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Super Rugby: Round 11 Saturday
So we’ve made it through to Round 11 with hopefully substantially heavier wallets and a thirst for rugby action akin to that of a man stranded on a desert islands’ lust for fresh drinking water.
This Saturday will see five fixtures being contested, the highlight of which is undoubtedly the New Zealand derby between this years’ pace-setters, and the defending champions.
On the South African side of things, there’s a huge test for the Sharks with the Hurricanes lying in wait while the Kings will be looking to put the misery of last weekend’s hiding in Argentina behind them. Let’s get cracking then!
Sunwolves v Force | Saturday 7 May | Prince Chichibu Stadium | 07:15
To Win (80 Mins)
Sunwolves 14/10 | Draw 25/1 | Force 11/20
Sunwolves (+4.5) 9/10 | Force (-4.5) 9/10
We’ve got a bit of an early start this Saturday with the Sunwolves and Western Force fixture kicking off at quarter past seven. It’s not the caliber of game I’d generally set the old morning alarm for but I think it may turn out to be a gold mine for those who enjoy our Live-In Play betting as well as the In-Running stuff.
The two sides have made the lower echelons of their respective conference’s their natural habitat this term with the Western Force occupying last spot on Australian Conference and the Sunwolves stranded at the foot of Africa Conference 1.
A lot of parallels can be drawn from both side’s seasons; both of these strugglers have only managed a solitary victory with the rest of their meagre points tallies coming courtesy of losing bonus points.
There’s really not much point in delving into a full on statistical analysis of this game as those stats will simply back up the conclusion that the whole rugby world has come to about these two sides; which is that they are not very good and that they ship points like it’s going out of fashion.
Verdict: Sunwolves 14/10
I think that historic win over the Jaguares a fortnight ago will have given this Sunwolves a massive confidence boost while the Force’s loss to the Bulls last week would have dented their already fragile psyche. My money is on a fired up Sunwolves side registering a second consecutive victory this weekend. Make sure you also get on the Live In-Play markets as this game is one that could well see a few points margins cleared.
Chiefs v Highlanders | Saturday 7 May | FMG Stadium Waikato | 09:35
To Win (80 Mins)
Chiefs 5/10 | Draw 25/1 | Highlanders 15/10
Chiefs (-4.5) 9/10 | Highlanders (+4.5) 9/10
While the first match of the day is a bit of a damp squib, the second could possibly prove to be the best game of the season. Both sides possess a plethora of players with that provocative x-factor that gets the fans off their seats.
With the Welsh Dragons descending upon the ‘the Land of the Long White Cloud’ to take on the All Blacks in three Tests next month, this weekend’s clash is being touted by New Zealand rugby pundits as an All Black trials match. And when you look at some of the individual battles that will be taking place at the FMG Stadium, you can’t say their words don’t ring true.
Speaking of those individual battles, I cannot wait to see Ben Smith and Damian McKenzie go at it. The former was a shoe in to retain his number 15 All Black jumper before McKenzie’s phenomenal rise to prominence during the embryonic stages of this year’s Super Rugby tournament. Both players love a good old counter attack so we can expect to see some long range fireworks, as well as some nifty footwork, this Saturday.
We could also witness the All Black’s new incumbent centre pairing line up against each other with Malakai Feikitoa likely to continue in the number 13 berth for the Highlanders and Chiefs' brilliant inside centre, Charlie Ngati, set to return from a shoulder injury.
There’s also going to be an almighty contest between the two opposing flyhalves, with both Lima Sopoag’a and Aaron Cruden in the mix for Dan Carter’s now vacant flyhalf jersey.
In terms of the stats, the Highlanders have won the last four contests between the sides. Three of these victories came in last year’s tournament. The Chiefs' last victory over their local rivals came back in 2014 where they managed to eek out a narrow two-point win in Hamilton. The total scorelines tend to end up in the mid to low 40’s although I think we may well see that surpassed this weekend with the attacking talent that will be on display for both sides.
Verdict: Chiefs (-4.5) 9/10
The Highlanders made a ridiculous amount of tackles against the Brumbies last week – I think it was 187 in total – and that’s likely to have taken a huge toll on them physically. For that reason, I’m backing the Chiefs to clear the -4.5 at 9/10.
Waratahs v Cheetahs | Saturday 7 May | Allianz Stadium | 11:45
To Win (80 Mins)
Waratahs 1/7 | Draw 33/1 | Cheetahs 4/1
Waratahs (-13.5) 9/10 | Cheetahs (+13.5) 9/10
You know when you’re having one of those week’s where you neglect to do a few of the most important things on your to do list? Well, I had one of those last week and I’m still feeling a bit aggrieved about it.
Having proclaimed, in last week’s Saturday preview that the Waratahs were about to go on a spectacular run of form that sees them beat the Stormers, I committed the most heinous of sins a punter can commit – I forgot to lay a decent stake on a Waratahs' win at Newlands. I will not be making the same mistake this weekend.
After a poor start to their campaign, the Waratahs have started to look a real prospect. It may not be a bad ploy to lay a bet on them to win this year’s tournament outright as they currently are available at a generous price of 35/1.
They look a galvanised unit, and I have to say, I was extremely impressed with Beale and Folau last week.
While the ‘Tahs enjoyed a great weekend that saw them cap off their tour of South Africa with a 12 point victory over the Stormers, the Cheetahs were once again at their enigmatic best.
Having gone in for the half time oranges level on points with the Reds, the Cheetahs once again demonstrated their infatuation with the self-destruct button by conceding two soft second-half tries that ensured they would end the game on the wrong side of a 30-17 scoreline.
Verdict: Waratahs (-13.5) 9/10
Like I said last week, the Waratahs are about to go on a terrific run of form and I can’t see them having any problems dismantling this exciting but naïve Cheetahs side. Back the hosts to clear the –13.5 at 9/10.
Sharks v Hurricanes | Saturday 7 May | Growthpoint Kings Park | 15:00
To Win (80 Mins)
Sharks 5/4 | Draw 28/1 | Hurricanes 6/10
Sharks (+3.5) 9/10 | Hurricanes (-3.5) 9/10
I may owe a bit of an apology to Gary Gold and his charges. Having laid into them during previous previews for their lack of attacking intent as well as imagination, I was made to eat my words last week as they ran – mauled may be the more accurate term – three tries against the Chiefs.
Despite outscoring their opponents by three tries to one, the Sharks still went down by 24 points to 22. Nonetheless, the Natalians should still be happy with the six points they accrued from their difficult tour of New Zealand. In an ironic twist of fate, they return home this week to host New Zealand opposition in the form of the Hurricanes.
The Canes are coming off the back of a marvelous bonus point victory over the Lions. Their 50-17 mauling of Joburg’s pride was a massive statement of intent from Chris Boyd’s men. While it must be noted that the Lions were far from their best, the way the Hurricanes capitalised on the Joburg franchise’s mistakes was mightily impressive.
That victory at Emirates Airline Park was the Hurricanes' sixth win in seven outings. Even more impressive is the fact that they’ve managed to pick up five winning bonus points from those seven games.
In terms of team news, this weekend should see a welcome return to the playing field for the 'golden boy' of Natal rugby, Patrick Lambie. The Sharks' skipper has yet to make an appearance this year due to a shoulder injury picked up in the Sharks pre-season tour of France. While lambie is unlikely to get a start, he could well make an impact coming off the bench.
Contests between the two sides have tended to be won by the hosts with the last six clashes having all been won by the home team. Last year’s clash between the two sides saw the Hurricanes run out 32-24 victors in Wellington while the 2014 spoils went the way of the Sharks who registered an 18 point win in front of their home faithful.
Verdict: Hurricanes (-3.5) 9/10
If the Canes can reproduce even 70 percent of that tenacity they demonstrated last week, then I think they will have this Sharks side’s number. Back the visitors to clear the -3.5 handicap at 9/10.
Kings v Blues | Saturday 7 May | Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium | 17:10
To Win (80 Mins)
Kings 9/1 | Draw 40/1 | Blues 1/50
Kings (+26.5) 9/10 | Blues (-26.5) 9/10
“How to lose a match in eight substitutions – The Tana Umaga guide to coaching”. This may well have been the headline doing the rounds in Auckland had it not been for some desperate last-ditch defending from the Blues last Saturday.
Having seen his side take a commanding 18 point lead into the final quarter of their encounter with Rebels last week, Umaga opted to give a few of his stalwarts the final twenty minutes of the match off. With a tour of South Africa only a week away, many would say Umaga’s move was a smart one, well I reckon he’s not feeling like the smartest of blokes having been given a huge scare by the Rebels who came within six points of the comeback of the season accolade.
At the end of the day, though, the Blues did manage to hang on for their win as well as rest their stalwarts for the most taxing phase of the game; the final quarter. This should help the Blues massively coming into what could be a potential banana peel.
You may be thinking my last statement is the first sign of an onset of dementia as the Kings were - to quote every single rugby writer that covered the game – ‘well and truly put to the sword’ in Buenos Aires late last Saturday evening. But hear me out.
The Kings have been decent on home soil. Their only victory this season came at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium against the Sunwolves and they had decent first half showings against their local rivals, the Bulls and Lions a few weeks back. The Blues have been culpable of putting some mediocre displays on the road as was evident during their 22-22 draw with the Reds back in round 4.
Verdict: Kings (+26.5) 9/10
I’m sticking my neck out here but I’m going to back the Kings to stay withing the +26.5 margin. They a much better side at home and I think they will want to make up for that disappointing showing out in Argentina last week.