Super Rugby 2017: Round 14 Preview (Saturday)

Super-Rugby-2017-Round 14-Saturday-Preview

Our in-house rugby scribe takes a look at Saturday's Six Super Rugby fixtures including the coastal derby between the Sharks and Stormers.

It’s the final set of full Super Rugby fixtures before we break for the June international window, which means there will be a lot on the line this Saturday. The highlight of the day's action will undoubtedly be the South African derby between the Sharks and Stormers.

Sunwolves v Cheetahs | Saturday 27 May | Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium | 07:15

To Win (80 Mins)
Sunwolves 11/10 | Draw 25/1 | Cheetahs 7/10
Sunwolves (+2.5) 9/10 | Cheetahs (-2.5) 9/10
It’s the battle of the two Africa Conference 1 wooden spoon contenders with the Cheetahs making the trip to Sunwolves territory after a harrowing jaunt to the ‘Land of The Long White Cloud’ ended with yet another drubbing for the Bloemfontein franchise. The Sunwolves were also on the wrong side of a rather embarrassing scoreline last week as a late blitz from the Sharks saw the ‘Wolves go down by 21 points.

The Free Staters will be without talismanic skipper Franco Smith who is once again sidelined by injury. His place in the starting XV will be taken by former South Africa under 20’s representative William Smal-Smith. There’s another change in the backline with Neil Marais taking over at fly-half from Fred Zelinga. The Sunwolves have also opted to make a few changes with Dereck Carpenter returning to the centres and Takaaki Nakazuru coming in on the right wing.

Verdict: Cheetahs 
The Cheetahs have won all three games between the sides and the smart money is on them making it four from four. My main bet, however, is the First to Ten Points – Sunwolves – market which will be available on Saturday morning. 

Highlanders v Waratahs | Saturday 27 May | Forsyth Barr Stadium | 09:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Highlanders 1/14 | Draw 35/1 | Waratahs 5/1
Highlanders (-16.5) 9/10 | Waratahs (+16.5) 9/10

Next up we have a clash between the Highlanders and Waratahs. Both sides come into this one off the back of rather large winning margins over Australian opposition with the Highlanders beating the Force 6-55 and the Waratahs beating the Rebels 50-23 in last Sunday’s Aussie derby. We could actually be in for a rather high scoring affair here as three out of the last four games between the sides has seen a combined total score in excess of 50 points.

The Highlanders received a massive boost this week with skipper Ben Smith set to return from injury. While Smith gets a start, fellow All Black Lima Sopoaga has to settle for a spot on the bench for the second week in a row. Don’t discount the pivot making a big impact in the final 20-minutes, however. Conversely, the Waratahs will field an identical starting XV to the one that did duty last Sunday.

Verdict: Waratahs (+16.5) 9/10
Yes, the Aussies have been miserable against Kiwi opposition this year but the handicap is just too high for me. The Highlanders will win it but I reckon the margin will be between 8-12 points rather than the -16.5 on offer. 

Rebels v Crusaders | Saturday 27 May | AAMI Park | 11:45

To Win (80 Mins)
Rebels 10/1 | Draw 35/1 | Crusaders 1/100
Rebels (+26.5) 9/10 | Crusaders (-26.5) 9/10
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet as there’s not much point in harping on about how poor the Rebels have been and how they are on a hiding to nothing this Saturday. A quick glance at the points differential tells you all you need to know about this one: Rebels -270 / Crusaders +225.

Verdict: Crusaders (-26.5) 9/10
They may have proved a perennially stumbling block for the Crusaders in the past but I cannot see this incarnation of the Canterbury side being upset but what has been the worst of the Australian franchises. With the Crusaders needing bonus points to keep the Lions at bay, my money is on Scott Robertson’s men getting a big win at AAMI. 

Bulls v Hurricanes | Saturday 27 May | Loftus Versfeld | 15:05

To Win (80 Mins)
Bulls 11/2 | Draw 25/1 | Hurricanes 1/12
Bulls (+18.5) 9/10 | Hurricanes (-18.5) 9/10
Another team who are in for a long 80-minutes are the Bulls. The Pretoria franchise have had a season to forget and have only managed to win three of the eleven fixtures they’ve played thus far. So poor have Nollis Marais' men been that they have been forced to announce a new director of rugby to appease the Loftus faithful.

Conversely, the Hurricanes are having another blinding season which has seen them win nine out of their eleven matches. Coach Chris Boyd is certainly gunning to make it 10 from 12 as he’s announced a full strength side, that sees Jordie Barrett make a return to the starting XV.

Verdict: Hurricanes (-18.5) 9/10
John ‘The Messiah’ Mitchell may have been named as new Bulls Director of Rugby but his appointment will have little bearing on the Bulls performance this Saturday. Get on the Hurricanes to win by 19 or more with confidence.

Sharks v Stormers | Saturday 27 May | Growthpoint Kings Park | 17:15

To Win (80 Mins)
Sharks 7/10 | Draw 22/1 | Stormers 11/10
Sharks (-2.5) 9/10 | Stormers (+2.5) 9/10
Next up we have a colossal coastal derby between the Sharks and the Stormers. Both teams come into this one off the back of impressive wins with the Stormers beating the Blues 30-22 last Friday evening and the Sharks seeing off the Sunwolves out in Singapore.

There were elements to the Sharks performance that did worry me, and a lot of gloss was added to the 17-38 score line by a late blitz from the Natalians. One of the factors that makes me slightly worried was how many times the Sharks coughed up ball on attack. While the du Preez twins made some typically brutal carries, they also threw some speculative passes which would have been pounced upon by teams with more quality than the ‘Wolves.

There were also elements of the Stormers game that need to be improved upon, especially their discipline. Eben Etzibeth is likely to be targeted by the opposition again this weekend and the big man needs to keep his cool. He’s actually been quite the angel this season, although, the Blues did manage to get him to go full-on Rambo last week which saw the Springbok lock sent to the to the sin-bin for 10-minutes.

Verdict: Sharks 7/10
I honestly can’t pick a winner here. This is one of those fixtures I’d rather just sit back and watch. If you must have a punt get on a straight win for the hosts.  

Jaguares v Brumbies | Saturday 27 May | Estadio Jose Amalfitani | 23:40

To Win (80 Mins)
Jaguares 5/10 | Draw 22/1 | Brumbies 31/20
Jaguares (-5.5)  9/10 | Brumbies (+5.5) 9/10

The final stop on our Saturday preview tour is Buenos Aires where the Jaguares will host the Brumbies. The visitors managed to snap the Kings winning streak last Saturday while the hosts enjoyed a bye.

This will be the first time these two sides have clashed. The hosts have struggled against Australian opposition on their own patch losing to the Force a fortnight ago and struggling to put a poor Reds side to bed earlier in the season

Verdict: Brumbies 31/20
The Brumbies seem to be hitting their straps and I think they may rack up another win here although it will be far from pretty. Get on the away side at 31/20.

Written by Darry Worthington for!

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