Surely it can’t get any worse for the Aussie Super Rugby sides after last weekend?
Actually this round of games might put that theory to the test, at least for the three sides in action, the Waratahs have a bye to try and work out what they need to improve on (spoiler alert: it’s a lot of things).
The Rebels have to take on a Sharks side full of confidence while the Brumbies travel to New Zealand to take on the Chiefs, as for the Reds they finally get a home game but a loss to the lowly Sunwolves might just break the camel’s back… or at least the belief Brad Thorn has a clear plan.
Overseas the standout fixture is undoubtedly the Jaguares travelling for the first time as they face off with the unbeaten Stormers for early bragging rights in South Africa.
We’ve got our weekly Super Rugby tips on hand for you right here so check out which plays we’ve picked out for Round 4 right here!
It’s been a very long time since the Crusaders lost a home game and even longer since they lost at home to the Highlanders. In the last 12 meetings between these two sides, the Highlanders have won a grand total of three games and their last win in Christchurch was in 2016. Even when the Highlanders were not New Zealand’s worst team, they still struggled away from home with two wins from their last nine and just three covers in that time. Their line record against the Crusaders is not much better with the three-time defending champions covering in six of their last eight home games against Otago.
The Sharks ran out of steam against the Hurricanes last week to end their unbeaten start to the season, giving up three tries to one after the break. There is no chance the Rebels will be able to score five tries on them here though which makes this game a much tighter contest on paper, which is why the market doesn’t seem to want to split these sides. For some reason though, the early line has the Rebels as favourites, perhaps an overreaction to their win against a mediocre Waratahs side. I am going to need a lot more evidence they are on the right track and it might come in this game but until they show me a bit more, I’m happy to back the visiting Sharks at a small line.
It’s almost unfair on the Brumbies, a week after getting punched in the gut by the Highlanders, they now travel to New Zealand to face the unbeaten Chiefs who are fresh off demolishing the Sunwolves in Japan. The Brumbies are not short of scoring and should find a way to get over 20 points but the Chiefs are too good at the moment to back against, plus when you consider the overall history of Australian sides when they head over to New Zealand, this could be a brutal display to sit through… unless you’ve backed the Chiefs at the line.
It’s hard to sugar coat the Reds 0-3 start, but if you were planning out the start of their season a month ago, that certainly appeared to be the most likely scenario after trips to the Brumbies, Lions and Jaguares. As tempting as it may be to place most of the blame for their last two defeats on the guy with the whistle, the Reds have mastered the ability to self-destruct in short order which only compounds when decisions go against them. I’m going to back them to put together a slightly more complete performance this week as the Sunwolves are still an inferior side. If the Reds play they way they did in the first half against the Jaguares they should have no problems putting up a big score on their Japanese based opponents.
Come to think of it, the Stormers might actually be the best team in Super Rugby right now and they showed remarkable mettle to get by the Lions. Now they return home looking to bolster their advantage at the top of the South African conference against the Jaguares who are travelling for the first time this season. Outside of the first meeting between these teams, the home side has been able to hold serve, with the games in South Africa all being decided by at least two scores. I think the Stormers should be able to limit the Jaguares attack and keep them under 20 points and if this turns into a kicking duel, I’ll take Damian Willemse in his familiar surroundings to hold his nerve.
I had to stop and think for a second, I can’t remember the last time I felt this confident backing the Blues away from home. But this is as much a desire to back against the Bulls as it is actually thinking the visitors will do enough to win. Their last win in South Africa came in 2012 but for some reason they have only played in Pretoria once since then, going down 38-22 in 2014. They have more than held their own so far this season though and look like the won’t be New Zealand’s worst team, while the Bulls have looked like the Sunwolves and Rebels might actually have a shot at beating them.