Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Another 'Super Saturday' is in store for rugby fans. Our first port of call this week is the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium where the two new boys on the block will go head to head for the first time.
We then make the journey to the ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’ for what should be a fiercely contested New Zealand derby between the Hurricanes and the Chiefs. That’s followed by the traditional Saturday jaunt across the Tasman for an Aussie derby between the dogged Western Force and a Waratahs outfit who will be desperate to turn their horror show of a season around.
We close out the day’s action with two games on South African shores. The first of which will see the Stormers take on the Reds. That’s followed by a derby fixture between the ever improving Kings and Johan Ackerman’s exhilarating Lions squad.
There’s some fantastic value on offer this weekend and while my form been a bit patchy this season, I feel I’ve got a few winners lined up. So without further delay, let’s get stuck into it like Heinrich Brussouw at a ruck!
Sunwolves v Jaguares | Saturday 23 April | Prince Chichibu Stadium | 07:15
To Win (80 Mins)
Sunwolves 11/2 | Draw 33/1 | Jaguares 1/10
Sunwolves (+17.5) 9/10 | Jaguares (-17.5) 9/10
'Dai songai' is a phrase that would have been doing the rounds in most Japanese rugby circles after last Friday night’s shambolic display in Bloemfontein. Loosely translated, the term means to receive a heavy loss. While there are a plethora of adjectives that could be added to the phrase – most of them are unsuitable for sensitive eyes and ears – I think the term just about sums up the Sunwolves emotional state right about now.
The men from Japan have a hell of a lot of spirit and moxie but they must currently feel like a mourner at a close relatives funeral.
As brave as Mark Hammet’s side are, you simply cannot legislate for their shoddy defensive work last weekend. Their defensive line resembled a jagged cityscape, with no symmetry whatsoever. And while the Cheetahs were brilliant on attack, you can’t help but feel that their job was made easy but the lack of cohesion amongst the Sunwolves' defenders.
While a lot of sides nominate their inside centre as their defensive general in chief, the Sunwolves seemed to have no such inclination last weekend. Instead, they resembled a bunch of foot soldiers awaiting orders which never came.
I really like Tusi Pisi as a player. The man has shades of Carlos Spencer to him. The problem with 'King Carlos' though was that he often got lost at sea when opposition sides were in possession.
Like the former Blues icon, Pisi can put in a decent tackle but he isn’t the greatest organiser of a defensive line to have graced a rugby field. Nor are his outside backs Yu Tumura and Harumichi. In fact, the only defensive general in this Sunwolves backline seems to be Dereck Carpenter, who was strangely left to watch the majority of last week’s 92-17 massacre unfold from the bench.
With that in mind, I think we will see Carpenter return to the centres for this weekend’s clash. The Northland old boy may not be the best attacker in the Sunwolves squad but he provides a lot more structure to this backline.
The Jaguares also ended last weekend without accruing any more logs points. The final leg of their underwhelming tour to New Zealand saw them go down to the Crusaders by 32 points to 15. The result has left the Argentines with little chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals.
There’s good news for the Jags' this week however, as they’re likely to get their second win of the campaign. Their opponents are the only team left in the tournament without a win under their belts and I highly doubt that will change this weekend.
Verdict: Jaguares (-17.5) 9/10
With the likes of Agustin Creevy and Juan Tuculet back in the Jaguares squad, I can see the Argentines turning the Sunwolves nightmarish week into a fortnight from hell.
Hurricanes v Chiefs | Saturday 23 April | Westpac Stadium | 09:35
To Win (80 Mins)
Hurricanes 9/10 | Draw 22/1 | Chiefs 9/10
Hurricanes (-1.5) 9/10 | Chiefs (+1.5) 9/20
This one is definitely the clash of the weekend. You have the two best attacking sides in New Zealand – I’d say in the tournament but I don’t want to offend our punters out in Jo'burg – squaring off at a ground that is notorious for producing high-scoring thrillers.
The hosts may have been hammered in the opening round by the Brumbies but since then they’ve been a force to reckon with. Chris Boyd’s men have only lost a solitary match since that opening round mauling at the hands of the Brumbies, and they were extremely unlucky to have actually lost that fixture as they went down by just a solitary point to the Highlanders in a game that could have gone either way.
The Chiefs have also been in impressive form this season only losing one of the seven fixtures they’ve played thus far. They currently top the New Zealand Conference, the Australasian Conference, and the Overall Conference.
Key to the Waikato side’s dominance this season has been mercurial fullback Damian Mckenzie. The diminutive number 15 has been in scintillating form this term. He currently tops the point scoring charts having racked up 112 points. He also leads the try-scoring stakes having already crossed the whitewash seven times this term.
The last three contests between the sides have been rather close run affairs with the winning margin not exceeding eight points. The 'Canes won both of last year’s encounters; running out 13-21 victors in New Plymouth and pipping their opponents by four points at Westpac.
Verdict: Chiefs 9/10
The odds and recent history indicate that this one will be a tight run affair. I generally go for the home team when it comes to games like this but I’m just not feeling them this week. While I wouldn’t recommend putting your house on it or adding it to any of your multiples, I think the Chiefs will eek out a narrow victory.
Force v Waratahs | Saturday 23 April | nib Stadium | 11:45
To Win (80 Mins)
Force 33/20 | Draw 22/1 | Waratahs 46/100
Force (+5.5) 9/10 | Waratahs (-5.5) 9/10
The second derby of the day sees the Western Force go up against the out of sorts Waratahs outfit at the nib Stadium.
The hosts come into this one off the back of a well-deserved bye and should be pumped to get back on the field. And why wouldn’t they be? Their opponents have been in horrific form this term, only managing to claim two victories from the six fixtures they’ve played.
The men from New South Wales may have shown a lot of fight in their loss to the Brumbies last week but they still looked out of sorts, which is extremely strange considering the quality personal they boast.
Skipper, Michael Hooper, has struggled to have an impact at ruck time, while their two attacking sparks Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau, currently look like they’d struggle to light up petrol-laden braai.
I actually thought the aforementioned duo would breathe some life into this one dimensional Waratahs side last week. I billed their fledgling centre partnership as the most exciting things to have happen in round eight. Instead of lighting up the Allianz Stadium, the duo struggled to launch any attacks of note,
They’re going to have to up their game this week, as while the Force aren’t the most star-studded of sides, they are as dogged as they come – just ask the Crusaders about that.
The Waratahs will be somewhat buoyed by the return of hard-working winger Rob Horne. The Wallaby is one of two changes to Waratahs' run-on squad; the other change sees hooker Talafu Polota-Nau get a spot on the bench.
On the Force’s side of things, Francois van Wyk comes into the loosehead berth while Marcel Brachie come back in on the wing.
Verdict: Western Force 33/20
The Force will rightly sense blood in the water and while their opponents are priced up as favourites, I can see the hosts getting a famous victory over their domestic rivals this Saturday.
Stormers v Reds | Saturday 23 April | DHL Newlands | 15:00
To Win (80 Mins)
Stormers 1/7 | Draw 28/1 | Reds 9/2
Stormers (-13.5) 9/10 | Reds (+13.5) 9/10
Robbie Fleck and his bunch of moaners – sorry Schalk but you’re whinging won’t change last weekend’s result bud – take on an unpredictable Reds outfit at Newlands this Saturday.
The hosts for this one are coming off the back of a contentious (at least in their eyes) seven-point loss to the Lions. The defeat showed some of the cracks that had been papered over during the first seven weeks of the Stormers campaign.
Before I get into the next segment of this piece I just like to make it clear that I think Schalk Burger has been a wonderful servant to South African rugby but that does not legislate for the manner in which he spoke to referee Stuart Berry. Yes, Burger was in the right on a couple of occasions but this isn’t a football field in South America where hurling abuse at a referee is considered the norm.
What shocks me the most though, is that the Stormers stalwart hasn’t been sanctioned for his actions. Burger will likely retain his starting berth this weekend alongside the majority of the squad that went down at Ellis Park last Saturday. The only change I can foresee for the Stormers is a return for energetic hooker Skarra Ntubeni, whose work rate was sorely missed last weekend.
Last weekend saw the Reds put in one of those strange performances that they are fast becoming notorious for. They had their moments at Loftus – Samu Kurivia’s long distance try being the pick of them – but ultimately lacked the defensive discipline to see them past Nollis Marais' side.
Their 19 point defeat to the Bulls was their sixth defeat of the season. But while that loss is a rather damning omen for the remainder of their South African, it must be remembered that this Reds side is capable of turning in a poor performance one week and then beating the likes of the Highlanders the following.
They’ve also tasted success against the Stormers over the years, winning at Newlands in 2011 and claiming victories at Suncorp in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
Verdict: Stormers 1/7
I’m going to err on the side of caution here and recommend backing the Stormers on the straight win. For those who really want to pursue more value from this game and don't mind taking a risk, back the Reds on the plus.
Kings v Lions | Saturday 23 April | Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium | 17:10
To Win (80 Mins)
Kings 9/1 | Draw 33/1 | Lions 1/33
Kings (+24.5) 8/10 | Lions (-24.5) 9/10
Saturday’s final fixture is a bit of a damp squib in my opinion, but hey, there’s still a bucket load of cash to be made from one sided affairs.
The Lions will come to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in search of a full five point haul while for the Kings, a successful night out would compromise of keeping the margin of defeat under the 30 point mark.
The hosts enjoyed the weekend off while the Lions were involved in an energy-sapping derby with the Stormers last weekend. With that in mind, I reckon we're likely to see a bit of rotation from the Lions head coach Johan “I don’t believe in announcing my matchday squad before 12 on a Thursday morning” Ackerman.
This is basically guesswork, but I think Ackerman will make at least four changes to his run-on XV. The most likely of which will see his son, Ruan Ackerman, come in on the flank for Jaco Kriel. I reckon Elton Jantjies will also be given a rest with Jaco van der Walt likely to be given a bash at ten. The two other changes that I can foresee are Howard Mnisi coming in for Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Cyle Brink getting coming in for either Tecklenburg or Whiteley
Verdict: Lions (-24.5) 9/10
Even if Ackerman makes slew of changes, his side still has the quality to canter past the -24.5 handicap.
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