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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Highlanders may not be able to brush off Sharks easily

Stormes can maintain fine home record against the Bulls

Sharks wing Sbu Nkosi evades the Sunwolves' defence
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Stormers v Bulls
Sky Sports Arena/red button 2.05pm Saturday

The Stormers look worth a wager at 5-6 to make it five wins out of five at Newlands this season and seventh success on the spin against the Bulls in Cape Town.

Three of the four Stormers home wins have been by double-figure margins and a last-minute, length-of-the-field try brought the Reds within the losing bonus in the fourth. There were plenty of good signs in their narrow loss at the Sharks a fortnight ago.

The Bulls won easily on their last away day in Durban and beat the WP-franchise 33-23 in Pretoria this season. However, they need to pick themselves up from a scratchy effort last weekend at Loftus Versfeld when beaten by a last-gasp Highlanders penalty and they were off the pace at the REds, Chiefs and Crusaders on their Australasian tour. 

1pt 5-6 Betfair, Hills

Sharks v Highlanders
Sky Sports Action, 4.15pm Saturday

A last-play penalty gave the Highlanders victory at Loftus Versfeld last weekend to make it three wins on the spin and bookmakers reckon they will make it four on the spin in Durban because of the Sharks' in-and-out season.

However, the Sharks with a start of seven appeals. They bounced back from being trampled by the Bulls in atrocious conditions at Kings Park with a win over the Stormers and they have shown their capabilities twice against New Zealand teams this season already. They blitzed the Blues 63-40 at Eden Park and then were leading until the last play in a 38-37 loss to the Hurricanes in Napier.

Before their wins in Auckland and Pretoria, the Landers had lost road games at the Chiefs and Crusaders and while, slamming the Sunwolves at home is a given, the Sharks did at least draw with the Waratahs on another off day. 

The sides have not met for two years since the Sharks won 15-14 in Dunedin and while the Landers won 34-18 on their last regular season visit to Durban, the Sharks got revenge in a home eliminator.

Sharks +7
1pt 10-11 Sky Bet

Waratahs v Blues
Sky Sports Arena/red button, 10.45am Saturday

The Waratahs have had a bye week to ponder what exactly went wrong against the Lions, to iron out the attacking kinks and confirm exactly what they were doing so well in winning their previous four outings.

And they are worth backing to bounce by giving up four points in beating the Blues at Brookvale Oval.

The Blues keep finding new ways to hurt themselves and their one success in six, over the winless Sunwolves was the only time the Tokyo team have conceded fewer than 30 points this term.

The Tahs' winning margins in Australia this season have been 21, seven, 24 and seven. 

The Blues always possess attacking potency - that is why they could capitalise on Lions' complacency to win at Ellis Park in round four and push the Highlanders and Chiefs in Dunedin and Hamilton. But minds must be scrambled by their poor home form and they suffered a heavy defeat in Cape Town to the Stormers, who play with a similar style to the Waratahs.

1pt 10-11 Betfair, Paddy Power

Hurricanes v Lions
Sky Sports Action, 8.35am Saturday

The Lions ended their eight-game losing streak to the Hurricanes, including the 2016 final, in last year's semi-final and while they will be disappointed by last week's loss at the humdrum Reds, they are worth a wager with a 14-point start in Wellington.

The Canes cruised to a seventh success on the spin this campaign last week against the Sunwolves and bring back midfield bulldozer Ngani Laumape from a rest.

But their Westpac wins over the Crusaders and Chiefs were by ten and 12 points, while their 38-37 triumph over the Sharks in Napier came courtesy of an injury-time converted try.

A two-try burst moments after he break gave them breathing space in their 29-12 Westpac win over the Highlanders too. Their only loss this season came in round two at the Bulls, another South African outfit.

The Lions began their antipodean tour with a brilliant 29-0 win over the Waratahs in Sydney, the first time that the Tahs had been kept scoreless in Super Rugby, and they will treat this game as another battle against likely playoffs opponents.

At the Allianz, the Lions mixed brutal defence with powerful surges from their forwards and centres, creating space out wide and time for clever kicks. There was no unnecessary over-expansion.

They froze somewhat when beaten 20-3 in the 2016 final at the Westpac and started badly before the break in their semi-final at Ellis Park last year but the intensity of their second-half play not only un-nerved the coolest of the Canes players, including Beauden Barrett, but broke their spirit long before full-time.  

Lions +14
1pt 10-11 Coral, Hills, Ladbrokes

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The Blues keep finding new ways to hurt themselves
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