Pack down with Super Rugby tips for all six matches of Round 5, including a huge Brumbies-Waratahs duel, a big South African assignment for the in-form Rebels, and a pair of monster Kiwi derbies.
History: Played 34: Hurricanes 17 V Chiefs 15 (2 Draws)
Last meeting: Quarter-final, 2018: Hurricanes 32 d Chiefs 31 at Westpac Stadium
Final Thoughts: It’s already panic stations for the 0-4 Chiefs, who have fallen from heavyweight to embarrassment with the season less than a month old. They leaked 50-plus points on the road to the Brumbies and Crusaders either side of a humiliating home loss to the Sunwolves. The Hurricanes are 3-1, with a loss to the Crusaders in Round 2 their only blemish. Since then, they have accounted for the Brumbies convincingly (43-13) and the Highlanders less so (25-22).
The injury-ravaged Chiefs have moved Damian McKenzie to fullback, with brother Marty coming in to take over the No.10 duties. The Hurricanes have shifted Vaea Fifita to lock, while Wes Goosen replaces the rested Ben Lam, and Toby Smith and Ben May come into a scrum that got pushed around by the Highlanders.
Including a 29-24 victory in Hamilton last season, the Chiefs have won eight of their last 13 against the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes responded with a 32-31 eclipse in a classic Wellington-host quarter-final later in 2018, but they are attempting to extinguish a 12-year Hamilton hoodoo.
The Chiefs are 9-6 overall against the Hurricanes at home, with two matches drawn. They have a habit of producing close encounters: 16 of the last 20 meetings have been decided by 1-12 margins.
Expect to see some real heart and desperation from the Chiefs this week after copping it from all sides, though not enough to pull off their first win of 2019.
19:45 (AEDT), Fri 15th Mar @ GIO Stadium, Canberra
History: Played 32: Waratahs 17 V Brumbies 15
Last meeting: Round 19, 2018: Brumbies 40 d Waratahs 31 at Allianz Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 3-1 Brumbies badly need another win after a 30-point thrashing from the Hurricanes and their second loss of the season to the Rebels (after leading 19-3). The 2-1 Waratahs have won their last two, but weren’t overly convincing against the Sunwolves or Reds.
Injuries are hurting the Brumbies’ chances of bouncing back, with Wallabies David Pocock and Allan Alaalatoa both sidelined. The Waratahs have lost Karmichael Hunt to injury, which sees Kurtley Beale move from fullback to inside-centre and Israel Folau revert to the No.15.
The Waratahs have won five of their last seven against the Brumbies, including a hard-fought 24-17 win in Canberra in Round 7 last year. But despite relinquishing the Australian Conference title to the ’Tahs, the Brumbies carved out a 40-31 victory in Sydney in the final round of 2018.
There’s little between the sides on paper, form-wise or in the head-to-head stakes. But the Waratahs shape as the smart option here given the hosts’ injury setbacks.
04:10 (AEDT), Sat 16th Mar @ Newlands, Cape Town
History: Played 4: Stormers 3 V Jaguares 1
Last meeting: Round 17, 2018: Jaguares 25 d Stormers 14 at Jose Amalfitani Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Stormers enjoyed the bye in Round 4, having successfully bounced back from their opening-round thrashing at the hands of the Bulls with gritty wins over the Lions and Sharks. Dillian Leyds comes in at fullback, while Steven Kitshoff, Scarra Ntubeni and Juarno Augustus are in the starting pack for the first time in 2019.
The Jaguares are 2-2, following up consecutive home wins over the Bulls and Blues with a 47-39 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg. They are near full-strength again after trotting out a weakened team against the Lions, though champion hooker Agustin Creevy remains out.
The Jaguares broke their duck against the Stormers with a 25-14 home victory late last season. The Stormers have won both previous encounters in Cape Town, however, including a 28-20 result early in 2018.
The combination of the Jags’ dismal away record and an overwhelming poor record against the start makes the Stormers an obvious proposition at Newlands.
15:15 (AEDT), Sat 16th Mar @ Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo
History: Played 3: Reds 2 V Sunwolves 1
Last meeting: Round 19, 2018: Reds 48 d Sunwolves 27 at Suncorp Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Reds have shown plenty of moxy in losses to the Highlanders, Crusaders and Waratahs – all by 10 points or less. But the stark facts remain that they are 0-3 and need wins immediately to stay in finals contention. Coach Brad Thorn has opted to rest Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda and Isaac Lucas, which means the inexperienced Isaac Lucas will wear the No.10 jersey.
The 1-3 Sunwolves followed up their landmark win over the Chiefs in Hamilton with a 28-20 loss to the Blues in Auckland. Their expat-heavy line-up features the return of flyhalf Hayden Parker.
All three previous encounters have been won by the home team. The Sunwolves pulled off one of the most stunning results in their history with a 63-28 victory in Hong Kong last year, but the Reds gained some revenge for that embarrassment with a 48-27 win in the final round.
The Sunwolves are a far more difficult proposition at home (which the Waratahs found out in a 31-30 win in Round 2), which should have the Reds concerned given the Japanese outfit’s recent exploits on the road. Though they have also been outstanding against the line since the start of last season, the Sunwolves are in the unfamiliar position of favourites and the value lies with the Reds here.
17:35 (AEDT), Sat 16th Mar @ Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
History: Played 34: Crusaders 24 V Highlanders 11
Last meeting: Round 18, 2018: Crusaders 45 d Highlanders 22 at AMI Stadium
Final Thoughts: The great southern derby sees the Highlanders desperate to get back in the winner’s circle after two close defeats, and the all-conquering Crusaders chasing a 20th straight victory.
After an under-strength side lost 24-19 to the Rebels in Melbourne, the Highlanders were beaten 25-22 by the Hurricanes after the buzzer. Waisake Naholo and fellow All Black Shannon Frizell return ot their starting side this week. The Crusaders crushed the Chiefs 57-28 last week, but will not be impressed at having conceded four tries. Sam Whitelock will line up for the first time this season.
The Crusaders have won 10 of their last 13 against the Highlanders, but the southerner’s three wins came in the past four seasons – including a hard-earned 25-17 victory in Dunedin early last season. But the Crusaders romped home 45-22 in Christchurch in the penultimate round of 2018.
The Highlanders are 8-1 in Dunedin since the beginning of last season, and with the Crusaders 0-2 against the line away in 2019, the hosts shape as a solid option with a handy start.
00:05 (AEDT), Sun 17th Mar @ Ellis Park, Johannesburg
History: Played 4: Lions 4 V Rebels 0
Last meeting: Round 11, 2018: Lions 47 d Rebels 10 at AAMI Park
Final Thoughts: The Lions bookended the first month of their 2019 campaign with wins against the Jaguares in Buenos Aries and Johannesburg, but their aura of invincibility within the South African Conference has subsided after losses to the Stormers and Bulls.
The Rebels, meanwhile, lead the Australian Conference with a perfect 3-0 record. They have beaten the Brumbies at home and away, either side of a victory over the depleted Highlanders in Melbourne. All three wins were by a converted try or less, however, and their inability to win outside Australia remains a huge question mark over their credentials.
The Lions have won all four previous clashes between the teams, most recently including a 47-10 demolition in Melbourne in 2017.
The Rebels are winless in 15 matches in South Africa since joining the competition in 2011, losing nine of the last 11 by 16 points or more. Meanwhile, the Lions have lost just once to non-New Zealand opposition at Ellis Park since May 2015 (against the Bulls in Round 3 this year) and should take the sheen of the Rebels’ stirring start to the season.