Greg Growden's Verdict: What's all this about rugby being boring? Not when the Highlanders and Hurricanes are involved. Expect another high-quality game, and a tight finish.
Tips - Greg Growden: Highlanders by 2 Sam Bruce: Highlanders Brett McKay: Highlanders Brittany Mitchell: Highlanders Andy Withers: Hurricanes
Dan Pryor returns to the Highlanders' starting side © Getty Images
Rebels v Lions, AAMI Stadium, Melbourne
Head-to-head: Played 2, Won 0,Lost 2
In Melbourne: N/A
Last clash: Round 18, 2014 - Lions 34-17 Rebels, Johannesburg
Key Stats (Opta Stats)
- The Rebels have lost their last six home fixtures in Super Rugby; they last won in Melbourne in Round 10 last year, but they have never lost seven in a row at home.
- The Lions have lost eight of their past nine matches in Australia, with their defeats by an average margin of 24 points.
- The Lions have missed fewer tackles on average this season than any team in Super Rugby (12.8) and only the Hurricanes (90%) can boast a better tackle success rate in 2015. Lions back-rower Warren Whiteley has made the most tackles in the competition this season (68/69).
- Rebels: TBA
- Lions: Jaco van der Walt; Sampie Mastriet, Lionel Mapoe, Elton Jantjies, Courtnall Skosan; Marnitz Boshoff, Faf de Klerk; Warren Whiteley (captain), Warwick Tecklenburg, Derick Minnie; Franco Mostert, Robert Kruger; Ruan Dreyer, Armand van der Merwe, Schalk van der Merwe. Replacements: Robbie Coetzee, Corne Fourie, Julian Redelinghuys, Andries Ferreira, Jaco Kriel, Ross Cronje, Harold Vorster, Andries Coetzee
- Rebels: Tom Kingston (Knee, TBC)
- Lions: MB Lusaseni (Knee, TBC)
- Lions coach Johan Ackerman has made a number of changes to his team beaten by the Crusaders in Christchurch, naming Schalk van der Merwe, Armand van der Merwe and Ruan Dreyer in an all-new front-row with Robert Kruger at lock and Derick Minnie promoted to the flank. In the backline, Faf de Klerk and Marnitz Boshoff form a new starting halves partnership with Elton Jantjies moving from fly-half to inside centre. Courtnall Skosan plays on the left wing, with Sampie Mastriet moving to the right wing and Jaco van der Walt coming in at fullback.
Greg Growden's Verdict: The Rebels have quietly gone about their business this year, showing an admirable aggressive and physical streak. They are the real improvers among the Australian sides.
Tips - Greg Growden: Rebels by 5 Sam Bruce: Rebels Brett McKay: Rebels Brittany Mitchell: Rebels Andy Withers: Rebels
: The Lions endured a tough day in Christchurch despite dominating the stats © Getty Images
Saturday, March 21
Crusaders v Cheetahs, Rugby League Park, Christchurch
Head-to-head: Played 8, Won 6, Lost 2
In Christchurch: Played 4, Won 4, Lost 0
Last clash: Round 9, 2014 - Cheetahs 31-52 Crusaders, Bloemfontein
Key Stats (Opta Stats)
- The Cheetahs have lost 10 of their last 11 games away from home - including the past five outside South Africa, and averaging 39 points conceded during those five matches.
- The Crusaders have beaten the fewest defenders on average this year, evading just 11.8 would-be tacklers per game.
- The Cheetahs have conceded 29.8 points and three tries per game on average this season; no team has averaged more in 2015.
- Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Dan Carter, Nemani Nadolo, Colin Slade, Andy Elllis; Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Jordan Taufua, Sam Whitelock, Luke Romano, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett. Replacements: Ben Funnell, Joe Moody, Nepo Laulala, Scott Barrett, Luke Whitelock, Mitchell Drummond, Tom Taylor, David Havili.
- Cheetahs: TBA
- Crusaders: Robbie Fruean (Arm, Season), Willi Heinz (Leg, Season), Jone Macilai (Arm, TBC), Tim Perry (Achilles, TBC), Johnny McNicholl (Knee, TBC).
- Cheetahs: Willie Britz (Hamstring, Round 7), Tienie Burger (Concussion, TBC), Lood de Jager (Elbow, Round 15), Armandt Koster (Back, TBC), Hilton Lobberts (Knee, Round 15), Sergeal Peterson (Jaw, Round 9-10), Willem Serfontein (Knee, Round 7-8), Steven Sykes (Knee, Round 6), Ewald van der Westhuizen (Nerve, TBC), Elgar Watts (Knee, Round 7-8)
- Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has made four changes to the side that overcame the Lions last weekend. All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg returns for his second game of the season while Kieron Fonotia moves onto the right wing in place of the injured Johnny McNicholl. In the forwards, All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw will have a rest with Matt Todd coming in at No.7. The other change sees Codie Taylor starting at hooker with Ben Funnell moving onto the bench.
: Israel Dagg will play his first game since round two © Getty Images
Greg Growden's Verdict: Slowly but surely the Crusaders are regaining their footing. They should be standing tall after what should be a lopsided encounter.
Tips - Greg Growden: Crusaders by 16 Sam Bruce: Crusaders Brett McKay: Crusaders Brittany Mitchell: Crusaders Andy Withers: Crusaders
Bulls v Force, Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria
Head-to-head: Played 8, Won 4, Lost 4
In Pretoria: Played 3, Won 2, Lost 1
Last clash: Round 11, 2014 - Force 15-9 Bulls, Perth
Key Stats (Opta Stats)
- The Bulls have won their past 15 matches at home to Australian sides, last losing in February 2007; but that defeat was inflicted by the Force.
- The Force have averaged more time in possession than any other side this season (16 min 32 sec), but they average the fewest clean breaks with just 4.2 per game.
- The Bulls, along with the Brumbies, have averaged the most points per game this season (28); this is due in part to their goal-kicking success rate in Super Rugby this season (86%). Handre Pollard is the second-highest points-scorer this season (72) and averages the most points per game of any player (18).
- Bulls: Carlo Engelbrecht (Ankle, Round 15), Werner Kruger (Ankle, Round 8-10), Bandise Maku (Chest, Season), Burger Odendaal (Knee, Round 7), Duncan Matthews (Knee, Season), Akone Ndungane (Hand, Round 10), Pierre Schoeman (Knee, Season), William Small-Smith (Foot, Round 11), Roelof Smit (Ankle, Round 8-9), Flip van der Merwe (Chest, Round 10), Callie Visagie (Chest, Round 8)
- Force: Dane Haylett-Petty (Foot, Round 6-7), Matt Hodgson (Hamstring, Round 9), Francois van Wyk (Chest, Season)
Greg Growden's Verdict: Debatable whether this will be worth waking up for, as the Force haven't got much apart from Ben McCalman and Alby Mathewson. The Loftus altitude should put the Force into even more of a spin.
Tips - Greg Growden: Bulls by 10 Sam Bruce: Bulls Brett McKay: Bulls Brittany Mitchell: Bulls Andy Withers: Bulls
Sharks v Chiefs, Kings Park, Durban
Head-to-head: Played 17, Won 7, Lost 10
In Durban: Played 8, Won 4, Lost 4
Last clash: Round 11, 2013 - Chiefs 37-29 Sharks, Hamilton
Key Stats (Opta Stats)
- The Chiefs are aiming to win on consecutive weekends in South Africa for just the third time, a feat they last managed in April 2012.
- The Sharks' Marcell Coetzee is the joint-top try scorer this season, and the top-scoring forward, with four in five games.
- The Chiefs average the most offloads per game (18) this season, with Sonny Bill Williams making a competition-high 13.
- Sharks: Jean Deysel (Ankle, Round 8-10), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Knee, Season)
- Chiefs: Nathan Harris (Ankle, TBC), Tawera Kerr-Barlow (Knee, Season), Tevita Koloamatangi (Ankle, TBC), Brodie Retallick (Shoulder, Round 8-10), Sonny Bill Williams (Concussion, TBC)
Greg Growden's Verdict: It was a fair effort for the Chiefs after travelling halfway across the world to beat the Stormers in Cape Town last weekend. They will be acclimatised this week, and again at sea level should be on song in Durban. A lot will still depend on whether Sonny Bill Williams plays.
Tips - Greg Growden: Chiefs by 2 Sam Bruce: Sharks Brett McKay: Chiefs Brittany Mitchell: Chiefs Andy Withers: Sharks
Sunday, March 22
Waratahs v Brumbies, Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney
Head-to-head: Played 25, Won 14, Lost 11
In Sydney: Semi-final, 2014 - Waratahs 26-8 Brumbies, Sydney
Last clash: Played 14, Won 12, Lost 2
Key Stats (Opta Stats)
- No side has averaged more points (28) or tries (3.6) per game this season than the Brumbies; they have also conceded the fewest (10.4 and 0.6 respectively).
- The Waratahs however have averaged more carries, metres, clean breaks and defenders beaten than any other side this season, but the Brumbies have allowed their opponents fewer metres and clean breaks than any other team this season - conceding just 330 metres and 3.6 clean breaks on average per game.
- The Tahs have conceded more turnovers, and won fewer in defence, than any other side this season.
- Waratahs: Israel Folau, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Matt Carraro, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps; Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Jacques Potgieter, Dave Dennis, Will Skelton, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Benn Robinson. Replacements: Hugh Roach, Jeremy Tilse, Paddy Ryan, Sam Lousi, Mitchell Chapman, Stephen Hoiles, Brendan McKibbin, Jono Lance, Peter Betham. (One to be omitted)
- Brumbies: Robbie Coleman, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Leali'ifano, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, Nic White; Ita Vaea, Jarrad Butler, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Rory Arnold, Scott Sio, Stephen Moore (C), Ben Alexander. Replacements: Josh Mann-Rea, Jean Pierre-Smith, Ruan Smith, Jordan Smiler, David Pocock, Michael Dowsett, James Dargaville, Lausii Tailiaui.
- Waratahs: Adam Ashley-Cooper (Knee, TBC), Tatafu Polota-Nau (TBC)
- Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau has been replaced by Tolu Latu in one of two changes to the Waratahs starting side. While the Wallabies rake has succumbed to injury, Taqele Naiyaravoro has been included on the right wing in a straight swap with Peter Betham.
- Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has named an unchanged starting side for the third straight week but there is one massive inclusion on the bench in the form of David Pocock. The former Wallabies captain will ease his way back after four weeks out with ankle injury with the in-form Jarrad Butler and Ita Vaea retaining their places in the run-on side.
David Pocock has overcome an ankle injury © Getty Images
Greg Growden's Verdict: The Waratahs are correctly building the Brumbies up. Yes, the Brumbies are the best Australian side at the moment, and they should confirm that in the most anticipated match of round six.
Tips - Greg Growden: Brumbies by 2 Sam Bruce: Brumbies Brett McKay: Brumbies Brittany Mitchell: Waratahs Andy Withers: Brumbies