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The Brumbies ended a game losing streak to New Zealand teams with a win over the Hurricanes last week in Canberra. They had to come from down at halftime to do so, which is a testament to the character of the squad.
After suffering a five-game losing streak spanning rounds , the Brumbies have now won their last three. After losing to the Crusaders and Highlanders prior to the June break, the Hurricanes lost to the Brumbies in Canberra.
It was an ill-disciplined performance that lacked fluency, with a late Brumbies try denying them a bonus point. After competing for top spot in the New Zealand conference with the Crusaders, the Hurricanes now find the Chiefs breathing down their neck as they struggle hold onto the 4th overall seed. In team news, Gareth Evans has escaped sanction for a dangerous tackle against the Brumbies. The Blues ended a three-game losing streak by cruising to a victory over the Reds.
They started slowly, but took advantage of their numerical advantage when the Reds conceded two yellow cards. From then on they always looked comfortable. Despite some individual moments of brilliance, notably from No. They have won 8 of their last 9 home fixtures against Kiwi opposition, so if they somehow lost this fixture, then it really would be panic stations.
In what was possibly a season-defining game, the Waratahs came back from down with ten minutes to play to defeat the Rebels in Melbourne last week. The Rebels had actually dominated the second half but were undone by two intercept tries and 16 points from the boot of Bernard Foley.
The Waratahs only sit 4 points ahead of the Rebels, but in the overall standings that makes the difference between being the provisional 3rd seed and the 8th seed.
The Waratahs play the Sunwolves and Brumbies at home to see off the season, while the Rebels visit the Reds and Highlanders, so the Waratahs will be pleased with how things stand. As an added boost, Israel Folau returns from suspension this week. The Sunwolves saw off the Bulls in a seesawing contest in Singapore last week to record their third win in five games.
Following a start to the season the Sunwolves have found some form, with their two defeats since then both coming on tour when they left key players at home due to the upcoming June internationals. When fielding a full-strength side, the Sunwolves have won their last three straight. Never in franchise history have the Sunwolves won an away fixture, however.
They did give the Brumbies a scare in Canberra prior to the June break, and that was with a weakened squad, so it will be interesting to see how they fare against the Waratahs. If the Sunwolves can sort out their defence next season and keep hold of their overseas players they will be a force to reckoned with.
The Bulls sit bottom of the South African conference, having won just 1 of their last 6 fixtures. Last week they fell to the Sunwolves in a seesawing contest in Singapore. It was the sixth game in a row that they have conceded more than 29 points, with the last three fixtures averaging almost 45 points conceded per game.
The Jaguares defeated the Stormers in Argentina last week to record their 7th consecutive win. They raced out to a lead with a sublime performance before the Stormers added some respectability to the scoreboard. It was a mature performance from the Jaguares, who managed the clock well once they had built a lead. After starting the season with 2 wins from 7 games, the Jaguares now sit just 3 points behind the Lions in the South African conference with two rounds remaining.
The Lions have a bye this week so the Jaguares have a golden opportunity to take the lead of the conference. The Stormers were guilty of conceding too many penalties and they missed far too many tackles. It was their 4th defeat on the trot and the 7th in their last 9 games. The focus now must be to avoid the South African conference wooden spoon, with the Stormers and Bulls both currently sitting bottom on 25 points. In mixed injury news, hooker Scarra Ntubeni and lock JD Schickerling are available for selection, however halfback Justin Phillips is battling a rib injury and will be assessed later in the week.
The late comeback from the Lions will only be of minor concern to Brad Thorn, as he knows consistency will be the last piece of the puzzle to fall into place for this young team. The Rebels cannot get Will Genia back fast enough, and their road trip has been disastrous, with no wins to show for their efforts.
A return to Melbourne this weekend could be just the tonic. The mighty Jaguares have now managed to do what no Australian Super Rugby side has done for longer than we care to remember, claiming a New Zealand scalp with their away win over the Blues. Sitting second in the South African conference, they will be mighty pleased with their progress this year, though tougher tests are not far away. In South Africa, the Stormers host the Bulls in a match which could prove vital in the jam packed tussle for wildcard spots.
The Chiefs come off the bye and host the Jaguares in an intriguing matchup. We know the class that is oozing through the Chiefs line-up, but the plucky Argentinians will back themselves to run them ragged.
The Lions will be very disappointed with their effort against the Reds, and the Hurricanes are lying in wait in Wellington on Saturday. The Barrett brothers will smell blood in the water, and if the Lions turn up with the same performance as last weekend, this could get ugly.
Two Australian teams will be in action, and both will know how crucial this result will be. The Waratahs simply must beat the Blues at home, any other result will simply be unacceptable for a team that has championship aspirations.