The Super Rugby season picks up steam in Week 3, kicking off with a Kiwi derby between the Blues and Chiefs before the Reds and Brumbies do battle in an all-Aussie affair. Palmerbet Sports Team preview all the 15-a-side action!

Super Rugby Preview – Blues V Chiefs

17:35 (AEDT), Fri 2nd Mar @ Eden Park, Auckland

History: Played 28: Chiefs 17 V Blues 10 (1 Draw).

Last meeting: May 26, 2017: 16-16 draw at Eden Park.

Final Thoughts: Both sides opened their 2018 campaigns with derby losses, the Blues unlucky to go down 41-34 away to the Highlanders, and the Chiefs fading late in a 45-23 defeat away to the Crusaders after a controversial yellow card.

Liam Messam, Sean Wainui and Mitchell Allardice come into the Chiefs’ starting line-up, while Tim Nanai-Williams has been ruled out for the season in a cruel blow. The Blues have been boosted by Patrick Tuipolotu and Jimmy Tupou coming into the starting park and Jerome Kaino’s addition to the bench.

The Blues halted an 11-match losing streak against the Chiefs via a 16-all draw midway through last season. Eight of the previous nine clashes between the sides were decided by 1-12 margins.

The Blues are winless in their last 12 games against their New Zealand rivals, which makes their current favouritism in this clash surprising. But they won’t get a better opportunity to end the drought – at home against a Chiefs side still adjusting to life without Cruden and co.

Tip: Blues 1-12 @ $2.52

Super Rugby Preview – Reds V Brumbies

20:00 (AEDT), Fri 2nd Mar @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

History: Played 29: Brumbies 22 V Reds 6 (1 Draw).

Last meeting: July 7, 2017: Reds 16 d Brumbies 15 at Suncorp Stadium.

Final Thoughts: The Brumbies got off to a winning start, albeit a streaky 32-25 away win over the unfancied Sunwolves. The Reds were pumped 45-19 by the Rebels in Melbourne after initially hanging in following Scott Higginbotham’s red card. Both sides will be looking for rapid improvement.

Higginbotham and Lukhan Tui are both out suspended, which won’t help the Reds’ cause against a strong Brumbies pack. Rory Arnold is back for the Brumbies but there’s still no David Pocock.

The Brumbies have lost just two of their last 10 against the Reds and boast a 10-1-3 all-time record in Brisbane, but they were rolled 16-15 by the battling Queenslanders at Suncorp late last season – after winning 43-10 in Canberra earlier in 2017.

The Reds have won just eight of their last 21 home games, while the Brumbies went just 3-5 on the road last season. More hurt looms for the Reds this week, with the Brumbies a far strong outfit from 1-15.

Tip: Handicap – Brumbies -5.5 @ $1.90

Super Rugby Preview – Crusaders V Stormers

17:35 (AEDT), Sat 3rd Mar @ AMI Stadium, Christchurch

History: Played 21: Crusaders 16 V Stormers 4 (1 Draw).

Last meeting: April 22, 2017: Crusaders 57 d Stormers 24 at AMI Stadium.

Final Thoughts: The Crusaders benefitted from a highly questionable yellow card call to run away from the Chiefs with three late tries in a 45-23 victory last Saturday. After downing the Jaguares at home in Week 1, the Stormers had their hearts broken after the fulltime siren in a 34-27 loss to the Waratahs.

The Crusaders have won their last five – and 13 of their last 15 – against the Stormers. They are also unbeaten in 11 home games against the South African outfit, including an eight-tries-to-three demolition last season that featured a George Bridge hat-trick.

The Crusaders are on a 10-match winning streak at home, while the Stormers are a serviceable 11-1-12 on the road on the past three seasons.

The Stormers could be without flyhalf Damian Willemse, and it’s unlikely they’ll be able to stick with the defending champs for 80 minutes.

Tip: Handicap – Crusaders -17.5 @ $1.90

Super Rugby Preview – Sunwolves V Rebels

20:00 (AEDT), Sat 3rd Mar @ Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo

History: Played 1: Rebels 1 V Sunwolves 0 .

Last meeting: March 19, 2016: Rebels 35 d Sunwolves 9 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium.

Final Thoughts: The Sunwolves showed trademark pluck in their first outing of the season last week, refusing to throw in the towel before going down to the Brumbies 32-25. The Rebels’ 45-19 win over the Reds looks good on paper and was a promising start, but it was aided by a red card decision – there’s still a lot more improvement needed.

The Rebels cruised to a 26-point win in Tokyo in the only previous meeting between the sides. The Rebels went 0-1-7 on the road last season, while the Sunwolves are 2-7 at home since the start of 2017.

This clash will shed more light on whether the Sunwolves are a genuinely competitive outfit under Jamie Joseph, or whether the Rebels can rebound from a 2017 horror show with a stack of big-name imports on deck. The hosts with a handy start again looks the best value.

Tip: Handicap – Sunwolves +7 @ $1.90

Super Rugby Preview – Sharks V Waratahs

00:05 (AEDT), Sun 4th Mar @ Kings Park, Durban

History: Played 21: Waratahs 12 V Sharks 8 (1 Draw).

Last meeting: March 11, 2017: Sharks 37 d Waratahs 14 at Kings Park.

Final Thoughts: The Waratahs left it late against the Stormers in their season opener, scoring after the siren to snatch a 34-27 win in Sydney. Now they’ve got an early assignment in South Africa against a Sharks side that went down 26-19 to the powerful Lions in Week 1 before taking the bye last weekend.

The last six matches between these sides have been won by the home team, while the Sharks boast a 6-3-1 record against the ’Tahs in Durban since 1996 – including a 23-point drubbing early last season.

The Sharks had a handy 5-1-2 record at home in 2017; the Waratahs were a miserable 2-6 on the road.

Israel Folau was magnificent against the Stormers, and it’s his combination with Test teammates Bernard Foley and Kurtley Beale that can spearhead an all-important overseas win for the underdogs.

Tip: Margin – Waratahs 1-12 @ $4.00

Super Rugby Preview – Bulls V Lions

02:15 (AEDT), Sun 4th Mar @ Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

History: Played 25: Bulls 15 V Lions 9 (1 Draw).

Last meeting: May 20, 2017: Lions 51 d Bulls 14 at Emirates Airline Park.

Final Thoughts: After cooling their heels with a Week 1 bye, the Bulls pulled off the upset of the young season by edging the heavyweight Hurricanes 21-19 last weekend. The Bulls’ traditional forward strength – which went missing in 2017 – underpinned the win.

The Lions have cruised to a 2-0 start, downing the Sharks 26-19 and Jaguares 47-27 in an opening fortnight at home. Kwagga Smith is unavailable this week, prompting a pack reshuffle.

The Lions have won four of their last five against the Bulls, including a seven-tries-to-one slaughter in Johannesburg last season. The Lions boast a 20-6 home record since the start of 2015 (9-1 last year), while the Bulls are a dreadful 7-16 on the road during the same period.

The Bulls’ stunning start should ensure the Lions don’t arrive in Pretoria expecting an easy win, but expect the two-time South African Conference winners to get the job done comfortably in the end.

Tip: Half-time Handicap – Lions -4.5 @ $1.90

Super Rugby Preview – Jaguares V Hurricanes

08:40 (AEDT), Sun 4th Mar @ Velez Sarsfield, Buenos Aries

History: Played 1: Hurricanes 1 V Jaguares 0 .

Last meeting: April 9, 2016: Hurricanes 40 d Jaguares 22 at Westpac Stadium.

Final Thoughts: The Hurricanes make their first-ever trip to Argentina, aiming to bounce back from the disappointment of a season-opening loss to the lowly-rated Bulls.

The Jaguares will be relieved to be back on home soil after back-to-back losses in South Africa to the Stormers (28-20) and Lions (47-27) to kick off 2018.

The ’Canes won the only previous game between the sides, 40-22 in Wellington in 2016. The Hurricanes are 17-8 on the road over the past three seasons; the Jags are 7-8 at home during their two-season Super Rugby history.

Buenos Aries is a hostile venue, but with Jordie Barrett joining the squad and brother Beauden likely to start after making only a late cameo last week, the Hurricanes should be able to weather the early storm and blow the Jaguares away late.

Tip: Second Half Handicap – Hurricanes -5.5 @ $1.78