Last weekend pretty much confirmed everything we suspected about the Australian Super Rugby teams. The Brumbies were overrun at the end by the Highlanders despite sticking with them for most of the match, the Rebels led at halftime but fell apart when the pressure came on and the Waratahs were far too adventurous and classy for the Reds.
This weekend it doesn’t get any easier. On Friday night the Waratahs take on top South African team the Lions, the Reds face the Chiefs on Saturday, the Rebels play the Bulls in South Africa and on Sunday afternoon the Brumbies will try to stop the Jaguares. All four teams remain well in the hunt for a finals spot, so getting the four points will be crucial.
The Waratahs should be able to beat the Lions at home, as long as their forward pack can withstand the monsters that the Lions will field. They are by far the best Australian rugby team this season, and will back themselves to pile on the points in the second half. The NSW pack also managed to get on top of the far more physically imposing Queensland forwards last week, so they will take some confidence into this clash.
A win for the Waratahs will also propel them into second place on the Super Rugby ladder overall, and with an extra game over the Lions to play they should be able to stay there.
The Reds, conversely, were badly exposed by the Waratahs last week. The Chiefs coaching staff will have watched that game, and the thrashing handed out by the Brumbies the week before, and seen the blueprint for winning this week. If the New Zealanders’ skills don’t desert them they will be able to create plenty of broken play and find the holes to run through.
Over at Loftus the Rebels will try to get their campaign back on track at one of the toughest stadia in the world to play rugby at. The Melbourne side have now lost three of their last four games, in all of which they were leading at half time. They will take solace in the fact that their last good second half performance was against a South African side, the Sharks. The Bulls are also not a fast finishing side, so this will be an interesting matchup.
The Jaguares will be high on confidence after grinding out a win over the Rebels last week. They are not, however, a consistent side, even in Argentina. With David Pocock coming back into his best form the Brumbies should be able to disrupt the Argentine attack enough to make defending reasonably easy. If they can score a reasonable number of points (not a given with the Brumbies) they will be able to win.