Pack down with Super Rugby tips for all seven matches of Round 16, including a vital Aussie derby between the Rebels and Waratahs.
History: Played 21: Blues 13 V Bulls 7 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 5, 2017: Blues 38 d Bulls 14 at Eden Park
Final Thoughts: The Blues are in must-win territory, while the Bulls are striving to hold onto their top-eight spot – and keep their hopes of snaring the South African Conference title alive.
The 5-8 Blues sit 13th but only four points adrift of eighth. They have showed renewed resolve in the past fortnight with a rare win over the Chiefs and a gritty 19-11 away loss to the Crusaders – despite the ongoing absence of All Blacks Sonny Bill Williams and Dalton Papali’i. The 7-6 Bulls backed up a 32-17 upset of the Rebels in Melbourne with a 22-10 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra last week. Halfback Ivan van Zyl and flanker Marco van Staden come into the Bulls’ line-up this week.
The Blues boast an 11-1 record against the Bulls, most recently carving out a 24-point win at Eden Park in 2017. The Blues are also 5-2 at home this season – and outstanding record given their NZ Conference status – and are good things to account for the Bulls here.
19:45 (AEST), Fri 31st May @ AAMI Park, Melbourne
History: Played 16: Waratahs 14 V Rebels 2
Last meeting: Round 10, 2019: Waratahs 23 d Rebels 20 at SCG
Final Thoughts: The Rebels can take a huge step towards a maiden finals appearance with a win over a Waratahs side very much at the last-chance saloon for 2019. The 7-6 Rebels have emerged from a mid-season slump with two wins from their last three games, including a 52-7 demolition of the Sunwolves in Tokyo last weekend. The 5-8 Waratahs have won only one of their last five, with last week’s 23-15 home loss to the Jaguares a savage blow to their finals prospects.
Will Genia has recovered from concussion to line up for the Rebels, while Matt Toomua has been named in the No.12 outside Quade Cooper. The Waratahs’ depth has been further stretched by an injury that will keep Karmichael Hunt out for three months.
The Waratahs’ dominant 14-2 all-time record against the Rebels includes a 6-1 record in Melbourne. The ’Tahs also grabbed a 23-20 victory at home earlier this season.
This shapes as the ideal chance for the Rebels to grab a rare win in this rivalry. But 12 of the Waratahs’ 13 matches have been decided by eight points or less, and the visitors look a decent bet with a handy start.
15:15 (AEST), Sat 1st Jun @ Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo
History: Played 4: Brumbies 4 V Sunwolves 0
Last meeting: Round 13, 2019: Brumbies 33 d Sunwolves 0 at GIO Stadium
Final Thoughts: The last-placed Sunwolves appear to be marking time until the end of the season, losing three of their last four games by 33 points or more – including a 33-0 defeat in Canberra just three weeks ago.
The Brumbies have rallied to the top of the Australian Conference with three straight wins. They accounted for the Blues and Bulls at home either side of their trouncing of the Sunwolves.
The Brumbies are undefeated in four matches against the Sunwolves. The Japanese outfit came within 10 points at home and way against the Brumbies in 2018, but crashed heavily in their other two clashes.
The Brumbies are only 1-5 on the road this season but will be eyeing off a bonus-point victory against Super Rugby’s minnows.
17:35 (AEST), Sat 1st Jun @ FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
History: Played 34: Crusaders 21 V Chiefs 13
Last meeting: Round 4, 2019: Crusaders 57 d Chiefs 28 at AMI Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Chiefs and Crusaders square off in the annual Fiji-hosted Super Rugby match. The 5-2-7 Chiefs have lost only one of their last four, bouncing back from their 23-8 loss to the Blues with a gripping 19-13 home win over the Reds. They are three points out of the top eight but only have two matches left to play.
The 10-3-1 Crusaders came back from their fortnight in South Africa flat, struggling past the Blues at home 19-11 in a dour affair. But they hold a virtually unassailable 13-point lead at the top of the table.
The Crusaders are on a five-match winning streak against the Chiefs, who won eight of the previous 10 encounters. The South Islanders won 45-23 at home and 34-20 in Hamilton last season, while they powered to a 57-28 victory in Hamilton in April.
Without Nathan Harris and Brodie Retallick, the Chiefs’ pack is set to struggle to match up to the Crusaders’ engine-room, while the gap in backline firepower is just as stark.
19:45 (AEST), Sat 1st Jun @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
History: Played 2: Reds 1 V Jaguares 1
Last meeting: Round 5, 2018: Reds 18 d Jaguares 7 at Jose Amalfitani Stadium
Final Thoughts: Three straight losses to the Rebels, Waratahs and Chiefs has effectively put paid to the Reds’ finals chances. But they were gallant in a 19-13 loss in Hamilton last week and won’t be throwing in the towel just yet.
The Jaguares, meanwhile, have a three-point lead in the South African Conference thanks to another fruitful trip Down Under. After a narrow loss to the Highlanders, the Argentine outfit have upset the Hurricanes and Waratahs back-to-back by eight-point margins.
This is the Jaguares’ first visit to Brisbane. The ledger is square after two previous clashes in Buenos Aries, with the Reds getting an 18-7 upset result last season.
The Jags’ are riding high on confidence and should have too much power for the hosts at the set-piece.
23:05 (AEST), Sat 1st Jun @ Kings Park, Durban
History: Played 22: Hurricanes 12 V Sharks 9 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 7, 2018: Hurricanes 38 d Sharks 37 at McLean Park
Final Thoughts: The 6-1-6 Sharks are sixth on the ladder and three points adrift of the South African Conference-leading Jaguares. After winning only one of their previous five, the Sharks carved out a vital 27-17 home win over the Lions last week.
The 9-1-3 Hurricanes would need a miracle to run down the Crusaders for top spot, but they look assured of finishing ‘best of the rest’ in fourth with a seven-point buffer. They had the bye weekend to think about their Round 14 home loss to the Jaguares, which ended a five-match winning streak.
The Hurricanes are on a four-match winning streak against the Sharks, averaging more than 38 points per game. But they escaped with a 38-37 win in Napier last season.
The Sharks are only 3-4 at Kings Park this season but are unmistakably on the improve. Their underdog value is tough to pass up.
01:15 (AEST), Sun 2nd Jun @ Ellis Park, Johannesburg
History: Played 27: Stormers 17 V Lions 9 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 2, 2019: Stormers 19 d Lions 17 at Newlands
Final Thoughts: The eighth-placed Lions and ninth-placed Stormers are tied on 30 points – needless to say, this is a monumental showdown in the context of the finals race.
The 7-6 Lions followed up narrow wins over the visiting Waratahs and Highlanders with a 27-17 loss to the Sharks in Durban in Round 15. The 6-1-6 Stormers are running into some form, meanwhile, holding the Crusaders to a draw and outlasting the Highlanders 34-22 in a fortnight at home since their last bye.
The Stormers snapped a five-match losing streak against the Lions with a 19-17 result in Round 2 this season.
But the Cape Town outfit are just 2-5 on the road this season, while the Lions are 4-2 at Ellis Park. The Stormers hold some value as $2.45 outsiders but the Lions have to be favoured with the pressure on.