Hurricanes vs Chiefs
The extended format of the Super Rugby tournament means squad rotation and managing injuries have become increasingly important. Dave Rennie’s thwarted attempts to bring Casey Laulala led him to bemoan the issue of player exodus from New Zealand and depth available.
That inability to field a consistent side has likely been the reason his side have conceded an average of 28 points in the last 5 matches. They ended last season with defeats to both the Crusaders and Hurricanes and face those sides home and away in their run in.
The Canes have proved an infuriatingly unpredictable team to back so far, scoring plenty of points against the Kings, ‘Tahs and Cheetahs and then looking blunt in other matches. It seems that Naka Drotske’s comments about targeting them up front caused plenty of consternation and were used as motivation to front up last week.
Canes have won 7 of the last 11 meetings between the side by an average score of 26-21 and the last 7 at home by 31-20. The recent meetings, bar one exception in 2012, have tended to be close affairs with 5/6 decided by 6 points or less.
The Chiefs appear to be comfortable enough scoring early points (they’ve reached 10 points first in 9/11 games) but have let sides back into matches recently. The hosts have led at halftime in their previous 10 home games won the race to 10 points in 8 matches so far - but have been outscored 2nd half in 7/11 games at all venues.
The hosts have scored 28 tries and conceded 33, while for the Chiefs – it’s 36 (most in competition) and 28 allowed. Even allowing for it being a NZ derby, the total tries line could be worth watching. No Smith and Kahui means both sides defensive leaders are missing.
Given home advantage and their record in the fixture, along with the Chiefs defensive issues – I think the +4 for the Canes and 2.5 outright price are generous.
There have been 8 cards shown in the last 9 Chiefs matches and 1 in the previous 4 Canes outings.
Canes have conceded 8/33 tries against front-rowers this season, while the Chiefs have scored 5/36 from there. Will have a look at Afeaki anytime scorer at 12.0, who has scored 2 in 7 games this season. Aki at 4.2 also looks big.
For the hosts, Vito at 6.5 is decent especially when you consider the Chiefs have conceded tries against backrowers recently (Sharks and Rebels).
Hurricanes: 15 Andre Taylor, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13 Reynold Lee-Lo, 12 Tim Bateman, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito (captain), 7 Jack Lam, 6 Faifili Levave, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben May, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements: 16 Reggie Goodes, 17 Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18 James Broadhurst, 19 Brad Shields, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Tusi Pisi, 22 James Marshall.
Chiefs: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Lelia Masaga, 13 Charlie Ngatai, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Matt Vant Leven, 7 Tanerau Latimer, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Craig Clarke (c), 3 Ben Afeaki, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Mahonri Schwalger, 17 Ben Tameifuna, 18 Mike Fitzgerald, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 August Pulu, 21 Dan Waenga, 22 Save Tokula.
Rebels vs Stormers
The Rebels have lost 9 of their 11 games this season with the only victories coming against the Force, a side they’ve beaten on 5/6 occasions.
If you ignore those wins over the Perth side then the season can be split, firstly into a run of 5 games between rounds 2-6 when they lost by 15-36 and were heavily outscored each time in the 2nd half, by an average of 19 points. Since round 8 though, the average score has been 30-34 and they’ve outscored teams after the break in the last 3.
Coach Damien Hill has lamented “I’m sick of bonus points” and it remains to be seen whether his side can go that extra step now and start winning these close games.
The Stormers were always going to be deemed favourites going into this match, however last season the Rebels were one of only 4 sides to score more than 20 points against them and are the only team in 27 matches to score 21 points in a half against them.
The visitors’ results have seen a pattern of 2 wins, then 2 losses (and repeat) so far. There has been an average score of 20-21 in their games though that is slightly inflated by high-scoring matches against the Chiefs and Brumbies in rounds 3-4. They’ve scored 37 of 50 points in their last 3 games in the 2nd half and carried for a paltry 85 metres last week.
Rebels conceded first points in 10/11 games.
Allister Coetzee’s quote of “this is quite a good and exciting team and we’re looking forward to seeing how they perform on Friday” isn’t going to mask the fact that losing both Rynhardt Elstadt and Duane Vermeulen are big blows to the side. Much will be made of no Beale or O’Connor for the hosts and the inclusion of Hegarty but the Jantjies / Schreuder partnership is hardly established. It’s also the case that ‘exciting’ is hardly a term that can be used for the Stormers.
The last 5 Rebels matches and 8 of 10 Stormers games have been decided by 7 point margins or less. I think +8 for the hosts is the play here and that 4.33 for a home win by 1-12 points is worth at least a quick look.
Inman is in good form, so the 7.5 for him to score anytime appeals. Higginbotham is making a real impact for the Rebels and 4.5 is about right.
For the Stormers, de Jongh at 3.75 looks the best value – Habana and Aplon will rightly be popular but as both are under 3.0 am avoiding. Giant ‘winger’ Bekker is a best of 6.5 so is another usually good option with a price that doesn’t appeal this week.
Rebels: 15 Jason Woodward, 14 Tom English, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Lachlan Mitchell, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Jarrod Saffy, 5 Cadeyrn Neville, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Luke Jones, 19 Gareth Delve, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Kimami Sitauti.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (capt), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Don Armand, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Gary van Aswegen, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Force vs Sharks
Sharks have lost 5 in a row and now 4 consecutive away games. Since demolishing the Rebels, they’ve been behind at halftime in 5/6 games. John Plumtree’s side have shown plenty of spirit to claw back deficits in recent contests against the Chiefs and Reds, but those 1st half problems need resolving quickly.
The visitors have conceded 16 of 23 tries in the opening 40 minutes and have only scored the first match try once.
Force have lost 9/12 games this season but bar the defeat at the Brumbies have proved a tough opponent to put away. Having racked up a plenty of air miles, their remaining matches are all at home. Victory over the Crusaders and a draw against the Reds there should be enough to show they aren’t to be taken lightly despite their record.
Sharks have won 6/7 clashes with the Force by an average of 30-16.
A story in the week surfaced about Keegan Daniel believing there were too many Afrikaans players in the Sharks set up and being unhappy with cliques. The rumour has been shot down by the captain and the club so it will be interesting to see if it serves to bond the side for this game.
Force have scored 14/19 tries between 21-60 minutes and Sharks 18/22 which may assist for in-play betting.
Force conceded 13/27 tries against wingers which is a much higher rate than the league average and may point to Mvovo at 3.1
The Force backrow, led by Hodgson have been spiky all season and are up against plenty of grunt in Alberts and co. Ref James Leckie have given 3 cards in his 2 games this season, while the Force matches have yielded 9. It is worth noting that their 4 home games have seen 0 though.
Similar to the Rebels vs Stormers match, I am going to be backing the hosts with the points here (+3 available). Certainly don’t think a team that has lost 5 in a row should be priced as low as 1.57 away as they are in some places.
While the Force aren’t the most fashionable side to back, they have led at HT in 3 of their 4 home games. Given those 1st half issues that have plagued the Sharks, Force to lead at the break at 2.1 or the HT/FT at 3.25 appeal.
(Sharks fans can always opt for a different angle and go Force HT / Sharks FT at 7.5. The Force have been outscored 2nd half in all 4 home games)
Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Ben Jacobs, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Matt Hodgson (c), 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Toby Lynn, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Heath Tessmann, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Rory Walton, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Brett Sheehan, 21 Junior Rasolea, 22 Sam Norton-Knight.
Sharks: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19 Derick Minnie / Lubabalo Mtembu, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Piet Lindeque.
Crusaders vs Blues
The 19 point defeat by the Blues at the start of the season was the biggest loss in 40 games for the Crusaders and highest margin against a fellow New Zealand side since the Blues 39-5 win back in 2003. Adequate revenge perhaps, for the 59-12 hammering in Christchurch last season – which was the visitors’ worst defeat in the competition.
Crusaders have won 8 of the last 11 meetings with the Blues by an average score of 29-20 and 7 of the previous 8 at home by 34-19. They’ve won their 4 home matches this season by 38-18 and since the 2010 season, it’s been 26/29 wins by a rate of 33-16 on their own patch.
Since the last time they met the Auckland side at home, they’ve averaged an impressive 1st half average of +14 points in 8 matches, while the opening half has been highest scoring in 5 of the previous 6 meetings between the teams.
Blues have 6 remaining games and 4 of them are away. They’ve lost their last 3 away matches and have been outscored after the break each time, as well as in their last 3 games at all venues. After racing to a 24-5 lead against the Rebels, there was clear disappointment shown post-match, at how the Melbourne side then took control.
The Crusaders have 4 home games remaining and can call upon 2 of their 3 main men in Read and Carter. There have also been hints that McCaw may return for the last 2 matches while the rumours of Blackadder taking the Scotland appear to have cooled. It does look set up for a late Crusaders run at the conference and they will have a couple of motivated players that appear to be off the All Blacks radar.
The visitors have placed F Saili on the bench, likely due to fears of his defensive organisation but also perhaps to keep him grounded after the call up to the AB’s training camp.
Blues are a much improved side this season and their defeats have been by 7 points or less. I like the idea of giving them a +9 point head start in this game and hoping that the usual home dominance is negated by both the fact it’s a derby and a negative Crusaders reaction to having a week off.
Frank (the tank) Halai is available at 3.0 to score anytime while Read at 4.5 is always worth a look.
Crusaders: 15 Tom Taylor, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Luke Whitelock, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Adam Whitelock, 22 Israel Dagg.
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Ali Williams (c), 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tim Perry.
Replacements: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Brendon O’Connor, 20 Jamison Gibson-Park, 21 Baden Kerr, 22 Francis Saili.
Tahs vs Brumbies
The Tahs have won 5 of their last 7 games and 5 of 6 home games by an average score of 26-22. All 6 of those home matches have been decided by a margin of 6 points or less.
They’ve lost the last 3 games with the Brumbies but won 9/11 clashes at home against them by a rate of 28-18. Brumbies won 10 of their last 13 Australian derbies by 25-13 and are unbeaten in 8.
The visitors are top of the conference but whilst they’ve only lost twice this season, the draws against Kings and Reds mean it’s 3 wins from their last 7 games. With the Reds starting to find form and memories of what happened last season, there will be a desire not to let their grip on the division slip.
Brumbies have scored 21/30 tries in 1st half and have led at the break in 8 matches. They’ve scored first points in 9 games and the 1st try in 10 contests. However after the break, they’ve been outscored in 6 of the last 8 games.
The hosts lost in 8 rounds last season by less than a converted try and only outscored 2 teams in the 2nd half. The late-earned victories over Chiefs and Stormers this year may suggest that the side has a greater confidence this term and belief in the system that Cheika has in place.
On paper there appears to be a high chance of a styles clash and Jake White will have noted the hosts woes at the lineout. At the risk of stating the obvious – would expect them to use Mogg’s hefty boot and look to play the match in the Tahs half.
The hosts do have a fly-half in great form at the moment in Foley – who has scored 4 tries, assisted 10 while making 9 linebreaks and also assisting 10. Izzy Folau has scored 7 tries, with 110 runs for 1189m. The stats show 3 assists but he seems to have played a part in the vast majority of the Tahs scores.
Will opt for Tahs+1 in this one – they seem to be -1 at most firms and I think it will be a far different outcome to the hammering they took earlier in the season.
Another angle may be Brumbies HT / Tahs FT at 7.5 – that would capitalise on a number of the 2 sides’ different trends.
Folau at 3.25 and Speight at 3.0 both look reasonable prices for anytime scorers.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau. 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Rob Horne, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (capt) 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 John Ulugia, 17 Sekope Kepu, 18 Will Skelton, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Matt Lucas, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Peter Betham.
Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 George Smith, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Scott Sio.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Fotu Auelua, 19 Colby Faingaa, 20 Ian Prior, 21 Robbie Coleman, 22 Pat McCabe.
Bulls vs Highlanders
Bulls have won all 5 home games this season by an average score of 33-19 and 16/20 games by 32-21 since they last met the Highlanders there.
They’ve won 7/10 matches this season with the defeats coming away to sides currently ranked 6th, 4th and 1st. In both losses at the Reds and Brumbies there was late drama that the Bulls will feel cost them valuable points.
The hosts have scored 17/25 tries in the 2nd half ,though the balance of when they score their points has been slightly evened out with strong opening halves against the Kings and Hurricanes recently.
They are still the only side not to concede a try in the opening quarter and have won the race to 10 points in 7/10 games (the Highlanders have only done so on 3 occasions). It’s also the case that the Bulls have outscored opponents 2nd half in the last 6 matches.
The Highlanders revival lasted all of 1 game and the defeat at the Kings was their 12th in 13 contests. They’ve lost their previous 6 away trips by an average of 15-29.
Highlanders do have a decent record against the Bulls, winning 11/17 meetings by 30-25 and 4/9 away by 31-34. There have been an average of 65 match points in this fixture and the visitors have allowed an average of 29 points this season.
Will be looking to back home points when the line is available and overs for tries.
Gear at 3.75 and Smith at 5.5 are both decent prices for try scorers.
Bulls: 15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Lionel Mapoe, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (c), 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Frik Kirsten, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellet.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Werner Kruger, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouchè, 22 Bjorn Basson.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Tino Nemani, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Colin Slade, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 John Hardie, 6 Joe Wheeler, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Chris King, 2 Andrew Hore (c), 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Tony Woodcock, 18 Elliot Dixon, 19 TJ Ioane, 20 Fumiaki Tanaka, 21 Hayden Parker, 22 Jason Emery.
Cheetahs vs Reds
Cheetahs have won 3/5 home games by an average score of 28-24. Since the heavy defeat at the Chiefs, it’s been 7 wins from 9 games at a rate of 26-20. It’s worth noting they haven’t beaten a team ranked higher than 8th in the ladder yet and their 3 remaining home games are against current top 5 sides.
The Reds coaching team had mentioned that fixing a faltering attack was the main plan for last week and 29 points in the opening half against the Sharks was a huge improvement, considering 42 points had been scored in the previous 3 rounds.
Reds won 4/5 games with the Cheetahs by 26-13 and the hosts have only scored 21 points combined in the last 3 meetings.
Cheetahs have scored 10 of their 26 tries in final 20 minutes which compares favourably to the Reds 3/25.
It is unlikely that Naka Drotske will highlight potential weaknesses of the opposition again, after his comments wound up the Hurricanes. There are instances where teams get lured into playing the wrong game-plan, the Blues against Bulls earlier in the season is an example and I think you can include the Cheetahs last week.
Having said they would keep it tight and take on the Canes up front, too often their play was loose, reverting back to previous bad habits. When they did use their forwards, the rewards were clear – with battering rams Strauss and Oosthuizen both carrying for over 40m and number 8 van der Walt making 110m (to go with his 14 tackles). If they were to make similar mistakes again this week, then a Reds outfit that showed they can go ‘coast to coast’ could cause problems.
Will take the Reds 1-10 at 3.2 and to win at 1.91 in this game.
There are a few try scorer options that appeal – Rhule at 3.3, Le Roux at 4.0 and Oosthuizen at 7.5 for the hosts and 3.1 for Davies and 6.5 for Genia all look good. Given they all look big price, it will be worth checking the weather before kick off.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Ligtoring Landman, 19 Boom Prinsloo, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Riaan Smit, 22 Rayno Benjamin.
Reds: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 James Slipper, 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Ed O’Donoghue, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Ben Tapuai.