Super Rugby 2012: 4 Teams Guaranteed to Lose in Round 14
The race to finish in the top six is really beginning to heat up.
With the Highlanders, Reds and Sharks all picking up wins, the pressure is now on all three to keep winning.
After going down to the Rebels, the Crusaders rebounded in a big way, belting the Blues 59-12 in Christchurch.
Quade Cooper also returned, although he was only a shadow of his best and will likely remain that way for some time while he regains confidence in his knee.
I got three picks right last week, bringing my total to 40-of-52. How will Round 14 look?
The high-flying Chiefs hit a stutter two weeks ago in Brisbane against the resurgent Reds.
On Friday night they will host the Bulls, who also lost their last fixture.
The Chiefs have made six changes for this match, which will affect team chemistry. Injuries have also come into play with Richard Kahui even in doubt for the upcoming tests, and the returning players will be rusty from their lack of recent game time.
After previous losses, expect both teams to come out hard. However, I think the Bulls will be the more clinical side.
The Rebels fired their warning shot two weeks ago, beating the Crusaders 28-19.
They're on a two-game winning streak and beat the Hurricanes the last time these two sides met.
That said, Mark Hammett should select the strongest team available to him ahead of Saturday's match.
Making the postseason is unlikely at this stage, but the Hurricanes still have it all to play for until they're mathematically out of the competition.
I can't see them putting in any more half-baked performances like last week's for the rest of the season.
When the Lions arrive in Perth to take on the Force, it's not a game that promises to generate record viewerships.
The Lions have been poor enough this season and will be hit harder by the absence of flanker Grant Hattingh after he left the field against the Reds with a leg injury.
The Force will be too good for the embattled South African side whose future is in doubt as it is.
In a match loaded with games that promise serious playoff ramifications, the final fixture of the weekend is perhaps the most alluring.
The table-topping Stormers head to Durban where the Sharks will be waiting.
Unfortunately for the hosts, the Stormers have been warming up for the last two weeks. Gio Aplon, Eben Etzebeth and Jean de Villiers have all returned in that time and improving their match fitness in the process.
It's a match that promises to be close until the final whistle, but the Stormers' nigh-unbreakable defence will hold and the visitors will edge this.
Interestingly enough, they might still have conceded less than 25 points by the end of the week. If you don't respect their claim as title challengers, go and put some money on it since I suspect there's a high return in there somewhere.
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