Pack down with Super Rugby tips for all six matches of Round 7, including an intriguing all-Aussie showdown between the Reds and Rebels, and a monster Kiwi derby pitting the Hurricanes against the Crusaders.
History: Played 36: Crusaders 21 V Hurricanes 12 (3 Draws)
Last meeting: Round 2, 2019: Crusaders 38 d Hurricanes 22 at Christchurch Stadium
Final Thoughts: Touted as likely final combatants, the Hurricanes and Crusaders meet for the second time already this season. The Crusaders romped to a 38-22 victory at home in Round 2, with Scott Barrett and Richie Mo’unga both bagging try doubles.
That was the Hurricanes’ only loss this season but they have been walking the tightrope in recent weeks, drawing with the Chiefs and coming from behind to edge the unfancied Stormers 34-28 at home. The Crusaders, meanwhile, were pancake flat in a 20-12 loss to the Waratahs in Sydney – ending the two-time champs’ 19-match winning streak.
Kieran Read returns for his first game of the season, while Mo’unga and Barrett will also come back into the line-up in a major boost after being rested last week.
The Hurricanes have won eight of their last 14 against the Crusaders, including a 29-19 home win last season. The Crusaders have lost their last five against the ’Canes in Wellington but will be primed to break that drought in what shapes as an absorbing heavyweight duel.
19:45 (AEDT), Fri 29th Mar @ McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
History: Played 4: Waratahs 4 V Sunwolves 0
Last meeting: Round 2, 2019: Waratahs 31 d Sunwolves 30 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
Final Thoughts: Another repeat of a Round 2 showdown, the nomadic Waratahs take their home game against the doomed Sunwolves to Newcastle. The Japanese side – who it was announced will be axed ahead of the 2021 season – almost stunned the ’Tahs in Tokyo earlier this season, ultimately going down by a point.
The Waratahs scored 50-plus points in each of their previous three clashes against the Sunwolves, including a 77-25 demolition in Sydney last year.
On the back of SANZAAR’s shattering news, the Sunwolves showed plenty of spirit in a 37-24 loss to the Lions at home in Round 6.
The Waratahs climbed to the top of the Australian Conference with a 20-12 upset of the Crusaders last weekend – seven days after a disappointing away loss to the Brumbies – and should consolidate their spot with a comfortable victory.
17:35 (AEDT), Sat 30th Mar @ Eden Park, Auckland
History: Played 20: Blues 10 V Stormers 10
Last meeting: Round 5, 2018: Stormers 37 d Blues 20 at Newlands
Final Thoughts: The Blues have breathed life into their campaign with home wins over the Sunwolves (28-20) and Highlanders (33-26) either side of their Round 5 bye. The latter victory was their first over a New Zealand rival since the opening round of 2016.
A first-round belting at the hands of the Bulls aside, the Stormers have been in great touch. They grinded out wins over the Lions and Sharks, hammered the Jaguares 35-8, and were run down late by the Hurricanes in Wellington last week.
The Stormers have won six of their last seven against the Blues, including a 37-20 beatdown in Cape Town last season. The Blues hold a 6-4 advantage against the Stormers in Auckland; remarkably, the teams have not played in New Zealand since 2013.
The Blues are among the least trustworthy teams in Super Rugby as far as stringing quality performances together, but they showed enough last week to suggest they have the Stormers’ measure.
19:45 (AEDT), Sat 30th Mar @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
History: Played 15: Reds 10 V Rebels 5
Last meeting: Round 18, 2018: Reds 37 d Rebels 23 at Suncorp Stadium
Final Thoughts: Quade Cooper returns to Brisbane in the Rebels’ No.10 jumper for a fascinating – and crucial – grudge match. The previously unbeaten Melbourne outfit return from a disappointing fortnight in South Africa, blowing a huge lead against the Lions and going down 28-14 to the Sharks.
The rejuvenated Reds, meanwhile, followed up a nervy three-point win over the Sunwolves in Tokyo with a stunning 36-14 home win over the Brumbies last Sunday. Returning flyhalf Bryce Hegarty was instrumental to the watershed result, scoring a match-sealing try amongst a 16-point haul.
The Reds boast a 5-2 home record against the Rebels, which includes a convincing 37-23 win in the penultimate round of 2018 that proved crucial to the Melbourne outfit missing the finals. The teams’ last five clashes have produced 48 points or more.
Based on recent performances and the Rebels’ travel load, the Reds look outstanding value as home underdogs here.
00:05 (AEDT), Sun 31st Mar @ Kings Park, Durban
History: Played 31: Bulls 19 V Sharks 9 (3 Draws)
Last meeting: Round 4, 2019: Bulls 37 d Sharks 14 at Loftus Versfeld
Final Thoughts: The South African rivals square off for the second time in four rounds – and the Sharks are aiming to atone for a 23-point away loss. Rosco Speckman scored two tries and Handre Pollard booted 22 points in the Bulls’ comprehensive victory.
Both sides have only had one outing since: The Sharks put away the Rebels 28-14 at home last weekend, while the Bulls suffered a horrific 56-20 loss at home to the Chiefs.
The Sharks have won just one of their last against the Bulls, who romped to a 40-10 success at Kings Park last season. Despite their dismal defensive showing in Round 6, the Bulls with a start shapes as a solid play.
08:40 (AEDT), Sun 31st Mar @ Estadio Jose Amalfitani, Buenos Aries
History: Played 2: Chiefs 1 V Jaguares 1
Last meeting: Round 12, 2018: Jaguares 23 d Chiefs 19 at Rotorua International Stadium
Final Thoughts: Two teams apparently on opposite trajectories square off in a make-or-break clash.
The Chiefs put a shocking 0-4 start to the season behind them with a surprise 23-all draw with the Hurricanes and a spectacular 56-20 demolition of the Bulls in Pretoria. Putting Damian McKenzie into the fullback role has revitalised their attack.
After a solid 2-1 start to 2019 at home, the Jaguares spent a fruitless fortnight in South Africa, losing to Lions (47-39) and Stormers (35-8).
The teams have met just twice previously, notching an away win each. The Chiefs held on for a 30-26 victory in Buenos Aries in 2016, while the Jags finished their remarkably successful trip Down Under with a 23-19 boilover in Rotorua.
It’s no secret the Jaguares are far more formidable in their own backyard but all the momentum is with the Chiefs ahead of this clash.