Super Rugby

Preview: SuperBru Super Rugby Quarters

Cape Town - What do the quarter-finals of this year's Vodacom Super Rugby tournament hold? Time to get your SuperBru campaign back on track!

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FRIDAY, JULY 22

Brumbies v Highlanders, Canberra - 10:00

The Brumbies did just enough to finish atop the Aussie conference in the end, which gave them a home semi-final against the Highlanders, who actually finished with nine more points on the log. In fact, the Highlanders had the joint second highest total of anyone, and yet they have to travel away for their qualifier - just another point of madness within this season's rules.

Canberra is far from a happy hunting ground for them. They have not beaten the Brumbies at GIO Stadium since 2006, although they did register a comfortable victory on home soil earlier this year. The Brumbies' record against Kiwi teams this season, however, has been atrocious - their only win in five games coming way back on opening weekend. The visitors have too much class and should overcome the injury-riddled Australian outfit.

Prediction: Highlanders by 6

SATURDAY, JULY 23

Hurricanes v Sharks, Wellington - 09:35

On paper this looks like the easiest game of the weekend to pick, but there's an important caveat - the Sharks steamrolled the Hurricanes in Durban earlier this season, registering a 17 point win which is by far their most impressive of the season. The Canes, however, appear to be peaking at just the right time, their astonishing dismantling of the Crusaders last weekend a case in point.

Along with other results it meant they snatched an unlikely home qualifier, and to be honest it remains difficult to see how the Sharks can win at the Cake Tin. The South Africans have managed a try bonus point against just one team this year: the Kings. Five-pointers have been hard to come by; conversely if there's one thing the Hurricanes do well, it's get over the whitewash. Even if the Sharks can dominate up front as they did at King's Park earlier in the season, the Canes should have too much firepower to let this one slip.

Prediction: Hurricanes by 12

Lions v Crusaders, Johannesburg - 16:30

On a weekend of tough picks, this is probably the most difficult of them all. The Lions were the form team in the second half of the season, racking up an amazing five bonus point wins in a row before sending a second string side to Argentina to snap that run. Ultimately, that decision cost them a vastly more winnable game against the Sharks this weekend, but the flip side is that their big name players will be fresh.

What of the Crusaders? They were hugely disappointing in home defeat to the Canes last weekend, but with several last minute changes to their line-up due to illness and injury, it's understandable. They have most of their first team players back this weekend, but Nemani Nadolo leaves a giant hole on the wing. The Kiwis won a pulsating encounter at Ellis Park earlier this season, but given the Lions have been in such good form, and have essentially had a week off resting, if they can keep their nerve then they can claim a famous victory.

Prediction: Lions by 3

Stormers v Chiefs, Cape Town - 19:00

The final game of the weekend is an intriguing one. The Chiefs were very much the early pace-setters, losing just one of their first nine games, but three defeats in the latter half of the season - including to the Highlanders last weekend - saw them slip out of the home qualifier spot. It means they face a gruelling trip to South Africa to face a Stormers side in great form. 

The men from Cape Town have four wins in a row to their name, three of them coming with try bonus points. There is a major caveat here, however - the Stormers haven't faced a Kiwi side this season. Will they be able to live with the pace that the Chiefs will undoubtedly bring with them? That is the major challenge that faces them, and with the loss of Jean-Luc du Plessis, who has so impressed in his debut Super Rugby season at fly-half, you fear it may be one that is beyond them.

Prediction: Chiefs by 9

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