The Super Rugby juggernaut keeps on rolling with the balance of the Round Three matches on Saturday, we take a look at the rest of the matches.
The last three matches of the weekend should serve up some gripping rugby, starting with the quest of minnows the Melbourne Rebels to prove that they can mix it with the big boys.
They travel to Brisbane looking for their first win against the Reds, but they will be undeniable underdogs and the home crowd will be expecting to see some tries from the champions.
Once that is decided the focus will shift to South Africa for two mouth-watering match-ups with the Lions heading down to Durban to face a Sharks team hungry for their first win of the season and the Bulls taking on a Blues team in the same position in Pretoria.
Reds v Rebels
(Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane - Kick-off: 19.10; 09.10 GMT)
It will be the side that finished top of the standings last year against the team that finished holding the Wooden Spoon, and to add to that the Rebels will be travelling to Brisbane to take on the champion Reds, so at least there is a clear favourite for this one.
The Reds have managed to win both of their games this season without really breaking free, and although their pragmatism and controlled, percentage rugby has been admirable, this matchrepresents an opportunity for Ewan McKenzie's charges to really cut loose.
The Rebels will have strike power in the form of new backline stars James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale, but as was proven against the Waratahs last week they are not going to make much of an impact if they never get the ball.
The Melbourne side have been working hard on their defensive frailties, but it is very much a work in progress, and with certain basics like awareness around the ruck missing last week the Reds will be licking their lips at the thought of their first four-try bonus point of the season.
Much will be made of Mike Harris' quest to keep his flawless goal-kicking record this season going at the Suncorp Stadium, but the real test will be whether he shows the ability to unleash his backline effectively against what is easily the worst defensive system in the competition.
2011: Reds won 33-18 in Melbourne
2011: Reds won 53-3 in Brisbane
Prediction: The Rebels will have moments of brilliance and are likely to start with plenty of intent but the class and consistency of the Reds will see them take this one at a canter. The Reds to win by more than 20 points.
Reds: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Jono Lance, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Mike Harris, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 James Hanson, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Greg Holmes, 18 Van Humphries, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Rod Davies.
Rebels: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 James O'Connor, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Richard Kingi, 8 Gareth Delve (captain), 7 Tom Chamberlain, 6 Tim Davidson, 5 Hugh Pyle, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Adam Freier, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Luke Holmes, 17 Rodney Blake, 18 Alister Campbell, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Nick Phipps, 21 Lachlan Mitchell, 22 Julian Huxley.
Referee: Ian Smith (Australia)
Assistant referees: Damien Mitchelmore (Australia), Rohan Hoffman (Australia)
TMO: Steve Lesczcynski (Australia)
Sharks v Lions
(Kings Park, Durban - Kick-off: 17.05; 15.05 GMT)
The Sharks have lost both of their games this season by less than seven points and head into their first home game of the season already under pressure to get the campaign rolling.
They face the team that beat them in the Currie Cup Final last year and the Durban side will be keen to show the resurgent team from Johannesburg exactly how big the step up to Super Rugby really is.
The home side have been bolstered by the return of big Willem Alberts to their pack, and watching him take on his old team alongside impressive young flank Marcell Coetzee will be a highlight, especially as they will be up against Lions skipper Josh Strauss and the whole-hearted Derrick Minnie.
The Lions' tight five has been disrupted this season by injuries in the front row and a revolving door at lock in the absence of Wikus van Heerden.
However, things are not looking so great in the Sharks engine room either with Bismarck du Plessis in between two fairly inexperienced props and the shaky combination of Ross Skeate and Steven Sykes in the second row.
The trump card for the visitors could be the combination of Elton Jantjies and Butch James in the backline, but they will be on the back foot against Pat Lambie and co if the service from scrumhalf Michael Bondesio does not improve.
The Sharks have been right in both of the tough derbies that they have played this season and they will be determined to show that they can do what it takes to get over the line.
With this pressure on the home side the Lions will be able to play with more freedom and their focus will be to make the most of their opportunities, as despite being exciting to watch they lacked a clinical edge last week.
2011: 30-30 draw in Johannesburg
2011: Sharks won 27-3 in Durban
2010: Sharks won 32-28 in Johannesburg
2009: Sharks won 29-10 in Durban
2008: Sharks won 16-8 in Johannesburg
Prediction: It will be frantic at the Shark Tank, and we can expect a high-paced game. The Sharks will be abrasive in contact and the Lions will play with plenty of width so replacements may play a key role as both teams inevitably tire. It is likely to be a tight encounter but we are backing the Sharks to take this one at home by less than five points.
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Frederic Michalak, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Paul Jordaan.
Lions: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Doppies la Grange, 12 Butch James, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Joshua Strauss (captain), 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Marius Coetzer, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Patric Cilliers.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Stephan Greeff, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Tian Meyer, 21 Alwyn Hollenbach, 22 James Kamana.
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Marc van Zyl (South Africa)
TMO: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)
Bulls v Blues
(Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria - Kick-off: 19.10; 17.10 GMT)
The last game of the weekend will see two Super Rugby giants on a mission to recapture former glories do battle, and although it is early days both will feel that they have something to prove.
The Bulls have surprised many by brushing off the loss of their core of senior players by bringing in some promising talent and playing their familiar brand of high-pressure rugby which has resulted in two consecutive victories to start the season, and they will be intent on keeping the momentum going.
There was much excitement surrounding the Blues at the start of the season give their impressive squad list, but they have not delivered yet and head into this match with the weight of expectation already on their shoulders from a fan base that expects the best.
Pat Lam knows his star-studded side needs to produce better results soon, but he could hardly have a tougher arena at which to get things on track than at Loftus Versfeld against a Bulls side full of confidence.
The Blues do have their star signings Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu either side of new flyhalf Gareth Anscombe, but with Weepu not yet back to full fitness and Nonu making his debut for the side they may lack fluency just behind the scrum which would be fatal against the Bulls.
Both sides have impressive forward packs and the battles in the set-pieces promise to be both absorbing and decisive. If the Blues can stop the Bulls from getting momentum then their game-breaking backs could have a say.
The midfield battle should be particularly intriguing with hard-running rookie Francois Venter up against world class debutant Nonu and Benson Stanley and Wynand Olivier in somewhat unfamiliar territory at outside centre.
The Bulls have a settled team, with the only change being at scrumhalf where Jano Vermaak steps in for the suspended Francois Hougaard, and his clash with Weepu should indicate which forward pack has the upper hand.
The home side will want to storm onto the front foot and stay there to nullify the quality in the Blues side who will make them pay if given too much space.
The Blues will be desperate to bounce back from their disappointing start to the season and show that they can produce winning rugby when the pressure is on, and there is certainly no better place to do that than at Loftus Versfeld.
2010: Blues won 32-17 in Auckland
2009: Bulls won 59-26 in Pretoria
2008: Blues won 23-21 in Auckland
2007: Bulls won 40-19 in Pretoria
2006: Blues won 30-17 in Auckland
Prediction: If the Blues can take the Bulls on up front then their skilful stars could have a major say, but they will have to fight until the bitter end if they are to pull off a win. The Bulls will be unrelenting and although the Blues are sure to produce moments of magic it is hard to see them dictating terms for 80 minutes so we are backing the Bulls to win by about ten points.
Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Ruan Snyman, 21 Louis Fouché, 22 JJ Engelbrecht.
Blues: 15 Lachie Munro, 14 Sherwin Stowers, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Chris Lowrey, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Luke Braid, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Bradley Mika, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Hadleigh Parkes, 22 David Raikuna.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Pro Legoete (South Africa), Stefan Breytenbach (South Africa)
TMO: Gerrie Coetzee (South Africa)
By Michael de Vries
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