Super Rugby Round 11 Preview

New Zealand continues to prove to be the benchmark in world rugby and if the form of their Super Rugby teams is a guide then we could be in for another year of domination by the All Blacks on the international scene.

The Hurricanes return from the bye in round ten to host the Sunwolves at the Cake Tin in Wellington.

The Rebels will be looking for an improved performance against the Stormers after falling off the pace.

The Queensland Reds face a tough assignment coming up against the Lions and Blues coach Tana Umaga will look for his side to notch a rare win against Jaguares.

The Brumbies have another opportunity for an Australian Super Rugby side to get a rare win against a side from across the Tasman when they take on the Crusaders and the Bulls clash with the Highlanders to finish the round.

Hurricanes v Sunwolves
Hurricanes to beat the line (-40.5 points)

The Hurricanes are undefeated at home this season with their only loss in the competition coming on the road to the Bulls in South Africa.

The Hurricanes have a game in hand on the Crusaders and sit two points behind the champs in the New Zealand conference.

The match against the Sunwolves is the perfect opportunity for the Hurricanes to flex their title credentials.

All Blacks winger Nehe Milner-Skudder makes his long-awaited return to action after sitting on the sidelines with a shoulder injury since October 2017.

Finlay Christie will make his debut at scrum-half and will partner with Beauden Barrett in the halves.

Winger Julian Savea is also expected to make his return to the starting side for the Hurricanes after missing the match with Chiefs.

In their only previous encounter played in Tokyo, the Hurricanes won that clash by a record margin 83-17. The Sunwolves remain without a win in 2018 and have only bonus points to show for their efforts this season.

The Hurricanes will win this match comfortably and expect a few scoring records to be broken at the Cake Tin.

Stormer v Melbourne Rebels
Stormers to beat the line (-13.5 points)

The Rebels will need to create their own slice of history if they are to get back amongst the winners this round. In fourteen attempts Melbourne have never won a game in South Africa while the Stormers have won twelve of their last thirteen clashes against visiting sides.

For the visiting Rebels side, captain Adam Coleman returns to the starting line-up along with Lopeti Timani and Billy Meakes.

Wallaby Dane Haylett-Petty is out with injury, forcing Jack Maddocks to take over the duties at fullback

The Stormers are coming off a loss in their last encounter and should be too strong for the Rebels at home.

Melbourne have struggled on the road in South Africa and may find the atmosphere in Cape Town too hot to handle.

Queensland Reds v Lions
Lions to beat the line (-12.5 points)

The losses are beginning to add up for Brad Thorn’s side, losing their last four games. The Reds have been disappointing of late and have struggled to adapt to life on the road. Queensland faces a difficult assignment coming up against the high scoring Lions.

The last time these two sides clashed, the Lions ran away with the encounter, winning 44-14 in Round 4 last year in Johannesburg.

The Reds will look to veteran George Smith to provide some stability to a side sorely lacking in Super Rugby experience. Hamish Stuart has been pencilled in to make his debut after fly-half Jono Lance was ruled out with injury. Teenager Jordan Petaia comes into the starting XV after making a strong impression from the bench in the last couple of weeks.

With James Slipper and Scott Higginbotham ruled out through injury, Wallaby Samu Kerevi gets a rare opportunity to captain the young Reds side.

Queensland are a work in progress and coach Brad Thorn will take some heart from an improved performance.

The Lions will have no issues with the Reds at home and expect them to put on the points against one of the big improvers in the competition.

Blues v Jaguares
Blues to win ($1.36)

The Blues can take some heart from the fact they were able to get across the line against Jaguares 24-16 the last time these two sides clashed in Auckland, back in Round 6, 2016.

The Blues have struggled under a tremendous injury toll this season that also includes All Black forward Patrick Tuipulota and TJ Faiane.

The Blues have only won two games this season and coach Tana Umaga is under tremendous pressure to retain his role with the organization.

The Blues should be able to grind out a much-needed win against a South American side that has shown some real improvement this season.

Brumbies v Crusaders
Brumbies to cover the line (+16.5 points)

David Pocock has been ruled out of the clash with the defending champions with a calf strain.

The loss to Jaguares last round could prove devastating to the Brumbies chances of making the Super Rugby Finals this season.

ACT coach Dan McKellar has added Andrew Smith to his backline, while Tom Cusack moves to the open-side flanker role.

The Crusaders have recalled skipper Sam Whitelock after the All Black forward was rested in the win last week over the Sunwolves.

Codie Taylor returns to the front row and Jordan Taufua and David Havili return for the heavyweight clash.

Expect the drought to continue for Australian Super Rugby sides, as the Crusaders will notch the 36th consecutive win for Super Rugby sides from across the Tasman.

Bulls v Highlanders
Highlanders to win ($1.50)

The Bulls return to Loftus Road to host the 2015 Super Rugby champions, the Highlanders. After a surprise victory over the Hurricanes raised expectations for John Mitchell’s side, the Bulls have struggled for consistency.

The Bulls have a poor overall record against the Kiwi side, winning five over their last eighteen encounters. The Highlanders have won five of their last seven games this season but have struggled away from home.

The Bulls will be confident of causing a major upset but the Highlanders simply have too much class across their side and should have issues in being able to record a comfortable victory on the road in South Africa.