Former Reds and Wallabies forward Mark Connors previews Round 15 of Super Rugby.
TattsBet Super Rugby Round 15 Preview
Blues v Sharks
Friday 23/5/14 @ 17:35
The Blues come off a bye week and desperately need the points to stay in the hunt for a finals place. The Sharks winning effort against the Crusaders last week with 14 men (and then 13 for a 10 minute period) has earned them some renewed respect and suggests they might actually be the real deal. Their physicality and attitude in defence and at the breakdown stood out, so the Blues will need to be up for this contest which will be a huge battle. While I expect the Sharks to again be up for this game, I don’t expect they can repeat the heroics of that effort.
Pick: Blues in a close contest.
Rebels v Waratahs
Friday 23/5/14 @ 19:40
The Rebels keep turning up each week and will again against the Tahs with whom they’ve developed a growing rivalry. Their spoiling play does tend to rattle the opposition at both the breakdown and set-piece, but the size and physicality of the Waratahs should see them cope. As long as they are not still thinking of Wallabies selections (or wrapping themselves in cotton wool….as they have done before!), I expect the Tahs to have enough motivation to avenge their loss in Melbourne last year against the Rebels. And that is despite a quick five day turnaround between games.
Pick: Waratah to win.
Bulls v Brumbies
Saturday 24/5/14 @ 3:10
The Bulls welcome back captain Flip van der Merwe after their bye week and will be eager to knock off the Brumbies at home. While this is a must win for their finals chances, the Bulls need no extra motivation with revenge on their mind after losing at home and gifting the Brumbies a finals spot in 2013. The Brumbies will be keen as well, but there is plenty of press speculation around Wallaby places and that distraction worries me, as does their recent inability to score plenty of tries.
Pick: Bulls will be more desperate.
Highlanders v Crusaders
Saturday 24/5/14 @ 15:35
The Highlanders are in every contest and will push the Crusaders at home this week. The recent resurgence of the Crusaders came to a screaming halt last week against a 14 man Sharks outfit who out-muscled the NZ side. They will be disappointed with that effort, and with each week being a must win, I am expecting a better effort from the away side. Ritchie McCaw needs to lead from the front.
Pick: Crusaders to bounce back with a win.
Hurricanes v Chiefs
Saturday 24/5/14 @ 17:35
It is oh so close at the top of the New Zealand conference, with four points between first (Chiefs) and the fourth-placed Hurricanes, so both teams will be desperate to win this contest. The Canes have been impressive of late, though failed to top the less-fancied Highlanders at home last start. The Chiefs come off a bye and will be eager to stretch their competition lead, which is in danger from their three local rivals running close behind. Any slip up could ruin their finals expectations, so I expect a top class display from the reigning Champions.
Pick: Chiefs to win in a running contest.
Force v Lions
Saturday 24/5/14 @ 19:40
Back at home after a reasonably positive tour, the Force will be looking to lift after an off week against the Stormers. While they did let in some points, there was enough “heart” on display in that effort to suggest the wheels haven’t fallen off. The Lions on the other hand are sporadic performers and shouldn’t bother the Force at home. Their consistency should see them in front at the 80min mark.
My pick: Force to win.
Stormers v Cheetahs
Sunday 25/5/14 @ 1:05
The Stormers have had an up and down few weeks with scintillating form followed be mediocre displays and then back again. Recent trends would suggest they will be off this week after a great effort last start, but I feel they are building and they are always more formidable at home. Their defence should also prove up to the task against a dangerous Cheetahs outfit.
My pick: Stormers at home.
Mark Connors, former Reds and Wallabies forward