2018-04-16 by Liam Del Carme
M1 = Bulls v Rebels
The Bulls’ fabulous win against the Sharks underlined the progress they’ve made under Coach John Mitchell. More is to come from Mitchell’s young side. His young, developing team may be able to topple teams with bigger budgets and more experience, but they need to bring consistency to their effort. This is exactly the kind of match in which the Bulls cannot afford to slip up. The Rebels lost on home soil against the Jaguares last weekend which underlines their fluctuations in form. The Bulls will beat the Rebels by more than 12.
M2 = Leinster v Scarlets
In one of the big upsets in European rugby this season Leinster suffered a shock home defeat to lowly Benetton last weekend. The Conference B leaders in the Pro 14 were outscored by three tries to two by the Italian side. It was Benetton’s first ever win in Dubin. Leinster will want to bounce back and do so with some authority against a Scarlets team that also had to lick their wounds last weekend. The Scarlets were demolished 52-14 away at Edinburgh and the prospect of them turning things around and winning in Dublin is fairly remote. Leinster should win this at a canter.
M3 = Sharks v Stormers
This derby match pits two teams hoping to pick up the pieces following recent defeat to the Bulls. The Sharks were woeful against the Bulls in a performance their coach Robert du Preez lamented lacked effort. They cannot be as poor this weekend. The Stormers too were left with much revision after their clash with the Bulls but they at least have had the opportunity to rest weary legs during their bye week. That fact more than anything else, will count in their favour against a Sharks team that already looked weary from their four-week Australasian tour in their most recent match. The less weary Stormers are most likely to get the win.
M4 = Brumbies v Jaguares
For whatever reason, the Jaguares are busy building a solid record on Australian soil. Their most recent conquest was last weekend’s win over the Rebels in Melbourne. They had won in Melbourne and Sydney before but this week’s trip to Canberra will be their first. They will be all too aware of their previous meeting against the Brumbies. The Australians beat them comfortably 39-15 in Buenos Aires last year. The Jaguares are wildly inconsistent and although they are entirely capable of beating most teams in Super Rugby their log position (third last) reveals more about who they really are. The Brumbies should win this by eight or more.
M5 = Racing 92 v Munster
Racing suffered a humbling defeat away to Toulouse last weekend. The 42-27 defeat would have burst their bubble after a four-match winning streak that included away wins against Clermont and Lyon. At home however they are different beast. They boast 12 straight home wins in a row and Munster will have their work cut out. Munster did have a good win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein but they may find the outskirts of Paris a little less welcoming this weekend. Racing should win by just a few points.