Super Rugby - Live on Sky: Battle for play-offs hots up in Round 17
Last Updated: 01/07/18 10:43am
The dust may have settled on the June internationals, but there is still plenty of top-class rugby union coming your way on Sky Sports this weekend.
Blues v Reds
It's been another disappointing season for the Blues but they will be hoping to give veteran Jerome Kaino a suitable send-off when they tackle the Reds at Eden Park on Friday (Sky Sports Action, 8.30am).
The 35-year-old will be playing his 137th and final game for the Auckland-based franchise before he makes the move to the northern hemisphere with French side Toulouse.
The Blues are currently second bottom on the overall table and will line up against a Reds side that has also struggled this term and sits just one place above them.
Melbourne Rebels v Waratahs
The Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels go head-to-head on Friday (Sky Sports Action, 10.45am) in a match that will go a long way to deciding who takes the automatic play-off spot in the Australian conference.
The Waratahs lead the conference by a single point from the Rebels with three rounds of the regular season remaining but they have been stripped of the services of captain Michael Hooper who picked up a hamstring injury in the Wallabies' recent series defeat to Ireland.
The Waratahs may face further fall-out from the international break with full-back Israel Folau appealing a one-match ban after being cited for an aerial challenge on Ireland's Peter O'Mahony in the Sydney Test.
Highlanders v Chiefs
Highlanders defence coach Glenn Delaney has been trying to figure out how to shut down Chiefs fly-half Damian McKenzie when the New Zealand derby is played offshore in Fiji on Saturday (Sky Sports Action, 8.30am).
Delaney, who successfully plotted how to get the better of Beauden Barrett when the Highlanders beat the Hurricanes 30-14 before the June break, said he has come up with a bag of new tricks after watching McKenzie's masterful performance as the starting pivot in place of Barrett when the All Blacks won the third Test against France last week.
"He's a real handful to stop and he's got that rare thing called pace. For us, he's obviously going to be part of their game that we need to nullify. We've got loads of different tactics," Delaney said.
Both sides are currently on course for the play-offs in fifth and sixth place in the overall table respectively and will be looking to edge nearer the post-season with a strong showing in Suva.
Brumbies v Hurricanes
The Hurricanes will look to keep the pressure on New Zealand Conference leaders the Crusaders and boost their own hopes of hosting a quarter-final when they travel to Canberra to take on the Brumbies on Saturday (Sky Sports Action, 10.45am).
But they will have to do so without All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett, who continues to make good progress following his concussion in the second Test against France.
Scrum-half TJ Perenara will captain the Hurricanes with Brad Shields rested following his stint with England in South Africa during the international window.
David Pocock, Joe Powell, Scott Sio and Tom Banks are all back on deck for the Brumbies who must win all their remaining games to have any hope of overhauling their Australian conference rivals and forcing their way into the play-offs.
Sunwolves v Bulls
The Sunwolves currently boast the worst record in the competition but the basement side will be hopeful of just their third win of the campaign when they tackle fellow struggles the Bulls in Singapore on Saturday (Sky Sports Action, 12.55pm).
Tony Brown has stepped into the coaching hot-seat at the Sunwolves until the end of the season with Jamie Joseph having returned to New Zealand for a back operation.
"Though it was a very tough decision for me not to accompany the Sunwolves for the last three matches of the season, I had to think of what was best for the greater goal of Japanese rugby," said Joseph, who is expected to be sidelined for two months.
Bulls coach John Mitchell has named Springboks fly-half Handre Pollard as his captain while there are some new faces in the starting line-up with Jamba Ulengo at wing‚ Hanro Liebenberg at No8 while Jannes Kirsten is poised to make his first appearance at flanker.
Sharks v Lions
The pressure will be on Lions fly-half Elton Jantjies against the Sharks on Saturday (Sky Sports Action, 4.15pm) after being called a "car park" fly-half following his poor performance for South Africa last weekend.
A South African columnist accused Jantjies of lining up too deep, reminding him of a saying that playmakers who adopt that position "play from the car park rather than the pitch".
After the dead-rubber 25-10 loss to England, the general view was that Jantjies could fall from number two behind Handre Pollard in the Springboks pecking order.
The Lions need a win in Durban to keep ahead of Waratahs in the race for second place in the overall table, while a loss for the Sharks could severely dent their already slim play-offs hopes.
Los Jaguares v Stormers
Los Jaguares will be looking to cement their place in the play-off picture when they take on the struggling Stormers at the Estadio José Amalfitani on Saturday (Sky Sports Action, 6.40pm).
The Buenos Aires-based side are currently in possession of a wildcard spot in the South Africa conference and victory would boost their chances of qualifying for the play-offs for the first time.
The Stormers have further cause for concern with the Jaguares entering this game on the back of thumping victories over two other South African sides - the Bulls (54-24) and the Sharks (29-13) - at the same venue.
Despite concerns over his recent workload, Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi makes the trip along with fellow internationals Pieter-Steph du Toit, Damian de Allende‚ Frans Malherbe‚ Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw‚ Bongi Mbonambi and Sikhumbuzo Notshe.