Three Super Rugby games this weekend will feature Australian sides. Unfortunately, all three are serious underdogs. The Rebels took on the Stormers in Cape Town late on Friday night, the Reds welcome the Lions to Suncorp on Saturday afternoon and the Brumbies will face the Crusaders Saturday night. Expect another weekend without an Australian win (at the time of writing the Rebels have not yet played).
The Reds have their backs against the wall against Super Rugby titans the Lions. The Queenslanders have lost fly-half Jono Lance to concussion, with Hamish Stewart making his Super Rugby starting debut. Given how impotent the Reds backline has been, this is change that probably had to happen anyway. A more serious loss is an injury to captain James Slipper, with JP Smith also making his starting debut at loose-head prop.
There are more positive changes for the Reds, with winger Jordan Petaia forcing his way into the starting side. Wallaby legend (and former captain) George Smith will also start for the Reds at flanker. His experience will be crucial for this young side, especially in the absence of Slipper.
Back to the wall is where the Queensland Reds like to be, yet they have a huge task against the Johannesburg Lions. The South Africans beat the Waratahs 29-0 last week, and this weekend they won’t be jet lagged. Expect a big forwards battle where Smith will need to take control for the Reds to win.
The final game is the Brumbies, who face the defending Super Rugby champions and table topping Crusaders. What looked like an impossible task for the Canberrans has been made even harder with the news that their best player, David Pocock, is out with a calf strain.
The Crusaders are again the pace-setters this year, and have welcomed many of their best players back from injury in the last few weeks. They are deserved favourites this year, and don’t appear to have a weakness for the Brumbies to attack. Unless the Crusaders’ bus crashes on the way to the stadium the Brumbies don’t have a lot of hope.
In other Super Rugby games this weekend the Hurricanes will thrash the Sunwolves in Wellington. The Blues vs Jaguares game will be interesting, with both teams being frustratingly inconsistent this year. The Jaguares have improved in the last few weeks, so they should win. In the final game, the Bulls at Loftus will have a close match against the Highlanders.