Just one unbeaten side remains in Super Rugby and to the surprise of many, it’s the Stormers leading the pack after a perfect 4-0 start.
They will get a chance to extend that streak late Saturday night when they host the Blues and gain ground on the Crusaders and Brumbies who are both on a bye.
In a slightly more civilised time zone, the most interesting game for Aussie fans will be the Reds looking to back up from their 59 point thumping of the Sunwolves with a game against a side that is actually Super Rugby calibre in the Sharks.
We’ve got our tips and previews for all six Super Rugby games this weekend right here so read on and check out our plays.
The Highlanders are well on their way to confirming their status as New Zealand’s worst team and even so, they should still have no trouble dispatching of the Rebels in this one. One thing that has never made the trip to Dunedin with the Rebels team is their tackling ability, giving up 43, 33, 51 and 43 points in their four visits to date. While the Aaron Mauger coached side hasn’t been scoring as freely this season, this could be the perfect get right opportunity considering all three of the Rebels defeats have been by double digit margins.
I’ll be honest, I spent around half an hour trying to work out what I was missing with the market for this game. The Lions have won five straight against the Waratahs and while they admittedly haven’t looked like world beaters so far this season, I don’t get why they are outsiders against the winless Tahs. In all three of their games so far, they have been clearly the second best side including a limp performance in their last up defeat to the Rebels. After a whole lot of contemplation I decided to just settle on my first instinct and take the Lions outright.
The Sunwolves just endured a 59 point loss to the Reds in Brisbane and they now head over to Wellington to face a better Hurricanes team. Based on that logic the 32.5 point line looks to be too generous towards the home side and should be an automatic “get on” play. In their first meeting the Hurricanes obliterated the Sunwolves 83-17 and have won the last two clashes although last year’s one was a lot closer finishing 29-23. I do like the home side to win this by 30-something points but not enough to back such a big line with any sort of confidence, I’ll keep the powder dry on this game and hope for another ridiculous blowout or the mother of all upsets.
I’m not going to use the tired old cliché of “now the Reds play a REAL rugby side” since a) the Sunwolves are not an imaginary team and b) beating anyone 64-5 is pretty damn impressive. That being said, the Sharks are a massive step up in class and we could be in for a shootout at Suncorp Stadium. These are the top two scoring teams in Super Rugby and admittedly the Reds total is inflated by last week, they still have plenty of points in their team if their backline continues to click. There’s a really good case to be made for backing the Reds here, especially at this price if you’re expecting them to shorten as the week goes on, but in spite of the good signs so far, I just need a bit more evidence to get fully on board so I’ll take the Sharks with the small line.
The Stormers will be eager to extend their unbeaten run to five when they take on the 2-2 Blues this weekend, and their suffocating defence looked back to its best last weekend, holding the Jaguares to just seven points. With the visiting Blues full of confidence after just defeating the Bulls last weekend, but the Stormers are on another level. Not that they need any extra advantage with the way they are playing at the moment but, based on the research done by Green and Gold Rugby this week you can also back the Stormers at the line with a bit more confidence thanks to the appointment of South African Jaco Peyper as the referee for this one. I’ll take the Stormers with the -8.5 handicap now but by Saturday night I might even be feeling pretty confident in the Stormers by more than two tries.
The Jaguares South African tour didn’t get off to a great start going down to the Stormers but they go from the top to the bottom of the conference with the winless Bulls up next. Last season saw them sweep the Bulls and they should replicate that feat this season but this one will probably be quite similar to the 22-20 win in Bloemfontein last April. In all three of their matches the Bulls have kept things close and I can see this one becoming a kicking duel as both sides try to cancel each other out. The edge still has to go to the Jaguares though as they have the difference makers to get them home here.