Former Reds and Wallabies forward Mark Connors previews Round 3 of Super Rugby.
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Blues v Crusaders
Friday 28/2/14 @ 16:35
The Blues were poor last week against the Highlanders who were the easy beats of 2013. With soft defence, errors and lacking real structure without a dominant 9 & 10 they provided a typical erratic display. The Blues main dilemma is who will play 10 with Benji Marshall not yet ready.
The Crusaders started the season well and should have beaten the Chiefs but couldn’t crack the Chiefs defence or kick any goals (scoring only 2 from 9 shots at goal). They will improve again.
My pick: Crusaders to win in style
Rebels v Cheetahs
Friday 28/2/14 @ 18:40
The Melbourne Rebels kick off their season against the highly fancied Cheetahs.
The Cheetahs beat their arch rivals the Bulls for the first time ever in Super Rugby last week in heavy conditions. The heavy track last week and travel to Australia will be difficult for the Africans.
The Rebels led by Higginbotham and a new coaching team will be out to show they are no longer the Australian conference duds.
My pick: Rebels to win in a close contest
Stormers v Hurricanes
Saturday 1/3/14 @ 3:10
With both teams stuttering to soft losses last weak this will be a keenly contested game.
Somehow the Stormers need to lean how to score tries and the Hurricanes need to fix up their set piece play (scrum and line-out) and be more consistent.
With enough stars in both teams to field an international team, Im leaning the Hurricanes way for an upset win but playing at Newlands against the home team is a tough ask.
My pick: Hurricanes to upset Stormers
Chiefs v Highlanders
Saturday 1/3/14 @ 16:35
The Highlanders surprised last week with their up-beat display and the early form of their All Black halfback Smith. However, this is a mountain too high and the form team of recent years the Chiefs should win easily with their quality attack and best- in-competition defence.
My pick: Chiefs to win by 10 plus
Waratahs v Reds
Saturday 1/3/14 @ 18:40
The grudge match of the weekend with arch rivals going head-to-head. Solid start from the Tahs last week against a weak opposition, but that win will lift their confidence and their egos. With too many stars to mention, the Tahs should be the danger side to challenge for top billing in 2014. The Reds had their best start to a season in years, but will need to improve after losing their way in the second half against the Brumbies. Defence and breakdown will be key to who wins this one.
My pick: (you're kidding if you think I’ll pick the Tahs)….Reds by 6 points!
Force v Brumbies
Saturday 1/3/14 @ 21:00
Both teams will be disappointed with losses to their other Aussie teams last week (Brumbies to the Reds, and Force to the Tahs). The Force don’t look like much has changed this year and while they will cause a few upsets it's hard to get too excited about their line-up and form. The Brumbies were outplayed and out-coached last week. Coaches Larkham and Fischer will be smarter with their replacements this week, but they will need to lift as the Force will provide some resistance at home.
My pick: Brumbies to win (but the Force could push them)
Bulls v Lions
Sunday 2/3/14 @ 1:05
After coming back into the competition (relegated last season), the Lions have surprised everyone so far this year with 2 from 2, while the former champs, the Bulls, are yet to win. The Bulls will need to lift with their captain Pierre Spies ruled out for the year. They will also need to show greater discipline, with the Lions' sharp shooters kicking them from everywhere.
My Pick: Bulls to win this one at home
Mark Connors, former Reds and Wallabies forward
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