It is that time of the week again when 'Orrible Punt sits down in the SARugby.com hot-seat to give you his calls.
Remember you can contact Russ with all your comments and questions on Twitter - @rpetty80.
Chiefs vs Crusaders
At a similar stage last season, the Chiefs had won 10/12 matches by an average score of 28-21. This season it's nine wins from twelve games by a rate of 30-22 and with a six point lead (and a bye to come) at the top of the conference, Dave Rennie's side have given themselves an excellent opportunity to defend their title. The hosts have won their last four games and will be pleased that a defence that had leaked an average of 28 points in the preceding five matches, kept the Hurricanes down to just twelve. A recent trend has seen them score the majority of points in the first-half with 79 of the last 115 accumulated before the break. They've led at half-time in each of their nine victories and have reached ten points first in 10/12 games. The Chiefs have won thirteen of their last fifteen home games by a rate of 29-18 and possess a very good record in recent New Zealand derbies, winning ten of the previous twelve by 27-20. In contrast, their opponents have won just 6/12 in that period and lost the last three away. The Crusaders have won 7/11 games by 27-19 and the last four games by 27-15. They've only won two of their six away games by 21-23 but with both Dan Carter and Kieran Read back, do appear to be hitting form. It is also the case that the Chiefs have won just 4/11 home games against Todd Blackadder's team and that the visitors have won 14/20 meetings overall. The last four clashes have been decided by seven points or less and the Chiefs have been outscored in the second-half in each by 3-6 points. I'll back the visitors by a 1-12 margin in this one and keep an eye on that often neglected part of rugby betting - the sin-bin market. There have been cards in eight of the last ten Chiefs games while Steve Walsh has handed out at least one card in six of his eight games.
Stormers vs Reds
The Stormers have won just four of eleven games by an average score of 20-22 and have lost the previous three. The defeat to the Rebels was described as embarrassing and letting down the jersey, supporters and tradition by players so it was inevitable there would be changes to the team. However a number of injuries have forced personnel adjustment anyway. Allister Coetzee's team have beaten the Australian and New Zealand conference leaders at home this season and those 36 points scored against the Chiefs and 35 against the Brumbies are the most that either of those teams have conceded all year. However the other matches have seen an average score of just 17-20. They've won 3/4 games on their own patch by 27-23 and 11/13 over a longer period by 24-20, with only the Sharks and Crusaders upsetting the run. The hosts have been outscored in the second-half in three of those home games this season and seven games overall. The Reds have won eight of their thirteen games by a rate of 20-19 and 3/6 away matches by 20-22. They've trailed at half-time in four of their last five games. It's a meeting of two of the better defences against conceding tries with the Stormers only allowing sixteen and the Reds eighteen so far. The Stormers have won 5/7 contests at home against the Reds by 24-23 and 7/9 games overall by 22-18, however in this instance the value lies with the price for the Queenslanders to win. An away winning margin of 1-10 points is available at 3.25 and given the hosts' poor form and patched up side, it looks to be the preferable call for Saturday's match at Newlands.
Sharks vs Bulls
The Sharks ended a five-game losing streak by beating the Force last week. They've won 6/12 games by 22-20 and 3/5 at home by 23-14. It should be noted that ignoring the 64-7 win over the Rebels it would be an average score of 12-16. They've only led the once at half-time at home so far but managed a second-half advantage over four of the five visiting teams. Recent games at the Reds and Force saw second-half scores of 14-3 and 16-3 in favour of the Sharks too. The Bulls have won their last five games by 35-14 and 8/11 matches over the season by 29-20. They have been strong in the second-half all year, outscoring opponents in that period in 6/7 matches. In the last four games, they've also improved on their first-half record and have led at the break by an average of 21-3. The visitors have won 5/7 games at the Sharks by a rate of 20-21 and 4/6 at all venues by 23-23. They have lost seven of nine away games by a rate 19-24 against all opposition though. That 32-10 Sharks victory over these opponents last season was both a reaction to a very disappointing loss to the Lions the round before and came at a time when the side had a number of key players both fit and playing very well. Francois Steyn's offloading and a huge performance from the pack proved too much for the Bulls that day. The 2013 version of the Sharks unfortunately cannot call upon those factors and are up against a Bulls team looking very confident. The 2.0 appeals for the conference leaders to continue their winning run.
Backing the Crusaders +3, Rebels +12, Bulls +7, Reds +8, Cheetahs -3, Force +3 and Brumbies +9 is 15.8 while away wins for the Crusaders, 'Tahs, Brumbies, Cheetahs, Reds, Bulls and a home win for the Force is up at 57.0. Meanwhile, tries for Kieran Read and Scott Higginbotham would pay out at 22.0 while it is 24.75 for a Bernard Foley / Andy Ellis double.
Brumbies, Force, Cheetahs, Reds and Bulls by a margin of 1-12 points.