Former Reds and Wallabies forward Mark Connors previews Round 18 of Super Rugby.
TattsBet Super Rugby Round 18 Preview
Chiefs v Hurricanes
Friday 4/7/14 @ 17:35
This game could go either way, with both sides desperate to win and claim a possible finals spot at the top of the congested NZ conference. The Chiefs form slide has been ongoing, while the Canes continue to surprise, and are capable of winning away from home. I'll tip the home side here without a lot of confidence, though I feel they will be looking for revenge, after a thrashing by the Canes in Round 15.
Lions v Rebels
Saturday 5/7/14 @ 3:10
The Lions last match in Round 16 was a strong win against the Bulls, and I’m betting they will have worked hard in the break. The wheels look to have fallen off the disappointing Rebels, who showed great promise early in the year, but are now well off the pace.
Pick: Lions at home.
Crusaders v Blues
Saturday 5/7/14 @ 17:35
The Crusaders would be disappointed with last week's efforts, especially being unable to score a try. They do though welcome back Nadalo this week, who should fix that problem and could also have Dan Carter, Kieran Read and Ritchie McCaw as possible inclusions. The Blues on the other hand are like France – scintillating one week……… diabolical the next. However, their physical display against the Force was very impressive, and with Graham Henry (consultant coach) on deck again, they will be a tough opponents.
Pick: Crusaders at home with a finals berth on offer, but could go either way.
Force v Reds
Saturday 5/7/14 @ 19:40
Prior to the last Round, you would have tipped the Force to be a strong chance of making the finals and to be clear favourites against the Reds. So much can change in a week in this Super Rugby comp, with the Reds bouncing back into form, and the Force out-muscled and outplayed by the Blues last week. I expect a huge improvement from the home side, but I also expect enormous motivation for the Reds players to continue their climb back up the ladder.
Pick: Reds in an upset.
Stormers v Bulls
Sunday 6/7/14 @ 1:05
With their finals race over, both teams are playing for pride in this local derby. Their last matches delivered upsets - with the Bulls losing to the Lions and the Stormers toppling the Sharks. Coming off the Test series, I expect the Bulls to be more fatigued, and on their latest results, the Stormers look to be improving.
Pick: Stormers at home.
Cheetahs v Sharks
Sunday 6/7/14 @ 3:10
The Cheetahs have a few injury concerns and are also facing speculation their inspirational leader Adrian Strauss is leaving for the Bulls next year. The Sharks on the other hand are welcoming back a few players and are certain of a home final. The only risk to the Sharks is complacency and trying to wrap themselves in cotton wool before the finals.
Pick: Sharks should front up if they want to be real title contenders.
Waratahs v Highlanders
Sunday 6/7/14 @ 16:05
This will be a cracking contest with both sides in top form, and the Highlanders desperate to win to secure any chance of a finals place. With the Tahs assured of their place in the finals, the biggest issue for to them is easing off and finding the motivation for a game that isn’t a must win. I do though think coach Michael Cheika can fire them up enough to perform, because any slip in performance will damage their finals campaign.
Pick: Waratahs to win, but there is a risk of an upset here!
Mark Connors, former Reds and Wallabies forward