Super Rugby Week 4
Highlanders v Stormers
The Highlanders come off the bye this week having beaten the Blues in Week 2 of the Super Rugby season by a single try. The Stormers have had a bumpy start to their season with 1 miss against the winless Jaguares and losing to the Waratahs and Crusaders in back to back weeks.
The Stormers have struggled in New Zealand of late losing their last 9 matches in New Zealand. Last year proved very difficult for the Stormers in New Zealand losing by an average of 32 points per game, just last week they also lost to the Crusaders by 17, though they did have a spirited 2nd half of the game.
The Highlanders have built a strong record at home of late winning their last eight games. The last time they lost to a South African side was at home in 2016, though a red card early in the game disrupted any momentum for the Highlanders and they lost that fixture 14-15. The Stormers have struggled away from home winning only 2 of their last 8 away games.
This match typically throws up a few points.
In the last 3 games between these sides the match score has averaged 63 points per game. Under the roof in Dunedin we should see a fair few points as both sides play attacking rugby.
Over 60.53 at 1.90-3
Rebels v Brumbies
The Rebels have recruited the best in the off season gathering a mixture of former Force players and keeping the core of their best Rebels players from last season. In doing so they’ve had a great start to the year winning both their games, already doubling last seasons woeful solo victory.
The Brumbies have struggled already this year and watching both games they’ve lacked intensity, particularly at the breakdown where they seem shy to add men to recover or pilfer ball.
The Brumbies have beaten the Rebels in 3 of the last 5 games played, but history can be pretty much thrown out the door with the new look Rebels team.
I can only look on what I’ve seen so far and the both these teams have had the same draw so far playing both the Sunwolves and the Reds. The Brumbies struggled to win against the Sunwolves with a narrow 7 point victory while the Rebels belted them last week by 20. The Brumbies last week lost to the Reds in a dour affair losing by 8 points, while the Rebels beat the Reds by 26 points in Round 1 – though that game is hard to get a gauge on since the Reds were with 13 and 14 men throughout most of the game.
The Rebels should beat Brumbies this week and I think they’ll win this one in a tight, low scoring game.
Hurricanes v Crusaders
These two teams are the bookies favourites to win the competition this season and rightly so. Both has assembled similar squads to last season with the Hurricanes making the semi-finals last season and the Crusaders taking out the title.
The Hurricanes had a shocker in week 1 losing to the Bulls in South Africa, they rectified this by thrashing the Jaguares in a mistake riddled game in Argentina the following week. Meanwhile the Crusaders have had a good start to the season winning both games comfortably against the Chiefs and the Stormers.
The Hurricanes have had a good record against the Crusaders in recent times winning 5 of the last 7 matches. They also haven’t lost to the Crusaders at home since 2012. The Hurricanes might be a little tired having done the kilometres in the air in the last couple of weeks; they also have a 6 day turnaround which isn’t the greatest.
These games are quite low scoring of late with the last 4 games played in Wellington resulting in an average of 46 points per game.
The Crusaders have a few injuries in their squad at the moment; Matt Todd has a broken thumb while their playmaker Richie Mo’unga is out for a couple of months with a broken jaw.
I know it will be a tough challenge for the Hurricanes backing up from a long trip back home and a short turnaround but they always get up for this game. They have a healthy squad, unlike the Crusaders. I think the Hurricanes will scrape home in this one.
Reds v Bulls
The Reds had a good win on the weekend against the struggling Brumbies, though they failed to dot down for a try which would be some concern to new coach Brad Thorn. The Bulls upset the Hurricanes in Week 2 but were comfortably beaten by the Lions in an ill disciplined game which saw them down to 13 men for 10 minutes of the game.
The home team has won this fixture every game since 2014, which would suggest a Reds victory this weekend. The Bulls have won 3 of the last 4 games (3 home games) and has scored over 40 points in 3 of those games.
These teams throw the ball around a bit when they play and the average points accumulated per game in the last 5 games is 61.
I think after the Reds game last week the total may come in a little lower than it should, even more so with the weather that’s been around this week, we’ll have a stab at the overs here.
Over 48.53 at 1.90-3
Sharks v Sunwolves
The Sharks have looked good against the Lions in the first round, then after the bye they came up against the Waratahs and could only manage a draw. They’ll be targeting this game for the full 5 points. The Sunwolves were brave against the Brumbies in Round 2 and had the chance to win that game after a great first half effort; they followed that up with a pretty average 2nd half performance against the Rebels after a few key injuries.
The Sharks have beaten the Sunwolves on two occasions, both comfortably with the average score at 62 points per game. It would shock me if the Sunwolves won this game; they’ve never won an away game in their Super Rugby history.
The line for this game opened at -17.5 and has moved out considerably to -23.5. I’m not too confident to take on either line, the Sharks are untrustworthy at the best of times and the Sunwolves poor away record turns me off.
Lions v Blues
The Lions are the form team of the competition winning all three games albeit against some of the lesser teams in the competition. This year they actually play some NZ teams so they’ll be put to the test throughout the season. The Blues should arguably be unbeaten themselves but they’ve lost both games against the Chiefs and the Highlanders, I really think they’re a better side than their results show and you could argue that they haven’t really lost but they’ve beaten themselves.
The Lions have beaten the Blues in their last three games. Two of those games were quite tight winning by 3 points in both clashes, while the last game in 2016 was a blowout win to the Lions.
The Blues struggle away from home compared to the other NZ teams who are somewhat successful. They’ve won only 3 of their last 9 away games. The last 4 games between these two sides have averaged a low 46 points per game. However, the last 4 clashes between these sides in South Africa have averaged 66.5 points per game; so there is the potential for a false total here that we can exploit.
Over 63.54 at 1.90+3.6
Jaguares v Waratahs
The Jaguares look pretty average this year; I thought after the 2015 Rugby World Cup that Argentinian Rugby was starting to really get gains from being in the Four Nations and with their inclusion in that, that it would translate to the Jaguares team. They’ve started this season with 3 losses although 2 of those have been against top sides in the Lions and Hurricanes.
The Waratahs had a tough and somewhat lucky win against the Stormers in Round 2 and last week they had a gritty draw against the Sharks. They’re a lot better than what they were last season and I think they’ll be somewhat of a surprise package.
These two teams have only played once with the Jaguares upsetting the Waratahs in Sydney last year 40-27. The Waratahs were heavy favourites for that game and they had an absolute shocker. The Jaguares have lost 5 of their last 6 games dismissing the myth that they are “good at home, bad away”. While the Waratahs only won 2 away games in 2017; both of these to Australian sides.
An interesting clash but one that I won’t be getting involved in.