Super Rugby 2018: Round 2 Preview

Rugby Player dives for the try line

The 2018 Super Rugby season gets underway in earnest this coming weekend with a full set of fixtures set to treat rugby fans to what can only be described as a Super Saturday!

It's back ladies and gentlemen! A full weekend of the best franchise teams in the southern hemisphere duking it out for domestic and southern dominance. A full weekend of crunching tackles, scintillating passes and the now expected moment of brilliance from a Barrett or Whitelock.

Last week's four fixture list can only be regarded as an appetizer. A mere morsel to whet your appetite. This weekend, we get served the monstrous main course!

There are two in-depth game previews for Friday's two fixtures, while we'll cover all of Saturday's action in this piece. You can also check out our full game preview for Saturday's headline clash between the Crusaders and the Chiefs.

Sunwolves v Brumbies
Saturday 14 February
Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium 

06:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Sunwolves 6/1 
Draw 33/1 
Brumbies 1/14
Handicap
Sunwolves (+18.5) 9/10
Brumbies (-18.5) 9/10


We kick off Saturday's proceedings with a clash between two sides who will be looking to up their game in 2018. The Sunwolves endured a decent if not spectacular campaign last season as they registered wins over the Bulls and Blues.

The Brumbies were the only Australian side to make the playoffs last year as they topped the Australian Conference winning six of their fifteen Conference phase fixtures. They were to bow out at the quarter-finals stage, however, going down 16-35 to the Hurricanes at home.

The two sides met for the first and only time during the 2016 season with the game ending 66-5 in favour of the Brumbies.

Verdict: Brumbies (- 18.5) 9/10
The Brumbies have made some solid off-season signings and the return of Christian Lealiifona will strengthen their backline greatly. I can see the visitors winning their opening fixture by a comfortable margin.

Crusaders v Chiefs
Saturday 24 February
AMI Stadium
08:35


To Win (80 Mins)
Crusaders 7/20
Draw 25/1
Chiefs 2/1


Handicap
Crusaders (-7.5) 9/10
Chiefs (+7.5) 9/10


The headline clash of the day is up next with the Crusaders and Chiefs set to lock horns in what should be a pulsating New Zealand derby. The hosts and reigning champions managed to get the better of the Chiefs twice last year beating their local rivals 24-31 during the conference phase and 27-13 in the semi-finals.

Click here for our full preview

Both sides have lost players during the off-season but the Chiefs have been harder hit with Aaron Cruden, Stephen Donald, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, James Lowe, Michael Leitch and Hika Elliot all moving onto pastures new.

With Donald and Cruden having left, utility back Damien McKenzie will take over the first choice fly-half role. The diminutive sprite could either be the Chiefs saving grace or their worst nightmare. One thing is for sure, he will face a stern test from the Crusaders mid-field this Saturday.

Verdict: Crusaders (-7.5) 9/10
I'd generally back the Chiefs on the plus here as the Crusaders are such slow starters but I honestly think McKenzie will be exposed which will see the visitors struggle to get into the game. As such, I'll be having a moderate strike on the Crusaders minus.

Waratahs v Stormers 
Saturday 24 February
Allianz Stadium
10:45

To Win (80 Mins)
Waratahs 7/20

Draw 25/1
Stormers 2/1


Handicap
Waratahs (-7.5) 9/10

Stormers (+7.5) 9/10

The Waratahs will get their 2018 Super Rugby campaign underway when the Stormers come to visit this weekend. The men from Cape Town managed to get their season off to a positive start last week as they saw off a spirited Jaguares side 28-20 at Newlands. Robbie Fleck's men will have to be more clinical out at the Allianz this Saturday, however, as the 'Tahs actually look a rather strong side on paper.

This weekend's host will be determined to put what was a nightmare 2017 campaign behind. The men from New South Wales only managed to register four wins from 15 Conference Phae fixtures and ended the season fourth on the Australian Conference. Their horror showing seemed to spark action from the higher-ups who implemented a mass recruitment drive during the off-season, which has seen Kurtley Beale lured back to New South Wales.

Verdict: Waratahs (-7.5) 9/10
I was extremely impressed by the Stormers attacking intent last weekend but they still look like a side who need a few more weeks to gel. I think their overenthusiasm with ball-in-hand may come back to bite them against a Waratahs side desperate to appease their fans.

Lions v Jaguares
Saturday 24 February 

Emirates Airline Park
15:05


To Win (80 Mins)
Lions 1/8

Draw 33/1
Jaguares 9/2

Handicap
Lions (-15.5) 9/10
Jaguares (+15.5) 9/10


The Jaguares continue their tour of South Africa this week as they head to the Highveld to take on the Lions. The visitors gave a solid account of themselves against the Stormers in the opening round of the 2018 tournament going down 28-20 at Newlands. The Lions managed to go one better as they beat the Sharks 26-19 at Emirates Airline Park. Despite bagging the points, there will be some worries for newly installed Lions head coach Swys de Bruin, particularly fly-half Elton Janjties kicking performance off the tee.

These two sides met twice last year with the Jaguares winning the game in Argentina by a 36-24 scoreline, while the Lions bounced back in Johannesburg running out 24-21 victors later in the season.

Verdict: Jaguares (+15.5) 9/10
I really wasn't convinced by the Lions display last week. They looked nowhere near as confident with ball-in-hand as they have in the previous two seasons. And while I think they will get the win here, I don't think it will be by too many points. As such, I'm on the Jaguares plus.

Bulls v Hurricanes
Saturday 24 February
Loftus Versfeld
17:15


To Win (80 Mins)
Bulls 9/2

Draw 33/1
Hurricanes 1/7


Handicap
Bulls (+15.5) 9/10

Hurricanes (-15.5) 9/10

The Bulls get life under John Mitchell underway against the Hurricanes in Saturday's final fixture. The men from Pretoria endured a dire 2017 campaign that saw them only manage to secure four victories from their 15 outings. The Hurricanes, on the other hands, enjoyed yet another stellar conference phase winning 12 of their 15 fixtures.

To say the Bulls have struggled against New Zealand opposition in the recent past would be a mammoth understatement. Arguably their best performance against a Kiwi side last year came when they took on a second-strength Hurricanes side at Loftus and managed to only lose by 14 points.

Verdict: Bulls (+15.5) 9/10
The early handicaps in Europe have been around the plus 15 mark, which I think is decent value for a Bulls side who should at least be more defensively astute under the tutelage of John Mitchell. If the handicap comes out at anything above 13, I will be having a strike on the Bulls to stay within it.

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets.net

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