Super Rugby heats upComment on this story
With competition on for the top places in the various conferences of Super Rugby – and some shocking results in the last round – this weekend promises to be a cracker.
In the first match-up on Friday, the Hurricanes play the Brumbies in Wellington. The Australian conference leaders will hope their good run of form continues as they bring in Zack Holmes to the flyhalf position, owing to Christian Lealiifano's broken ankle.
The Chiefs, who were previous log leaders, would have wanted to immediately bounce back from their shock defeat to the Reds, but perhaps the bye they take is just what they need at this moment.
The Reds, who gave Australian rugby a jab in the arm with that victory, will look to continue their winning streak when they face the Lions. The dismal Johannesburg side have no real hope of avoiding another embarrassing defeat away from home, as they go into the match with an unchanged squad.
Another victim of an unexpected result, the Crusaders are at home to the Blues. In this case, the Blues are unlikely to cause a surprising outcome.
The Rebels, who dislodged the Crusaders from their top six spot, take on the Force. Coming off a crushing defeat against the Sharks, the Force will be up against a Rebels side brimming with confidence.
The Bulls make their way to Dunedin to face the Highlanders, with the side from Pretoria out to cement their place at the top of the South African Conference.
The injury-hit Stormers are facing somewhat of a loose forward crisis at the moment, with the recent injury of Nizaam Carr compounding their troubles.
This has forced the Cape Town side to bring in Canadian international and London Irish number-eight, Jebb Sinclair, giving him his first Super Rugby start.
The Stormers play the Waratahs at home on Saturday, with Tahs coach, Michael Foley, looking to rest a few players - an option the Stormers wish they had.
In the only SA derby of the weekend, the Sharks travel to Bloemfontein to take on their bogey side, the Cheetahs. The Free State team have been involved in many close encounters this tournament, and their history against the Durbanites means there'll probably be more of the same.
Sharks pivot Pat Lambie might not be available for the match, due to a concussion he sustained in the previous game, while the Cheetahs are no doubt missing their very own prodigy in Johan Goosen.
Friday: Hurricanes v Brumbies - Westpac Stadium, Wellington, 9:35am
Saturday: Highlanders v Bulls - Forsyth Barr Stadium - Dunedin, 7:30am; Crusaders v Blues - AMI Stadium - Christchurch, 9:35am; Reds v Lions - Suncorp Stadium - Brisbane, 11:40am; Cheetahs v Sharks - Free State Stadium - Bloemfontein, 5:05pm; Stormers v Waratahs - Newlands Stadium - Cape Town, 7:10pm
Sunday: Force v Rebels - NIB Stadium - Perth, 8:35am – Cadet News Agency