Pack down with Super Rugby tips for all six matches of Round 14, including a crunch Aussie derby between the Reds and Waratahs.
History: Played 2: Hurricanes 2 V Jaguares 0
Last meeting: Round 3, 2019: Hurricanes 34 d Jaguares 9 at Jose Amalfitani Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 9-1-2 Hurricanes have won five on the trot, putting away the Blues 22-12 in Auckland last weekend. Beauden Barrett is on All Blacks rest this weekend, with James Marshall the new No.10. Ardie Savea will play No.8 with Reed Prinsep out.
The Jaguares – eighth on the ladder with a 6-5 record but still a huge chance at taking the South African Conference title – had their four-game winning streak halted by the Highlanders 30-25 in Round 13. They get Argentina Test stars Agustin Creevy, lock Tomas Lavanini, flanker Pablo Matera and halfback Tomas Cubelli back this week.
The Jaguares went down 40-22 in their only previous visit to Wellington in 2015, while the Hurricanes racked up a similarly convincing 34-9 win in Buenos Aries last year.
The Jaguares’ last five games against New Zealand opposition were all decided by five points or less. The Hurricanes are 14-1 at home since the start of last season and will be hard to topple, but without their linchpin and on the back of a relatively unconvincing showing it should be closer than the line suggests.
19:45 (AEST), Fri 17th May @ AAMI Park, Melbourne
History: Played 5: Bulls 5 V Rebels 0
Last meeting: Round 10, 2018: Bulls 28 d Rebels 10 at Loftus Versfeld
Final Thoughts: The 6-5 Rebels have fallen behind the Brumbies in the Australian Conference title race but they have a game in hand. They arrested a three-game slide with a vital 30-24 derby win over the Reds at home last weekend, while they have been boosted by Quade Cooper’s clean bill of health and the club debut of Matt Toomua, who has been named on the bench in his return from England.
The seventh-placed Bulls are in an identical position, sporting a 6-5 record and sitting a point behind the South African Conference-leading Sharks but with a game in hand. They were humbled 43-15 by the Crusaders at home in Round 13, however. Flanker Hanro Liebenberg and fullback Warrick Gelant are back in the Bulls’ starting line-up.
The Bulls are 5-0 against the Rebels, though just one of their previous encounters were in Melbourne. Last year the Bulls ran out 28-10 winners in Pretoria.
But the Bulls don’t travel well, losing their last 12 straight overseas – including two to the Sunwolves. The Rebels should have enough points in them to get the job done fairly comfortably.
17:35 (AEST), Sat 18th May @ Eden Park, Auckland
History: Played 31: Chiefs 20 V Blues 10 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 9, 2019: Chiefs 33 d Blues 29 at FMG Stadium Waikato
Final Thoughts: The 4-7 Blues and 4-2-6 Chiefs are effectively squaring off to keep their finals chances afloat. The 12th-placed Chiefs are five points adrift of the Top 8, and two points and two ladder places ahead of the Blues.
The Blues are reeling from four straight 1-12 losses to the Chiefs, Highlanders, Brumbies and Hurricanes. They were the better team for much of their 22-12 defeat to the ’Canes, but it many ways it was a trademark example of the Blues failing to close out a tight contest. The injury-ravaged Chiefs have regrouped well since a heavy loss to the Hurricanes in Round 11, snatching an away draw against the Highlanders and outlasting the Sharks 29-23.
The Chiefs are on a 14-match unbeaten streak against the Blues. All but one of those encounters featured a 1-12 margin, however. The Chiefs grabbed a hard-fought 27-21 result at Eden Park last year, while two subsequent meetings in Hamilton were decided by four points or less.
With just one win from their last 24 games against fellow Kiwi teams, the Blues are hard to get on-board with as a warm favourite.
19:45 (AEST), Sat 18th May @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
History: Played 31: Waratahs 17 V Reds 14
Last meeting: Round 4, 2019: Waratahs 28 d Reds 17 at Sydney Cricket Ground
Final Thoughts: In another virtual do-or-die clash, this time in the Australian Conference, the 5-6 Reds host the 4-7 Waratahs. Just one point separates the archrivals on the ladder.
After picking up a pair of crucial wins over the Sharks and Sunwolves either side of their Round 11 bye, the Reds went down 30-24 to the Rebels in Melbourne last Friday. The Waratahs have lost three straight games – all to South African opposition – including a gut-wrenching one-point loss to the Lions in Johannesburg in Round 13.
The Waratahs are on a nine-match winning streak against the Reds. They powered to a 37-16 win at the SCG and prevailed 52-41 in Brisbane last season, and held the Reds off 28-17 at the SCG earlier this season.
The ’Tahs’ only away win in five games this year was a one-point escape against the Sunwolves, while the Reds are 3-2 at home. But the Waratahs’ key-position experience should allow them to maintain their dominance of this derby.
23:05 (AEST), Sat 18th May @ Ellis Park, Johannesburg
History: Played 20: Highlanders 12 V Lions 8
Last meeting: Round 13, 2018: Highlanders 39 d Lions 27 at Forsyth Barr Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 6-5 Lions sit two points outside the Top 8, while the resurgent 5-2-5 Highlanders have moved up to fifth.
The Lions edged the Waratahs 29-28 at home last weekend but are unquestionably not the force they have been in recent seasons. The Highlanders have defied several big-name injuries to go unbeaten in their last four games, holding off the Jaguares at home in Round 13.
The Highlanders prevailed 39-27 against the Lions in Dunedin last season, but the Lions have won the last two encounters in Johannesburg. The home side is 17-3 in this rivalry, with the Highlanders winning only two of their nine games at Johannesburg.
The Highlanders have won six of their last eight games on South African soil, however, and given their superior form they shape as the better bet in another pick ’em game.
01:15 (AEST), Sun 19th May @ Newlands, Cape Town
History: Played 22: Crusaders 17 V Stormers 4 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 3, 2018: Crusaders 45 d Stormers 28 at AMI Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 5-6 Stormers are four points adrift of the Top 8 and need to make a move. Wildly inconsistent, the Stormers followed up a key home win over the Bulls in Round 11 with a 30-25 away loss to the Jaguares, before sitting out last weekend with the bye.
The Crusaders resumed normal transmission after being held to a shock draw at home in Round 12 by the Sharks, whipping the Bulls 45-13 in Pretoria last weekend. Their quality of depth is astonishing and goes a long way to explaining why they have lost just one of their last 26 games.
The Crusaders have won their last six – and 14 of their last 16 – against the Stormers, including big home wins in each of the past two seasons. George Bridge has scored five tries in his last two games against the Cape Town outfit.
But the Stormers fare better at home against the Crusaders, boasting a serviceable 4-6 record. The Crusaders have won their last five games in South Africa, however, and should easily have the erratic Stormers’ measure.