Europe’s top clubs return to domestic action with the end of season run-in approaching, as Super Rugby thunders on.
Four teams on bye weeks in the competition means there are seven Super Rugby matches across Friday to Sunday, while in the Premiership Bath will take on Leicester Tigers at Twickenham.
Let’s see who will come out on top.
Preview: These two sides have won just one match out of a possible 10 played so far and that victory was registered by the Bulls when these sides met in Pretoria three weeks ago.
Prediction: Although the Sunwolves will have home ground advantage, the visitors have too much class across the park. It won’t be easy but the Bulls will win by seven.
Preview: It could again go down to the wire as four of the last five New Zealand derbies have been decided by a margin of fewer than 10 points.
Prediction: The Blues have looked red hot when they start swinging the ball but the Highlanders should be able to withstand it and come out on top. Highlanders by eight.
Preview: It’s been a dismal campaign to date for Nick Stiles’ Reds as after a narrow win over the Sharks, they have lost five matches on the spin.
Prediction: The hosts should be too strong on their home patch and the Reds missing key men does not help their cause. Brumbies by eight.
Preview: Should the season carry on as it has so far, then it will be those two teams battling it out for the wildcard spot in the South African Group.
Prediction: No reason for this not to be extremely tight once again, after margins of four points and then three, with home advantage likely to have the final say. Sharks by five.
Preview: The Stormers have proved to be a strong attacking side this season as they gain an average of 641 metres per game in 2017, the most of any team in the competition.
Prediction: It should be a titanic clash between these two great sides who are playing positive rugby, but the Chiefs have been playing this brand of the game for much longer and will not fear Newlands. Chiefs by 10.
Preview: The home side have won just once – from five matches – this season and will fancy their chances against the men from Port Elizabeth who have exactly the same record so far.
Prediction: Home ground advantage will swing things in the Force’s favour but only just as the Kings are sure to be competitve. Force by three points.
Bath v Leicester
A crowd of over 55,000 is expected at Twickenham which lead to a good atmosphere given the UK’s expect sunshine over the weekend. That hopefully means tries, because when Bath’s backs click and Jonathan Joseph, Semesa Rokoduguni and Anthony Watson get plenty of ball there tends to be fireworks.
Bath showed glimpses of their best form last weekend against Brive, while knowing what to expect from Leicester Tigers is easier said than done after a traumatic campaign off the field. Their third boss of the season, Matt O’Connor, takes charge of his first game on his return to the club.
If we get the Leicester who were well beaten by Exeter at home at the start of March, Bath will be happy. But if Leicester show the same fight and skill on display in their derby win over Northampton Saints, then they have a real chance. Bath by three.
Other Premiership predictions:
Sale Sharks v Worcester Warriors: Sale by 7
Newcastle Falcons v Gloucester: Newcastle by 3
Exeter Chiefs v Bristol: Exeter by 20
Saracens v Harlequins: Saracens by 12
Wasps v Northampton Saints: Wasps by 10
Munster v Glasgow Warriors
Two of last weekend’s Champions Cup quarter-finalists face off at Thomond Park, handing Glasgow a phenomenally tough fixture six days on from travelling to face Saracens. With the Champions Cup campaign done and dusted, Glasgow simply have to win in Limerick to stand a chance of making the PRO12 post-season.
Ten points currently separate the Warriors from fourth-placed Ulster, but given Munster’s home record this season there are few stingier places to try and pick up points than Thomond. Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell and the rest need strong performances after being subdued by Saracens, but the odds are against them. Munster by six.
Other PRO12 predictions:
Edinburgh v Connacht: Connacht by 3
Ulster v Cardiff Blues: Ulster by 9
Zebre v Newport Gwent Dragons: Zebre by 3
Ospreys v Leinster: Ospreys by 5
Scarlets v Treviso: Scarlets by 20
Toulon v Toulouse
No more Champions Cup action for these two sides either, after comprehensive away losses last weekend to Munster and Clermont, but neither team can afford to be distracted by last weekend’s result with pressing Top 14 matters on the horizon.
Toulouse are in no man’s land; in tenth place, 14 points above the relegation spots but only five points outside the top six in the race for the play-offs. Whether they have the confidence to make the top six, given the problems faced in this campaign and the clouds having over the coaching staff led by Ugo Mola, is another matter.
Toulon also feel ready a reboot, having cut ties with Mike Ford this week with Richard Cockerill in charge until the end of the season, but equally feel better placed to produce a response at home. Toulon by eight.
Other Top 14 predictions:
La Rochelle v Bordeaux-Bègles: La Rochelle by 9
Bayonne v Stade Français: Stade by 5
Castres v Lyon: Castres by 8
Montpellier v Grenoble: Montpellier by 15
Clermont v Brive: Clermont by 10
Racing 92 v Pau: Racing by 11