Super Rugby: Round 13 Preview (Saturday)


We preview Saturday's five Round 13 Super Rugby fixtures, including the Jukskei Derby between the Lions and Bulls.

We have reached that point in the season where injuries really start to take their toll. A quick glance at this weekend’s team news illustrates this fact with some key players MIA for their franchises. But hey one man’s severe injury is another man’s opportunity.

So which franchises will see suffer and which will unearth some uncut gems that see them to victory? Let’s see if we can find out.
Hurricanes v Cheetahs | Saturday 20 May | Westpac Stadium | 09:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Hurricanes 1/100 | Draw 35/1 | Cheetahs 10/1
Hurricanes (-27.5) 9/10 | Cheetahs (+27.5) 9/10

The Cheetahs cap the New Zealand leg of their tour off with arguably their toughest assignment. While the Blues really did test the Cheetahs defence during last week’s 50-32 loss, the Hurricanes are unlikely to concede as many points as their fellow New Zealanders and will be a lot more clinical when presented with try-scoring opportunities.

I was surprised to see that Franco Smith has opted to field Clinton Swart in midfield. I really do like the burly centre but I just can’t help but feel he will struggle against the fleeted footed ‘Canes backs, especially with the sluggish Fred Zelinga inside of him. The ‘Canes have also sprung a surprise with head coach Chris Boyd opting to move Beauden Barrett to fullback and give Jordie Barrett a rest. It’s probably the right call and there’s no doubting that Beauden will enjoy the extra space afforded to him that comes with the role.

Verdict: Hurricanes (-27.5) 9/10 
I honestly think the Cheetahs are rife for the taking here. The Hurricanes are absolutely lethal with ball-in-hand and their sizey wingers are likely to have a field day against the likes of Rhule and Blommetjies. It’s a big ‘cap, but I can see the host clearing it with plenty of points to spare. 

Force v Highlanders | Saturday 20 May | nib Stadium | 09:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Force 15/4 | Draw 28/1 | Highlanders 1/7
Force (+12.5) 0/10 | Highlanders (-12.5) 9/10

The Force produced the upset - well at least for my money - of Round 12 as they went to Buenos Aires with a weakened squad and claimed a 6-16 victory. While the men from Western Australia have put in some dogged displays over the past month or so, I really didn’t see that result coming. I also owe former Stormers man, Peter Grant, a bit of an apology as the 32-year-old put in a magnificent display at fullback. So good was Grant’s performance, that Force coach Dave Wessels has opted to start the Maritzburg College old boy at Fly-half for the clash against the Highlanders.

Speaking of the ‘Landers, they really did struggle last week against one of the worst Bulls sides to ever take to Loftus Versfeld. There were mitigating circumstances, however, with the weather gods providing some atrocious conditions. The match did underline the Highlanders need for a fly-half who can take control of proceedings, and the return of All Black Lima Sopoaga has come at just the right time for the men from Otago. While Sopoaga won’t start this week, he will be on the bench. His fellow All Black, Waisake Naholo, misses out, however, after he was handed a one-week ban for a dangerous tackle during last week’s 10-17 victory.

Verdict: Force (+ 12.5) 9/10
Dave Wessel’s men have been good to the plus punters this year and I reckon they’ll deliver once again. Get on the plus 12.5 market at 9/10!

Sunwolves v Sharks | Saturday 20 May | Singapore National Stadium | 13:55

To Win (80 Mins)
Sunwolves 7/2 | Draw 30/1 | Sharks 2/13
Sunwolves (+12.5) | Sharks (-12.5)

The Sharks make the trip to Sunwolves territory off the back of a rather humiliating 35-32 loss to the Kings. Salt was added to the wounds of the Natalians with skipper Pat Lambie suffering another concussion injury that is likely to rule him out for the next month or so. Lambie’s injury blow couldn’t have come at a worse time for Robert du Preez’s men as it has coincided with the departure of young gun Curwin Bosch, who will do duty with the ‘Baby Boks’ out in Georgia. With the two aforementioned players ruled out, du Preez has had to reshuffle his backline and move Lwazi Mvovo to fullback and bring Garth April in at fly-half.

While the Sharks were getting done by the Kings, the Sunwolves enjoyed a nice relaxing bye, which was much-needed after their gruelling tour of New Zealand. The hosts will actually be quietly confident heading into this one and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are targeting this fixture as well as next week’s game against the Cheetahs. In terms of ’Wolves team news, there’s a return for skipper Harumichi Tatekwa, who will come into the inside-centre berth.

Verdict: Sunwolves (+12.5) 9/10
I was actually going to have a go on the straight Sunwolves win before I saw their team announcement. And while the absence of Derrick Carpenter and Jamie-Jerry Taulaigi has swayed me away from the straight win, I will definitely be having a go on the +12.5 handicap as well as the Frist to Ten Points – Sunwolves – market. 

Lions v Bulls | Emirates Airline Park | Saturday 20 May | 17:15

To Win (80 Mins)
Lions 1/9 | Draw 30/1 | Bulls 5/1
Lions (-16.5) 9/10 | Bulls (+16.5) 9/10

The ‘Pride of Joburg’ make their return to the City of Gold' off the back of a fantastic tour to Australia that saw them go three from three. That immaculate record has seen Johan Ackermann’s men move within touching distance of the Crusaders on the overall log. And while the Lions will need the Canterbarians to drop a few points, the New Zealand Conference leaders could well do just that as they face a rather tricky run-in that features quite a few games against their domestic rivals.

While the Lions were putting in a strong showing ‘Down under’, their opponents, the hapless Bulls, were losing yet another game, this time going down to the Highlanders 10-17. The Bulls actually had a huge opportunity to claim a much-needed win last week but poor discipline – I’m looking at you RG Snyman – and some dodgy decision-making – why not kick at goal when the game is so tight? – proved costly for under-fire coach Nollis Marais.

Both teams have made changes for this one with the Lions revamping their front row and bringing Sale-bound nine Faf de Klerk onto the bench while the Bulls have brought in Springboks Rudy Paige, Jan Serfontein and Lood de Jager.

Verdict: Lions (-16.5) 9/10
The lions ran rampant in the 2016 fixture and I can see Ackermann’s side doing the same here. Get on the Lions minus with confidence. 

Kings v Brumbies | Saturday 20 May | Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium | 19:30

To Win (80 Mins) 
Kings 15/10 | Draw 22/1 | Brumbies 11/20
Kings (+3.5) 9/10 | Brumbies (-3.5) 9/10

The kings will be looking to make it four wins on the trot when they take on the Brumbies this Saturday evening. The hosts have been in fine fettle against Australian sides this term running the Reds close and then beating the Waratahs and Rebels. The biggest notch in the Kings' belt was last week’s 35-32 victory over the Sharks. The win did come at a cost though with industrious flanker Chris Cloete sustaining a concussion.

The Brumbies didn’t fare as well against South African opposition last week as they went down 6-13 to Lions. Their performance bordered on the atrocious and illustrated just how big a crisis Australian rugby is currently facing.

Verdict: Kings 15/10
While the loss of Cloete is a massive blow, I still think the Kings have enough about them to see off this lacklustre Brumbies unit.

Written by Darry Worthington for!

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