Ciamol previews Round 12 of the 2015 Super 15 Rugby season and selects his favourite bets of the weekend.
Hurricanes vs Crusaders
The Hurricanes have been so impressive this season that a win this weekend could see them move a staggering 18 points clear of the Crusaders, with the Chiefs being their main challengers to top the ladder in New Zealand. The defeat to the Waratahs is the only blemish on the Canes record this season and with the return of livewire fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder as well as All Black Dan Coles, they will be hoping to keep it that way.
The Crusaders are possibly facing the unthinkable right now, a season without play-off rugby. They have simply been too inconsistent as their five defeats have left them battling for fifth and sixth place on the overall table. Last weekend saw them return to winning ways with a great bonus point win over the Blues in Christchurch, but travelling away to the league leaders is an entirely different prospect. The Crusaders are still without Israel Dagg although they do have form men in Jordan Taufua and Nemani Nadolo leading well.
These two teams are top of the try scoring charts, with a massive 61 scored between them, suggesting an open, attacking match. Even though the Hurricanes have won only one of the last five meetings between the two sides, they have found a new gear this season that has placed them amongst the favourites to lift the trophy.
Verdict: Hurricanes by 9 Points.
Cheetahs vs Stormers
The Stormers moved to the top of the South African conference after securing a narrow 15-13 win over the Bulls last weekend. The win might not have been pretty but it showed why their scrum is so highly rated this year. The Cape Town-based outfit destroyed their opponents at the set-piece and 12 of their 15 points came after the Bulls were penalised for scum infringements. The Cheetahs scrum is currently the worst in the competition so don’t be surprised if the Stormers use this facet of the game as an attacking platform.
Being hampered by injuries to key players in recent times and having lost seven of their last eight matches, the Cheetahs are lying 12th overall and sitting at the bottom of the SA conference. Last weekend they gave the Lions a real scare after a great game at Ellis Park ended 34-29 in the Lions favour. The Cheetahs have had to reshuffle the team again; Springbok Cornal Hendriks is rested this weekend and Johan Sadie is another injury casualty. Amongst other changes sees Joe Pietersen replace Willie du Plessis at flyhalf and Clayton Blommetjes starting at fullback.
The Stormers have won all their SA derby matches this season and they wont be conceding their hard fought conference lead by slipping up here. The Cheetahs will not run through the visitors defence as regularly as they did against the Lions last weekend and this is why I’m backing the minus handicap.
Verdict: Stormers by 7 Points.