Another weekend of round and oval ball action awaits us, with some huge World Cup knockout matches on the cards, along with some do-or-die Super Rugby battles to enjoy. We’ve made our picks for the top 5 matches you can’t afford to miss this weekend:
Uruguay v France (FIFA World Cup)
Uruguay and France meet in the first quarter-final of the World Cup, a match that promises much and a reunion or two. Antoine Griezmann and Lucas Hernandez face off with Atletico Madrid team-mates Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, while Paris Saint-Germain strike partners Edinson Cavani and Kylian Mbappe also cross paths. While Uruguay have won all their games and have conceded just the one goal so far, Les Bleus knocked out Argentina in a spectacular Round of 16 clash, showcasing their form to take big scalps. France will look to the finishing skills of their forwards to extend their nine-match unbeaten run against South American sides at the World Cup, while Uruguayan belief will be buoyed by another revealing stat: on the six previous occasions La Celeste reached the last eight at the world finals, only once did they fail to progress.
Prediction: France 2 – 0 Uruguay
Brazil v Belgium (FIFA World Cup)
The second quarter final of the 2018 World Cup pits Brazil and Belgium against each other, with both sides hoping to erase painful memories of four years ago. Belgium haven’t lost a competitive game since Wales knocked them out of Euro 2016, and Brazil’s only defeat in the last two years came to Argentina in 2017, so it’ll be a war of attrition come Friday’s encounter. Belgium will cause more problems for the Brazilians than any side they’ve played so far, but Brazil have found their rhythm and they should be able to create enough chances to win this game.
Prediction: Brazil 1 – 0 Belgium
Bulls v Jaguares (Super Rugby)
After being thrashed 54-24 by the Jaguares in Buenos Aires back in May, the Bulls now have their chance of redemption, hosting the Argentines at Loftus. John Mitchell’s side has shown some great attacking prowess this season, mixed with some questionable defence, as showcased this past weekend against the Sunwolves – but the Bulls can’t afford to make the same errors as they did away from home. The Argentine side have shown that they love the dry conditions, so Loftus’ hard ground will be a prime platform for them to attack from deep. The Bulls should be weary, but if they maintain their composure that they’ve shown previously when playing at home, they should edge this one.
Prediction: Bulls by 5.
England v Sweden (FIFA World Cup)
England are three games away from World Cup glory as they face a quarter-final clash against Sweden following a dramatic penalty shootout win over Colombia. But despite England’s optimism, Sweden are not about to roll over and offer safe passage to the semi-finals, and could even give the Three Lions a taste of their own medicine at set-pieces. England and Sweden have met 24 times, with the Three Lions winning eight games, losing seven, and drawing nine, so it’s pretty even in terms of historical advantage. This is a tough one to call, as no one should underestimate Sweden’s capabilities, but everything seems to be falling in favour of England this World Cup.
Prediction: England 3 – 2 Sweden
Stormers v Sharks (Super Rugby)
The Sharks managed to dig themselves out of a hole against the Lions this past weekend, after being outplayed for a majority of the game, showcasing that they still have eyes set on a playoff spot. The Durban side head into the game needing a win to keep their hopes of making the knockout stage alive, while the Stormers will be playing for pride after their 25-14 loss to the Jaguares killed off any playoff chances they may have had. On paper, the Cape side have had one of the strongest sides in the competition this season, but haven’t been able to cultivate that into anything as of yet; and with the Sharks being the only side in this encounter with some skin in the long-game, it’s likely that the men in black will cause an upset at Newlands.
Prediction: Sharks by 5.