Pack down with Super Rugby tips for all six matches of Round 11, featuring a 2017-18 final rematch, a huge Kiwi derby and crucial assignments for the Waratahs and Brumbies against South African Conference opposition.
History: Played 23: Crusaders 18 V Lions 5
Last meeting: Final, 2018: Crusaders 37 d Lions 18 at Christchurch Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 2017-18 Super Rugby final combatants kick off Round 11 in Christchurch – but the gulf in class between the sides is even more disparate than in the Crusaders’ recent championship-winning seasons.
The Crusaders are lapping the field in 2019, losing just one game and beating the Hurricanes, Brumbies and Highlanders by 22-plus margins since that uncharacteristic defeat to the Waratahs. Despite coming off a bye, the champs are resting Scott Barrett, Matt Todd and Jack Goodhew – but their fill-ins are better than most teams’ first-choice players.
The 5-4 Lions eased some pressure with a 23-17 upset of the Chiefs last week. They controversially brought the likes of Elton Jantjies and Malcolm Marx into the side after initially leaving them out; the Crusaders won’t be caught out by any team-naming hi-jinx.
The Crusaders have won 15 of their last 17 against the Lions, including the past two finals and a tight regular-season win in Johannesburg in 2018. The ’Saders also boast a 10-1 home record against the Lions, whose only win in Christchurch came back in 2001. The South Island outfit are on a 23-game winning streak at home, winning the last nine by at least 16 points.
The Lions will struggle to get close here.
20:00 (AEST), Fri 26th Apr @ Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo
History: Played 1: Highlanders 1 V Sunwolves 0
Last meeting: Round 9, 2017: Highlanders 40 d Sunwolves 15 at Rugby Park Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 13th-placed Highlanders buoyed their finals hopes with an impressive 24-12 home win over the Blues last Saturday, snapping a five-match losing streak. They have opted to rest inspirational fullback and captain Ben Smith this week.
The Sunwolves looked on course for a boilover against the Hurricanes in Round 10 when they led 23-10 at halftime, but they were run down in a 29-23 loss. It was another example, however, of the Sunwolves amazing profitability against the line – particularly at home.
The teams’ only previous meeting was in 2017 in Invercargill, where the Highlanders ran out convincing 40-15 winners with Matt Faddes scoring a second-half double.
An upset certainly isn’t out of the question and taking the Sunwolves again with a sizeable line shapes as the best value.
17:35 (AEST), Sat 27th Apr @ Westpac Stadium, Wellington
History: Played 35: Hurricanes 17 V Chiefs 15 (3 Draws)
Last meeting: Round 5, 2019: 23-all draw at FMG Stadium Waikato
Final Thoughts: The battling Chiefs’ 2019 turnaround started against the heavyweight Hurricanes in Round 5, earning a gutsy 23-all draw at home after losing their first four games.
The Chiefs won their next three games but fell 23-17 to the Lions at home last weekend in a hammer blow to their finals chances. The Hurricanes’ only losses have been to the Crusaders but they were lucky to escape with a win in Tokyo in Round 10, hauling in a 13-point halftime deficit to win 29-23.
Beauden and Jordie Barrett return for the Hurricanes, however, and Ardie Savea is another likely inclusion. The Chiefs are still regrouping after Damian McKenzie’s season-ending injury.
The Hurricanes boast an 11-6 home record against the Chiefs, including a 32-31 victory in last year’s classic quarter-final. The Chiefs notched wins in Wellington during the 2016-17 regular seasons – rare victories for the visiting team in the rivalry over the last decade. The last six encounters were decided by 1-12 margins.
Another tight one looms but the Hurricanes’ scrumbase advantage should be the difference.
19:45 (AEST), Sat 27th Apr @ Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
History: Played 22: Waratahs 12 V Sharks 8 (2 Draws)
Last meeting: Round 3, 2018: 24-all draw at Kings Park
Final Thoughts: Galvanised by the Israel Folau saga, the 4-4 Waratahs landed a huge blow in the race for the Australian Conference title by downing the Rebels 23-20 in Round 10. Bernard Foley’s 18-point performance was a particular highlight as they partially atoned for back-to-back losses to the Sunwolves and Blues.
The previously in-form Sharks have slumped to a 4-5 record via consecutive home losses to the Jaguares and Reds – both clashes they were expected to win with relative ease.
The home team is unbeaten in the last seven clashes between these teams. However, their early-2018 showdown in Durban finished in a draw after Bernard Foley converted Mitch Short’s late try. The Waratahs boast an imposing 9-2 home record against the Sharks.
The Sharks are far too unreliable to place any confidence in against a Waratahs side with a hint of momentum.
23:05 (AEST), Sat 27th Apr @ Newlands, Cape Town
History: Played 32: Stormers 18 V Bulls 13 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 1, 2019: Bulls 40 d Stormers 3 at Loftus Versfeld
Final Thoughts: The 10th-placed, 4-5 Stormers host the South African Conference-leading Bulls in a vital derby. After finishing their trip Down Under on a high with a 41-24 upset of the Rebels, the Stormers crashed 19-17 to the Brumbies at home in Round 10.
The 5-3 Bulls have been impossible to get a week-to-week read on, but accounted for the Reds 32-17 in Pretoria in Round 9 before sitting out last weekend with the bye.
The Stormers have won seven of their last 10 against the Bulls. The last four clashes between the teams were won by the home team. The Stormers hold a 10-4 advantage over the Bulls at Newlands, with one match drawn.
The Bulls aren’t traditionally a team that travels well. But they already have away wins over the Lions and Sharks under their belt in 2019 and look a good underdog bet in this crunch game.
07:40 (AEST), Sun 28th Apr @ José Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aries
History: Played 2: Brumbies 1 V Jagaures 1
Last meeting: Round 10, 2018: Jaguares 25 d Brumbies 20 at GIO Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Jaguares are on the march up the South African Conference standings after carving out back-to-back wins in the Republic over the Bulls (22-20) and Sharks (51-17). They are 4-4 overall this season now, but will be eager to improve on a 2-2 home record.
The 4-5 Brumbies are coming off a pair of handy wins over South African opposition, downing Lions 31-20 at home and the Stormers 19-17 in Cape Town. David Pocock remains sidelined with a calf injury. But the Brumbies have shown some admirable resilience when their heart-and-soul flanker has been missing in 2019.
The teams’ previous two matches were split one win apiece, with each side notching an away victory. The Brumbies powered to a 39-15 win in Buenos Aries in 2017.
The Brumbies may be down on troops, but if they can match the Jaguares at the set-piece and blunt the hosts’ flair they can grind out another ugly win.