The Super Rugby season rolls into Round 13, including a season-defining derby between the Rebels and Brumbies, and the Waratahs facing mission impossible to end the Aussie teams’ drought against Kiwis sides.
History: Played 28: Hurricanes 13 V Blues 13 (2 Draws).
Last meeting: April 15, 2017: Hurricanes 28 d Blues 24 at Eden Park.
Final Thoughts: The embattled Blues have been buoyed by an upset win over the Waratahs last weekend – just their third victory of the season.
The 8-1 Hurricanes put away the dangerous Lions 28-19 – their eighth win on the trot – to stay on course for a table-topping finish.
Both teams have big inclusions, with Sonny Bill Williams starting for the Blues after two months on the sidelines and TJ Perenara returning on the Hurricanes’ bench.
The Hurricanes have won six of their last seven against the Blues and boast an 8-1-6 all-time record in the rivalry as the away team. The last three encounters were decided by 1-12 margins.
The Blues haven’t beaten a fellow Kiwi team since Round 1, 2016 and there doesn’t seem much chance of them ending the drought here.
History: Played 1: Reds 1 V Sunwolves 0.
Last meeting: May 21, 2016: Reds 35 d Sunwolves 25 at Suncorp Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The Sunwolves are still winless this year but earned some respect for their overachieving performances in losses to Kiwi sides the Blues (24-10), Crusaders (33-11) and Hurricanes (43-15).
Back on their home track they’ll fancy their chances against the Reds, but the Queensland outfit – who also had a rest last week – rolled the Lions 27-22 in Brisbane in their last start to end a four-game losing run.
The teams have not met since the Sunwolves’ 2016 debut season, when the Reds left it late to seal a 10-point win in Brisbane.
The Reds get James Slipper and Jono Lance back from injury and should be too strong. The Sunwolves tend to fade late and we’re more interested in the second-half line for this one.
History: Played 22: Crusaders 18 V Waratahs 4.
Last meeting: April 2, 2017: Crusaders 41 d Waratahs 22 at Allianz Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The Waratahs’ shock loss to the Blues in Sydney last week extended Australian teams losing runs against New Zealand sides to an extraordinary 38 matches. The prospects of them ending that hoodoo on the behalf of the Aussie Super Rugby contingent at the expense of the defending champs appear remote.
The Waratahs are still leading the Australian Conference with a 5-1-3 record, but they have lost their last two – both at home – with the Lions also giving them a touch-up in Round 10. Nick Phipps is back while Curtis Rona moves to centre.
The 8-2 Crusaders swamped the Rebels 55-10 on the road last weekend and downed the Brumbies 21-8 in Round 11; their winning streak stands at six games.
The Crusaders have won 13 of their last 15 against the Waratahs, including convincing wins by 19 points or more in the past two seasons. The ’Tahs have won just one of 13 away games against the Christchurch-based outfit.
Those stats are enough for us to take on the huge points start in this one.
History: Played 19: Highlanders 11 V Lions 8.
Last meeting: July 30, 2016 (semi-final): Lions 42 d Highlanders 30 at Emirates Airlines Park.
Final Thoughts: The 6-3 Highlanders are smarting from a 38-12 drubbing at the hands of the Sharks in Durban. The result came out of the blue after the southerners pipped the Bulls after the siren a week earlier.
The Lions’ tour Down Under has been hit-and-miss, routing the Waratahs 29-0, losing to the Reds 27-22 and competing well against the Hurricanes in a 28-19 loss.
The Lions have won their last two – including a classic semi-final two seasons ago – but both matches were in Johannesburg. The Highlanders boast a 9-1 home record against the Lions.
The Last 12 games between the teams have been decided by 1-12 margins, including seven games with a margin of five or less.
The injury-plagued Highlanders have opted to rest Aaron Smith, but there’s still more than enough star power in their backline to account for the Lions under the roof in Dunedin.
History: Played 14: Brumbies 9 V Rebels 5.
Last meeting: March 9, 2018: Rebels 33 d Brumbies 10 at AAMI Park.
Final Thoughts: The Rebels are searching for a rare season quinella against the Brumbies after carving out a 33-10 win in Melbourne in Round 4.
With Reece Hodge and Jack Maddocks running riot, the Rebels scored five tries to two in a performance that suggested the new-look Rebels had arrived – and the Brumbies were on the way out after topping the Australian Conference
Both sides are fighting for their seasons, though, with the 4-6 Rebels losing their last five games – including a 55-10 hammering from the Crusaders last week. The 3-6 Brumbies have lost three straight, but perhaps overachieved in a 21-8 home loss to the Crusaders before last week’s bye.
The Brumbies have a 5-1 home record against the Rebels, including a 32-3 drubbing in Canberra last season.
The Rebels’ defence has been abysmal in recent weeks, which should allow the battling Brumbies to eke out a win.
History: Played 20: Chiefs 10 V Stormers 10.
Last meeting: July 23, 2017 (quarter-final): Chiefs 17 d Stormers 11 at Newlands.
Final Thoughts: The Stormers host the Chiefs at Newlands for the fourth time in less than two years, with the Kiwi heavyweights boasting quarter-final wins abroad in 2016 (60-21) and ’17 (17-11). The Stormers prevailed 34-26 during the regular season last year.
The 5-6 Stormers have rallied in the past couple of weeks with wins over the Rebels and Bulls, while the 6-3 Chiefs were stunned by the Jaguares on home soil in Round 12 after dismantling all other overseas opponents by 13-plus this season.
The Chiefs have won five of their last seven against the Stormers, while their finals efforts in recent campaigns has lifted them to a respectable 5-6 all-time record in Cape Town.
It’s a tough road trip for the Chiefs, but all the value lies with them with the rivals paying even money in the head-to-head stakes.
Tip: Chiefs Win @ $1.90
History: Played 29: Bulls 17 V Sharks 9 (3 Draws).
Last meeting: April 15, 2018: Bulls 40 d Sharks 10 at Kings Park.
Final Thoughts: The Bulls meet the Sharks for the second time in a month, with the Sharks desperately looking to atone for a 40-10 thrashing they suffered at home in Round 9. This match could have big implications on both teams’ finals chances.
But the 4-1-5 Sharks are fizzing after following up a win over the Stormers by dominating the heavyweight Highlanders 38-12 last weekend. The 4-6 Bulls suffered a heart-breaking after-the-siren loss to the Highlanders a week earlier, then crashed 29-17 to the Stormers in Round 12.
The Sharks have won only one of their last nine against the Bulls, and have won just four of 14 games at Loftus Versfeld. They are winless in their last five in Pretoria.
The form of both sides in the past fortnight muddies this clash somewhat, but the Bulls should be able to bounce back with a hard-fought victory at home.