Our in-house rugby scribe runs the rule over Saturday’s six Super Rugby fixtures, including the clash between the Stormers and the Lions.Rugby fans are in for an oval ball Easter Weekend treat with six Super Rugby fixtures set to take place this Saturday. Saturday sees some almighty clashes with the Hurricanes and Blues getting the day underway. There’s also a local derby of note with the in-form Stormers hosting the Lions.
Reds v Kings | Saturday 15 April | Suncorp Stadium | 07:05
To Win (80 Mins)
Reds 1/12 | Draw 30/1 | Kings 5/1
Reds (-14.5) 9/10 | Kings (+14.5) 9/10
We kick things off in Queensland with the Reds taking on a Kings side who produced some fantastic rugby during their narrow 46-41 defeat to the Force last Sunday. Unlike the Kings, the Reds struggled last week going down 43-10 to the Brumbies. While the Queenslanders did put in a decent first half showing, their second half performance was borderline horrific with Nick Styles’ side shipping 33 points without response.
The bookmakers have come out with a handicap, which I’m not fully convinced the Reds deserve. Yes, they may have the better squad on paper but they really haven’t set the world alight this term. And for all their limitations, the Kings do play with a hell of a lot of heart. They also have one of the form flyhalves in the competition with Lionel Cronje’s Carlos Spencer-esque dummy/grubber illustrating that the well-travelled pivot isn’t just a deadly goalkicker.
Speaking of pivots with a penchant for flicks and tricks, the mercurial Quade Cooper will make a welcome return for the Reds this week having served his ban for a high tackle against the Lions. The Wallaby should add some cutting edge to what has been a rather blunt Reds attack.
Verdict: Kings (+14.5) 9/10
The return of Cooper is a massive coup for the Reds as his understudy, Jake McIntyre looks as threatening as a month old puppy. It’s one of the games that I’d recommend wagering a small stake on as the Kings could well produce another stubborn performance while the Reds could run riot with Cooper galvanising the side. I’m more strong on the Kings keeping it within the + handicap. But like I alluded to earlier; this game really doesn’t merit a stake larger than R50.
Blues v Hurricanes | Saturday 15 April | Eden Park | 09:35
To Win (80 Mins)
Blues 37/20 | Draws 22/1 | Hurricanes 4/10
Blues (+5.5) 9/10 | Hurricanes (-4.5) 9/10
Saturday’s second fixture pits what can only be described as the Arsenal of rugby up against the free-running Hurricanes. The Blues once again managed to put a huge dent in my wallet as, despite dominating the entirety of the first half, they went down 26-20 to the Highlanders in Round 7. The result has seen Tana Umaga’s team drop to the foot of the New Zealand Conference, two points behind the Highlanders.
While the Blues were duking it out in a New Zealand Derby, the Hurricanes were getting one over the Waratahs. It was a rather strange fixture as the ‘Canes absolutely dominated the first half but took the gas off the peddle in the second half, which saw them denied a try-scoring bonus point. The sluggish second half performance will have left coach, Chris Boyd, irate and the veteran mentor would have had a full go at his side after that lapse. So, we can expect the ‘Canes to give a full 80-minute performance this week with Boyd’s words ringing in the ears.
Verdict: Hurricanes (-4.5) 9/10
This should be one of the games of the season but with Cyclone Crook having hit New Zealand shores, this game could be far tamer than had it been played in dry conditions. With poor weather being forecasted for Saturday, I think the Barrett brothers will make the difference here.
Both Beauden and Jordie possess fantastic boots and should be able to dictate play, while the Blues don’t really have any prolific tactical kickers. I reckon the hosts will struggle to exit their 22 when under pressure which is likely to result in the ‘Canes dominating the territory stakes. I will be having a decent strike on the Hurricanes clearing the handicap – R200 to be precise.
Rebels v Brumbies | Saturday 15 April | AAMI Stadium | 11:45
To Win (80 Mins)
Rebels 3/11 | Draw 25/1 | Brumbies 2/9
Rebels (+8.5) 9/10 | Brumbies (-8.5) 9/10
The Rebels are having a horrid year with the future of the franchise set to be decided next Monday. This looming Super Rugby axe has actually brought out the best in some of the sides up for the chop with the Kings and Force producing some decent rugby in recent weeks. So don’t be surprised to see a motivated Rebels side take to the field this Saturday.
This will be the second consecutive week that the Brumbies take on local opposition after they beat the Reds 43-10 in Round 7. The victory came courtesy of a second-half blitz, which saw the Brumbies add 33 points to their half-time score without conceding.
There are some quirks when it comes to the recent head-to-head statistics with the last three games between the sides being won by whoever was away from home. The margins of victory in the aforementioned games were rather small with two of the fixtures being won by five points and the other being won by eight.
Verdict: Rebels (+8.5) 9/10
The handicap is pretty much on point here. I just feel the Super Rugby axe hanging over the Rebels head will motivate them to put in a performance. This is another game I’m not too strong on and I will only be wagering a R50 stake on the Rebels plus.
Cheetahs v Chiefs | Saturday 15 April | Toyota Stadium | 15:05
To Win (80 Mins)
Cheetahs 9/2 | Draw 28/1 | Chiefs 1/8
Cheetahs (+14.5) 9/10 | Chiefs (-14.5) 9/10
The Chiefs let me down last week as they fell to the Stormers in Cape Town. Perhaps that’s a bit harsh, as Dave Rennie’s side were decent on the day but faced a Stormers team who were nothing short of magnificent. The Cheetahs come into this one off the back of a much-needed bye, having lost their previous three games.
These games have historically been high scoring affairs with the total points mark crossing 62 in three of the last five fixtures. The Chiefs have won three of the last five with the other two games ending in draws.
Verdict: Chiefs (-14.5) 9/10
I can’t see the Cheetahs holding on for the full 80-minutes. While I won’t be surprised to see them still in with a chance of winning come the final quarter, I just think the Chiefs will up the ante during the closing phases which will see them past the cap.
Stormers v Lions | Saturday 15 April | DHL Newlands | 17:15
To Win (80 Mins)
Stormers 13/20| Draw 20/1 | Lions 5/4
Stormers (-3.5) 9/10 | Lions (+3.5) 9/10
The headline clash of the weekend sees the two Africa Conference leaders lock horns at Newlands in what should be a scintillating exhibition of running rugby. The hosts were nothing short of magnificent against the Chiefs, producing some innovative moments on attack – Dillyn Leyds pass says it all – while solid as a rock in defence.
While the Stormers outclassed a Chiefs side, the Lions enjoyed a week’s break which should see them come into this one rearing to go. There are a few injury concerns for Johan Ackermann to contend with, however, as fullback Andries Coetzee is said to be touch and go for this one. Should Coetzee not recover, then young gun Sylvian Mahuza is likely to fill the fullback berth. Ackermann’s opposite number is also facing a few injury concerns with Springbok locks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzibeth in the same boat as Coetzee. If neither of the lumbering locks takes to the field, it would be a massive coup for the Lions, whose lineout has looked suspect at times.
Verdict: Stormers 13/20
I’m leaning towards the Stormers here mainly due to home ground advantage. I do think the wise way to go here is to get on the Live In-Play points markets, however, as both teams love to run the ball, which could see a few of the markets cleared.
Bulls v Jaguares | Saturday 15 April | Loftus Versfeld | 19:30
To Win (80 Mins)
Bulls 11/10 | Draw 22/1 | Jaguares 7/10
Bulls (+2.5) 9/10 | Jaguares (-2.5) 9/10
We close out the day’s play with the Bulls taking on Jaguares. The hosts come into this one as underdogs after a chastening tour saw them lose three games on the trot. They really need a win here but with speculation over coach, Nollis Marais' future and a whole host of players out with injuries, the Bulls could be in for a long old afternoon at ‘Fortress Loftus’.
The Jaguares come into this one off the back of a decent showing against the Sharks despite ultimately going down 18-13. The losing bonus point they acquired last week will have given them a massive boost heading into this one.
There’s currently a rumour doing the rounds that the Jaguares will field a second strength side against the Lions next weekend as they want to have a real go at the Bulls. I certainly wouldn’t put it past Raul Perez, who has proved to be a wily coach while at the helm of Jaguares.
In terms of team news, the Bulls have lost another loose forward with Jaques Potgieter sustaining another injury. There is some good news for the Bulls with centre Ulrich Beyers having returned to training. As is customary for the Argentines, Raul Perez is yet to announce his match day squad but I doubt we will see too many changes to the side that took on the Sharks.
Verdict: Bulls 11/10
This game really has the punters divided with a lot of people saying the Jaguares to clear the -2.5 handicap is an absolute gift and others saying the Bulls win at 11/10 represents some decent value. I fall into the second camp and think the Bulls will just sneak this one.