Friday 7 July
Reds vs. Brumbies, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 7:45pm (AEST)
Key stats (Opta Stats)
The Brumbies have won their past five games against the Reds by an average margin of 26 points, including their past two in which they scored 43 points on each occasion.
The Brumbies are the most effective tacklers in the competition, boasting a tackle success rate of 87 percent.
Reds: Karmichael Hunt, Izaia Perese, Campbell Magnay, Duncan Paia'aua, Eto Nabuli, Quade Cooper, James Tuttle, Adam Korczyk, George Smith, Rob Simmons, Izack Rodda, Kane Douglas, Taniela Tupou, Stephen Moore (captain), Sef Fa'agase. Reserves: Alex Mafi, Markus Vanzati, Sam Talakai, Cadeyrn Neville, Caleb Timu, Moses Sorovi, Hamish Steward, Chris Kuridrani..
Brumbies: Tom Banks, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Kyle Godwin, Aidan Toua, Wharenui Hawera, Joe Powell, Jordan Smiler, Chris Alcock, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter (captain), Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Josh Mann-Rea, Scott Sio. Reserves: Robbie Abel, Leslie Leaulua'iali'i-Makin, Ben Alexander, Blake Enever, Jarrad Butler, Tomas Cubelli, Nigel Ah-Wong.
Rob Simmons will make his final appearance for Queensland Reds in the unfamiliar position of blindside flanker, with the second-row pairing of Kane Douglas and Izack Rodda to remain untouched. He is part of a new-look back-row, with Japanese international Hendrik Tui and Wallabies veteran Scott Higginbotham both ruled out due to injury. Adam Korczyk will play at No.8, although openside George Smith is likely to move into that position at scrum time. Samu Kerevi is replaced by Campbell Magnay at outside centre, while Izaia Perese has been named on the wing after returning from Australia Under-20s duty.
Scott Sio will return for the Brumbies, providing a welcome boost as they seek to continue the momentum built by a trio of wins before the June Test series break. Henry Speight has shaken off the effects of the hamstring strain that forced him to miss Australia's matches with Scotland and Fiji
Greg Growden's tip: Reds Sam Bruce's tip: Brumbies
TAB verdict: Despite recording 26+ points in each of their past three outings, the Reds have outscored their opposition only once during that time. Averaging 30 points per game since Round 13, the Brumbies have been equally impressive in attack, but their defence has stood firmer and they enter this fixture with three consecutive victories. Expectations are of a Brumbies win, but a high-scoring affair could be on the cards with the home side proving popular at the line (+5.0).
Force vs. Rebels, nib Stadium, Perth 9:55pm (AEST)
Key stats (Opta Stats)
The Force have conceded only nine offloads per game this season, the fewest of any team in the competition and nearly five fewer per game than the Rebels.
Luke Morahan has scored four tries in his four games for the Force against the Rebels, including a brace when they met in Round 14 last season.
Force: Dane Haylett-Petty, Chance Peni, Curtis Rona, Bill Meakes, Alex Newsome, Peter Grant, Michael Ruru, Isi Naisarani, Richard Hardwick, Ross Haylett-Petty, Adam Coleman (captain), Matt Philip, Jermaine Ainsley, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Pek Cowan Reserves Heath Tessmann, Francois van Wyk, Tetera Faulkner, Lewis Carmichael, Brynard Stander, Ian Prior, Jono Lance, James Verity-Amm.
Rebels: Jonah Placid, Tom English, Mitch Inman, Reece Hodge, Marika Koroibete, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Nic Stirzaker (captain), Amanaki Mafi, Colby Fainga'a, Lopeti Timani, Steve Cummins, Murray Douglas, Laurie Weeks, James Hanson, Toby Smith Reserves: Jordan Uelese, Cruze Ah Nau, Fereti Sa'aga, Culum Retallick, Hugh Sinclair, Ben Meehan, Sione Tuipulotu, Jack Maddocks..
Adam Coleman will captain Western Force for the first time, while recent Wallabies debutant Richard Hardwick will start in the back-row alongside fellow Perth product Ross Haylett-Petty and Fijian Isi Naisarani. In the backline, Chance Peni returns from a lengthy period on the sidelines due to a groin injury.
Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made a raft of changes to his team for the final Australian derby of the Super Rugby season. Prop Laurie Weeks, fly-half Jackson Garden-Bachop and fullback Jonah Placid return to the starting line-up after coming off the bench against the Brumbies before the international break, while a season-ending injury to winger Sefa Naivalu in the Wallabies' final Test against Italy sees Reece Hodge partner Mitch Inman in the centres, Tom English moved to the wing and Placid going to fullback for his first start in 2017. Scotish-native Murray Douglas will make his first Super Rugby start after being named at lock for his second Rebels appearance. Australia Under-20s representatives Jordan Uelese and Sione Tuipulotu return to the reserves bench, while Jack Maddocks has overcome a wrist injury.
Greg Growden's tip: Force Sam Bruce's tip: Force
TAB verdict: The Rebels have won four of their past five against the Force, but early money went the way of the home side in both Head to Head and Line markets. In their 13 games this season, Melbourne have managed just the one victory and scored a competition-low 185 points. On that note, many are questioning whether they'll have the firepower to overcome a side that has impressed in recent times with away wins against the Reds and Jaguares. The Force by 10+.
Saturday 8 July
Waratahs vs. Jaguares, Allianz Stadium, Sydney, 7.45pm (AEST)
Key stats (Opta Stats)
The Waratahs have lost their past 10 games against teams from outside Australia, their longest ever drought in such fixtures; they last beat a team from outside Australia in Round 15 last season (Sunwolves).
The Jaguares are the most penalised team in the competition this season, conceding an average 11.4 infractions per game.
Waratahs: Israel Folau; Bryce Hegarty, Rob Horne, David Horwitz, Cam Clark; Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon; Michael Wells, Michael Hooper, Jack Dempsey; Dean Mumm, Ned Hanigan; Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Tom Robertson. Reserves: Paddy Ryan, Angus Taavao, David McDuling, Ryan McCauley, Matt Lucas, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Andrew Kellaway.
Jaguares: Joaquin Tuculet, Matias Moroni, Matias Orlando, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Emiliano Boffelli, Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo, Leonardo Senatore, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Pablo Matera, Benjamin Macome, Guido Petti, Enrique Pieretto, Agustin Creevy (captain), Nahuel Tetaz. Reserves: Julian Montoya, Santiago Garcia Botta, Ramiro Herrera, Ignacio Larrague Rodrigo Baez, Gonzalo Bertranou, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Santiago Cordero.
The Waratahs have made three changes to their starting line-up with Jack Dempsey returning to the side while Bryce Hegarty starts on the wing and Taqele Naiyaravoro moving to the bench. Will Skelton was unavailable for selection after breaking his arm in a club rugby match last weekend, forcing Ned Hanigan into lock. Andrew Kellaway returns from injury and Ryan McCauley, the Australian Under-20 lock, moves onto the bench.
The Jaguares have recalled captain Agustín Creevy among five changes to the side beaten by the Kings last weekend. Creevy takes over the captaincy from scrum-half Martín Landajo in replacing Julián Montoya in the front row. Enrique Pieretto comes in at tighthead while Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro moves to loosehead. Benjamin Macome comes into the side replacing Matías Alemanno who was injured last weekend. In the backs Jerónimo De la Fuente returns to the side at the expense of centre Bautista Ezcurra who drops out.
Greg Growden's tip: Waratahs Sam Bruce's tip: Waratahs
TAB verdict: After two straight games in New Zealand, the Waratahs return home to take on rivals who are on the back of four losses in their past five matches. The visiting side start well behind in betting and have been given +11.5 at the line. For their part, the Waratahs will be chasing their third straight victory over non-Kiwi opposition. Waratahs to cover the line.
Sunday 9 July
Bulls vs. Southern Kings, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria 1:15am (AEST)
Key stats (Opta Stats)
The Bulls have lost each of their past three games at home; the last time they went longer without a home win was a nine-game drought from 2001 to 2003.
The Kings have scored just one try once they've held possession for seven or more phases this season, at least three fewer than any other team in the competition.
Bulls: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Duncan Matthews, Tian Schoeman, Rudy Paige, Nic de Jager, Jannes Kirsten, Ruan Steenkamp, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Conrad van Vuuren, Adriaan Strauss (captain), Lizo Gqoboka. Reserves: Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman, John-Roy Jenkinson, Ruben van Heerden, Shaun Adendorff, Andre Warner, Tinus de Beer, Burger Odendaal.
Kings: Malcolm Jaer, Wandile Mjekevu, Berton Klaasen, Luzuko Vulindlu, Makazole Mapimpi, Lionel Cronje (captain), Louis Schreuder, Andisa Ntsila, Tyler Paul, Chris Cloete, Lubabalo Mtyanda, Irne Herbst, Ross Geldenhuys, Michael Willemse, Mzamo Majola. Reservers: Martin Bezuidenhout, Schalk Ferreira, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Mzwanele Zito, Thembelani Bholi, Stefan Ungerer, Masixole Banda, Yaw Penxe.
The Bulls have made two changes to their starting XV. Former Junior Springboks wing Travis Ismaiel returns for the first time since he was injured against the Crusaders early in May, replacing Kefense Mahlo, and Tian Schoeman has been promoted off the bench to start at flyhalf in place of injured Tony Jantjies.
Kings coach Deon Davids has made just one injury-enforced change to the team that beat the Jaguares in Buenos Aires last weekend, with Lubabalo Mtyanda replacing Wilhelm van der Sluys after the lock sustained a concussion in Argentina.
Greg Growden's tip: Kings Sam Bruce's tip: Bulls
TAB verdict: The Bulls are expected to be too strong, but the Kings shouldn't be discounted as they chase their first win over the Pretoria-based team. Despite a poor record of four losses from five games, the Kings recorded an impressive one-point away win to the Jaguares in Round 16 and will take solace from the Bulls' poor run at home since early May (0-3). Bulls to win, Kings at the line (+11.5).
Stormers vs. Sunwolves Newlands, Cape Town, 3:30am (AEST)
Key stats (Opta Stats)
The Stormers have 11.2 penalties awarded in their favour per game this season, more than any other team in the competition.
The Sunwolves have failed to score any points in the opening halves of their past two games, and they have scored more than three points in the opening half of an away fixture only once in their past five attempts.
Stormers: Dillyn Leyds, Cheslin Kolbe, EW Viljoen, Damian de Allende, Seabelo Senatla, Damian Willemse, Jano Vermaak, Nizaam Carr, Juarno Augustus, Siya Kolisi (captain), Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, JC Janse van Rensburg. Reserves: Ramone Samuels, Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Chris van Zyl, JD Schickerling, Justin Phillips, Dan Kriel, Bjorn Basson.
Sunwolves: Riaan Viljoen, Kotaro Masushima, Ryohei Yamanaka, Derek Carpenter, Teruya Goto, Yu Tamura, Keisuke Uchida; Willem Britz, Shuhei Matsuhashi, Malgene Ilaua, Uwe Helu, Kotaro Yatabe, Takuma Asahara, Takeshi Hino, Koki Yamamoto. Replacements: Atsushi Sakate, Masataka Mikami, Koo Jiwon, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Shokei Kin, Kaito Shigeno, Rikiya Matsuda, Jumpei Ogura..
Junior Springboks star Juarno Augustus will make his Super Rugby debut while Test lock Eben Etzebeth returns to the pack. There is start at fullback for Dillyn Leyds while Seabelo Senatla comes onto the wing.
South African Riaan Viljoen returns to fullback for the Sunwolves who were thumped by the Lions last week.
Greg Growden's tip: Stormers Sam Bruce's tip: Stormers
TAB verdict: Even with a colossal start at the line of +34.5 points, the Sunwolves are friendless in early betting. An 87-point mauling by the Lions in their previous game handed the Japanese outfit their seventh consecutive loss and 12th of the season. In that regard, the South Africans are expected to make light work of their opposition and notch up their third win since May 19. Stormers by plenty.
Watch Greg Growden's Stormers-Sunvolves video preview