The Super Rugby season rolls into Week 5, featuring a monster Kiwi derby between the Highlanders and Crusaders, and an all-Aussie showdown on Sunday with the Waratahs hosting the in-form Rebels. Palmerbet Sports Team preview all the 15-a-side action!
History: Played 21: Chiefs 11 V Bulls 8 (2 Draws).
Last meeting: April 1, 2017: Chiefs 28 d Bulls 12 at FMG Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The Chiefs bounced back from their opening-round loss to the Crusaders with a hard-fought away win over the Blues, before sitting out last weekend with the bye.
The Bulls have come back to earth since their first-up upset of the Hurricanes, going down to the Lions at home (49-35) and the Reds away (20-14). Last week’s defeat in Brisbane was their 17th in 24 games on the road.
The Chiefs have a 9-1-1 record against the Bulls, including a Damian McKenzie-led 28-12 win last season.
The Chiefs boast a 17-4 record at home over the past three seasons and with the likes of McKenzie, Lienert-Brown, Cane and Retallick providing a world-class nucleus, they should pick up a comfortable bonus point against the travel-shy Bulls.
History: Played 32: Crusaders 22 V Highlanders 10.
Last meeting: July 22, 2018 (quarter-final): Crusaders 17 d Highlanders 0 at AMI Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The southern derby shapes as the game of the round, but the Crusaders are fighting a mini injury crisis. After downing the Chiefs and Stormers – losing Richie Mo’unga to a broken jaw in the latter – the Crusaders lost 29-19 to the Hurricanes, with the likely sidelining of Sam Whitelock and Ryan Crotty to concussion compounding the result.
The Highlanders have accounted for the Blues and Stormers at home either side of a bye so far this season, picking up a bonus point in their 33-15 win last week. The return of All Blacks fullback Ben Smith has added spark to the tenacious ’Landers, who always punch above their weight.
The Crusaders have won nine of the last 11 games between the archrivals, including last-gasp wins at home and away during the 2017 regular season, and a 17-0 shutout in the Christchurch-hosted quarter-final.
The Highlanders are 6-9 at home against the Crusaders, but given the defending champs’ star-studded casualty ward they loom as great value as narrow outsiders.
History: Played 21: Brumbies 11 d Sharks 10.
Last meeting: March 4, 2017: Sharks 27 d Brumbies 22.
Final Thoughts: Reigning two-time Australian Conference champs the Brumbies are at an early crossroads, following up a narrow win over the Sunwolves with dismal losses to the Reds (18-10) and Rebels (33-10).
The Sharks responded to their Week 1 away loss to the Lions with a 24-all draw against the Waratahs and a 50-22 demolition of the Sunwolves, both at home.
The Brumbies have a 9-3 home record against the Sharks, but the Durban-based side pulled off a 27-22 upset in Canberra last year. The last seven clashes between the sides at GIO Stadium were decided by seven points or less.
The Brumbies find themselves in the unfamiliar position of home underdog, but it’s hard to argue with that billing with a narrow Sharks victory shaping as the most attractive option here.
History: Played 19: Blues 10 V Stormers 9.
Last meeting: May 19, 2017: Stormers 30 d Blues 22 at Newlands.
Final Thoughts: First-up winners at home against the Jaguares, the Stormers will be relieved to be back in Cape Town after enduring three straight defeats to the Waratahs, Crusaders and Highlanders on their tour Down Under. They conceded a whopping 114 points on the three-week trip.
The Blues suffered familiar narrow losses to Kiwi rivals the Highlanders and Chiefs in their first two outings, before pulling off one of their momentous wins in years – a 38-35 upset of the dominant Lions in Johannesburg. The Aucklanders erased an 18-point deficit to snatch an unlikely victory at the death.
The Stormers have won five of their last six against the Blues, including home victories in 2015 and ’17. The Blues led 19-10 during last season’s clash in Cape Town but a red card to Matt Duffie saw the visitors crash to a 30-22 loss.
The Blues’ record on the road is awful, but last week’s watershed result should provide the platform for another key win for the strikepower-laden outfit against a Stormers outfit that is struggling defensively.
History: Played 2: Lions 2 V Sunwolves 0.
Last meeting: July 1, 2017: Lions 94 d Sunwolves 7 at Emirates Airlines Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The memory of a 14-try, 94-7 obliteration at the hands of the Lions late last season will be all to fresh for the Sunwolves.
The Tokyo-based side did not exactly instil confidence about avoiding a similar result with their performance last week, going down 50-22 to the Sharks in Durban to slump to 0-3 in 2018.
The Lions, meanwhile, are bristling after their first loss of the season, coughing up an 18-point lead before going down 38-35 to the Blues.
Boasting an attacking arsenal to match any team in the competition, the Lions will open their shoulders and rack up another cricket score at the expense of the hapless Sunwolves.
History: Played 1: Jaguares 1 d Reds 0.
Last meeting: March 25, 2017: Jaguares 22 d Reds 8 at José Amalfitani Stadium.
Final Thoughts: After three straight losses, the Jaguares opened their 2018 account with a 38-28 home win over the in-form Waratahs. A four-try blitz inside the opening 20 minutes set up the much-needed result.
The Reds recovered from a first-up pummelling at the hands of the Rebels by grafting out close-fought home wins over the Brumbies and Bulls.
The Jaguares won the only previous clash between the teams, a dour 22-8 win at home early last season.
The Reds have won just three of their last 22 games, which doesn’t bode well for a trip to one of Super Rugby’s least hospitable venues.
History: Played 13: Waratahs 11 d Rebels 2.
Last meeting: May 21, 2017: Waratahs 50 d Rebels 23 at Allianz Stadium.
Final Thoughts: After snatching a win after the buzzer against the Stormers at home and holding the Sharks to a draw away, the Waratahs went down to the Jaguares in Buenos Aries thanks to a disastrous start. It’s hard to know what to make of the Sydneysiders so far.
Meanwhile, the Rebels look like the real deal after three straight convincing wins over the Reds, Sunwolves and Brumbies. They’re looking to take another massive step this weekend by sealing an Australian Conference cleansweep with a victory over a bogey team.
The Waratahs have won six of their seven home games against the Rebels, including an eight-tries-to-two, 50-23 thrashing last season.
But the 2018 Rebels are effectively a new team and playing out of their skins – we like their value as underdogs against the travel-weary ’Tahs.