Here we go again!
The 2020 Super Rugby season (aka the Sunwolves farewell tour) gets underway this weekend and there’s been a few welcome changes to the competition this season, most notably the draw runs straight through to June with no interruption for test matches.
That’s right, 21 straight weeks of rugby until someone (probably the Crusaders) wins the title.
Check out our Super Rugby Round 1 tips here.
There’s been plenty of turnover for both these sides with a few departures but a couple of big name additions. While the Blues will debut new flyhalf Beauden Barrett, the Chiefs made possibly the biggest pickup in all of Super Rugby with former Wales coach Warren Gatland coming on board. Those changes might level the sides out a little bit but the Chiefs are still the better side, I’m expecting a pretty close encounter but I still have to give the edge to the visitors in this one to score first and keep the Blues at arms length.
The first Aussie derby of 2020 sees the Brumbies host the Reds in Canberra in conditions that may actually favour the visitors here. With a forecast maximum of 40 on Friday and a kickoff temperature in the mid to high 30’s, it might help out the Reds who are used to training in the Queensland heat. These sides closed out the 2019 regular season against one another on a frigid night in Canberra that saw the Brumbies run out 40-27 winners. This one will probably be a touch lower scoring because of the weather and the fact both sides have had a few changes to their squad over the offseason. I’m not quite ready to back the Reds outright just yet but if their centres combination of James O’Connor & Jordan Petaia can get going early they will give the Reds every chance.
Until proven otherwise, we are going to continue to ask the same question of the Sharks that we did last season, which version of the team will turn up? They and the Bulls will probably be competing to avoid finishing last in the South African Conference so this should be a pretty competitive contest. With so much turnover and uncertainty about how these teams are going to go this season, it’s worth staying out of this market for the time being. Although if you want a no bet tip to win, take the Sharks at home.
This is going to be a common theme in any Sunwolves game where the line is under three converted tries. I’ll back the Rebels to get their season off to a good start with a convincing win over the Super Rugby side that is about to be read its last rights. The Rebels have won every match between these two and their smallest margin of victory was 20 points.
If there is ever a good time to get the Crusaders, it’s in the opening round when the powerhouse side in the Southern Hemisphere might be a little slow out of the gate. Of course I’m not going to go all light blue scarf wearing fanatic and take the Waratahs to win, but it might not be the blowout you would forecast most weeks. The question here is Crusaders by how much? The extra value of the 1-13 winning margin certainly jumps off the screen but 18.5 is a lot of points at this stage of the season and a bit of extra room to work with. Last year, the Waratahs pulled off a stunning upset in Sydney and while I highly doubt they’ll do it again, they have a history of playing the Crusaders close.
If you were ranking the Super Rugby games this weekend in terms of watchability, this one might just be the best of the bunch. Both sides figure to feature in the finals picture later on in the year and this game will come down to which side can dictate the terms of the game. If the Hurricanes can get on top early and force the Stormers into a track meet, they won’t be able to keep up. On the other hand John Dobson’s side can slow the game down and turn it into a duel of the forward packs the Stormers will have a chance. The last time the Hurricanes travelled to Cape Town they went down 19-18 but I like them to score a few too many points for the Stormers to keep up.
This is one of those lines that you can easily see where all the money is going. The Lions started out at -5.5 and has now blown out to -10.5 and might get even higher. That’s cause for concern considering the Lions have won their last three against the Jaguares including both games last season when it was a down year for the Lions. Expect a lot of points in this game and I’m going to back the Lions in an upset as the Jaguares look like they are still in preseason mode.