1. Game of the week
Bulls v Stormers, Pretoria
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan.
TAB: Bulls $1.65
It's usual practice to focus on the local interest but this game is so important it warrants closer inspection. Those who would love to see a Super rugby final return to these shores for the first time since 2008 would be advised to cheer for a low-scoring victory for the Bulls. That scenario, accompanied by a win for the Chiefs over the Blues, would clear some space at the top of the overall table for the New Zealand franchise.
That's the long view, the short view is this: the Bulls and Stormers, both coming off losses, will tear into each other in a manner that should be both terrifying and compelling.
2. Cruden v Carter
At this stage you would have no qualms about Steve Hansen and his brains trust plumping for the legend that is Dan Carter every time but ...
if their career trajectories continue along the same path there is going to come a time, very shortly, when they will have to ask themselves if they are holding up the better player by keeping Cruden on the bench. Cruden has been outstanding for the Chiefs, Carter has not for the Crusaders.
Both get a chance to strut their stuff this weekend: Cruden against the Blues in Albany tomorrow and Carter tonight against the Highlanders.
3. Carrington Rd
Pilot script for NZ On Air-funded reality-drama set at the Blues training facility.
Pat: Boys, the whiteboard is broken, but someone's left a pile of takeaway food here which I can use to help explain the tactics for this weekend. (Shuffles various boxes on to long table)
Pat: Right. So, this Big Mac represents the opposition scrum. The drumsticks are flankers, these chicken nuggets are the inside backs and the deep-fried pork wontons are wings.
The Boys: Gotcha.
Pat: So we run a double inside-cut move with the ... Hey! Where did the opposition scrum and flankers go?!
Piri: Nom-nom-nom ...
4. Money ball
Herald betting analyst Michael Guerin searches for weekly gems.
Two of the most evenly matched teams in Super Rugby history provide the key to making some money out of the final weekend before the international window.
If momentum counts for anything, the Hurricanes could break that deadlock against the Tahs in Sydney. They have met 16 times in Super rugby for eight wins each, with similar points scoring tallies. That is why the TAB has them $1.87 each for tomorrow's clash, thinking the Waratahs are aided by being at home. That hasn't been much of a disadvantage for Canes as they have won four of their six away games this season - their only defeats being to the table-topping Chiefs and Stormers.
And the Tahs are returning from a morale-sapping defeat to the Cheetahs, which would have made for an especially long trip home.
So the $1.87 for the Canes is worth taking, and could make one leg of a multi-bet as the Crusaders, Chiefs, Brumbies (against injury-hit Rebels) and Sharks should all win this week. A $10 bet on them to win with the Hurricanes returns over $40.
5. Stat attack
Beauden Barrett's 21-point night with the boot not only took him past Jon Preston's season-scoring record for the Hurricanes (he has 158, Preston ended with 152 in 1997), but it also boosted his flagging season percentage to 72 per cent. That still puts him middle of the pack.
Of those who have taken at least 30 attempts in 2012, Brendan McKibbin (Waratahs) leads the way with 90 per cent success rate. Gareth Anscombe and Joe Pietersen (Stormers) trail, with a still respectable 69 per cent.
6. Say what?
"To use horse racing terminology, you don't take a two-year-old and start him in the Melbourne Cup - you wait until he's ready. He's just a young colt, and we don't need to rush him." - Steve Hansen urges caution on the remarkable talents of TJ Perenara. Halfbacks are usually the jockeys, not the horses.