OK folks, counting down to the season opener. Always a hard one in the first week, given that pre-season form usually means nothing. So, to the games:
Hurricanes v Highlanders
The battle of the Canes backs versus the Highlanders pack. My tip is for the Hurricanes to have a little too much class and firepower for the men from the South.
Rebels v Waratahs
A big debut in Super Rugby for the Rebels and like all new teams, a complete unknown quantity. They do have some quality in the likes of Somerville, Mortlock and co., however. The Tahs need to get on the board quickly with a win and will fancy their chances here.
Blues v Crusaders
An absorbing fixture this one. On paper, the Blues look like real contenders this year. They’ve got plenty of class across the paddock, but they are prone to the occasional flameout. The Cru are, well, the Cru. Perenially there or there abouts, they will give the Blues a stern test. Almost too close to call, this one.
Brumbies v Chiefs
Two underperforming teams in 2010, both of which will want to redeem themselves. With the class that the Brumbies possess, they should have made the finals last year. You could almost say the same for the Chiefs, though their injury toll was arguably worse. I’m predicting a high scoring shoot out, with the Brumbies to nick it.
Sharks v Cheetahs
On paper, this should be an easy win for the Sharks, but you never know with these Saffer derbies. The Cheetahs will want to be a lot better than last year to get even close to the team from Durban.
Lions v Bulls
Another game that really shouldn’t be that close. The defending champs versus a team who were pretty poor last season. The Bulls are a year older but still look mighty formidable, expect them to be right up there at the end of the season. The Lions have a new coach and hopefully a new game plan.
Reds v Force
The big question on the lips of most Aussie rugby fans this year will be: “Can the Reds keep improving like they did last year, or was 2010 a flash in the pan”. They look to be a team on the move and they play some very exciting footy. The Force are a team in transition and this year could be another tough one. They’ll give plenty and have a lot of heart, but I reckon the Reds will be too strong.
All odds taken from Sportsbet.