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Super Rugby round-17 preview panel

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/07/2016

Preview of Super Rugby round-17 matches (all times NZT):

FRIDAY, July 15

Blues v NSW Waratahs at Eden Park, Auckland 7.35pm

Head to Head: Played 20 Blues 12 Waratahs 8

In Auckland: Played 10 Blues 9 Waratahs 1

Last clash: Round 7 2015 - Waratahs 23 bt Blues 11 at Allianz Stadium

The Waratahs would have watched on in horror last week as the Blues, who are out of finals contention, dismantled the Brumbies in rather stunning style. It's their turn to make the trip to Eden Park this week and NSW simply can't afford to suffer the same fate, or their playoff chances will be officially dead and buried. But only two Australian sides have tasted victory in Auckland since 2010, and the Waratahs have only done it once in franchise history.

Tip: Blues by 10 points

Queensland Reds v Rebels at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 9.45pm

Head to Head: Played 11 Reds 8 Rebels 3

In Brisbane: Played 5 Reds 4 Rebels 1

Last clash: Round 3 2016 - Rebels 25 bt Reds 23 at AAMI Park

The Reds are farewelling a bunch of players who are bound for interstate or overseas next year, including much-loved prop Greg Holmes, workhorse flanker Liam Gill and the Fainga'a brothers - and after yet another underwhelming season, they will be desperate to send them off as winners. The Rebels will get back key trio Luke Jones, Sean McMahon and Mitch Inman, who all missed last week's annihilation by the Crusaders due to injury.

Tip: Reds by 20 points


Sharks v Sunwolves at Kings Park Stadium, Durban 5am

Head to Head: First meeting

A difficult trip to Durban looms for the Sunwolves as they wrap up what has been a very difficult debut season in Super Rugby. The Sunwolves have lost each of their six away fixtures and endured a cumulative score line of 97-332, while the Sharks have also won their last three home games, outscoring their opposition by a combined 111-25. More importantly, the Sharks have something to play for - they must win to deny the chasing Bulls a wildcard finals spot.

Tip: Sharks by 25 points

Crusaders v Hurricanes at Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch 5.15pm

Head to Head: Played 29 Crusaders 17 Hurricanes 9 drawn 3

In Christchurch: Played 16 Crusaders 11 Hurricanes 4 drawn 1

Last clash: Round 16 2015 - Crusaders 35 bt Hurricanes 18 at Trafalgar Park

The result of this game could have a major bearing on the final New Zealand standings. While the Hurricanes have already qualified for the finals, a bonus-point win could see them leapfrog three teams and top the local conference. They have won five of their last seven games against the Crusaders, although none have been by more than seven points. Their new midfield combination, forced via a hamstring injury to Matt Proctor, will be a target.

Tip: Crusaders by 9 points

Highlanders v Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin 7.35pm

Head to Head: Played 27 Highlanders 12 Chiefs 15

In Dunedin: Played 9 Highlanders 6 Chiefs 3

Last clash: Round 11 2016 - Highlanders 26 bt Chiefs 13 at FMG Stadium Waikato

The Chiefs might be leading the New Zealand conference but history points to a Highlanders win. Back at home for the first time in two months, and in front of a sold-out crowd, the Dunedin-based outfit hold a five-match winning streak against the Chiefs - including last year's quarter-final win at the same venue. The Chiefs have plenty to play for, though, with a home playoff potentially on the line and welcome back All Black Liam Messam.

Tip: Highlanders by 5 points

Brumbies v Force at GIO Stadium, Canberra 9.45pm

Head to Head: Played 16 Brumbies 11 Force 4 drawn 1

In Canberra: Played 7 Brumbies 5 Force 2

Last clash: Round 3 2016 - Brumbies 31 bt Force 14 at nib Stadium

The Brumbies are almost unbackable favourites to win this match, but the pressure could be on if the Tahs score a bonus-point win on Friday. The two east coast sides are equal on points atop the Australian conference, with results this round to determine the final standings and which team will earn the country's only finals berth. The Brumbies, who are without David Pocock and Joe Tomane, are chasing a record seventh straight win over Australian opposition.

Tip: Brumbies by 15 points

SUNDAY, July 17

Stormers v Kings at Newlands Rugby Stadium, Cape Town 3.05am

Head to Head: Played 2 Stormers 2 Kings 0

In Cape Town: Played 1 Stormers 1 Kings 0

Last clash: Round 19 2013 - Stormers 24 bt Kings 12 at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium

It's hard to see any other result than a comprehensive win for the Stormers, who have already wrapped up the Africa 1 conference and are going for four straight wins. The awful Kings have won just two games this season and have lost their last 11 away matches, conceding an average of 46 points through that run. Stormers' coach Robbie Fleck plans to field his strongest available side in order to keep their momentum going into a home quarter-final.

Tip: Stormers by 31 points

Cheetahs v Bulls at Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein 5.15am

Head to Head: Played 16 Cheetahs 2 Bulls 14

In Bloemfontein: Played 8 Cheetahs 1 Bulls 7

Last clash: Round 6 2016 - Bulls 23 bt Cheetahs 18 at Loftus Versfeld

The Bulls faint playoff hopes may well be extinguished by the time they take to the field. The Sharks will pip them for the South African wildcard spot if they beat the Sunwolves in Durban the previous day, The Bulls shouldn't have too many problems against a Cheetahs outfit, whose four wins have come against the bottom three teams on the overall ladder.

Tip: Bulls by 13 points

Jaguares v Lions at Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aires 9.40am

Head to Head: Played 1 Jaguares 0 Lions 1

In Buenos Aires: Played 1 Jaguares 0 Lions 1

Last clash: Round 13 2016 - Lions 52 bt JAG 24 at Emirates Airlines Park

The overall ladder leading Lions should be looking for a franchise record sixth straight win, having notched a tryscoring bonus point in each of their last five games.However, coach Johan Ackemannn has reportedly opted to rest 15 players and field a second-string side. The Jaguares have underachieved after an opening round away win over the Cheetahs but their two other victories have been at home to South African opposition.

Tip: Jaguares by 9 points

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