Pack down with Super Rugby tips for all six matches of Round 10, including a massive Australian derby between the Rebels and the crisis-hit Waratahs.
History: Played 19: Chiefs 13 V Lions 6
Last meeting: Round 2, 2016: Lions 36 d Chiefs 32 at FMG Stadium Waikato
Final Thoughts: The Chiefs have turned their floundering campaign around with a draw against the Hurricanes and three straight wins over the Bulls, Jaguares and Blues. They are still clinging to their finals hopes. Incredibly, the 4-4 Lions have slumped to the bottom of the South African Conference after a home thrashing at the hands of the Sharks and a disappointing loss to the Brumbies in Canberra.
But the Chiefs are reeling from Damian McKenzie’s season-ending injury. Meanwhile, Brad Weber will captain the side this week in the absence of Brodie Retallick and Sam Cane, and All Blacks hooker Nathan Harris is also out. The Lions are missing gun winger Courtnall Skosan.
The Chiefs have won five of their last six against the Lions, but the Johannesburg outfit won the most recent clash – in Hamilton in 2016. That was the Lions’ only victory in 10 away games against the Chiefs. The teams have a habit of producing high-scorers, with all but one of the 19 encounters boasting a total of 40-plus points.
The Lions are out of sorts, but given the Chiefs contingent of blue-chip absentees the visitors shape as a good option with the start.
20:00 (AEST), Fri 19th Apr @ Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo
History: Played 2: Hurricanes 2 V Sunwolves 0
Last meeting: Round 11, 2018: Hurricanes 43 d Sunwolves 15 at Westpac Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Hurricanes still appear to be cruising along in second gear. Their only losses have been a pair of heavy defeats to the Crusaders – but the ’Canes, regarded as the two-time champs’ biggest challenges, are a long way off title-contending form. Beauden and Jordie Barrett, as well as Ardie Savea, are on All Blacks rest this week.
The Sunwolves followed up their momentous win over the Waratahs in Sydney with a disappointing 42-15 loss to the Rebels, before enjoying the Round 9 bye. Kiwi No.10 Hayden Parker has been in brilliant form for the doomed franchise.
The Hurricanes obliterated the Sunwolves 83-15 in their only previous visit to Tokyo in 2017, but the Japanese outfit performed creditably in a 43-15 Wellington loss last year. The scoreline flattered the ’Canes, who scored three tries in the last six minutes.
The Hurricanes have sound depth so having big names on the sideline won’t disrupt them too much. But the Sunwolves will be up for this at home and have been an outstanding proposition against the line.
23:05 (AEST), Fri 19th Apr @ Kings Park, Durban
History: Played 22: Reds 12 V Sharks 10
Last meeting: Round 1, 2017: Reds 28 d Sharks 26 at Suncorp Stadium
Final Thoughts: Two of Super Rugby’s more erratic teams square off to try and keep their playoffs bids afloat. The 4-4 Sharks following up their momentous 42-5 win over the Lions in Johannesburg with an insipid 51-17 home loss to the Jagaures. After accounting for the Stormers 24-12 at home, the 3-5 Reds kicked off their South African sojourn with a 32-17 loss to the Bulls.
Sefa Naivalu (workload management) returns to the Reds’ line-up, while Angus Scott-Young has earned a run-on spot. Prop duo Coenie Oosthuizen and Tendai Mtawarira are back for the Sharks in a huge boost to their scrum.
The Sharks have won eight of their last 11 against the Reds and have a 6-4 all-time record against the Reds in Durban. The Reds edged out the Sharks in a Brisbane season opener in 2017, the sides’ last encounter.
Both sides are hard to trust, but with just two wins in their last 14 away games the odds seem stacked against the Reds, who are big underdogs here.
17:35 (AEST), Sat 20th Apr @ Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
History: Played 32: Blues 17 V Highlanders 15
Last meeting: Round 6, 2019: Blues 33 d Highlanders 26 at Eden Park
Final Thoughts: The Blues and Highlanders square off just four weeks since the Auckland outfit bagged a thrilling 33-26 home win over the southerners – the Blues’ first defeat of New Zealand rival since the opening round of 2016.
It’s nearing do-or-die time for the Highlanders, who boast just two wins and a draw (from their cancelled clash with the Crusaders) from eight games. They are on a five-match losing streak, four of those by seven points or less. But after leading the Crusaders at halftime in Christchurch last week, they crashed to a 43-17 loss. The 4-4 Blues’ winning streak ended in a thrilling 33-29 loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton last week, with Ma’a Nonu starring.
The Highlanders have won nine of their last 13 against the Blues, including a 41-34 result in Dunedin last season. The Blues have never won at Forsyth Barr Stadium, with their last victory in Dunedin coming at the now-defunct Carisbrook in 2011. But 13 of the past 16 interisland derbies were decided by 1-12 margins.
The Blues may have the edge form-wise but the Highlanders have won 14 of their last 16 at home and deserve their narrow favouritism. Desperation should get them over the line.
19:45 (AEST), Sat 20th Apr @ Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
History: Played 15: Waratahs 13 V Rebels 2
Last meeting: Round 17, 2018: Waratahs 31 d Rebels 26 at AAMI Park
Final Thoughts: The Australian Conference-leading Rebels head to Sydney to take on bogey team the Waratahs. The Melbourne side have only beaten the ’Tahs twice in 15 attempts – and just once in eight trips to NSW.
The Waratahs have spent their bye week embroiled in the Israel Folau saga. They are now without their No.1 strike weapon, but the controversy should galvanise the rest of the squad. The Waratahs followed up their shock loss to the Sunwolves with defeat to the Blues in Auckland in Round 8.
The 5-3 Rebels were given a reality check courtesy of a 41-24 loss at home to the Stormers last weekend.
Last year the Waratahs won 51-27 at Allianz Stadium – after trailing by 17 – and 31-26 in Melbourne, with Bernard Foley scoring the match-winning try in the 72nd minute. Expect emotion to prove the difference in the home side’s favour.
23:05 (AEST), Sat 20th Apr @ Newlands, Cape Town
History: Played 19: Brumbies 11 V Stormers 7 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 4, 2016: Stormers 31 d Brumbies 11 at Newlands
Final Thoughts: Another Round 10 match-up that has been three years in the making, the Stormers and Brumbies are both coming off a win but desperately need to keep the momentum going.
The sides last met in early-2016, when the Stormers ran out 31-11 winners at home – their fourth victory in their last six encounters with the Brumbies. The Brumbies have won just two of their last seven in Cape Town.
The 3-5 Brumbies responded to back-to-back losses by 36-14 scorelines to the Reds and Crusaders with a handy 31-20 home win over the Lions. The Stormers ended their Down Under tour on a high, bouncing back from three straight losses with a 41-24 upset of the Rebels in Melbourne.
The Stormers are 2-0 at Newlands this season and look set to add another Australian scalp to their 2019 tally with the Brumbies losing all four games on the road this season.