Super Rugby: Round 17 (Saturday) Preview

Round 17 Super Rugby Saturday Preview

Our in-house rugby scribe previews all of Saturday's Super Rugby action.

There's a lot on the line this Saturday with home final rights up for grabs. The two sides for who Saturday holds the most importance for are the Lions and Crusaders. The former needs the latter to lose to the Hurricanes in the mid-morning kick-off in order to have a chance of claiming rights to host the final.

While the aforementioned sides respective fixtures will be the main attraction, there are four other games taking place including a North versus South Derby between the Bulls and Stormers.

Sunwolves v Blues | Saturday 15 July | Prince Chichibu Stadium | 05:05

To Win (80 Mins)
Sunwolves 14/1 | Draw 40/1 | Blues 1/100
Sunwolves (+29.5) 9/10 | Blues (-29.5) 9/10

First up we have the struggling Sunwolves hosting a Blues side who will still be on a high after beating the British and Irish Lions last month. Speaking of the Blues and the Lions, the Aucklanders will be without Sonny Bill Williams, who is still serving a ban for his dangerous tackle in the second Test.

The Sunwolves have been really appalling in recent weeks, shipping 95 points against the Lions and then 52 points against the Stormers. The Blues haven’t kicked a Super Rugby ball in anger since early June but they have played a few warm up games so they shouldn’t be that rusty.

Verdict: Blues (-29.5) 9/10
I can see a late surge from the Blues seeing them clear the handicap – get on at 9/10!

Chiefs v Brumbies | Saturday 15 July | FMG Stadium Waikato | 07:15

To Win (80 Mins)
Chiefs 1/12 | Draw 33/1 | Brumbies 13/2
Chiefs (-19.5) 9/10 | Brumbies (+19.5) 9/10

It’s the Brumbies and Chiefs next up and this could actually be a dress rehearsal for next week’s quarter-final as these teams have a good chance of meeting each other in the first round of knock-out games. The Chiefs currently occupy third spot on the New Zealand Conference and could move into second should the Hurricanes lose to the Crusaders in the next fixture of the day. A loss here could see the Chiefs remain in sixth spot on the Overall Conference, however, it would set up a date with the Brumbies next weekend.

The Brumbies come into this one off the back of a rather shoddy display against the Reds which saw them go down by a point at the Suncorp Stadium last Friday. Coach Stephen Larkham has rung the changes off the back of that adverse showing, making 12 changes to his run-on side.

Verdict: Chiefs (-19.5) 9/10
I’m quite sweet on the Chiefs minus here. Larkham’s mass change will not help the synergy of this Brumbies outfit one bit. Get on the minus ASAP as it’s likely to climb as the hours pass.

Hurricanes v Crusaders | Saturday 15 July | Westpac Stadium | 09:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Hurricanes 7/10 | Draw 25/1 | Crusaders 12/10
Hurricanes (-2.5) 9/10 | Crusaders (+2.5) 9/10

This game will attract a mass audience as these two sides will essentially determine if the Lions have a chance of claiming a home final. In order for this scenario to play out, the Hurricanes will need to end the Crusaders unbeaten run in the tournament and the Lions will need to beat the Sharks later in the day.

Both of these teams have been affected by the British and Irish Lions tour but it’s the Crusaders who have paid the heavier toll with talismanic centre Ryan Crotty sidelined for Saturday’s fixture. The two sides met earlier in the year with the ‘Saders running out 20-12 victors.

Verdict: Hurricanes 7/10
I’m backing the ‘Canes on the straight win as I’m expecting a big performance from Beauden Barrett who will be feeling slightly guilty about missing a few guilt edge penalty kicks against the British and Irish Lions.

Force v Waratahs | Saturday 15 July | nib Stadium | 11:45
To Win (80 Mins)
Force 1/1 | Draw 25/1 | Waratahs 8/10
Force (+1.5) 9/10 | Waratahs (-1.5) 9/10

This game could spoil what is shaping up to be a rather entertaining day of rugby with both of these sides failing to impress in 2017. I have to say, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the Force who are a plucky bunch. They also look a lot more cohesive than the Waratahs who, for all their star players, really have failed to make a mark on the Australian Conference.

Verdict: Force 1/1
This is a game that I won’t be throwing a lot of money at as the Australian Derbies have been near on impossible to read this year. A small strike on the Force win at even money is my call here.

Bulls v Stormers | Saturday 15 July | Loftus Versfeld | 15:05

To Win (80 Mins)
Bulls 29/20 | Draw 22/1 | Stormers 11/20
Bulls (+4.5) 9/10 | Stormers (-4.5) 9/10

The first of two South African derbies sees the hot and cold Bulls take on the Stormers at Loftus. The hosts, after a magnificent display against the Sharks a fortnight ago, were back to their shambolic selves against the Kings last week going down 31-30. That result has put pay to the Bulls renaissance that seemed to be developing and has left incoming coach John Mitchell with a hell of a task.

The Stormers come into this one off the back of a convincing yet somewhat underwhelming 52-15 victory over the Sunwolves. The men from the Western Cape looked rather slick with ball in hand last week but their defensive structure needs a lot of work still.

Verdict: Stormers 11/20
I think this game will be a lot tighter than the pundits are expecting and as such, I’m tipping the Stormers on the board instead of them to clear the handicap.

Sharks v Lions | Saturday 15 July | Growthpoint Kings Park | 17:15

To Win (80 Mins)
Sharks  26/10 | Draw 25/1 | Lions 2/7
Sharks (+8.5) 9/10  | Lions (-8.5) 9/10

The Sharks and Lions will bring the curtain down on the round-robin phase of Super Rugby. The hosts will be in a bit of a catch-22 situation should the Crusaders lose earlier in the day as a Lions victory would see the Natalians square off with the Lions in the quarter-finals. And while I’m not saying the Sharks will throw the game, I think they may be inclined to take the foot off the pedal as a Johannesburg quarter-final would be a lot more beneficial to the Natalians than a trip to Canterbury would.

The Lions have won the last four Super Rugby games between the sides with their most recent victory coming at Emirates Airline Park earlier in the year. The Lions were pushed hard by the Natalians in said fixture but still managed to win the game by five points.

Verdict: Lions (-8.5) 9/10
The Lions could seal a home Super Rugby final with a win here and even if the Crusaders manage to get one over the ‘Canes, I’m still expecting a big performance from the men from Joburg. I’m also expecting the returning Rohan Janse van Rensburg to make a big impact off the bench for the Lions.

Written by Darry Worthington for

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