Pack down with tips for all seven matches of the 2020 Super Rugby season’s second round, featuring a Friday night Aussie derby and a chance for the Waratahs to bounce back at home.
History: Played 22: Sharks 13 V Highlanders 9
Last meeting: Round 12, 2018: Sharks 38 d Highlanders 12 at Kings Park
Final Thoughts: After sitting out the opening round of the Super Rugby season with the bye, the Highlanders will be looking to start 2020 with a bang. The southerners are in a rebuild after the exit of Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo, Matt Faddes, Marty Banks, Luke Whitelock, Elliot Dixon, Liam Squire, Tom Franklin, Jackson Hemopo and Tyrel Lomax.
They have struggled to recruit big names, though No.10 Mitch Hunt could be a great addition. The return of Tony Brown as assistant coach shapes as the 2019 quarter-finalists’ most astute addition, however.
The Sharks made a sound start to their season, covering the line with a 23-15 victory over the Bulls. They scored two tries in the second half and keep their line intact for the entire 80 minutes.
The Sharks have proven to be a bit of a bogey for the Highlanders, boasting a 13-9 all-time record in the rivalry and inflicting a rare home defeat in Dunedin when they last visited in 2017. The following season the Durban outfit romped to a 38-12 home win. Seven of the teams’ last 11 encounters were decided by 1-12 margins.
The Highlanders lost just once at home last year. The Sharks managed a shock draw against the Crusaders in Christchurch in 2019, but a hard-fought win for the hosts looms as the most likely outcome.
19:15 (AEDT), Fri 7th Feb @ GIO Stadium, Canberra
History: Played 17: Brumbies 9 V Rebels 8
Last meeting: Round 4, 2019: Rebels 29 d Brumbies 26 at AAMI Park
Final Thoughts: The Brumbies kicked off their campaign with a see-sawing 27-24 eclipse of the Reds at home last Friday. A fast start was crucial to the Brumbies’ victory in oppressive heat in Canberra.
The Rebels, meanwhile, were humiliated 36-27 by a fired-up Sunwolves side in Fukoka. Disjointed and rudderless as the departure of Will Genia, Quade Cooper and co. revealed glaring deficiencies, the Rebels are immediately under the pump.
The Brumbies boast a 6-3 home record against the Rebels but lost both clashes between the rivals last season – 34-27 in Canberra and 29-26 in Melbourne.
Seven of the teams’ last nine encounters were decided by eight points or less. Expect another tight one as the chastened Rebels aim to bounce back – but the Brumbies will grind away to a 2-0 start.
17:05 (AEDT), Sat 8th Feb @ FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
History: Played 35: Crusaders 21 V Chiefs 14
Last meeting: Round 16, 2019: Chiefs 40-27 at ANZ Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Chiefs and Crusaders both opened up with solid Round 1 wins. The Chiefs overturned a 14-point halftime deficit to beat the Blues 36-27 at Eden Park, with hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho bagging a double. Returning great Aaron Cruden played a key role in the comeback off the bench.
The Crusaders – with several veteran stars departing in the off-season – unveiled a host of young guns and budding All Blacks, headlined by devastating winger Leicester Fainga’anuku, in a 43-25 defeat of the Waratahs in Nelson. The three-time champs ran in three tries in each half, including braces to Will Jordan and Braydon Ennor.
Unfortunately for the Chiefs, All Blacks trio Damian McKenzie, Nepo Laulala and Angus Ta’avao are all expected to miss this blockbuster.
The Chiefs powered to a 40-27 win over the Crusaders in Suva late last season – one of only two losses inflicted on the champs in 2019 – to break a five-match losing streak in the rivalry. The Crusaders banked 13-plus victories in Hamilton in 2018-19.
The Crusaders have been backed strongly after opening as only 1.5-point favourites and should assert their dominance on a Chiefs side that is set to struggle at scrum-time.
19:05 (AEDT), Sat 8th Feb @ McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
History: Played 24: Blues 16 V Waratahs 8
Last meeting: Round 8, 2019: Blues 32 d Waratahs 29 at Eden Park
Final Thoughts: Two teams desperate to bounce back from Round 1 losses square off in Newcastle on Saturday night.
The Waratahs were put to the sword 43-25 by the dominant Crusaders across the Tasman. Down 24-6 at halftime, they showed some character to draw the second half with exciting 19-year-old winger Mark Nawaqanitawase bagging a five-minute double.
The Blues bottled a 19-5 halftime lead, going down 36-27 to the Chiefs in all-too-familiar fashion. All Blacks winger Rieko Ioane scored a first-half double but is now sidelined for several weeks with a broken hand. Flanker Tony Lamborn, a try-scorer on debut, is also likely to be ruled out of this trip.
The Blues have won two-thirds of their games against the Waratahs since 1996 and picked up victories in Sydney in 2017-18. Last season the Blues edged the ’Tahs 32-29 in Auckland.
After a plucky effort against Super Rugby’s benchmark, the Waratahs look excellent value as home underdogs against a Blues side destined for another erratic season.
00:05 (AEDT), Sun 9th Feb @ Emirates Airlines Stadium, Johannesburg
History: Played 21: Reds 14 V Lions 6 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 11, 2018: Reds 27 d Lions 22 at Suncorp Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Lions suffered the biggest defeat of Round 1 as their 2016-18 glory days seem further away than ever. The Jo’burg outfit led the Jaguares midway through the first half but conceded the last 31 points of a 38-8 loss in Buenos Aries.
The Reds showed some promise in a 27-24 loss to the Brumbies on a hot night in Canberra. Henry Speight scored a try on Reds debut, while Bryce Hegarty racked up 14 points. It’s a solid platform to build on – but they need to find the key to winning on the road after losing 15 of their last 17 away.
Nine of the teams’ last 12 encounters were decided by 1-12 margins but the Lions romped to 30-point win when the Reds last visited Johannesburg in 2017.
Traditionally difficult to beat at home, the Lions were just 5-3 at Emirates Airlines Stadium last season. An upset is certainly not beyond the Reds this weekend.
04:15 (AEDT), Sun 9th Feb @ Newlands, Cape Town
History: Played 33: Stormers 19 V Bulls 13 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 11, 2019: Stormers 24 d Bulls 23 at Newlands
Final Thoughts: The Stormers and Bulls had very different Round 1 experiences. The Stormers – who fared far better than their South African rivals in the post-World Cup exodus stakes – routed the heavyweight Hurricanes 27-0 at home. They piled on three tries in the first 26 minutes as the bonus-point victory.
The new-look Bulls went down 23-15 to the Sharks and were unable to breach their opponents’ try-line. All of their points came from Morne Steyn’s unwavering boot.
The Stormers have won eight of their last 11 against the Bulls, while the last five clashes between the teams were won by the home team. The Stormers hold an 11-4 advantage over the Bulls at Newlands, with one match drawn. After the Bulls’ 40-3 rout of the Stormers in Pretoria in Round 1 last season, the Stormers responded with a one-point home win in Round 11.
The scales seem to have tipped in this rivalry in 2020 after the teams’ respective fortunes in the transfer market, and the Stormers should cover at home.
08:40 (AEDT), Sun 9th Feb @ José Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aries
History: Played 3: Hurricanes 2 V Jaguares 1
Last meeting: Round 14, 2019: Jaguares 28 d Hurricanes 20 at Westpac Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Jaguares, last season’s runners-up, signalled their intentions with a 38-8 drubbing of the Lions in Round 1. Ahead only 10-8 at halftime, the Argentine outfit piled on four second-half tries – including a double to centre Matias Moroni.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, are aiming to bounce back from a 27-0 loss the Stormers in Cape Town. It was the first time in more than 20 years the ’Canes have been held scoreless, with 17 turnovers and 12 penalties conceded pinpointed as the reason for the dismal scoreboard.
The Hurricanes carved out a 34-9 win in their first visit to Buenos Aries in 2018. But the Jaguares pulled off a 28-20 upset in Wellington last year during their ascent to Super Rugby heavyweight status.
The Hurricanes are traditionally slow out of the blocks early in the season, which should allow the Jaguares to chalk up a second straight comfortable win at home.