If you’re looking for a weekend full of high-stakes, you’ve got it. The next couple of days are packed with some watershed moments, where the FIFA World Cup hits its knockout stage, while Super Rugby’s latter half applies some pressure to teams to perform. With all the action going down, though, we’ve highlighted 5 of the most exciting games you can’t afford to miss this weekend:
Highlanders v Chiefs (Super Rugby)
The Highlanders and Chiefs meet in Fiji on neutral ground which, by the way both sides have been playing this season, should prove to be an exciting spectacle of rugby. The Chiefs have won their last two games against their Dunedin rivals, but the Highlanders look to be in better form generally this particular season. That said, with the match being away from the Highlanders’ fortress of Forsyth Barr stadium, it’s a chance for the Chiefs, with all their All Blacks back in the fold, to cause an upset.
Prediction: Chiefs by 10.
Sharks v Lions (Super Rugby)
Both sides’ big-name Springboks will be back for this encounter, where the Sharks will host the Lions in what is a do-or-die for the Joburg side – thankfully for the 2016 and 2017 finalists, Warren Whiteley, Malcolm Marx, and Ruan Combrink all return from injury. The Sharks have had spouts of brilliance mixed with poor performances this season, and with the Lions’ big-guns being well-rested and desperate to stake their claim in the competition once again, it may be a little tough for the Durban side to contain an open-running and eager Lions outfit.
Prediction: Lions by 10.
France v Argentina (FIFA World Cup)
While both football giants have yet to hit their stride this World Cup, this particular battle between the two colossi will undoubtedly bring out the best in one another. After flirting with disaster this tournament, Argentina will need to up their game against Les Bleus, who are easily capable of sinking teams thanks to the sheer amount of firepower they possess. France haven’t looked particularly adept at the back though, so the Europeans will have to tighten up their defence in order to contain the likes of Messi.
Prediction: France 1 – 0 Argentina
Uruguay v Portugal (FIFA World Cup)
Cristiano Ronaldo struck four goals to spearhead Portugal through the group stages, though the Euro 2016 champions were very nearly dumped out of the tournament by Iran. However, Portugal now face Uruguay, who seem to have found their feet heading into the knockout stage after winning all three of their group matches while still being the only team yet to concede a goal. That said, Portugal proved at Euro 2016 they are capable of building their form to peak late in a tournament, and while it should be close, Portugal have the edge.
Prediction: Uruguay 1 – 2 Portugal
Spain v Russia (FIFA World Cup)
Tournament hosts Russia shocked most experts, winning their first two games which was enough to see them through to the last 16 stage of the World Cup; but they face a huge task taking on the 2010 World Champions Spain this weekend. The Spanish should be far too strong for the Russians to handle, but the Spanish have not been anywhere near their fluent best so far, with uncharacteristic errors hampering their game. They managed to finish top of their pool despite not being at their best and the likes of Isco and David Silva should be licking their lips for this one.
Prediction: Spain 2-0 Russia