Pack down for Round 3 with Super Rugby tips for all seven matches as the Brumbies, Rebels and Reds look to continue the Aussie teams’ encouraging form against Kiwi opposition.
History: Played 24: Brumbies 14 V Hurricanes 10
Last meeting: Round 17, 2018: Brumbies 24 d Hurricanes 12 at GIO Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Hurricanes are licking their wounds after going down convincingly 38-22 to the Crusaders in Christchurch. The loss came on the back of a nervy one-point away win over the Waratahs. Beauden Barrett will return in a huge boost, though brother Jordie is out. Ardie Savea and Vaea Fifita are back to bolster the pack.
Upset by the Rebels in Round 1, the Brumbies pulled off one of the most stunning results of recent years by smashing the Chiefs 54-17 – despite a long injury list headlined by David Pocock, who is set to return this week. Scott Sio and lock Blake Enever also coming into the Brumbies’ starting pack.
The Brumbies have won two of their last three against the Hurricanes – including a 24-12 boilover last season – but both victories were in Canberra. They were spanked 56-21 in their last visit to Hurricanes territory in 2017.
The Brumbies went 3-5 on the road last season, while the ’Canes won all nine of their games at home. Look to a narrow Hurricanes victory or the Brumbies with a generous start as the best options in the Round 3 opener.
19:45 (AEDT), Fri 1st Mar @ AAMI Park, Melbourne
History: Played 7: Highlanders 6 V Rebels 1
Last meeting: Round 19, 2018: Rebels 43 d Rebels 37 at Forsyth Barr Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Rebels cooled their heels with the bye in Round 2 after upsetting the Brumbies 34-27 in their Canberra season opener. Jack Maddocks scored two of the Rebels’ five tries, but the headline act was Quade Cooper, who produced a superb team debut in the crucial No.10 role. Wallabies pair Reece Hodge and Adam Coleman return this week to give the Rebels an even more formidable look.
The Highlanders followed up a gutsy late win over the Chiefs with 14 men by pulling off another cliff-hanger result, edging the plucky Reds 36-31 at home. Matt Faddes, Ben Smith and Aaron Smith were integral to the come-from-behind success. But both Smiths – as well as Luke Whitelock – will be rested this week. Bryn Gatland comes in at flyhalf, with Josh Ioane reverted to fullback. Elliot Dixon is back in a boost the pack.
The Highlanders are 2-1 against the Rebels in Melbourne. They needed three tries in the final 17 minutes to get up 43-37 in Dunedin in last season’s final-round clash.
The ’Landers are vulnerable without a couple of their big guns on deck, but they still arguably deserve to be favourites and are hard to resist at this price against a rebuilding Rebels outfit.
17:35 (AEDT), Sat 2nd Mar @ FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
History: Played 2: Chiefs 2 V Sunwolves 0
Last meeting: Round 6, 2019: Chiefs 61 d Sunwolves 10 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
Final Thoughts: No team has more of a point to prove in Round 3 than the Chiefs, who were humbled 54-17 in Canberra last weekend – the heavyweights’ heaviest defeat in a decade. The humiliating result came on the back of a tight home loss to the Highlanders in the season opener.
The Sunwolves responded to a dismal 45-10 loss to the Sharks in Round 1 by almost knocking off the visiting Waratahs – despite going in as 20.5-point underdogs.
This is the teams’ third encounter. The Sunwolves were outstanding in losing just 27-20 in Hamilton two seasons ago, but the Chiefs romped to a 51-point victory in Tokyo last year with Damian McKenzie scoring 26 points.
Both sides’ erratic formlines make this clash a tricky betting proposition. But after last week’s harrowing defeat, expect the Chiefs to come out firing from the outset in front of their home fans.
19:45 (AEDT), Sat 2nd Mar @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
History: Played 24: Crusaders 18 V Reds 6
Last meeting: Round 3, 2017: Crusaders 22 d Reds 20 at Suncorp Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Reds were afforded a 20-point handicap heading into last Friday’s daunting showdown with the Highlanders, but they very nearly came away with a boilover victory in their first outing in 2019. The youthful Reds were eventually run down 36-31 in Dunedin but won a host of new admirers. Lock Izack Rodda and exciting halfback Moses Sorovi epitomised the new-look, unheralded Reds’ spirit.
The Crusaders seem to have picked up where they left off in 2018, backing up a narrow away win over the Blues in Round 1 with a authoritative 38-22 home victory over fellow contenders the Hurricanes. Scott Barrett and Richie Mo’unga both scored doubles in marvellous individual displays.
The Crusaders have won six straight against the Reds since their loss in the 2011 Super Rugby final, most recently squeaking in 22-20 in Brisbane in early-2017. Their previous four wins over the Reds were by 28-plus points.
The Crusaders are on a Super Rugby-record 17-game winning streak. Seven of their last eight have come by 14 points or more. As good as the Reds were last week, the Crusaders should account for the relatively cautious line here.
00:05 (AEDT), Sun 3rd Mar @ Ellis Park, Johannesburg
History: Played 27: Bulls 15 V Lions 11 (1 Draw)
Last meeting: Round 19, 2018: Lions 38 d Bulls 12 at Ellis Park
Final Thoughts: The Lions may not have it all their own way in the South African Conference in 2019 after all, suffering a rare derby loss to the Stormers last weekend. The Lions conceded a try well after the final hooter to lose 19-17, negating their solid 25-16 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aries in Round 1.
The Bulls’ start to the season has effectively been the inverse of the Lions’. They hammered the Stormers 40-3 in Round 1, but were comfortably beaten 27-12 by the Jags in Argentina last week.
The Lions have won six of their last seven against the Bulls, including a 49-35 victory in Pretoria and a 38-12 beatdown in Johannesburg last season.
The Lions have only lost four games at home since May, 2015 – all to New Zealand opposition. The Bulls don’t travel well and look set to leave Ellis Park empty-handed again.
02:15 (AEDT), Sun 3rd Mar @ Kings Park, Durban
History: Played 29: Sharks 16 V Stormers 13
Last meeting: Round 18, 2018: Stormers 27 d Sharks 16 at Newlands
Final Thoughts: The Sharks could hardly have been more impressive in the opening fortnight of Super Rugby 2019, whipping the Sunwolves 45-10 in Singapore then comfortably putting away the Blues 26-7 despite going into the match as slight underdogs.
The Stormers responded to an embarrassing 40-3 loss to the Bulls in Pretoria by upsetting the Lions 19-17 at home last weekend. Herschel Jantjies scored five minutes into added time and SP Marais’ conversion snatched a vital win for the Cape Town outfit.
The Sharks have won five of the last seven encounters between the sides, including a 24-17 victory at home in Round 10 last season. The Stormers won the return clash in Cape Town 27-16.
Expect another close-fought affair between the archrivals, but the Sharks should get the result.
08:40 (AEDT), Sun 3rd Mar @ Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aries
History: Played 2: Jaguares 1 V Blues 1
Last meeting: Round 11, 2018: Jaguares 20 d Blues 13 at Eden Park
Final Thoughts: The Jaguares bounced back from their 25-16 loss to the Lions in Round 1 with a solid 27-12 upset of the Bulls. But with a third straight game at home, the Argentine outfit will be aware of the importance of getting another win up on the board.
After coming so close to rolling the Crusaders in a 24-22 home loss in Round 1, the Blues barely fired a shot in a 26-7 loss to the in-form Sharks in Durban. The heat seemed a factor as the Blues struggled for continuity and execution, while superstar recruit Ma’a Nonu’s absence didn’t help.
The teams have met twice previously – both in Auckland. The Blues prevailed 24-16 in 2016, but the Jaguares pulled off a 20-13 upset during their remarkably successful Australasian trip midway through last season.
The Blues scored a couple of notable away wins last season but they have a reputation as one of the worst travellers in Super Rugby. But going 0-3 would almost wreck the Blues’ finals hopes before the season is a month old – count on their big guns standing up to engineer an upset.