Pack down with tips for all seven matches of the 2020 Super Rugby season’s third round, featuring big Kiwi and Aussie derbies on Friday night.
History: Played 34: Crusaders 24 V Blues 11
Last meeting: Round 15, 2019: Crusaders 19 d Blues 11 at AMI Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Blues bounced back impressively from their opening-round collapse against the Chiefs, blowing the Waratahs away 32-12 in Newcastle. Several injury absentees – headlined by Rieko Ioane – failed to deter the Blues, with young winger Mark Telea blazing in for a hat-trick.
The Crusaders, meanwhile, came back to earth after their 43-25 beatdown of the ’Tahs in Round 1. They were on fire early against the Chiefs in Hamilton – with Sevu Reece scoring twice – but ultimately went down 25-15 in an error-riddled performance.
The Crusaders have won 13 of their last 15 against the Blues, including the last 10 straight. But last season’s two encounters were furiously fought. The champs got out of jail 24-22 at Eden Park in Round 1, while the Blues more than held their own again in a 19-11 late-season loss in Christchurch.
Richie Mo’unga returns in a huge boost for the Crusaders, with David Havili returning to fullback. Prop Ofa Tuungafasi comes back into an otherwise unchanged Blues starting XV. Though their appalling record against fellow NZ teams needs no embellishment, the hosts should push the Crusaders again with the three-time champs eagerly awaiting the return of their All Black guns.
19:15 (AEDT), Fri 14th Feb @ AAMI Park, Melbourne
History: Played 17: Waratahs 15 V Rebels 2
Last meeting: Round 16, 2019: Waratahs 20 d Rebels 15 at AAMI Park
Final Thoughts: The pressure valve is already cranked right up on the Rebels and Waratahs at this early stage of the campaign.
The Rebels followed up an unacceptable loss to the Sunwolves in Fukuoka with a 39-26 defeat at the hands of the Brumbies in Canberra. They never really looked like they were in either contest.
The Waratahs showed some second-half fight in a 43-25 away loss to the heavyweight Crusaders in Round 1. But their 20-point loss to the unfancied, injury-hit Blues in Newcastle was a massive step backwards.
The Waratahs have named 20-year-old rookie prop Angus Bell to make his first start and called up Jack Maddocks on the wing. The Rebels have promoted Ryan Louwrens to the No.9 jumper, while Campbell Magnay comes in at centre with Reece Hodge shunted to the wing.
The Rebels’ record against the Waratahs is an appalling 2-15. The Waratahs have won seven of their eight games in Melbourne. But the Sydneysiders’ winning margin in both clashes last season was five points or less.
The psychological edge may be just enough for the underdog ’Tahs in a battle between two down-on-confidence, tackle-shy outfits.
14:45 (AEDT), Sat 15th Feb @ Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
History: Played 3: Chiefs 3 V Sunwolves 0
Last meeting: Round 3, 2020: Sunwolves 30 d Chiefs 15 at FMG Stadium Waikato
Final Thoughts: The Sunwolves had the Round 2 bye to bask in their wonderful 36-27 season-opening win over the Rebels. An almost unrecognisable line-up out-enthused and overpowered the red-hot favourite Rebels, building a 23-point lead before easing off the pedal in the last 15 minutes. Garth April has already proved a fine addition, scoring 16 points on Sunwolves debut.
The Chiefs have thrown down the gauntlet to Super Rugby’s other contenders by overwhelming the Blues (37-29) and Crusaders (25-15) so far. The Chiefs found themselves behind by double digits in both games but finished over the top of their NZ rivals. Aaron Cruden has been in vintage form in his return, while Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown relished their return to the starting line-up in Round 2. Captain Sam Cane has been inspirational so far.
The Sunwolves pulled off arguably their finest Super Rugby win in Hamilton last year, shocking the Chiefs 30-15. But the Chiefs powered to a 61-10 victory in their only visit to Tokyo to date in 2018.
This looks like an improved Chiefs outfit, however, and Warren Gatland’s firepower-laden side are unlikely to get caught unawares by the Sunwolves again – though they will want to be quicker out of the blocks.
17:05 (AEDT), Sat 15th Feb @ Sky Stadium, Wellington
History: Played 22: Hurricanes 12 V Sharks 9 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 16, 2020: Hurricanes 30 d Sharks 17 at Jonsson Kings Park
Final Thoughts: The Hurricanes bounced back from their insipid start to 2020 in style in Round 2. The Kiwi heavyweights were pilloried after a 27-0 opening round loss to the Stormers in Cape Town. But they responded with a nail-biting 26-23 victory over the Jaguares in Buenos Aries, Alex Fidel and Jamie Booth scoring inside the final 10 minutes to snatch the result.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have signalled their intentions in the South African Conference with a 2-0 start. They put away the Bulls 23-15 in a two-tries-to-nil result, before thrashing the Highlanders 42-20 in Dunedin. Makazole Mapimpi scored twice as the tourists raced to a 28-3 halftime advantage, while Aphelele Fassi snuffed out the Highlanders’ comeback with a late double.
The Hurricanes are on a five-match winning streak against the Sharks, averaging more than 36 points per game. They escaped with a 38-37 win in Napier in 2018, but were more convincing in a 30-17 result in Durban last season.
The Sharks will find the going much tougher than they did in the South Island. But they have had a week to settle in New Zealand, while the Hurricanes have had an arduous travelling schedule to begin the season and may take a while to get going.
19:15 (AEDT), Sat 15th Feb @ GIO Stadium, Canberra
History: Played 23: Brumbies 12 V Highlanders 11
Last meeting: Round 9, 2018: Highlanders 43 d Brumbies 17 at Forsyth Barr Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Brumbies have opened their Australian Conference title defence with two derbies victories. After squeaking past the Reds 27-24 in Round, they were more convincing in accounting for the Rebels 39-26 last Friday. Their attack is clicking, running in 10 tries already, while NRL convert Solomone Kata had a blinder against Melbourne.
The Highlanders sat out Round 1 with the bye and looked like they were still in pre-season mode during the first half last week against the visiting Sharks. They scored three tries to two in the second half but still went down 42-20 – a dismal result at home for the new-look ’Landers.
James Slipper, Will Miller and Darcy Swain coming into the Brumbies’ starting pack. The Highlanders get a welcome boost with All Blacks rep Shannon Frizell coming into the No.6, while lock Jesse Parete and Sio Tomkinson are the other new faces.
The Highlanders are on a four-match winning streak against the Brumbies. Their overall record in Canberra is only 5-9, but they have won their last two at GIO Stadium
But the southern men look well off the pace early and the Brumbies should comfortable move to a 3-0 record at home.
00:05 (AEDT), Sun 16th Feb @ Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
History: Played 28: Stormers 17 V Lions 10 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 16, 2019: Lions 41 d Stormers 22 at Emirates Airlines Park
Final Thoughts: The Lions are no longer the force that made three straight finals from 2016-18, but they responded positively to their 38-8 Round 1 shellacking at the hands of the Jaguares. The Jo’burg outfit beat the Reds 27-20 at home after winger Tyrone Green bagged a first-half double.
It was a scrappy affair, however, and they will need further improvement to subdue the in-form Stormers. The 2-0 Stormers are yet to concede a point this season, overcoming the Hurricanes 27-0 and Bulls 13-0.
The Lions have won five of their last six against the Stormers. The Stormers grabbed a 19-17 win in Cape Town early last season, but the Lions responded with a one-sided 41-22 victory at home in the latter stages of the campaign.
The firepower-laden Lions of seasons past are already a faded memory, and they will struggle to make an imprint on a stingy Stormers defensive line.
08:40 (AEDT), Sun 16th Feb @ Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aries
History: Played 3: Jaguares 2 V Reds 1
Last meeting: Round 16, 2019: Jaguares 34 d Reds 23 at Suncorp Stadium
Final Thoughts: After a 30-point thrashing of the Lions in Round 1, the Jaguares are smarting from letting a valuable win slip from their grasp last weekend. Last year’s runners-up were on course for victory at home to the Hurricanes but conceded two tries in the last 10 minutes of a 26-23 defeat.
The Reds are 0-2 despite two spirited performances. The long-suffering Queenslanders were edged out on the road by the Brumbies (27-24) and the Lions (27-20) in the opening fortnight of the competition. Brad Thorn’s youthful, new-look outfit are performing solidly given the limited talent and experience at their disposal.
The ledger is squared one-all between these sides in Buenos Aries, with the Reds banking an 18-7 upset in their last visit in 2018. The Jaguares earned a 34-23 win in their maiden visit to Brisbane last season.
After pushing their hosts close in both games to date, the Reds shape as a decent option with a double-digit start.