Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
There’s a double bill of Super Rugby action heading your way this Friday. The first game will see the defending champions take on the struggling Western Force in Dunedin. While the second fixture sees an impressive Lions outfit take on the Crusaders at Emirates Airline Park.
Highlanders v Force | Friday 1 April | Forsyth Barr Stadium | 08:35
To Win Match
Highlanders 1/12 | Draw 40/1 | Force 13/2
Highlanders (-18.5) 9/10 | Force (+18.5) 9/10
The Highlanders registered their fourth successive win last week with a 26-3 victory over the Melbourne Rebels. Having put in a near flawless first half attacking display against the 'Tahs a week prior, the Highlanders demonstrated their defensive prowess this past weekend. Jamie Joseph’s teams fantastic defensive display ensured the Rebels were unable to register a five-pointer.
While the Highlanders have enjoyed a tremendous start to their campaign, the Force's start to the season has been a lot less positive. While the men from Western Australia have put in some dogged displays, especially during the first forty minutes of their matches, they have only managed to win one of the four fixtures that they have played. Last week saw Michael Foley’s charges suffer yet another defeat, this time, at the hands of a rampant Chiefs outfit.
In terms of team news for this one, Jamie Joseph has opted to freshen things up. The Highlanders mentor has decided to start Elliot Dixon and Dan Pryor in the loose trio, while hooker Liam Coltman and winger Matt Fades return to the starting XV. There are also changes to the Force’s starting XV with Wallabies Ben McCalman and Luke Morahan returning to the run on XV.
Verdict: Highlanders (-18.5) 9/10
Despite the Force winning five out of the last six fixtures between the sides, my money is on the Highlanders winning this one by a large margin. They’re the most in-form team in the competition at present and they have been racking up points for fun.
Lions v Crusaders | Friday 1 April | Emirates Airline Park | 19:00
To Win Match
Lions 11/10 | Draw 22/1 | Crusaders 15/20
Lions (+1.5) 9/10 | Crusaders (-1.5) 9/10
Everything just seems to be falling into place for the men from Johannesburg. Having been originally handed some terrible news about talismanic pivot Elton Jantjies’ wrist injury, it looked like the Lions were going to have to make do without their most influential backline figure for a few months. Fast forward a few days, and Jantjies’ injury was declared to be minor.
If the Lions had a game last week, the left-footed ten would have definitely missed out, but Johan Ackerman’s side had a bye and it looks like Janjties may not even miss a game.
While the lions were enjoying a weekend off, the Crusaders were involved in a rather scrappy affair with the Sharks at Kings Park. Todd Blackadder’s men managed to claim a vital 19-15 victory over Gary Gold’s charges. While Blackadder will be pleased with the result he may be less excited about how many opportunities his side left out on the Kings Park pitch. While the Sharks defended like Trojans, the 'Saders should have closed out the game long before Kieran Reed’s try.
They will have to be a lot more clinical against the Lions as Johan Ackerman’s side won’t be as timid on attack as the Sharks were last week.
While I did open the piece up with the miraculous recovery of Elton Jantjies, the pivot is bracketed with the forgotten man of Lions rugby, Marnitz Boshoff, on the Lions team sheet. Whether Jantjies starts or plays a role off the bench is yet to be seen but he will make a big difference regardless. On the Crusaders side of things, Todd Blackadder has decided to rotate his forward pack with Wyatt Crockett coming in for Joe Moody and Jimmy Tupou coming in for the impressive Jordan Tafua on the flank.
Verdict: Lions 11/10
I’m rather surprised the Lions aren‘t priced up as favourites here. While the Crusaders have been in reasonable form over the past few weeks, they haven‘t really come up against a side as lethal on attack as the Lions. Back the hosts to claim their fourth victory of the season at 11/10.
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