The Super Rugby season rolls into Week 4, featuring a Rebels-Brumbies derby on Friday night and an all-NZ barnburner between the Hurricanes and Crusaders on Saturday. Palmerbet Sports Team preview all the 15-a-side action!
History: Played 20: Highlanders 11 V Stormers 8 (1 Draw).
Last meeting: April 22, 2017: Highlanders 57 d Stormers 14 at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Final Thoughts: After an impressive come-from-behind win over the Blues first up, the Highlanders were forced to cool their heels last week on the bye. The Stormers have followed up their Week 1 home win over the Jaguares with a loss to Waratahs and a 45-28 defeat to the Crusaders during their fortnight Down Under so far.
The Stormers have won six of their last eight against the Highlanders, but the Highlanders racked up a 43-point win at home last season and boast a 6-1-2 record in Dunedin against the Stormers. The Stormers have now conceded 200 points in their last four games in New Zealand. The Highlanders are an imposing 19-5 at home since the start of 2015.
It’s a big line and the Stormers covered – just – last week, but the Highlanders are certainties to win this one comfortably.
History: Played 13: Brumbies 9 V Rebels 4.
Last meeting: June 3, 2017: Brumbies 32 d Rebels 3 at GIO Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The new-look Rebels have enjoyed an ideal start to their 2018 campaign, punishing a 14-man Reds side 45-19 and accounting for the Sunwolves 37-17 in Tokyo. The Brumbies will be chastened after following up a 32-25 away win over the Sunwolves with an 18-10 loss to the Reds in Brisbane.
The Rebels have won three of their seven home games against the Brumbies, including a 19-17 upset in Melbourne last season. Five of the teams’ last seven meetings were decided by eight points or less, but the Brumbies blew the Rebels away 32-3 in the capital late last season.
The Brumbies were a poor 3-5 at home last season, while the Rebels have won just one of nine away games since the start of 2017.
Few would have thought the Rebels would go into this clash as warm favourites before the season started, but all signs point to the Melbourne outfit keeping their unbeaten start intact.
History: Played 32: Crusaders 18 V Hurricanes 11 (3 Draws).
Last meeting: July 15, 2017: Hurricanes 31 d Crusaders 22 at Westpac Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The Hurricanes rebounded from a 21-19 away loss to the Bulls in their first outing of 2018 with a sizzling 34-9 rout of the Jaguares in Buenos Aries. It’s been business as usual for the defending champion Crusaders, disposing of the Chiefs (45-23) and Stormers (45-28) so far.
The Hurricanes have won seven of their last 10 against the Crusaders, while last season’s two clashes were shared one apiece with both sides notching a 1-12 margin home victory. The Hurricanes went 7-1 at home in 2017, while the Crusaders were 7-1 away.
In easily the game of the round, the Hurricanes will relish being back on home turf but this is about the best value you will get for the ruthless Crusaders all season.
History: Played 20: Reds 11 V Bulls 9.
Last meeting: April 16, 2016: Bulls 41 d Reds 22 at Loftus Versfeld.
Final Thoughts: The Reds produced the perfect answer to their heavy first-up loss to the Rebels, rolling the Brumbies 18-10 at Suncorp Stadium despite losing Scott Higginbotham and Lukhan Tui to suspension. The Bulls couldn’t back up their season-opening upset of the Hurricanes, going down 49-35 to the Lions last weekend.
The last 11 matches between these teams have been won by the home side, with the Reds boasting a 9-2 record against the Bulls in Brisbane since 1996. The Bulls have won just seven of their last 23 games on the road; the Reds have won just eight of their last 23 at Suncorp Stadium.
These are two of the more unreliable teams in Super Rugby, but the Bulls haven’t had much joy overseas in recent years and the Reds should get up if they can replicate the grit they showed last week.
History: Played 2: Sharks 2 V Sunwolves 0.
Last meeting: May 20, 2017: Sharks 38 d Sunwolves 17 at Singapore National Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The Sharks are desperate for their first win of the season after a loss to the Lions and a draw at home against the Waratahs either side of a Week 2 bye. The Sunwolves competed strongly in a seven-point loss to the Brumbies but went down to the Rebels by 20 in their opening fortnight at home.
The Sunwolves overachieved in a 40-29 loss in their only previous visit to Durban, but the Sharks racked up a big win in Singapore last season. The Sharks are 5-2-2 at home since the start of last season; the Sunwolves are 0-15 on the road in their Super Rugby history.
There’s not a lot to like about the Sunwolves on the road, but they seem to more competitive in 2018 with Jamie Joseph at the helm and they shape as a decent option with a massive start.
History: Played 20: Blues 13 V Lions 7.
Last meeting: May 15, 2016: Lions 43 d Blues 5 at Emirates Airlines Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The Lions have picked up where they left off last season, downing the Sharks (26-19), Jaguares (47-27) and Bulls (49-35) – but they are leaking more points than they’d want to. It’s been a familiar tale for the Blues, opening their campaign with narrow losses to New Zealand rivals the Highlanders and Chiefs.
The Lions are just 5-6 at home against the Blues, but they have won the last three matches between the sides and belted the visiting Blues by 38 points in 2016. The Blues have won just five of their last 23 games on the road, while the Lions are 20-6 in Johannesburg since the start of 2015.
Expect another high-scorer, but the Lions will get the job done against the talented-but-erratic Blues on the high veldt.
History: Played 1: Jaguares 1 V Waratahs 0.
Last meeting: July 8, 2017: Jaguares 40 d Waratahs 27 at Allianz Stadium .
Final Thoughts: The Jaguares are 0-3, losing to the Stormers and Lions away, before crashing to a 26-point loss to the Hurricanes at home. The Waratahs have a nail-biting home win over the Stormers and a draw away to the Sharks to show for their efforts so far.
The Jaguares compounded the Waratahs’ miserable 2017 campaign with a 13-point win in Sydney in the teams’ maiden encounter late last season. The ’Tahs are 2-1-6 away since the start of last season, while the Jags are 7-9 at home in their short Super Rugby history.
No team particularly enjoys going to Argentina, but the Jaguares have been well off the pace so far in 2018 while the Waratahs have a new spring in their step with Kurtley Beale in the midfield.