1. Game of the week
Chiefs v Waratahs
Hamilton, tomorrow, 7.35pm
Referee: Mike Fraser
It is a very ordinary card of games this weekend, possibly the single worst of the tournament, so this game of mild interest is elevated beyond its station.
The Stormers versus the Bulls in Cape Town is probably worthier, but it is two South African teams playing while the sensible among us are happily inhabiting the Land of Nod. If a Super 15 match is played where nowhere hears or sees it, is it a match?
The Chiefs are coming off a bye and it's impossible to round up enough pointless generalisations to summarise how that could affect the match. Will the Chiefs be out of rhythm? Will their key players be refreshed by the break? Will Sonny Bill Williams attempt another defensive grubber, possibly the least-embraced innovation since Grant Fox's place-kick to touch?
The Waratahs are coming off a morale-boosting escape to victory against the Sharks. They also have fond memories of their last visit to Hamilton, in 2010, when they thrashed the home side 46-19.
But even if some of the players are the same, this is a vastly different Chiefs beast, which is starting to build a swagger last seen in 2009.
The Dave Rennie-coached team should pick up win number four on the bounce, the first time they have done that since May 22, 2009, when they beat the Hurricanes 14-10 in the semifinal.
2. First-time caller
Rambling, talkback-like opinion:
Seldom have we felt compelled to defend the Blues organisation or its under-fire coach but, really, should he have to stand up and make an apology to Sanzar for stating the bleeding obvious?
Granted, Pat Lam's use of the term "innocuous" to describe Luke Braid's offence on Nizaam Carr - hitting a prone person is not funny or clever - was ill-advised, but he did qualify that by saying the citing commissioner was "doing his job" when the incident was reported.
The citing commissioner who missed Dane Coles was not doing his job. Fact.
"All you ask for is fairness. So we've got one guy out for three weeks and one guy who is playing," said Lam.
For that we get this high-handed response from Sanzar boss Greg Peters (who, it has to be said, does not usually indulge in high-handedness): "This should serve as a reminder to everyone that comments will be treated very seriously and there needs to be a threshold.
"This is about calling into question the integrity of people in the game. It is okay to say something like a decision was tough, but to go to the next stage of criticising people or the process brings problems."
Not a single word explaining why there was such a discrepancy between the work of one citing commissioner and another. Nil.
That, not Lam's honest appraisal, is a dereliction of duty.
For the sake of the free-speech principles we hold so dearly, let us hope that Lam was crossing his fingers behind his back when he made that apology.
3. Starter for 10...
Bryan Habana scored his 50th Super rugby try last week for the Stormers against the Lions. Top effort that, Bryan.
But can you name the other five players to reach that milestone? A bonus pat on the back if you can name them in descending order.
The answer is cunningly written upside down at the bottom of this column.
4. All Blacks under pressure
World Cup letdown and all that ... Can't peak this early ... Long season. There's myriad reason for the slow starts of some of the World Cup squad. Here's a rough stab at those who are in grave danger of becoming, or are effectively, ex-All Blacks (ex), those who have a bit to prove (btp) and those who are, for the time being, safe*.
John Afoa (ex), Anthony Boric (btp), Daniel Carter (safe), Jimmy Cowan (ex), Aaron Cruden (safe), Israel Dagg (safe), Stephen Donald (ex), Andy Ellis (safe), Hosea Gear (btp), Zac Guildford (ex), Ben Franks (btp), Owen Franks (safe), Corey Flynn (btp), Andrew Hore (safe), Cory Jane (safe), Richard Kahui (safe), Jerome Kaino (ex), Richie McCaw (safe), Keven Mealamu (safe), Mils Muliaina (ex), Ma'a Nonu (safe), Kieran Read (safe), Colin Slade (ex), Conrad Smith (safe), Adam Thomson (safe), Brad Thorn (ex), Isaia Toeava (btp), Victor Vito (safe), Piri Weepu (btp), Sam Whitelock (btp), Ali Williams (btp), Sonny Bill Williams (safe), Tony Woodcock (safe).
* Ratings are subject to change
5. Money ball
Herald betting analyst Michael Guerin searches for weekly gems. For the past two weeks, his primary bet has come up trumps. This week he says ...
Fans won't get a better week to support the Kiwi teams for two reasons.
1) The Blues aren't playing (ouch)
2) The other four franchises are playing lower-rated teams.
The Highlanders, Hurricanes and Chiefs have home games against teams that, respectively, don't want to be in Invercargill (Rebels), must be dying to get home (Cheetahs) or simply lack killer instinct (Waratahs).
The only New Zealand team away are the Crusaders, who travel to South Africa to play the Lions. The only reason the Crusaders are paying $1.40 is because the TAB bookies have a hunch on the Lions. Which is silly because they are the Lions.
If you took all four New Zealand teams to win in a multi-bet, the dividend is over $3, which will help pay for brunch on Sunday.
The other smart bet this week is the Reds at $1.70 against the Force, because they will be on the warpath after their gutless effort against the Bulls last week.
6. Say what?
"A week is a long time in this sport. It doesn't mean we have to give up. We won't be giving up. We'll take stock and dust ourselves off and keep going. We're not going to die in a ditch. It's not our finest hour, but it's not the end of the competition either." - Ewen McKenzie after the Reds' 8-61 mauling from the Bulls. Eight cliches in one paragraph, a record.