Preview: Rugby Park in Invercargill is the setting for the match as the Highlanders' campaign looks to have finally got motoring after a dismal start.

Prediction: We cannot see the Sunwolves coming close here as the hosts should claim a comfortable victory. Highlanders by 35 points.

Crusaders v Stormers

Preview: Both sides have also started 2017 full of purpose, with the Crusaders yet to be defeated and the Stormers only tasting defeat for the first time back at Newlands last weekend when they fell to the Lions.

Prediction: The game of the weekend in Super Rugby and even though the Crusaders have been excellent so far this year, this feels like their biggest test to date. Crusaders by seven.

Force v Chiefs

Preview: Despite the Force enjoying a bye last week and having home-ground advantage, one cannot see them coming away with anything against a potient Chiefs unit.

Prediction: It's hard not to see a repeat of last year's carnage. Chiefs by 30.

Bulls v Cheetahs

Preview: The Cheetahs won the reverse fixture in Round 2 but have never won back-to-back games against the Loftus side. 

Prediction: The Cheetahs definitely could run their hosts close at Loftus but even without a key duo we see the Bulls edging this by five.

Sharks v Rebels

Preview: The Sharks, rightly chastised last year for playing an unimaginative brand of rugby that lacked skill, look a reborn side under the guidance of head Robert du Preez.

Prediction: Even with last week's upset over the Brumbies, this looks like a tall order for the Rebels given the Sharks' start to the year and their record in South Africa. Sharks by 14.


TOP 14

Montpellier v Racing 92: Montpellier by 15


COMMENTS