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Super Rugby: Round 5 (Friday Preview)
We preview Friday’s two Round 5 Super Rugby clashes which see the Crusaders and Force square off in Christchurch before the Rebels and Waratahs go head-to-head in Melbourne.
Round 5 of Super Rugby gets underway this Friday with a rather subdued looking set of fixtures. The Crusaders take on the Force in the day’s opener while the Rebels and Waratahs square off in an Aussie derby directly after that.
Crusaders v Force | Friday 24 March | AMI Stadium | 08:35
To Win (80 Mins)
Crusaders 1/25 | Draw 35/1 | Force 8/1
Crusaders (-20.5) 9/10 | Force (+20.5) 9/10
The comeback kings once again registered an astonishing come-from-behind victory last weekend, which saw them overturn a 16 point half-time deficit to beat the Blues 33-24. While most come from behind victories come courtesy from of the backs, this Crusaders turn around was cemented by the forwards, who mauled their opponents to smithereens during the final thirty minutes of the clash.
While the ‘Saders were racking up their fourth successive victory of the season, the Force playing contingent had their feet up on their couches as they enjoyed a bye. The men from Perth have produced a mixed-bag of results thus far beating the Reds and losing narrowly to the Brumbies and Waratahs.
In terms of team news, Crusaders mentor, Scott Robertson, has opted to freshen up his pack with Wyatt Crockett taking over from fellow All Black Jo Moody in the front row. Further changes to the starting pack see Matt Todd coming in on the flank for Jed Brown and Luke Romano coming into the second row with Jordan Tafua taking over at eight from Whetu Douglas. Robertson’s opposite number, David Wessels, has left some big name players at home with the mercurial Dane Haylett-Petty being rested. His place in the run-on XV is taken by veteran Luke Morahan, while former Western Province man, Marcel Brachie, joins Morahan in a revamped back three.
Verdict: Crusaders (-20.5) 9/10
I’ve come short on some of the bigger handicaps in recent weeks which has led me to take a more cautious approach to the larger cap quotes. 20.5 is quite a big margin, especially with the Force’s positive recent record against the Crusaders. And now for the part where I contradict everything I’ve just said. I just feel the Crusaders will have too much for this weakened Force side. Their driving maul looked world class last week and there backline also looked like it was starting to get to grips with absence of Dagg as the game against the Blues moved into the latter stages. I won’t be throwing the house on it, but I’ll definitely be having a strike on the ‘Saders to clear the cap.
Melbourne Rebels v NSW Waratahs | Friday 24 March | AAMI Park | 10:45
To Win (80 Mins)
Rebels 2/1 | Draw 22/1 | Waratahs 7/20
Rebels (+6.5) 8/10 | Waratahs (-6.5) 1/1
The Rebels will be looking to claim their second win of the year when they play host to a Waratahs side that has flattered to deceive this term. The hosts come into this one off their most promising performance of the season as they went down to the Chiefs 27-14. The margin of defeat doesn’t really do the Melbourners justice as they were in with a sniff of winning the game until the final quarter.
The ‘Tahs also come into this one off the back of a defeat as they went down to the Brumbies 28-12. The defeat would have been hard for coach, Daryl Gibson, to swallow as his side – as was the case in 2016 – were level on points with their opponents at the half-time break.
Gibson will be in a slightly better mood this week as his talismanic Pivot, Bernard Foley, is set to make a return. The Wallaby fly-half incumbent is light years ahead of his stand in Bryce Hegarty. Foley’s ability to clear his lines will help the Waratahs immensely.
While his opposite number has made a whole rift of changes, Rebels coach, Tony McGahan, has opted to field an identical run-on side to the one that fell to the Chiefs last week.
Verdict: Waratahs (-6.5) 1/1
The men from New South Wales will be determined to turn their season around, and with Foley back in the mix, I can see them starting that this Friday. I will definitely be taking a cautious approach to this, and having just a R40 punt on a Waratahs minus.