Pack down with tips for all seven matches of the 2020 Super Rugby season’s seventh round, featuring a Friday night Kiwi derby and closing with a Sunday afternoon clash between Australian archrivals.
History: Played 36: Hurricanes 18 V Chiefs 15 (3 Draws)
Last meeting: Round 11, 2019: Hurricanes 47 d Chiefs 19 at Westpac Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Chiefs and Hurricanes square off for the right to be deemed the biggest threat to a Crusaders four-peat in 2020.
The 4-1 Chiefs bounced back from a shock home loss to the Brumbies by pounding the Waratahs 51-14 in Wollongong. They also get Damian McKenzie back at fullback this week.
The 3-2 Hurricanes’ three-game winning streak came to an end via a 24-15 loss to the Blues at home last Saturday. Dane Coles returns to the starting line-up, while veteran prop Ben May replaces the suspended Tyrel Lomax. Vaea Fifita slips back to the bench.
The Chiefs have a 10-6 home record against the Hurricanes, with three games drawn. The teams played out a 23-all draw in Hamilton early last season, but the Hurricanes romped to a 47-19 victory in Wellington.
The Chiefs are warm $1.41 favourites, but this heavyweight duel should be super tight.
14:25 (AEDT), Sat 14th Mar @ Eden Park, Auckland
History: Played 21: Blues 14 V Lions 7
Last meeting: Round 4, 2018: Blues 38 d Lions 35 at Emirates Airline Park
Final Thoughts: The Blues confront a huge banana skin game, desperate to keep the momentum going after a watershed win and a rare torrent of praise. The perennial underachievers are 4-2 after winning their last three against the Bulls, Stormers and Hurricanes – all on the road. Last week’s 24-15 victory was their first away win over a fellow NZ team in seven years.
The Lions have won just one of their four games so far as their rapid decline picks up steam. Their Down Under tour so far has garnered losses to the Waratahs (29-17) and Rebels (37-17).
The Blues boast a 7-2 record against the Lions at home. It goes against many seasons of astute betting, but the form difference between the sides suggests that taking the big minus is a solid option.
16:35 (AEDT), Sat 14th Mar @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
History: Played 2: Crusaders 2 V Sunwolves 0
Last meeting: Round 10, 2018: Crusaders 33 d Sunwolves 11 at AMI Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Sunwolves’ first-up win over the Rebels proved a major flash in the pan. They’ve lost their four games since by at least 26 points, including a 47-14 drubbing at the hands of the Brumbies last weekend. Coronavirus has also had a big impact on the team, forcing them to play a bunch of home games in Australia – with this fixture to be staged in Brisbane.
The 4-1 Crusaders are cruising along in satisfactory fashion, though they made hard work of a 24-20 home win over the Reds last weekend.
The teams have met just twice, both times in Christchurch with the Crusaders winning on both occasions – 50-3 in 2017 and 33-11 a year later.
Taking the big minus in Sunwolves games has been very profitable and the Crusaders are destined to rack up a win by 50-plus with the firepower at their disposal.
19:15 (AEDT), Sat 14th Mar @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
History: Played 22: Reds 12 V Bulls 10
Last meeting: Round 9, 2019: Bulls 32 d Reds 17 at Loftus Versfeld
Final Thoughts: The Reds’ 1-5 record – with their sole win coming against the Sunwolves – doesn’t look flash. But they are on the improve, pushing the Crusaders to the brink in a 24-20 loss in Christchurch. Their performance was particularly impressive given the absence of linchpin James O’Connor, who returns from injury this week.
The Bulls arrive in Australia on the back of their first win of the season. The Pretoria outfit blitzed the Highlanders in the second half to record a 38-13 victory.
The last 13 Bulls-Reds matches have gone the way of the home side. The Reds snared a 20-14 victory in Brisbane in 2018 but were beaten 32-17 in Pretoria last year.
The Bulls managed a win in Melbourne and draws in Auckland and Dunedin during their month overseas last season. With six changes to the Reds’ line-up, the upset is on.
00:05 (AEDT), Sun 15th Mar @ Kings Park, Durban
History: Played 30: Sharks 16 V Stormers 14
Last meeting: Round 18, 2019: Sharks 12 d Stormers 9 at Newlands
Final Thoughts: The Sharks and Stormers are putting together impressive campaigns to date.
The 5-1 Sharks’ only loss was the Hurricanes away. Since then, they have banked wins over the Rebels and Reds in Australia by double-digit margins and beat defending South African Conference champs the Jaguares 33-19 in Durban.
The 4-1 Stormers had the Round 6 bye to ponder their first loss of the season, a very subpar 33-14 home defeat to the Blues.
The Sharks have won six of the last nine between the sides. Last season both sides earned away wins in low-scoring encounters, with the Stormers prevailing 16-11 in Durban and the Sharks holding on for a 12-9 final-round win in Cape Town. The latter result saw the Sharks leapfrog the Stormers into the playoffs.
Both sides will arrive at Kings Park confident, but the Sharks’ momentum will be difficult to counter.
10:00 (AEDT), Sun 15th Mar @ Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aries
History: Played 2: Highlanders 2 V Jaguares 0
Last meeting: Round 13, 2019: Highlanders 32 d Jaguares 27 at Forsyth Barr Stadium
Final Thoughts: The 3-3 Jaguares have struggled for consistency as they chase back-to-back South African Conference titles. They’ve followed a win-loss pattern all season, beating the Bulls 39-24 in Pretoria in Round 5 before crashing 33-19 to the Sharks last weekend.
Meanwhile, the Highlanders are in all sorts with just one win on the board. Horrible home losses to the Sharks and Rebels fed into a shocking 38-13 away to the Bulls in Round 6, despite leading at halftime.
The teams have met just twice, with the Highlanders winning both. The defending champs powered to a 34-8 win in Buenos Aries in 2016 and edged the Jaguares 32-27 in Dunedin last year.
There’s not much to like about the ’Landers and they look likely to go down heavily against this weekend after losing three times by 20-plus already.
16:05 (AEDT), Sun 15th Mar @ GIO Stadium, Canberra
History: Played 34: Waratahs 18 V Brumbies 16
Last meeting: Round 17, 2019: Brumbies 35 d Waratahs 24 at BankWest Stadium
Final Thoughts: The Brumbies are 4-1, putting aside their home loss to the Highlanders with wins over the Chiefs (26-14) and Sunwolves (47-14) either side of their Round 5 bye. Solomone Kata has been a handy pick, while the Brumbies’ more enterprising style has been a breath of fresh air.
The 1-4 Waratahs have been abysmal. They got off the mark with a home win over fellow stragglers the Lions in Round 5, but they sunk to a new low via 51-14 home loss to the Chiefs last weekend.
The Brumbies are on a three-match winning streak against the Waratahs. They took out both encounters last season: 19-13 in Canberra and 35-24 in Sydney.
Blowouts are uncommon in this rivalry. Despite the Waratahs’ woes, expect them to make the home side work for it.