Super Rugby: Round 3 (Saturday)

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

Another enthralling Saturday of Super Rugby is in-store this weekend with five captivating fixtures set to keep rugby fans glued to their television screens. We kick the day’s action off in Otago where the defending champions will host the red-hot Lions. We then make the traditional Saturday trip across the Tasman for the Rebels and Reds match up.

The Sunwolves and Cheetahs then square off in the first ever game to be played in Singapore. Then it’s over to South Africa after that for the Kings versus Chiefs and the coastal derby between the Stormers and Sharks.

Highlanders v Lions | Saturday 12 March | Forsyth Barr Stadium | 08:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Highlanders 3/10 | Draw 28/1 | Lions 5/2
Highlanders (-8.5) 9/10 | Lions (+8.5) 9/10

After last week’s display in Hamilton, Johan Ackerman’s side have convinced me that they are in with a shout of winning the tournament. Their forward pack laid the foundation for that memorable victory but it was the combination play of Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies that really set them apart from their opponents. Jantjies – who was coming off the back of a sub-par performance against the Sunwolves – controlled proceedings brilliantly. His kicking game was top notch, as was his option taking. His scrumhalf also had a game to remember. De Klerk’s passing was as crisp as winter’s breeze and his boxing kicking was spot on.

While the Lions dominated the majority of their fixture against the Chiefs, the Highlanders managed to limp past the Hurricanes. Their one point victory was rather unconvincing, although, if it wasn’t for some shocking refereeing decisions, they would have been able to have put a bit more gloss on the final score.

In terms of team news for this one, Jamie Joseph’s has decided to make a few changes to his squad; the majority of which have been made to the Highlanders forward pack. Tighthead prop, Siosiua Halanukonuk gets a first start. He’s joined in the starting pack by lock Alex Ainsley and Liam Squires, who comes into the eighthman berth. Squires’ elevation to the starting XV means that Luke Whitelock will shift to the side of the scrum.

On the Lions side of things, Johan Ackerman has been forced to change up his centre pairing with Lionel Mapoe returning home due to paternity leave and Harold Vorster out injured. Howard Mnisi and Rohan Janse van Rensburg will replace the aforementioned pair. Elsewhere in the backline, Jaco van der Walt comes into the fullback berth in place of Andries Coetzee whilst Robbie Coetzee and Ruan Dreyer come into the forward pack.

Verdict: Lions (+8.5) 9/10
The men from Johannesburg have been nothing short of sublime this term and although they will arrive later in Otago than planned - due to poor weather delaying their flight - I can’t see this affecting their game. While I’m not bold enough to back them to win it, I do feel safe in recommending them staying to stay within a rather kind handicap.

Rebels v Reds | Saturday 12 March | AAMI Park | 10:45

To Win (80 Mins)
Rebels 7/20 | Draw 28/1 |Reds 22/10
Rebels (-6.5) 9/10 | Reds (+6.5) 9/10

It has been a tumultuous week for Queensland’s finest. Not only did they put in one of their worst display’s in the history of the tournament last Saturday, but they have also lost head coach Richard Graham who was sacked earlier this week.

The Rebels had a first half to forget against the Bulls at Loftus last week. The game saw moments of brilliance as well absurdity from both sides – Adam Thompson’s butchering of a certain try and Jan Serfontein’s inadvertent charge down of Warrick Gelant’s clearance kick will be run on numerous bloopers reels for years to come.

Having entered the break 28-3 down, the men from Melbourne showed a lot of grit to come back and deny the Bulls a bonus point victory. Despite ultimately going down to the Bulls by 20 points, Tony McGahan’s men will enter this week’s fixture as firm favourites. Their opponents were woeful last week against the Force, and I reckon the Rebels will be licking their lips at the prospect of playing against a Queensland side in disarray.

The Rebels have opted for consistency this week, making only a solitary change to the starting XV that took on the Bulls. The change sees Jordy Reed come into the openside flank berth. The Reds have gone a different route with their team selection, making five changes to the squad that put in one of the most underwhelming displays ever seen. Sef Fa’agase and Andrew Ready come into the front row in place of experienced campaigners Ben Dailey and Saia Fainga’a. The other change to the Reds pack sees Waita Setu come in for Curtis Browning on the side of the scrum. In the backline, Anthony Fainga’a will make a welcome return to Super Rugby. The centre is one of the few quality players that the Reds have among their ranks. Fainaga’s return sees a positional switch for Karmichael Hunt who reverts back to fullback role, with Japanese wonderboy, Ayumu Goromaru, dropping to the bench.

Verdict: Rebels (-6.5) 9/10
The Reds inability to score tries has been their Achilles heel for a while now, and I really can’t foresee them having sorted out their attacking woes within the space of a week. Back the Rebels to clear the -6.5 margin against a toothless Reds outfit.

Sunwolves v Cheetahs | Saturday 12 March | Singapore National Stadium | 12:55

To Win (80 Mins)
Sunwolves 18/10 | Draw 25/1 | Cheetahs 4/10
Sunwolves (+6.5) 9/10 | Cheetahs (-6.5) 9/10

The whole of Singapore will come to a standstill this weekend as Super Rugby makes its debut on the island. And if the crowd turnout is anything like it was in Japan, then the host’s will definitely have a 24th player behind.

The Sunwolves will come into this one well rested as they had a bye last week. They should also be rather confident after their opening round display against one of the tournament frontrunners. While most people thought their 13-point loss against the Lions was a par result, it’s seems, a lot more impressive after the Gauteng-based franchise's performance last week.

While the Sunwolves were enjoying a bit of R & R, the Cheetahs were involved in a local derby, which turned out to be a slugfest, with the Stormers. As was the case in the opening round, Franco Smith’s charges had their moments in the game but struggled to capitalise on points scoring opportunities which proved costly as the Cheetahs lost their second successive home fixture.

The ghosts of missed points opportunities seem to be have made the Free State Stadium their home. Whether the Cheetahs can be more clinical on the road is yet to be seen but if history is anything to go by then they may be in for a few more poor results in the coming weeks.

Franco Smith has elected to leave talismanic lock Lood de Jaeger at home. It’s a bold decision but not a really unexpected one as de Jaeger has played a lot of rugby over the past twelve months. His vacant locking berth will be filled by Cheetahs skipper Francois Uys who has performed admirably on the side of the scrum. The Sunwolves are yet to announce their squad match day squad but I suspect there won’t be that many changes from the one that did duty in the opening round.  

Verdict: Sunwolves (+6.5)
 I fancy the Sunwolves here but for the safety’s sake, I recommend taking them on the plus.   

Kings v Chiefs | Saturday 12 March | Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium | 15:05

To Win (80 Mins)
Kings 6/1 | Draw 30/1 | Chiefs 1/10
Kings (+16.5) 9/10 | Chiefs (-16.5) 9/10
Okay, I’m going to keep this one short and sweet. The Chiefs will still be smarting from last weekend’s loss to the Lions and I can see them turning up to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium fired up and ready to hand the hapless Kings a rugby lesson.

The hosts, who enjoyed a bye last weekend, put in a decent first half display in their opener against the Sharks. They were, however, run rampant in the second stanza. That poor second half showing makes me think that the Kings fitness levels are nowhere near the required standard for Super Rugby. While the Sharks capitalised on the Kings fading during the final twenty minutes of that fixture, they could have put a lot more points on the board. The Chiefs are likely to be a lot more clinical than the Natalians, and if I was a Kings player, I would be fearing the worst heading into this one. 

The Chiefs have made a whole host of changes for this one. Mitchell Graham, Nathan Harrison and Siate Tokolahi form a revamped frontrow, while Johan Bardoul and Michael Allardice come into the second row. In the backline, Brad Webber gets a start at scrum half while Glen Fisiiahi retains the right wing berth.

Verdict: Chiefs (-16.5) 9/10
I honestly cannot see the Kings losing by less than thirty points here. You could add another 20 points onto the handicap and I'd still be happy to back it.
Stormers v Sharks | Saturday 12 March | DHL Newlands | 17:15

To Win (80 Mins)
Stormers 5/10 | Draw 22/1 | Sharks 31/20
Stormers (-4.5) 9/10 | Sharks (+4.5) 9/10

The final game of round three is set to be an absolute cracker with the Stormers and Sharks renewing their heated coastal rivalry. Both teams have enjoyed solid starts to their respective campaigns, winning their two opening fixtures. 

The Stormers 10-20 victory over the Cheetahs last week came at a cost with youngster Robert du Preez – who was in cracking form – suffering a knee injury that will see him miss the next nine weeks of Super Rugby. His place in the starting XV will be taken by Kurt Coleman, who did a decent job when he came on for the last thirty minutes against the Cheetahs. 

Gary Gold’s men come into this one off the back of a hard-fought victory over impressive newcomers, the Jaguares. They were however, guilty of coughing up the ball when try scoring opportunities beckoned. They will have to be a lot more clinical this week if they are to defeat their coastal rivals.

Neither coach has announced their match day 23’s at the time of writing but I can’t see either side making wholesale changes for this one.

Verdict: Sharks (+4.5) 9/10
The Stormers have played majority of their last two fixtures in between their 22 and halfway line. While this strategy reaped rewards against the Bulls in the opening round, it almost cost them last week. I can see the Sharks taking advantage of the Stormers carrying the ball from deep this Saturday. If the likes of Marcel Coetzee and the du Preez twins can get a few turnovers in the opposition half then I think the Sharks could cause an upset. I recommend backing them on the handicap however, as it’s a much safer option.

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