Pack down with Super Rugby tips for all seven matches of Round 15, including vital home assignments for the Brumbies and Waratahs against South African Conference opposition.
History: Played 22: Chiefs 12 V Reds 10
Last meeting: Round 10, 2018: Chiefs 36 d Reds 12 at Suncorp Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Reds take on a Chiefs side that has hammered them mercilessly in recent times. In their last four encounters, the Chiefs have won by a combined 161 points to 32. Throw in the fact that the Reds have lost 14 straight to Kiwi opposition and this looms as a daunting home assignment for Brad Thorn’s side.
The Reds have slumped to 13th thanks to back-to-back derby losses to the Rebels and Waratahs. Their task of much-needed bounce-back is made harder by the absence of Samu Kerevi, who has been rested. Duncan Paia’aua comes into the centres.
The Chiefs’ playoffs hopes are equally tenuous after going down to the Blues 23-8 last weekend. They sit in second-last spot, while Anton Lienert-Brown has been rested, joining Brodie Retallick and Damian McKenzie on the sidelines. Sam Cane returns in a big boost, however.
Despite last week’s unflattering defeat, the Chiefs have been in far superior form in recent times and should get the result at home.
19:45 (AEST), Fri 24th May @ GIO Stadium, Canberra
History: Played 22: Brumbies 14 V Bulls 8
Last meeting: Round 15, 2018: Brumbies 38 d Bulls 28 at Loftus Versfeld
Final Thoughts: The 6-6 Brumbies stormed to the top of the Australian Conference with consecutive home wins over the Blues (26-21) and Sunwolves (33-0), before enjoying the Round 14 bye. There is still no return in sight for David Pocock, but Wallabies lock Rory Arnold returns to bolster the pack.
The 7-5 Bulls hold a tenuous grip on first place in the South African Conference thanks to their 32-17 away victory over the Rebels last weekend. The upset ended a 12-game losing streak overseas for the Bulls.
The Brumbies have won five of their last six against the Bulls, including a handy five-tries-to-three win in South Africa last year. The Brumbies have a 9-1 home record against the Bulls and prevailed 23-6 in Canberra in 2016, the Pretoria outfit’s last visit to the capital.
With five straight wins in Canberra, expect the Brumbies to grind out a close win. But the line value lies in the Bulls here.
15:15 (AEST), Sat 25th May @ Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo
History: Played 4: Rebels 4 V Sunwolves 0
Last meeting: Round 8, 2019: Rebels 42 d Sunwolves 15 at AAMI Park
Final Thoughts: The Sunwolves’ inconsistency has made them a very difficult proposition for punters. They followed up a gutsy 29-23 loss to the Hurricanes with a 52-0 capitulation to the Highlanders. They went down by six to the Reds, then crashed 33-0 to the Brumbies. There is no rhyme or reason to their week-to-week performances.
The ninth-placed Rebels, meanwhile, need to build some late-season form if they want to book a maiden finals berth. They have lost four of their last five, including a confidence-sapping 32-17 home loss to a Bulls side with an awful away record last week.
The Rebels have had little trouble with the Sunwolves during the Japanese side’s brief existence, winning all four encounters by 20-plus points. They carved out a 37-17 win in Tokyo last year and disposed of the Sunwolves 42-15 at home in Round 8 this season.
Three of the Sunwolves’ six home losses this season were by six points or less, but the Rebels should have the firepower – and find the desperation – to carve out a relatively convincing victory.
17:35 (AEST), Sat 25th May @ Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch
History: Played 33: Crusaders 23 V Blues 11
Last meeting: Round 1, 2019: Crusaders 24 d Blues 22 at Eden Park
Final Thoughts: The Blues confront Super Rugby’s biggest test this weekend but take the confidence of having just won against New Zealand opposition for only the second time in their last 26 attempts. Their 23-8 win over the Chiefs ended a four-match losing streak and kept the finals flame flickering.
The Crusaders hold a nine-point lead at the top of the table but played out a 19-all stalemate against the Stormers last week – their second draw with South African opposition in three outings. They have also been besieged by controversy all week following a couple of off-field incidents in Cape Town.
The Crusaders have won 12 of their last 14 against the Blues, including the last nine straight. They got out of jail 24-22 at Eden Park in Round 1. The Blues have regularly pushed the Crusaders in Auckland, but last year’s 54-17 was typical of their recent fortunes in Christchurch.
It would be premature to say the Blues have turned a corner, while the Crusaders will inevitably use the negative publicity as positive motivation.
19:45 (AEST), Sat 25th May @ Bankwest Stadium, Sydney
History: Played 2: Jaguares 2 V Waratahs 0
Last meeting: Round 4, 2018: Jaguares 38 d Waratahs 28 at Jose Amalfitani Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 5-7 Waratahs are only three points outside the top eight, but this home assignment shapes as a must-win for the Sydneysiders. They bounced back from three straight losses to outlast the Reds 40-32 in Brisbane last week in a potentially season-saving result.
The 7-5 Jaguares sit fifth and are right in the hunt for the South African Conference title. After a gallant loss to the Highlanders in Dunedin, they stunned the Hurricanes 28-20 in Wellington in Round 14 – the Jaguares’ fifth win in six games.
The Jaguares are 2-0 against the Waratahs. The Argentine outfit pulled off a 40-27 upset in Sydney in 2017, while they managed a 10-point win after a four-try blitz in the opening 20 minutes in last year’s encounter in Buenos Aries.
Every Waratahs match this season has been decided by a 1-12 margin – including 10 by eight points or less – and this should be no exception. The in-form Jaguares are a very attractive underdog here.
23:05 (AEST), Sat 25th May @ Newlands, Cape Town
History: Played 21: Highlanders 12 V Stormers 8 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 4, 2018: Highlanders 33 d Stormers 15 at Forsyth Barr Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 5-1-6 Stormers stayed in the finals mix by holding the Crusaders to a 19-all draw at Newlands last weekend. They are still a lowly 12th, though, and they need to bank this win at home.
The 5-2-6 Highlanders sit eighth – just one point clear of the chasing pack – and would love to head home with something to show for their South Africa trip after going down 38-29 to the Lions in Round 14. Talisman Ben Smith’s absence is being keenly felt.
The Stormers have won six of their last nine against the Highlanders, but the Kiwi heavyweights racked up big wins in Dunedin in each of the last two seasons. Cape Town has not been an overly unwelcome destination for the Highlanders over the years, winning five of their 11 games at Newlands.
A real flip of the coin with the Stormers at home but unreliable, and the Highlanders superior consistency-wise but depleted and on the road. Taking the underdog with the start shapes as the best option.
01:15 (AEST), Sun 26th May @ Kings Park, Durban
History: Played 31: Sharks 19 V Lions 10 (2 Draws)
Last meeting: Round 8, 2019: Sharks 42 d Lions 5 at Ellis Park
Final Thoughts: Just one point and one ladder position separates the Lions and the Sharks; with just four rounds remaining, this result could have a major bearing on both teams’ campaigns.
The sixth-placed Lions have a 7-5 record after winning their last two at home against the Waratahs (29-28) and Highlanders (38-29). It’s been a timely turnaround for the ailing South African Conference heavyweights after losing three of their previous four.
The 5-1-6 Sharks enjoyed the bye following their satisfactory trip Down Under (a win against the Waratahs, a draw with the Crusaders, a loss to the Chiefs).
The Lions have won seven of their last nine against the Sharks. But the Sharks scored a drought-breaking 31-24 home win late last season – ending the Lions’ 21-game winning streak against South African opposition – and romped to a remarkable 42-5 victory in the Jo’bug cauldron seven weeks ago.
The Sharks are a dismal 2-4 at home this season, while the Lions are a fair 3-3 on the road. The Lions have been building in recent weeks and look tremendous value as the outsider.