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Super Rugby: Round 15 (Friday) Preview
Our rugby writer takes a look at Friday's two round 15 Super Rugby fixtures.
The June Internationals have come and gone, and with their conclusion comes the return of the world’s premiere franchise rugby tournament. That’s right folks, Super Rugby returns with a bang this Friday!
The first fixture of the day sees the top two placed New Zealand Conference sides lock horns at the ANZ National Stadium out in Fiji. We then take a short trip across the Tasman for an all–Australian affair between the Brumbies and Reds.
Chiefs v Crusaders | Friday 1 July | ANZ National Stadium | 09:35
To Win (80 Mins)
Chiefs 19/20 | Draw 25/1 | Crusaders 17/20
Chiefs | Crusaders
What a way for Super Rugby to reintroduce itself! You have the New Zealand, Australasian, and Overall Conference topping Canterbury Crusaders taking on a Chiefs outfit who are only two points off the summit of all of those conferences. The two sides have enjoyed stellar seasons thus far and are almost certain to make the quarter-finals.
The Crusaders hold a two-point lead over their opponents on the conference logs due to their superior win ration. This ratio is as narrow as they come, however, with the Chiefs having won nine of their 12 games this year and the Crusaders having won 10. The two sides met back in opening round where the Chiefs managed at 27-21 victory down in Christchurch.
The Chiefs have actually won the last three encounters between the sides with the Crusaders last victory coming out in Hamilton during the 2014 season. This game will be played out in Fiji however, so there’s not much point in delving into the home and away win records.
In terms of team news, it looks like Chiefs pivot Aaron Cruden has recovered sufficiently enough, from his injury picked up on national duty, to take a spot on the bench. Veteran pivot, Steven Donald, will start at ten with Cruden likely to provide some attacking thrust from the bench.
On the ‘Saders side of things, Ryan Crotty and Luke Romano will both miss out due to injury. Crotty’s slot in the centres will be taken by the electric David Havilli while Scott Bartlett comes into the second row in place of Romano.
Verdict: Crusaders 17/20
It is going to be a hell of a battle but I reckon the Crusaders forwards will scrum and maul the Canterbarians to victory.
Brumbies v Reds | Friday 1 July | GIO Stadium | 11:45
To Win (80 Mins)
Brumbies 1/8 | Draw 33/1 | Reds 9/2
Brumbies (-15.5) 9/10| Reds (+15.5) 9/10
The day’s next game is quite an interesting one. You’ve got two sides who have flattered to deceive going head to head in a game that both sets of players will hope offers a shot at redemption.
Both sides have managed a few remarkable wins this season – the Brumbies opening day 52-10 victory over the Canes and the Reds 28-27 victory over the Highlanders, being the highlights of their respective campaigns – but their lack of consistency has cost them dearly.
While the Brumbies have fared well against local opposition this term – Steve Larkham’s men have won all four of their local derbies – they do face a side that is extremely capable of producing an upset.
The Brumbies will also come into this game without talisman David Pocock. The loose forward picked up an eye socket injury during Australia’s second June Test against England. Pocock’s place in the loose trio will be taken by former Reds rookie Ben Hyne.
The Brumbies will be bolstered somewhat by the return of utility back Matt Toomua who had a decent showing for the Wallabies in their third and final June Test. Youngster Joe Powell is also handed a start due to Argentine scrumhalf Thomas Cuebelli having returned late from international duty.
The Reds will go into this battle with a few fresh faces among their starting XV. Australian under 20 skipper James Tuttle's younger brother Jack gets a debut start at fullback while Australian international Kane Douglas will get his first bit of playing time for the franchise off the bench. He;’s likely to replace debutant Lukhan Tui at some point in the second half.
Verdict: Reds (+15.5) 9/10
I reckon this handicap is three or four points too big for the Brumbies to clear. Get on the Reds to lose by less than 16 points at 9/10.