The Super Rugby season rolls into Week 8, featuring a Japanese assignment for the in-form Waratahs and a crucial Aussie derby between the Brumbies and Reds!
History: Played 21: Hurricanes 11 V Sharks 9 (1 Draw).
Last meeting: July 23, 2016: Hurricanes 41 d Sharks 0 at Westpac Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The Hurricanes have surged to a 4-1 record, backing up their impressive derby wins over the Crusaders and Highlanders with a 50-19 thrashing of the Rebels last weekend. As if the ’Canes needed another attacking threat, young winger Ben Lam scored four tries in Melbourne.
After going down to the Brumbies and Rebels in the previous fortnight, the Sharks carved out a remarkable 63-40 win over the Blues in Week 7. It was the boot of Robert du Preez that proved the difference in Auckland, however, after the teams scored six tries apiece; their defence will need to improve markedly to have any chance against the Hurricanes.
The Hurricanes have won their last three at home against the Sharks, scoring 115 points to 42 in the process.
Anything but another landslide result would surprise in Napier, and the line doesn’t look capable of containing the electric Hurricanes.
History: Played 1: Waratahs 1 V Sunwolves 0.
Last meeting: July 2, 2016: Waratahs 57 d Sunwolves 12 at Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium.
Final Thoughts: After showing promising signs early in 2018, the Sunwolves look to have settled back into their role as Super Rugby’s whipping boys. They came within two points of upsetting the Lions in Johannesburg in Week 6, but followed that up with a 61-10 home loss to the Chiefs at home.
The Japanese outfit is conceding an average of 54 points per game.
The Waratahs boast a 3-1-1 record are look well-placed to assume the Australian Conference mantle, accounting for the Rebels and Brumbies in back-to-back outings.
Israel Folau’s social media snafu is a distraction the Waratahs don’t need, but the visitors will be determined to take advantage of the Sunwolves’ defensive shortcomings and head home with a crucial bonus-point victory.
History: Played 29: Chiefs 18 V Blues 10 (1 Draw).
Last meeting: March 2, 2018: Chiefs 27 d Blues 21 at Eden Park.
Final Thoughts: The Chiefs and Blues come together for the second time in 2018 – with the Chiefs coming off a season-best win and the Blues trying to bounce back from a humiliating defeat.
The Chiefs gutsed out a 27-22 win over the in-form Highlanders to make it four wins on the trot, while the Blues crashed to a 63-40 loss at home to the unfancied Sharks.
The Chiefs held off the Blues 27-21 in Week 3 at Eden Park, extending their unbeaten streak in the rivalry to 12 matches. All but one of those were decided by 12 points or less.
After conceding seven penalty goals last week, discipline will be an obvious focus for the Blues this week. Expect the chastened Aucklanders to show some fight and continue the trend of close games between the sides, but it won’t be enough to topple the Chiefs.
History: Played 30: Brumbies 22 V Reds 7 (1 Draw).
Last meeting: March 3, 2018: Reds 18 d Brumbies 10 at Suncorp Stadium.
Final Thoughts: It’s a crunch game for two-time Australian Conference champions the Brumbies, who have won only two of their five games and lost all three of their Aussie derbies – the first of which was an 18-10 defeat to the Reds in Brisbane.
The Reds are coming off the bye and have looked promising after that opening-game debacle against the Rebels. They have won three of their last four, including a gritty away win over the Jaguares, and will have no qualms about getting into the grind with the Brumbies again.
The Brumbies boast a 12-3 record at home against the Reds, including a 43-10 drubbing last season. But the Reds’ twin wins at home in 2017-18 should ensure the Brumbies don’t take their guests lightly.
Scoring points has been an issue for both sides, but the Reds have greater capacity to break the shackles and look good value as underdogs.
Tip: Reds Win @ $2.32
History: Played 24: Stormers 16 V Lions 7 (1 Draw).
Last meeting: April 15, 2017: Lions 29 d Stormers 16 at Newlands.
Final Thoughts: The only two teams to play in all seven rounds so far, the Lions and Stormers will be eager to head into the bye with a key intra-conference win under their belts.
The 4-3 Lions have lost three of their last four – to the Blues, Jaguares and Crusaders – and only edged the lowly Sunwolves by two points. They desperately need a momentum-changer. The 3-4 Stormers followed up back-to-back wins over overseas visitors the Blues and Reds with a disappointing 10-point loss to the Bulls.
The Lions have won only three of their last 17 against the Stormers, but they won at home in 2016 and away in 2017 to establish themselves as the new South African kingpins.
With both sides down on confidence, look to the Stormers with a handy converted try start in this one.
History: Played 1: Crusaders 1 V Jaguares 0 .
Last meeting: April 15, 2016: Crusaders 32 d Jaguares 15 at AMI Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The injury-hit Crusaders have clawed their way back after consecutive losses to fellow Kiwi heavyweights the Hurricanes and Highlanders, beating the Bulls comfortably at home before outlasting the Lions in a repeat of last year’s final in Johannesburg.
The Crusaders downed the Lions 14-8 courtesy of two converted tries in a four-minute burst midway through the second half.
The 2-4 Jaguares have been typically up and down during a four-game homestand, interspersing dismal losses to the Hurricanes and Reds with superb wins over the Waratahs and Lions.
The Crusaders cruised to a 32-15 home win in 2016 in the franchises’ only meeting to date. This one should be considerably closer, but the defending champs will get the job done.