2019-02-18 by Liam Del Carme
Sharks v Blues
The Sharks made a satisfactory start to their campaign against the Sunwolves last weekend. They were ruthless when they needed to be and they will need to draw on that quality again against the improved Blues.The Auckland side now under the guiding hand of former Crusader, Leon MacDonald look a more cohesive unit this season. They were perhaps a tad unlucky to lose against the Crusaders last weekend.The Blues however will need little reminding that they’ve won just once in their last 12 meetings against the Sharks.
This will be a good test for both sides with the Blues a decent bet for an upset.
France v Scotland
France have lost just twice to Scotland in their last 13 clashes but those two blemishes came in their last three match-ups. Scotland are improving while France are in the retreat. Their patched together coaching set-up under Jacques Brunel has brought little cohesion, or even game plan clarity to the Tricolores.
They imploded in the second half against Wales, while they failed to pitch up at Twickenham. It would appear all Scotland have to do is arrive on Stade de France’s turf to collect the points. Problem is, at some point France will show up.
Stormers v Lions
The Stormers will almost certainly be better this weekend. Their campaign stalled at the gates against the Bulls at Loftus last week, which means this week’s game has already taken on ‘must win’ connotations.Their game was beset by indecision and self doubt at Loftus and one can reasonably assume they will go the direct route against the Lions. The Lions got the Buenos Aires monkey off their backs in a confidence boosting win against the Jaguares. Their travel schedule this week will count against them but they are unbeaten in their last five meetings against the Stormers.The Stormers will try and batter the Lions up front but anything short of total domination by their forwards will leave them desperately prone to the Lions intuitive backs.
The visitors start slight favourites.
Wales v England
This has been billed a championship decider. Expect a tight, tense confrontation when Warren Gatland and Eddie Jones’s teams go head to head. Wales have won 11 matches in a row and are on a high.England have re-established their credentials after a poor Six Nations campaign last year. They knocked Ireland off their perch in Dublin and they are undoubtedly endowed with the resolve and tactical wherewithal to do the same to Wales in Cardiff.
This will be tense to start with but England are more likely to find an extra gear when the game needs to find a winner.
Jaguares v Bulls
The Jaguares, along with the Blues, remain the enigmas of the competition. Their line-up, which is effectively a Test team, again lost their composure and fluffed their lines at inopportune moments against the Lions.They need to win this clash to avoid two straight home defeats which could put paid to their campaign by week two. They will need to play with greater accuracy if they are going to challenge the resurgent Bulls.The Bulls looked impressive against the Stormers. If they can contain the Jaguares forwards they should come away with a win.
The Bulls are yet to win in Buenos Aires but they would have been buoyed to see compatriots the Lions break their duck there last weekend.