The Super Rugby ladder is starting to separate and the early pace setters have a chance to increase the gap with some big wins this weekend.
Over in South Africa the clash between the Sharks and Jaguares looms as the game of the round while the Bulls are the last side looking for a win on the season.
We have tips and previews for all seven games this weekend right here.
While the Sunwolves are far from the hardest hit by the Coronavirus, it has had a huge impact on their Super Rugby season. This is one of two home matches that has been relocated due to the restrictions in place on Japan and it won’t make life any easier after back to back blowouts at the hands of the Reds and Hurricanes. The Brumbies will be full of confidence after upsetting the Chiefs in their last match and as long as they don’t take the Sunwolves too lightly they should be fine. With how the nominal home side has looked in the last week though, I’m happy to back against them at just about any line from here until the end of the season.
It’s starting to look like 2020 might be more of the same for the Queensland Reds with one win from their first five games despite some truly good patches of play. Unfortunately they will need to find a way to put together a full 80 minute effort and it seems unlikely that it will come in Christchurch here. Truth be told even if they were to put together a strong performance from start to finish it probably won’t be enough. In their last three away games against the Crusaders they have given up 38, 58 and 38 points while never scoring more than 17. It’s going to be a long night for this young Reds team, and I’ll jump on the Crusaders at the line.
It looks like things finally clicked for the Waratahs last week when they ran over the Lions and came away with a 12 point win. The problem with that however is I can’t shake the Reds getting a reality check from the Sharks last weekend and I think the Chiefs are a better side than the Sharks and the Reds are better than the Waratahs. When it goes wrong for the New South Welshmen it really goes wrong with all three of their defeats coming by 14 points or more. If they fall behind and have to chase this match in the first half, I could very easily see the floodgates opening in the worst kind of way for the home side.
The lone New Zealand derby of the round features two of the more impressive sides in the competition as the three win Hurricanes and Blues teams face off in Wellington. The Blues are coming off a very profitable tour of South Africa defeating the Bulls and Stormers. All three of their wins have come away from Eden Park this season but the Hurricanes will be their sternest test yet. We should see plenty of points in this one as two of New Zealand’s highest scoring teams face off but I can’t back against the Hurricanes and their hot streak. They have won their last four at home dating back to last season and have also defeated the Blues in the last nine meetings. It will be a close game that goes down to the wire but the edge has to go to the home team.
This is a market overreaction to jump on while you can. The Rebels deserve plenty of praise for their win over the Highlanders last weekend and backing any South African team on tour can be a bit of a roll of the dice but these sides should be a lot closer in price than they are right now. The Lions have never lost to the Rebels and while this side isn’t quite as good as it used to be, they should still be able to handle their opponents here. $2.60 is way over the odds so jump on the value before the market corrects itself.
After a draining four game tour where they picked up three wins, the Sharks return home to a tough assignment against the 3-2 Jaguares. Both teams have, along with the Stormers, set the early pace in Super Rugby and in the race for the South African Conference and minor premiership, every point is crucial. Even at this early stage of the season though, you wonder how much the Sharks have in the tank after such a long time spent travelling. This will close out a three game South African tour for the Jaguares before returning home until Easter. It’s a rare play to back the home side to be the more fatigued one but I’m expecting a letdown from the Sharks as they count down to their Round 9 bye.
Currently bringing up the rear of the table, the Bulls might never have a better chance for their first victory of the season than this week. The 1-4 Highlanders just lost to the Rebels and should not be treated with the regular reverence you might give a New Zealand team. The Bulls have looked a lot better in their last two games pushing the Blues all the way and putting up 24 on the Jaguares in a losing effort. I’ll take the home favourites at the line here.