Another double bill of Super Rugby action is heading your way this Friday. The first fixture of the day will be contested between the impressive Crusaders and an unpredictable Reds outfit. That game is followed by a clash between the stuttering Brumbies and the Bulls.
Friday’s two fixtures offer the ideal excuse to avoid a few hours of work as well as make some money while you’re at it!
Crusaders v Reds | Friday 6 May | AMI Stadium | 09:35
To Win (80 Mins)
Crusaders 1/14 | Draw 40/1 | Reds 6/1
Crusaders (-18.5) 9/10 | Reds (+18.5) 9/10
The Crusaders welcome the Reds to the AMI this Friday in a game the whole rugby world expects the hosts to win. Todd Blackadder’s men need to be wary, however, as this Reds side has claimed a big New Zealand scalp already this term having defeated the Highlanders at the start of April. However, the Reds form since that surprise victory can be described as a mixed bag at best.
Their Ill-fated tour of South Africa saw them go down by 19 points to the Bulls and then by 18 points to the Stormers the following week. Their return to Australian shores has seen an upswing in their fortunes as they defeated the Cheetahs by 13 points in front of their home fans last Friday. That result has left them six points clear of the foot of the Australian Conference.
The hosts for this Friday’s encounter enjoyed a bye last week so they should be well recovered heading into this one. They are also on a great run of form that has seen them win their last seven fixtures. This has resulted in them closing the gap between themselves and the Conference-leading Chiefs to just five points.
While the Crusaders have been in all-conquering form, there is a slight silver lining to what seems an ominous dark cloud on the Reds horizon. That silver lining is the absence of 130 kg wrecking ball of a wing, Nemani Nadolo. The “Flying Fijian” is currently serving a three-match ban for his tip tackle on Brumbies’ Argentine scrumhalf Tomas Cuebelli. The big man’s absence is a huge coup for the Reds as Nadolo is an absolute beast under the high ball and would surely have won a plethora of aerial duels against a suspect Reds' back three.
The bad news for the Reds, however, is that the Crusaders have an abundance of classy wingers in reserve. With right winger Johnny McNicholl having recovered from a foot injury we’re likely to see the impressive Jone Macilai shift to the left wing to fill the massive void left by Nadolo. There’s also likely to be a return for influential centre Ryan Crotty who missed the Crusaders last outing due to a hamstring strain.
While the Crusaders will welcome the return of one of their midfield dynamos, the Reds will be without one of theirs. Talismanic outside centre Samu Kerevi broke his hand in the Reds 3-17 victory over the Cheetahs and could spend up to six weeks on the sidelines. His place is likely to be taken by utility back Karmichael hunt, with Japenese'wonderkid
Verdict: Crusaders (-18.5) 9/10
They may be missing one of their most potent attacking weapons but I still reckon the Crusaders will put a big score over this Reds side.
Brumbies v Bulls | Friday 6 May | GIO Stadium | 11:45
To Win (80 Mins)
Brumbies 4/10 | Draw 28/1 | Bulls 18/10
Brumbies (-6.5) 9/10 | Bulls (+6.5) 9/10
Our second fixture of the day pits the floundering Brumbies up against a Bulls side that's fresh off the back of an impressive victory over the Western Force.
While Bulls mentor Nollis Marais will be fixated on getting his side through to the playoff rounds of the competition, his mandate for the Bulls' 2016 campaign is to bring the Pretoria-based franchise into the 21st century.
It was refreshing to see the Bulls implement Marais’ attacking mantra last Friday. While Bulls teams of the past would have looked to shut up shop as soon as they opened up a cushy lead, this current squad seems a different breed; they continued to attack and we rewarded with two late tries.
While the Bulls managed to secure a vital bonus point victory on the road, the Brumbies woeful away form continued.
With a heavy amount of rain falling during the 80-minutes at Invercargill, most pundits would have thought the Brumbies were in with a real shout of mauling themselves to a victory over the Highlanders. How wrong we all were. When all was said and done at Rugby Park, it was the Highlanders who had come out on top mainly due to their clinical finishing.
That loss was the Brumbies third defeat in their last four outings. It has also left Steven Larkham’s men in a precarious position on the Australian Conference standings as well as the Combined Australasian Conference; they currently sit two points behind the Rebels on the Australian Conference while they are seven points off the last wild card spot on the Combined Australasian standings.
In terms of team news for this one, the Bulls were handed a massive boost this week with Springbok winger Bjorn Basson been declared fit to take to the field on Friday.
On the Brumbies side of things, the early news coming out of their camp is that skipper Steven Moore will be fit to start. The 157 cap Super Rugby veteran sat out of last week’s defeat to the Highlanders with a calf injury but has overcome it according to Steven Larkham. They will, however, be without devastating winger Joe Tomane, as the franchise’s leading try scorer is sidelined for the next five weeks with medial ligament damage.
Verdict: Bulls (+) 9/10
This is one of those games that could go either way. With that in mind, I reckon the smart bet here is to back the Bulls on the plus.