Pack down with Super Rugby tips for all seven matches of Round 12, including tough assignments for the Rebels and Brumbies against NZ opposition.
History: Played 24: Crusaders 18 V Sharks 5 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Quarter-final, 2018: Crusaders 40 d Sharks 10 at Christchurch Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Crusaders are cruising towards a top-of-the-table finish – and, seemingly inevitably, a third straight Super Rugby title. They have lost just once this season and have won their last four by 22-plus points, including a 36-10 thrashing of their 2017-18 final opponents the Lions last week.
The Sharks lead the South African Conference with a modest 5-5 record after upsetting the Waratahs in Sydney in Round 11. It was an important bounce-back after dreadful losses to the Jaguares and Reds. Curwin Bosch has been retained at flyhalf in a largely unaltered line-up.
The Crusaders have won nine of their last 11 against the Sharks, including a 40-10 quarter-final beatdown last season – their only clash since early-2016. The Sharks have an abysmal 1-1-12 record in Christchurch since 1996.
The Crusaders are resting Sam Whitelock and Richie Mo’unga, but Matt Todd and Jordan Taufua return, while their depth is so extraordinary the absence of world-class players barely creates a ripple. They are 6-3 against the line in 2019 – a tremendous stat given the size of the starts they give up – and are set for another landslide win at home.
19:45 (AEST), Fri 3rd May @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
History: Played 4: Reds 3 V Sunwolves 1
Last meeting: Round 5, 2019: Reds 34 d Sunwolves 31 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 4-5 Reds sit 13th but are still right in the finals mix after concluding their overseas tour with a 21-14 upset of the Sharks in Round 10. Jack Hardy’s season-ending injury sees Jock Campbell make his maiden start on the wing.
The inscrutable Sunwolves were demolished 52-0 by the Highlanders at home last weekend – just a week after almost pulling off an upset against the Hurricanes. They sit at the foot of the ladder with a 2-8 record.
The Reds boast a 3-1 record against the Sunwolves and have won both previous encounters in Brisbane – including a 48-27 victory in the final round of 2018. The Reds also snatched a last-minute 34-31 win in Tokyo in Round 5.
But after last week’s performance, it’s difficult seeing the Sunwolves getting as close to an improving Reds outfit with plenty to play for.
15:15 (AEST), Sat 4th May @ Westpac Stadium, Wellington
History: Played 7: Hurricanes 6 V Rebels 1
Last meeting: Round 7, 2018: Hurricanes 50 d Rebels 19 at AAMI Park
Final Thoughts: The 7-1-2 Hurricanes responded to their near-humiliation in Tokyo in Round 10 with a resounding 47-19 over the Chiefs last weekend. The difference Beauden and Jordie Barrett made to the side was palpable – and a reminder why the Wellington side is the only real threat to the Crusaders.
The 5-4 Rebels are clinging to the Australian Conference lead but are desperately seeking a return to the winner’s circle after dropping their last two games to the Stormers and Waratahs before last week’s bye.
The Hurricanes have won the last six games between the sides after the Rebels won the inaugural encounter. The Kiwi heavyweights romped to a 71-6 victory in Wellington in 2017, while a four-try haul to Ben Lam spearheaded a 50-19 win in Melbourne last year.
The Rebels should be much more competitive than in those recent thrashings, but they don’t perform well outside Australia and the Hurricanes should cover here relatively comfortably.
17:35 (AEST), Sat 4th May @ Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
History: Played 32: Chiefs 18 V Highlanders 14
Last meeting: Round 1, 2019: Highlanders 30 d Chiefs 27 at FMG Stadium Waikato
Final Thoughts: The Highlanders have edged back into the Top 8 with back-to-back wins over the Blues (24-12) and Sunwolves (52-0). Both victories were impressive, and reminiscent of the consistently high-performing unit we’ve become accustomed to. Expect Ben Smith to be back on deck after sitting out the Tokyo road trip.
The 3-1-6 Chiefs have slipped to second-last after a disappointing fortnight, losing 23-17 to the Lions at home and 47-19 to the Hurricanes away. The loss of Damian McKenzie to injury has been a crippling blow. Brodie Rettalick is out for another three weeks with a wrist complaint.
The Chiefs have won three of the last four between the sides, but the Highlanders snatched a late victory in Hamilton in the 2019 season opener. The teams’ last encounter in Dunedin saw the Chiefs prevail 24-15 in Round 1 of 2017.
With the rivals heading in opposite trajectories and the Highlanders boasting an excellent home record, there’s only one team to go in this clash.
19:45 (AEST), Sat 4th May @ GIO Stadium, Canberra
History: Played 22: Blues 14 V Brumbies 8
Last meeting: Round 10, 2017: Blues 18 d Brumbies 12 at GIO Stadium
Final Thoughts: After consecutive wins over the Lions and Stormers, last weekend’s 20-15 loss to the Jaguares was a bitter blow for the 4-6 Brumbies’ finals prospects. But they can stay alive with a win here. David Pocock’s return has been delayed again, however.
The 4-5 Blues are in a similarly precarious position after losing back-to-back derbies to the Chiefs (33-29) and Highlanders (24-12). They are resting superstar winger Rieko Ioane, though Matt Duffie is a more than handy replacement.
The teams have won five apiece in 10 previous encounters in Canberra. Just one of the last 12 clashes has seen both teams score more than 16 points.
The Blues are coming off a bye and the Brumbies roll straight off a three-week overseas tour. But given the Blues’ famously poor record on the road (including 0-4 this season), the Brumbies are irresistible home underdogs.
23:05 (AEST), Sat 4th May @ Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
History: Played 21: Bulls 11 V Waratahs 10
Last meeting: Round 12, 2016: Waratahs 31 d Bulls 8 at Allianz Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Bulls have been nothing if not inconsistent. But with a 5-4 record, they are up to their eyeballs in the South African Conference title race. This week they are aiming to bounce back from an agonising one-point defeat away to the Stormers.
The 4-5 Waratahs jetted to the Republic on the back of a woeful 23-15 home loss to the Sharks, after appearing galvanised by the Israel Folau fiasco to knock off the Rebels a week earlier.
The Bulls have won eight of their last 10 against the Waratahs, but the ’Tahs have won the last two. The Bulls boast an 8-2 record against the Waratahs in Petoria since 1996.
The Waratahs’ only away win in 2019 was a one-point eclipse of the Sunwolves in Round 2. But the Bulls look to be giving away too many points at the line here and the visitors shape as decent value.
07:40 (AEST), Sun 5th May @ José Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aries
History: Played 4: Stormers 3 V Jaguares 1
Last meeting: Round 17, 2018: Jaguares 25 d Stormers 14 at Estadio Jose Amalfitani
Final Thoughts: The 5-4 Jaguares have clawed their way up to sixth with three straight wins – over the Bulls and Sharks away, and the Brumbies at home. The 5-5 Stormers are just one spot below, having won two of their last three and coming off a 24-23 win over the Bulls.
The outcome of this match could have a huge bearing on the South African Conference title battle.
The Jaguares broke their duck against the Stormers with a 25-14 home win late last season. All four matches between the sides have been decided by 1-12 margins.
The Sharks are just 2-4 on the road this season (though they did beat the Rebels in Melbourne in Round 9), while the Jaguares are always a tough proposition in Buenos Aries. Side with the hosts in this one.