Round Six of Super Rugby throws up a series of critical matches for teams attempting to keep alive, rebuild or sustain campaigns.
In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the Round Six of Super Rugby throws up a series of critical matches for teams attempting to keep alive, rebuild or sustain campaigns.
There's five games to get through, so lets hop straight to it shall we?
Reds vs Cheetahs
The Cheetahs will be out to prove that last week's upset win of the century against the Waratahs was no flash in the pan when they tackle the Reds.
Normally we'd begin a preview such as this one by pointing out that the South African tourists have never won a match Down Under, bla, bla, bla… but after last week's victory in Sydney, that can finally be put to bed.
Like the Waratahs, the Reds would have circled this fixture on their Super Rugby calender as an easy five log points – we doubt that will be the case anymore and will be wary of a side that proved never to under-estimate the opposition. Ever!
Returning Cheetahs flanker Heinrich BrÃ¼ssow's pilfering gave his side a ton of possession, while the rest of the forwards took every opportunity to smash their opponents off the ball. Indeed, Reds loose forward Beau Robinson will face his sternest test trying to keep BrÃ¼ssow in check on what is expected to be a hot and humid Brisbane afternoon.
The Reds have emerged as the strongest Australian team in the early stages of the season – dominating the Brumbies and crushing the Rebels by fifty points last weekend – but captain James Horwill, returning after a two week lay-off, said his team must still improve.
“The performance against the Rebels on the weekend was good but we know it wasn't a perfect or complete performance,” Horwill said.
“We need to be better again to beat the Cheetahs – we aren't where we want to be.”
The Cheetahs have tasted success against the Queenslanders twice – both in Bloemfontein – but in the five matches between the teams, the Reds have won three with the Aussies getting the better of Naka Drotske's team on the last two occasions.
Prediction: With the weather in Brisbane set to be a scorcher, we think the Cheetahs will follow up last week's shock result with another good performance, only to run out of steam towards the end. Reds by twelve.
Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Luke Morahan.
Cheetahs:15 Riaan Viljoen, 14, Phillip Snyman, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Corne Uys, 11 Wilmaure Louw, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Tewis de Bruyn, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Phillip van der Walt, 6 Heinrich BrÃ¼ssow, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp (c), 4 Martin Muller, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 Lourens Adriaanse, 18 Francois Uys, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Fabian Juries.
Referee: Keith Brown (New Zealand)
Chiefs vs Blues
With the Crusaders working their magic in London, the big game in New Zealand this weekend will be between these two Kiwi rivals for what should be a highly entertaining match – we hope!
The Blues will be oozing confidence after picking up an impressive win against the Hurricanes at Eden Park – a venue the Aucklanders have never lost at so far this season.
But they're on the road again and the Chiefs will be a stern test, buoyed by their grind down of the Sharks last week, as the two North Island rivals look to keep their seasons on track.
An away win will be welcomed by Pat Lam as his team tend to struggle away from their home comforts – a loss against the Sharks in Durban, a comeback win against the Lions in Jo'burg and a draw against the Force in Perth has interrupted their momentum so far this season.
However, they will be pleased by the fact they have three 'home' games heading their way (Cheetahs in Whangarei, a bye, Waratahs at Eden Park and Rebels in North Harbour) after this weekend's big derby hit-out against the Chiefs at Waikato Stadium in Hamilton.
Whilst the Blues got their tumultuous season back on track with a resounding 41-17 victory over the 'Canes, Saturday's match against the Chiefs shapes as a crucial clash as they look to rid themselves of the 'inconsistent' tagline that has haunted them for a number of seasons.
“This is a massive game for us to get rid of the monkey on our back as some people say,” Lam said.
“It's a big game in the sense of where we are on the table, a big game in the sense that we're up against our neighbours and it's also a big game in relation to my time in this franchise where we have been up and down.”
But they face a stern challenge against a Chiefs outfit who love nothing more than defeating their big brothers and who are also desperate to record consecutive wins for the first time this season after upsetting the Sharks last week.
“You look at the quality in that Chiefs team and they're at home and have their backs against the wall. Motivation brings out the best in players and it'll be the same for them this week,”said Lam.
“Playing against the Blues you know they're going to come out firing and that's why we have to make sure every individual is giving their best otherwise we're going to come off second best.”
The Blues have won nine of their 15 encounters against the Chiefs and last year defeated them 30-20 at Eden Park. But the last time they travelled down the line to Hamilton the Blues were thrashed 63-34.
Prediction: Tough one. Home ground advantage should favour the Chiefs, but the Blues have been looking the much better out of the two so far this season. Blues by four.
Chiefs: 15 Tim Nanai-Williams, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Richard Kahui, 12 Tana Umaga, 11 Sitiveni Sivivatu, 10 Mike Delany, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Liam Messam (c), 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Scott Waldrom, 5 Isaac Ross, 4 Craig Clarke, 3 Nathan White, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Sona Taumalolo.
Replacements: 16 Aled de Malmanche, 17 Toby Smith, 18 Culum Retallick, 19 Fritz Lee, 20 Taniela Moa, 21 Dwayne Sweeney, 22 Save Tokula.
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Rene Ranger, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Anthony Boric, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Teofilo Paulo, 19 Mat Luamanu, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Lachie Munro, 22 Benson Stanley/Sherwin Stowers.
Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)
Brumbies vs Waratahs
The Brumbies and the Waratahs will be desperate to get their season back on track with a win at Canberra Stadium in this must-win Aussie derby.
Humbled by last week's