Predictions: Super Rugby, Premiership and more…

Date published: March 24 2017

Super Rugby will steal the spotlight but there is plenty of domestic action across Europe to get stuck into this weekend, as the Premiership, PRO12 and Top 14 all return.

Saturday will see the Highlanders desperate to get their season up and running away to the Brumbies, while in Europe there are tricky away trips for Top 14 high-flyers La Rochelle and Clermont.

Bath's visit to Saracens is the headline fixture as well in the Premiership, but who will come out on top in this weekend's matches?

Let's take a look.

SUPER RUGBY

Blues v Bulls

Preview: The hammering of the Rebels in the opening game of the season seems a long time ago for Tana Umaga’s men.

Prediction: Expect another tight game between these two sides who are both desperate for the points. But we go for the hosts. Blues by three.

Brumbies v Highlanders

Preview: The Brumbies are the ones with their tails up and in sport momentum can be crucial, with the Australians seeming primed to keep their good run of form going.

Prediction: The Australian side look in much better form of late and at home they should claim a narrow win. Brumbies by five.

Sunwolves v Stormers

Preview: Although they have lost all four their previous fixtures, the Sunwolves have played better as the season has progressed and were particularly impressive in their most recent losses to the Cheetahs and Bulls in South Africa.

Prediction: Even with the Stormers are resting several first-choice players, they should have little trouble in beating their hosts. Stormers to win by 14 points.

Kings v Lions

Preview: The Lions have the historical advantage going into the game having won the only previous two encounters between these teams, both by margins of 35-plus points.

Prediction: The Lions are in some serious form and are now back to a near full-strength side so expect the men from Johannesburg to wreak havoc in Port Elizabeth. Lions by 25.

Cheetahs v Sharks

Preview: Both have proven to be excellent attacking sides with the Sharks scoring 14 tries in their last four games against South African opposition.

Prediction: This is always a tough clash with the Cheetahs historically a banana peel for the Sharks. But their experience and quality should see them through. Sharks by eight.

Jaguares v Reds

Preview: Once again the Reds’ hopes in attack rest all or nothing on Samu Kerevi being at his stellar best to get them over the advantage line but the Wallaby cannot do it all on his own.

Prediction: Given the Reds’ diminshed personnel and new-found confidence for the Jaguares, this one is only going one way. Jaguares to win by 12.


PREMIERSHIP

Saracens v Bath: Several of England's leading internationals will go from playing with each other straight into doing battle when Bath make the trip to Saracens on Sunday looking to fix their form.

A two-week break having not participated in the Anglo-Welsh Cup knockout stages has given Bath a chance to recharge after they were thumped at home to Wasps last time out. It is worth noting that they won the earlier meeting between the two sides this season 14-11 at The Rec.

Ominously they have never won at Allianz Park and a monster performance from Bath's pack will be needed to get the better of Saracens, with their returning core upfront of both Vunipola brothers and Maro Itoje. Bath are not incapable of an upset if Kahn Fotuali'i directs traffic to the best of his ability, but it feels like a tall order. Saracens by six.

Other Premiership predictions:

Bristol v Gloucester: Gloucester by 7
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks: Chiefs by 12
Harlequins v Newcastle Falcons: Quins by 3
Northampton Saints v Leicester Tigers: Saints by 5
Wasps v Worcester Warriors: Wasps by 20


PRO12

Glasgow Warriors v Connacht: The best of a mixed bunch of fixtures this week in the PRO12 sees Glasgow Warriors host Connacht at Scotstoun.

Plenty will rest on how many of Scotland's leading internationals Gregor Townsend opts to bring straight back in after their exploits in the Six Nations last weekend, given so many were in action, but for the likes of now two-time Six Nations Player of the Championship winner Stuart Hogg there will be plenty of appetite to get back into domestic action.

Neither side can afford any more mistakes if they want to keep their play-off hopes alive, currently hanging by a thread with a seven-point gap separating fifth-placed Glasgow Warriors from the top four, and Connacht trailing another seven points behind Saturday's opponents in sixth. This has all the makings therefore of a tense scrap, one which the hosts should edge. Connacht by five.

Other PRO12 predictions:

Scarlets v Edinburgh: Scarlets by 8
Newport Gwent Dragons v Ulster: Ulster by 11
Zebre v Munster: Munster by 18
Leinster v Cardiff Blues: Leinster by 9
Treviso v Ospreys: Ospreys by 15


TOP 14

Racing 92 v Clermont Auvergne: In the mess that has been this season for Racing, even the last two weeks have stood out as particularly disastrous given the enormous backlash to Jacky Lorenzetti's dream merger with Stade Français.

Off-field turbulence hasn't upset on-field success, because there has been nothing to ruin, with Racing treading water in ninth place and a long way off defending the title they won so superbly last year against Toulon.

Making the top six is not out of the question for Racing but they will be right up against it at home to Clermont, oozing confidence having put 60 points on Pau last weekend and seemingly hell-bent on closing the gap with La Rochelle, after they were humbled at home a couple of weeks ago by Montpellier. Welcoming back Camille Lopez, Rémi Lamerat and Sébastian Vahaamahina is no bad thing either. Clermont by ten.

Other Top 14 predictions: 

Grenoble v Castres: Castres by 6
Lyon v Bayonne: Lyon by 9
Pau v La Rochelle: La Rochelle by 7
Bordeaux-Bègles v Toulouse: UBB by 6
Brive v Montpellier: Montpellier by 8
Stade Français v Toulon: Toulon by 7


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