SUPER RUGBY WEEK ONE
Blues v Highlanders
The first game of the year kicks off on Friday night in Auckland where the Blues take on the Highlanders under new coach Tana Umaga. The Blues have had a pretty good pre-season winning all three games. I do have doubts over pre-season form though with a lot of experimenting going on with various combinations.
Last years champions the Highlanders will be looking to continue their winning run. The Highlanders have won the last three clashes between the two sides with winning margins of 6, 37 and 8 respectively. The Blues will be without their skipper Jerome Kaino after the flanker copped a one week suspension following last weekend's trial against the Chiefs for throwing a punch. This will be a huge loss to the Blues pack and the Highlanders will look to expose the Blues at the breakdown with their mobile and aggressive unit.
In my opinion, I am surprised the Highlanders aren't a few points more of a favourite for this match.
Crusaders v Chiefs
Another blockbuster game between two previous winners of the super rugby competition. The Crusaders will be looking to rebuild after losing stalwarts Richie McCaw to retirement and Dan Carter to French Rugby, two of the best players to ever grace the game. The Chiefs have lost the services of Sonny Bill Williams and Liam Messam to Rugby Sevens as they look to cement their place in the Olympic team. The return of Aaron Cruder after a season ending injury late last year will be a major boost to the Chiefs outfit.
The Chiefs disposed of the disappointing Crusaders last year by margins of 17 and 24 points in the two games played. The Crusaders look to be a little lost without some of their stars after being flogged by 67 points to the Hurricanes in last weekend's preseason hit out. I predict the Chiefs to come out on top for this game in what will be a minor upset.
Stormers v Bulls
Two of the best South African rugby teams finish off the opening round of the Super Rugby Season. The Bulls have had a number of significant personal change to their squad with experienced players Victor Matfield, Flip van der Merwe, Pierre Spies and Akona Ndungane to name a few leaving the team or retiring. They haven't recruited particularly well either to cover the loss of these stars. The same could be said about the Stormers having lost two of their best players in Duane Vermeulen and Jean de Villers, leaving a big gap at the back of the scrum and in the midfield.
The Bulls have not managed to win away to the Stormers since 2011 and have failed to beat the Stormers in the last three games with winning margins of 16, 12 and 2 to the Stormers. The Bulls have had a major preseason blow also with Handre Pollard succumbing to a knee ligament injury forcing him out of the entire Super Rugby Season. This will severely hurt the Bulls chances of making the playoffs this year.
The Stormers have arguably the easiest draw in the whole competition. With the injury to Pollard I think the Stormers will be way too strong for the Bulls in round one. Pick 3 Units - Stormers -6.5 Pick Your Own Line
Stormers -6.5 PYOL3 at 2.10+3.3
Stormers -6.5 PYOL3 at 2.10+3.3
RESULTS STAKES ROI Final +11.01 6 184% Semi Finals +11.76 14 84% Quarter Finals +5.34 18 30% Week Seventeen -0.27 6 -5% Week Sixteen -9 9 -100% Week Fifteen -2.15 8 -27% Week Fourteen -1.85 8 -23% Week Thirteen -9 9 -100% Week Twelve -0.32 8 -4% Week Eleven +8.1 12 68% Week Ten -12 12 -100% Week Nine -10 10 -100% Week Eight -7 7 -100% Week Seven +11.32 10 113% Week Six -0.36 8 -5% Week Five +3.96 9 44% Week Four +5.65 11 51% Week Three +4.32 10 43% Week Two +7.36 7.75 95% Week One +2.8 8 35% Total +19.67 190.75 10%