Super 14 round 3: Predictions

Last week both New Zealand powerhorses, Blues and Crusaders left me. The Blues were over-powered by the Bulls and the Crusaders did a 'Highlanders' when hey let the Brumbies score the winning converted try during injury time.

So, my crystal ball now has got a scrap but is not shattered yet.

Let's see what the weekend games will bring, perhaps my palantir will break at last:

Crusaders 19 - Hurricanes 11 (Sorry folks, but the Crusaders are just too good)
Chiefs 25 - Sharks 24 (Do no underestimate them, the Chiefs are a great team)
Waratahs 32 - Highlanders 23 (Defense, guys, defense)
Brumbies 30 - Force 18 (They are on a roll)
Stormers 24 - Blues 29 (Attack, guys, attack)
Lions 20 - Bulls 18 (It's amazing how powerful are the Bulls at home, isn't it?)
Reds 24 - Cheetahs 13 (So that would leave Cheetahs and Highlanders winless, wouldn't it?)

If you are in a mood to see a good rugby match, pay attention to the Sharks at Hamilton.

PS: Isn't it amazing to see me predicting such a South African debacle?

Questions: What's going on?

I'm totally shocked.

Super 14 rounds 1 and 2 are gone and New Zealand franchises are really struggling to get results while things certainly seem so easy for Sharks, Bulls and Waratahs. The best three New Zealand sides have the same amount of wins than both the Force and the Lions have while the worst are at the Reds and Cheetahs level.

So, what's going on?

Graham Henry may complain about injuries to the leading senior players: Ali Williams, Mils Muliaina, Sione Lauaki, Richie McCaw, Andrew Hore, Conrad Smith, Brad Thorn, Jimmy Cowan, Piri Weepu, Andy Ellis, Leon MacDonald... to name a few ones, have at least not played one of the two first matches due to injury.

But even if we accept that these players need three spare months during the summer after a long season (last season consisted of 13 Super 14 matches + one or two ANC matches + 15 tests), isn't it alarming the apparent lack of quality backups? Shouldn't the backups be ready to take their chances when the senior players aren't there?

While Laulala, Bowden, Vainikolo and Masaga were keen to take the leading roles in the first round, who took the reins for the Crusaders against the Brumbies? What happened to the Blues in Pretoria?

Is there a lack of depth? Do New Zealand rely on the past or are there talented youngsters coming in? What will happen in round 3?

Bonus question: Why Australia and South Africa seem unaffected by this rare disease that is affecting New Zealand teams during this start of the season?

Super 14 round 2: Predictions

My crystall ball went pretty well last week to foresee what would happen in the Super 14.

Therefore, I am risking it again. Crystal is fragile and it can be broken if I made three or more mistakes ;-)

Hurricanes 38 - Highlanders 32 (I like the idea of Highlanders gathering 2 points again)
Waratahs 30 - Chiefs 25 (You cannot possibly imagine how much I would like to see the other way around)
Western Force 26 - Cheetahs 17 (Let's give Mitchell a chance)
Stormers 30 - Reds 19 (For the sake of the Stormers, they ought to get a bonus point from this one)
Brumbies 19 - Crusaders 24 (Beware if the Brumbies manage to win)
Sharks 14 -Lions 10 (Skeptical about the Sharks or expecting too much of the Lions?)
Bulls 17 - Blues 24 (This is this week's game)

Super 14 week one: review

Highlanders - Brumbies was a good match to see, but a bad game to play. 2 points are not enough for the Highlanders.

Lions - Cheetahs did not show much, really.

Crusaders - Chiefs was another good match to see. The Chiefs are much improved and they can be real contenders this year. The Crusaders were Crusaders-standard.

Western Force - Blues game could deceive you. The Blues have got everything to prove yet, the Force is not a force.

Hurricanes - Waratahs was the same story of last year. Either team lacks just exactly what the other team possesses: either glamour or defense.

Bulls - Reds was a pity. The Reds have got quality.

Stormers - Sharks showed us that the West Province needs something more than just Schalk Burger.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to the Super14. Shall we call it the last Super14?

New-look, same mistakes.

It cannot be. It simply cannot be.

When you are in a come-back like the one the Highlanders did against the Brumbies earlier today, you cannot let them slip away with a last-gasp drop-goal.

2 points are not enough for this game. 5 tries are not enough, losing by two is not enough! It's the winning mood the one that must be targeted. Play will come afterwards. It is a matter of realising your chances. The Highlanders may not have many; they should be clinical. Clinical, clinical, clinical.

If they lose after a good play, what will happen when they don't play so well?

Highlanders 31 - Brumbies 33

Super 14 round one: Predictions

Next Friday the Super 14 kicks off. Finally. At last.

We have been waiting. We have even tried to understand the ever highly ilogical results of the pre-season games, hopelessly, of course.

Although I am not half as successful as my old friend Miff is when it comes to look to the crystal ball, I will try to give my predictions each round.

Highlanders 22 - Brumbies 17 (I told you this year the sturdy Otago men were my team)
Lions 28 - Cheetahs 22 (Nah, I don't believe it, either)
Crusaders 24 - Chiefs 21 (Brett is better than Donald, although Leonard is better than Ellis)
Stormers 18 - Sharks 22 (Forget what they say in Newlands, WP did sink at the Currie Cup)
Bulls 34 - Reds 20 (I would very much like to see the scores reverted, but my crystall ball just does not agree)
Hurricanes 17 - Waratahs 15 (That is with Ripia at 10. If Weepu starts at first five, just switch the scores)
Western Force 19 - Blues 28 (Mitchell would be a wonderful coach for ANY franchise, except those NOT based in Christchurch. Mitchell, don't use the Force.)

All eyes suddenly turn to him

After what had to be a glorious game in Paris, he being the man who lifted his side to draw against the almighty Stade de France, Daniel Carter got injured and his season is over.

And all of a sudden, kiwi hearts beat in anxiety. Who's to replace him for the All Blacks?

In Christchurch they don't pronounce his name but in whispers, as no one dares to compare him yet to the great D.C. But he's made of pure gold and now he's more than ever the man to which all eyes have silently turned.

Let me tell you his name in a whisper,

He's Stephen Brett.

A great champion's bitter defeat

After a hard-fought battle, the loss was a bitter end of the tournament for this great champion.