The Super Rugby season rolls into Week 6, featuring a monster Kiwi derby between the Hurricanes and Highlanders, along with crucial South African assignments for the Rebels and Reds. Palmerbet Sports Team preview all the 15-a-side action!
History: Played 25: Crusaders 15 V Bulls 10.
Last meeting: May 6, 2017: Crusaders 64 d Bulls 24 at Loftus Versfeld.
Final Thoughts: The Crusaders have lost their last two games – away to fellow Kiwi heavyweights the Hurricanes and Highlanders – under the weight of a heavy injury toll, with Richie Mo’unga, Sam Whitelock and Ryan Crotty sitting on the sidelines.
Whitelock and Crotty will return from concussion this week, however.
The Bulls have started the season 1-3, including losses to the Reds (20-14) and Chiefs (41-28)
Nine of the last 10 games between these teams have been won by the home side; the only exception was the Crusaders’ 10-tries-to-three demolition job in Pretoria last year.
The Crusaders are 10-0 at home since the start of 2017 and should make short work of the visiting Bulls, particularly with some of their big guns returning.
History: Played 5: Sharks 4 V Rebels 0 (1 Draw).
Last meeting: April 22, 2017: 9-9 draw at Kings Park.
Final Thoughts: After a blistering 3-0 start to the season, it all came unstuck for the Rebels last Sunday. They surrendered a 17-point lead to go down 51-27 to the Waratahs and they’re now without key players Dane Haylett-Petty and Jordan Uelese.
The Sharks have a win and a draw from four outings to date, toppled 24-17 by the Brumbies in Canberra last week.
The Sharks are unbeaten in five clashes with the Rebels, though the Rebels held the Sharks to a dour 9-all draw in Durban last season.
Despite a couple of injury problems, count on the Rebels bouncing back strongly against the stodgy Sharks.
History: Played 1: Chiefs 1 V Sunwolves.
Last meeting: April 29, 2017: Chiefs 27 d Sunwolves 20 at FMG Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The Sunwolves produced arguably the best away performance in their Super Rugby history in Hamilton last year, pushing the heavyweight Chiefs to the brink in a 27-20 loss. Now they welcome the Chiefs – who are trying to build some momentum – to Tokyo.
The Chiefs have won two from three, bouncing back from a first-up loss to the Crusaders with scratchy wins over the Blues and Bulls as they adjust to life without Cruden and co.
The Sunwolves are 0-4 but are coming off another watershed display on the road, edged out 40-38 by the powerhouse Lions in Johannesburg (where they went down 94-7 last year) – just a week after going down 50-22 to the Sharks.
The Japanese outfit are decent against the line at home and will have taken plenty of confidence from last week’s effort – taking them with a giant start is a no-brainer, while a nibble at $11.75 for the win is also tempting.
History: Played 29: Hurricanes 16 V Highlanders 13 .
Last meeting: March 18, 2017: Hurricanes 41 d Highlanders 15 at Westpac Stadium.
Final Thoughts: The Highlanders are the only unbeaten team remaining in the competition, downing the Blues, Stormers and Crusaders at home. But this is their first away assignment of 2018.
The Hurricanes recovered from a shock first-up away loss to the Bulls with solid wins over the Jaguares on the road and the Crusaders at home, before enjoying the bye last week.
The Hurricanes boast a 9-6 record against the Highlanders at home, including a sizzling 41-15 victory early last season. But the ’Landers win in the 2015 final at the Cake-tin looms large in the teams’ recent rivalry.
The Hurricanes are 8-1 at home since the start of last season, while the Highlanders went a modest 5-3 on the road last year.
This one’s a flip of the coin with the Hurricanes always a tough beat at home but the Highlanders bringing some nice momentum in. A barnburner that should be decided by only a few points.
History: Played 19: Stormers 11 V Reds 8.
Last meeting: April 23, 2016: Stormers 40 d Reds 22 at Newlands.
Final Thoughts: The Stormers endured a miserable three-match trip Down Under with losses to the Waratahs, Crusaders and Highlanders, but they relished being back at Newlands last week, downing the Blues 37-20.
Meanwhile, the Reds have been slowly building since an opening-week disaster against the Rebels, grinding out wins over the Brumbies and Bulls at home before outlasting the Jaguares 18-7 in Buenos Aries to go 3-1.
The Stormers have a 7-2 record against the Reds at home, while five of the last seven matches between the sides were decided by 10 points or less.
The Reds’ victory last week was just their fourth in their last 23 away games, but it is a great platform to work off and they shape as a solid bet against a healthy start.
History: Played 5: Lions 3 V Jaguares 2.
Last meeting: February 25, 2018: Lions 47 d Jaguares 27 at Emirates Airlines Park.
Final Thoughts: The Lions and Jaguares lock horns for the second time this season just weeks in. The Lions easily accounted for their Argentine visitors in Week 2, scoring seven tries to three in a 20-point win in Johannesburg.
It continued a trend of the home team winning every meeting between the teams – which will provide the Jaguares with some confidence ahead of this showdown, after chalking up wins over the eventual finalists in Buenos Aries in 2016 and ’17.
But the enigmatic Jags need to rally from an 18-7 home loss to the Reds, which undid much of their good work from their victory over the Waratahs a fortnight ago. The Lions are coming off some scratchy form too, however, pipped by the Blues and only just holding off the lowly Sunwolves in their past two games, both at home.
The Lions are very short for the win, but they should have too much attacking class for a Jaguares outfit that just can’t seem to get going.