There are some epic Round 7 Super Rugby clashes set to go down this Saturday including a match between the Sharks and Jaguares.The Super Rugby action continues this Saturday with five intriguing encounters set to take place. The day gets off to a somewhat subdued start with the Sunwolves taking on the Bulls, but we have a cracking fixture immediately after that with the Highlanders and Blues going head-to-head at Forsyth Barr. The day closes out with a repeat of last year's quarter-final where the Stormers will be looking to avenge their 2016 drubbing at the hands of the Chiefs.
Sunwolves v Bulls | Saturday 8 April | Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium | 07:15
To Win (80 Mins)
Sunwolves 11/2 | Draw 33/1 | Bulls 1/14
Sunwolves (+17.5) 9/10 | Bulls (-17.5) 9/10
Our first port of call this week is the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Singapore where the Bulls will be looking to claim only their second win of the season when they take on the Sunwolves. The visitors come into this one off the back of an impressive first half display against the Chiefs that saw them head into the half-time break six points to the good. The second half was a lot less pretty for fans of the Pretoria franchise, as the men in blue shipped 25 points while only adding three of their own.
While the Bulls were slugging it out with the Chiefs, the Sunwolves enjoyed a much-needed week off and will come into this one somewhat revitalised.
In terms of team news, the Bulls will be without Arno Botha, Conrad van Vuuren, Piet van Zyl and Ruan Steenkamp. They will also be missing Handre Pollard who is being rested this weekend.
The Sunwolves have made a few changes with Fumiaki Tanaka and Hayden Cripps forming a new 9/10 combination. There’s also a brand new loose trio for the ‘Wolves with both Willie Britz and Ed Quirk missing out.
Verdict: Bulls (-17.5) 9/10
The Bulls will be searching for a bonus point here after enduring a horrific start to the season. There were positive signs during the Chiefs and if their backline finally fires – like they threatened to do last week – then I can see the men from Pretoria clearing the handicap. I will only be having a R50 go on this one as I think there’s better value elsewhere.
Highlanders v Blues | Saturday 8 April | Forsyth Barr Stadium | 09:35
To Win (80 Mins)
Highlanders 4/10 | Draw 22/1 | Blues 7/4
Highlanders (-4.5) 9/10 | Blues (+5.5) 9/10
We are in for a clash of styles here with the Highlanders kicking game plan coming up against the Blues ball in hand strategy. Both teams have struggled to get the best out of their respective systems with the Highlanders failing to turn territory into points and the Blues handling skills and decision making – I’m looking at you Billy ‘Forward Pass’ Guyton - letting them down.
Both sides have made a host of changes to their matchday 23’s with Ben Smith returning for the Highlanders alongside fellow All Blacks Elliot Dixon and Liam Squires. The biggest news to come out of either camp is that Sonny Bill Williams will make a return to rugby union having been named on the Blues bench. Other changes for Aucklanders see impressive youngsters Blake Gibson and Rieko Ioane return to the run-on XV.
Verdict: Blues 7/4
This is probably going to come back to haunt me but my money is going on the Blues. Yes, they’ve only won two of the last six meetings between the sides but their strong bench makes me feel they may just sneak this one at the death. This is another game that I will be having a moderate strike on.
Brumbies v Reds | Saturday 8 April | GIO Stadium | 11:45
To Win (80 Mins)
Brumbies 2/7 | Draw 25/1 | Reds 24/10
Brumbies (-9.5) 9/10 | Reds (+9.5) 9/10
So from an all-kiwi affair, we move onto an Aussie derby with the Australian Conference-leading Brumbies taking on the Reds. Watching and betting on these local Australian derbies is a bit like investing in a pyramid scheme; you lose an hour and 20 minutes of your life watching some second rate idiots promise you the world and then at the end of it, despite you knowing it was a con from the start, you end up losing a load of money. Apologies for the long-winded comparison but, as you can probably tell, I have experienced this a good few times.
For those who still want to have a go on this game, here’s a little breakdown of some of the things you may want to know with the 9/10 handicap sitting at 9.5.
Firstly, the Brumbies have won the last three games between the sides by a margin of 18 points or more, however, the Brumbies have only managed to score more than 20 points once this season.
Secondly, the Reds, while being nowhere near their best this term, have managed to keep their losing margin within 10 points in three out of their six 2017 fixtures with their only three defeats in excess of this margin coming at the hand of the Lions, Hurricanes and Jaguares. It must also be noted that the Queenslanders sent a hugely weakened side to Argentina.
Verdict: Brumbies (-9.5) 9/10
It’s not a game I fancy but if you are going to have a punt, I recommend taking the hosts to clear the margin.
Sharks v Jaguares | Saturday 8 April | Growthpoint Kings Park | 15:05
To Win (80 Mins)
Sharks 4/10 | Draws 22/1 | Jaguares 19/10
Sharks (-6.5) 9/10 | Jaguares (+6.5) 9/10
This game is my banker for the weekend as I think the Sharks will have no trouble surpassing the -6.5 cap. The Natalians were solid against the Lions last week with only ill-discipline costing them a victory at the Lions’ Den. Robert du Preez’s men will be an even tougher proposition at home, where they have already seen off the Waratahs by 23 points.
The Jaguares make the trip to Durban off the back of a bye week. The visitors have enjoyed a great run of results on their own patch beating the Lions (36-24), the Cheetahs (41-14) and the Reds (22-8). They have been decent on the road as well beating the Kings (26-39) and gaining a losing bonus point against Stormers (32-25).
In terms of team news, the Sharks have made a few changes for this one with Springboks Beast Mtawarira and Stephan Lewies coming into the run-on XV. On the ‘Jags side of things, coach, Raul Perez is yet to announce his side but he is unlikely to make too many changes from the team that beat the Reds a fortnight ago.
Verdict: Sharks (-6.5) 9/10
The Sharks only managed a four-point victory when these teams met at Kings Park last year but this Natal side is a massive upgrade on the 2016 version. Get on the Sharks to clear the handicap with confidence.
Stormers v Chiefs | Saturday 8 April | DHL Newlands | 17:15
To Win (80 Mins)
Stormers 14/10 | Draw 22/1 | Chiefs 11/20
Stormers (+3.5) 9/10 | Chiefs (-3.5) 9/10
This is another game that’s screaming out for a big bet. Yes, the Stormers have played some really good rugby (last week’s 43 point victory over the Cheetahs was arguably their best display thus far) this term but they are yet to face a Kiwi team. The men from the Western Cape also have an injury-list that could rival the most hospital wards. Coach Robbie Fleck has tried to address the injury crisis by bringing in former Highlanders stalwart, Shaun Treeby, on a short-term contract.
The Chiefs also come into this one off the back of a comfortable victory, although, coach, Dave Rennie, will be slightly worried about how ineffective his side was during the opening stanza, where the Chiefs only managed to grab three points despite having some decent opportunities to cross the Bulls try line.
Verdict: Chiefs (-3.5) 9/10
While I’m not expecting anything like last year’s quarter-final massacre at Newlands, I do fully expect the Chiefs to win by a seven or more.