Super Rugby 2018: Round 3 Preview

Rugby Player dives for the try line

There are five-thrilling Round 3 Super Rugby matches taking place on Saturday the 3rd of March.

Rugby fans were treated to some spectacular action last weekend with the Kiwi and Aussie sides getting their campaigns underway. Some of the Australasian sides made big statements with the Rebels, Crusaders, and Waratahs all bagging impressive wins. The same cannot be said of the Hurricanes and Reds who were well below par.

On the South African front, the Lions made it two from two while the Bulls started the John Mitchell Super Rugby era like a house on fire as they out 'Hurricaned' the Hurricanes, with their scintillating offload game guiding them to a well-deserved two-point victory.

While the Bulls and Lions will be happy with their endeavours the same can't be said for the Stormers who blew a massive chance to upset the Waratahs out in New South Wales. Robbie Fleck's men will be desperate to bounce back this Saturday but face an uphill battle in trying to achieve this as they face the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Other notable clashes see the Bulls and Lions square off at Loftus while the Sharks return from their bye week and host the Waratahs.

Sunwolves v Rebels
Prince Chichbu Memorial Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Sunwolves 21/20
Draw 25/1
Rebels 7/20

Sunwolves (+7.5) 9/10

Rebels (-7.5) 9/10

The Sunwolves will face Australian opposition for the second game running as a confident Rebels side come to town. The visitors got their 2018 campaign off to an ideal start as they smashed the Reds 45-19 at AMI Park. And while the Reds did play the majority of the game with 14-men, due to skipper Scott Higginbotham receiving a dubious red card, the Rebels were still clinical with ball-in-hand.

This weekend's hosts may not have bagged a win last weekend but their brave performance was rewarded as they picked up a losing bonus point from their 25-32 loss to the Brumbies. The Sunwolves were actually their own worst enemies during the opening round, as some Trojan-esque defending was compromised by some shoddy attacking play - the ridiculous pass into his own goal post by captain Yutaka Nagare being a case in point.

Verdict: Rebels (-7.5) 9/10 
The last and only time these two sides met was in 2016. The Rebels dominated proceedings on that day and ran out 9-35 victors. 

Crusaders v Stormers
AMI Stadium


To Win (80 Mins)
Crusaders 1/12

Draw 30/1
Stormers 11/2

Crusaders (-19.5) 9/10
Stormers (+19.5) 9/10

The second game of the day sees the reigning champions, who got their campaign off to a sensational start against the Chiefs, take on a Stormers outfit that will still be kicking themselves after letting the game slip against the Waratahs.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson - aka Mr Bust-a-Move - would have been doing six-steps and windmills all over the Crusaders changing room after his sides opening game against the Chiefs. The Waikato outfit has often proved to be a thorn in the 'Saders side, so to bag not only a win but a try-scoring bonus point against them is seriously impressive.

While the Crusaders were being clinical the Stormers were doing their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The men from the West Coast of South Africa gave a really good account of themselves during the opening 73-minutes of the game but then collectively conspired to switch off for the final seven minutes, which subsequently gifted the Waratahs a 34-27 victory.

Verdict: Crusaders (-19.5) 9/10
The Stormers showed that they are still a rather naive lot against the Waratahs as they failed to do what a mature team would have, close out the game with the minimum fuss. They're likely to make similar errors against the Crusaders who will pounce on every and any opportunity that gets thrown their way, unlike the Waratahs.

I will be having my biggest bet of the weekend on the Crusaders clearing this handicap.

Sharks v Waratahs
Kings Park Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Sharks 1/3
Draw 25/1
Waratahs 22/10

Sharks (-8.5) 9/10
Waratahs (+8.5) 9/10 

The Waratahs begin their tour of South Africa with a rather tricky start as they are set to face a well-rested Sharks side at King Park. The hosts for Saturday's encounter enjoyed a bye week during Round 2, which was pretty much ideal as they had a bone-crunching affair against the Lions during the opening week. Despite the Sharks going down 26-19 in the aforementioned game, coach Robert du Preez would have taken plenty of positives from the defeat, particularly the performance put in by his son and namesake at fly-half.

Speaking of standout backs, it was pretty awesome watching Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau link up again. The Wallaby duo were in marvellous touch against the Stormers with the latter scoring a blinder of a try from an up-and-under and the former setting up numerous chances for his teammates. If they can produce that same sort of magic against the Sharks, then an away win is not off the cards, this Saturday.

Verdict: Waratahs (+8.5) 9/10
Both teams will try and entertain when the game gets underway but come the 60-minute mark both sides will go into their shells. I suspect the Sharks may be the more adept team at closing down the game so I can see them grabbing the win. It won't be by much, however, which makes the plus handicap a rather tantalizing prospect.

Bulls v Lions
Loftus Versfeld

To Win (80 Mins)
Bulls 5/2

Draw  25/1
Lions 2/7

Bulls (+8.5) 9/10
Lions (-8.5) 9/10

The penultimate game of Round 3 has the potential to be a cracker with a seemingly reinvigorated Bulls side taking on the Lions in a trans-Jukskei Derby. The hosts got their 2018 campaign off to a rollicking start as they beat the Hurricanes by two points at Loftus. And while John Mitchell will be pleased as punch to bag the points, he'll probably be happier with his side's off-loading game, which was spectacular.

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Swys de Bruin's Lions also put in a great performance last week as they beat the Jaguares 47-27. The 2016 and 2017 defeated finalists looked much better with ball-in-hand than they had in the previous game against the Sharks. Their lineout was also stronger, although it could still use some work.

Verdict: Bulls (+8.5) 9/10
The Lions have dominated this fixture for the past two years racking up some big wins over their next-door neighbours. I think the pendulum is going to swing this weekend, though.

aguares v Hurricanes
Estadio Jose Amalfitani

To Win (80 Mins)
Jaguares 4/1
Draw 28/1
Hurricanes 1/6

Jaguares (+13.5) 9/10
Hurricanes (-13.5) 9/10

The Jaguares and Hurricanes will provide us with our last taste of Super Rugby action for the weekend when they clash at the Jose Amalfitani. The hosts come into this one off the back of a rather disappointing tour of South Africa where they only managed to bag two bonus points from two games against the Stormers and Lions.

The Hurricanes also found the going tough out in the Republic last week as they got their 2018 campaign off to a losing start going down by four points to the Bulls. The loss shouldn't worry Hurricanes fans too much, however, as their side lost heavily to the Brumbies in their opening game of 2016 and then went on to win the title.

Verdict: Hurricanes (- 13.5) 9/10
Both teams will rack up considerable air miles this week as they travel to Argentina from South Africa. The Jaguares sort of lose an element of their home ground advantage here as they have to travel the same distance as the 'Canes. I can see this extended travel leaving the hosts a little bit leggy come the final quarter, which is when I think they will be exposed by their Kiwi counterparts. As such, my money is on a late Hurricanes surge seeing them past the minus handicap.