In their five meetings the Force have won just once against the Chiefs – a narrow one point victory in 2008. Perhaps more damning, all the Chiefs victories have come by 13 or more points. Due to the new format they didn’t play each other last year but in their most recent outing in 2010 the Chiefs won comfortably in Perth.
Highlanders v Stormers
This is a top of the table clash. The Stormers have won the last four against the Highlanders but they have won only once in Dunedin – on their last trip there in 2009. This clash will be a battle of wills up front and while the sets of forwards may cancel each other out the result may well be determined by the team with the more incisive back play. In this department the Highlanders should have the edge having dotted down 17 times to the Stormers eight. Only the bottom of the pile Lions and the Rebels have scored fewer.
Cheetahs v Lions
With two victories on tour the Cheetahs should have a spring in their step when they run out against the struggling Lions who have gone four matches without a win. The result of this match-up has historically been a bit of a toss of a coin with both teams winning four games each since 2006. Current form however suggests the Cheetahs should win but they will have to overcome the travel bogey and they’ll have to shore up their defence, albeit against a Lions team that has struggled to break opposing defences. This should be a helter-skelter game in which the team pulling off the most last-gasp interventions on defence likely to come out victors.
Bulls v Crusaders
The last time these teams met the Crusaders held the then defending champions scoreless in Timaru. The chances of that happening this weekend are fairly remote as the Bulls will be desperate to rebound from their defeat at Newlands. Their discipline let them down in the Cape, while the Crusaders took an inordinate amount of time to get going before downing the Lions. The Crusaders’ ability to absorb pressure and strike from broken play will be the key features in this game.
Saracens v Clermont Auvergne
Saracens are the sole English survivors in the Heineken Cup’s knock-out stages but they are likely to be flying the flag a while longer. Clermont have several injury concerns – the most pressing arguably the torn left thigh muscle of Morgan Parra. His absence will leave a hole but there are also concerns over the availability of Julien Malzieu, Sitiveni Sivivatu and Gerhard Vosloo. Although Clermont should still present Saracens a stern test, the hosts should prevail.