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THE LINEOUT: Previewing Super Rugby Round 9

​After a week that featured a range of bad predictions by VICE Sports, we're now at the halfway point of the season.
April 22, 2016, 1:33am
Image via Twitter user @MelbourneRebels

After a week that featured a range of bad predictions by VICE Sports, we're now at the halfway point of Super Rugby. This is where the famous rubber meets the famous road.

Will the Sunwolves ever win a match? Can anyone catch up to the Kiwi teams and play rugby half as entertaining as them? Will anyone ever get up to watch games played in the middle of the night in South Africa? 'Doubtful' is the answer to those question – and the answers to all your others are below.

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Highlanders vs Sharks in Dunedin, tonight

Other than opening round victories against the expansionist Kings and HUG-YOU-WA-RES, the Sharks have shown little this season to suggest they're playoff worthy.

They got a week of rest with a bye last round, but have one of the tough tasks in Super Rugby ahead of them tonight, taking on the Highlanders in Dunedin.

The 'Landers had last week off too, and will be still stinging after their tight one-point loss to the Reds in Brisbane the weekend before. With a Sharks side that haven't won in Dunedin since 2010 and Ben Smith, arguably the world's best outside back, returning from injury, this should be a cake walk for the Southern Men.

PREDICTION: Highlanders by 19.

Rebels vs Cheetahs in Melbourne, tonight

The Cheetahs may have run up a cricket score last week against the Sunwolves, but beating the new Japanese Super Rugby team at home these days is like carting your little cousin around in backyard cricket on Christmas afternoon.

The South Africans will have a far different task ahead of them in Melbourne tonight, though it's hard to know what sort of side the Rebs will put on the park.

Melbourne's form this season has been up and down, with last week's 38-13 loss to the Canes their worst outing of the year. They'll be better than that this week, but with half the backline on the injury list, and former All Black centre Tamati Ellison potentially missing the game with the birth of a child, the Rebs will have little quality width to play with.

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PREDICTION: Cheetahs by 2.

Sunwolves vs Jaguares in Tokyo, Saturday

Here's the match from the frontiers of the frontiers of Super Rugby that, most likely, few of you will genuinely care about – and less even watch.

Still, if Super Rugby wants to take the next step up as a top-notch international comp, it's momentum and public buy-in from Japan and Argentina into the Sunwolves and HUG-YOU-WA-REZ that will make it happen.

Both expansions teams have been dreadful this year, but the HUG-YOU-WA-REZ have the advantage of a big beefy Argentinian forward pack that should boss their opponents around the park all day.

PREDICTION: Jaguares by 10.

Hurricanes vs Chiefs in Wellington, Saturday

Finally, some real rugby.

Firstly, let's be honest, the Chiefs already look the heir apparent to the Super Rugby tittle this year. Marshaled by Brad Weber and Aaron Cruden and punctuated by champagne rugby proponent Charlie Ngatai, the Chiefs backline is arguably the world's best at the moment. The breakdown is all red, yellow and black to with All Black, a.k.a. McCaw 2.0, dominant.

But the Canes have got the cattle to make the Mooloo Men work for it. Beauden Barrett is one of the stars of the comp, while loose forward Ardie Savea is one of the most frightening men in world rugby these days. Add to that, the Canes unbeaten in their last five.

This should be a cracker. Lock the doors, close the windows, turn on the telly and witness something religious. Joking – it's just rugby.

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PREDICTION: Chiefs by 4.

Force vs Waratahs in Perth, Saturday

The Waratahs have just never got over losing Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, have they?

A fourth straight loss to the Force in Perth would consign the New South Welshmen to the foot of the Super Rugby table and consign their season to pride and consolation.

Fortunately for them, that's all the Force is playing for already. The 'Tahs have the better backline, and if they can spark it, this could be the match that turns the season around.

PREDICTION: Waratahs by 1.

Stormers vs Reds in Cape Town, Sunday

The Reds African safari continues in Cape Town on Sunday, and they'll be hoping to fare better at sea level than they did on the high veldt last weekend.

Easier said than done. The Stormers are top of the South African Group, and actually look a legit shot do some damage in the playoffs this year.

This doesn't feel like the Reds season, though. Too many close losses already, and last week against the Bulls they were terrible. Roll on, Stormers.

PREDICTION: Stormers by 14.

Kings vs Lions in Port Elizabeth, Sunday

This week's 'all-South African derby game in the middle of the night that no one will watch or care about' match-up.

PREDICTION: Lions by 5.

Brumbies vs Crusaders in Canberra, Sunday

Back in the day, the Brumbies and Crusaders used to serve up some of the best footy Super Rugby could conjure. Let names like Ron Cribb, Ben Blair, Caleb Ralph, Andrew Walker, 'Big' Jim Williams and Bill Young come flooding back to you.

There's been some leaner times in recent years, but both the Brumbies and 'Saders are firing again in 2016 – both sitting second in their respective regional conferences.

Playing in Canberra is always a big job, but the Chiefs shown you can do it, and do it well, with their demo job of the Brumbies two weeks ago. This will be a tighter match though, and, in the spirit of Anzac brotherhood, the honours may well be even.

PREDICTION: Draw.