Purring Jaguares can stretch clear of Sharks
Amanaki Mafi can make his mark on Sunwolves for Rebels
Crusaders v Hurricanes
Sky Sports Arena, 8.35am Friday
Full credit is due to both head coaches in Christchurch.
With a week to the international window and their top-two positions in both the New Zealand Conference and overall standings secure, it would have been easy to dial down their team selections a notch.
Instead, as much as fitness and suspension allows, the sides on show at the AMI Stadium are good enough to grace a final with intensity and panache.
A small bet on the Hurricanes to be leading at half-time and the hosting Crusaders to be in front at the final whistle looks the best value.
The Canes have won ten on the spin since losing out at the Bulls in Pretoria in their first outing and beat the Crusaders 29-19 in round four at the Westcap.
And they have the firepower in both pack and backs to create and take advantage of any Crusaders indiscipline - including yellow cards - like they showed in road successes over the Brumbies, Rebels and the Blues in the last month. While the Crusaders needed to come back from 29-0 down at the break at home to beat the Waratahs 31-29 a fortnight ago.
The Crusaders have also beaten the Chiefs, Stormers, Bulls and Sunwolves by 13 points or more this season.
Last season on the way to winning the title, the Crusaders won all nine home matches including a 20-12 success over the Canes and playoff victories over the Highlanders and Chiefs.
Indeed, the Canes' 2016 35-10 win is the only reverse the Crusaders have suffered in 21 home games and their replacements bench containing veteran prop Chris King, All Blacks lock Luke Romano, bulldozing backrower Peter Samu, lively scrum-half Mitchell Drummond and versatile outside back Mitchell Hunt looks the more powerful. They won the second half in Wellington.
1pt 7-1 BoyleSports
Rebels v Sunwolves
Sky Sports Arena, 10.45am Friday
The Sunwolves run out at AAMi Park looking to complete a hat-trick of wins after their season started with nine defeats on the spin and their defensive structures were ripped apart to the tune of 56 tries.
However, bookmakers are probably right to think that the Rebels will give up a handicap of around 20 points.
The Melbourne men are refreshed following a bye week and ended their own lean spell of five straight defeats with a 27-24 win over the Brumbies in Canberra a fortnight ago.
They won 37-17 in Tokyo in round three and beat the Sunwolves 35-9 in Singapore last season.
Back powerhouse Rebels and Japan number eight to Amanaki Mafi to score a try. He has four for the season including a touchdown in Tokyo, when he rampaged regularly from the back of a dominant scrum and rolling maul as well as in the loose.
With top spot in the Australian Conference effectively now a two-team race between themselves and the Waratahs, a focused performance is likely rather than a purely expansive effort especially if the night is as cold as forecast.
A Mafi to score a try
1pt 21-20 bet365, BoyleSports
Jaguares v Sharks
Sky Sports Mix, 8.40pm Friday
After another inconsistent start to their campaign, Jaguares are motoring and they look worth a wager to give up six points to the Sharks in making it six wins on the spin.
A dominant 54-24 success over the Bulls in Buenos Aires last week followed four wins on tour in Australia and New Zealand, including a turning over of the Chiefs in Rotorua, and they will now be eyeing up a charge towards claiming the South Africa Conference honours.
Jaguares do have a few injuries - notably to skipper Pablo Matera and ace full-back Joaquin Tuquelet - but they look stronger and may be more hungry than the in-and-out Sharks, who edged a ding-dong battle with the Chiefs in Durban last week.
The Sharks showed what they can do when taken lightly when losing 38-37 to the Hurricanes in Napier a week after walloping the Blues 63-40 in Auckland.
However, as well as being dispatched in Buenos Aires by the Crusaders and Hurricanes, Jaguares seem to have learned from their horror show at home to the Reds a week after whipping the Waratahs 38-28.
Los Jaguares -6
1pt 10-11 bet365
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