Super Rugby 2019: Round 1 Saturday Preview

Super Rugby  - players engage in a scrum

Super Rugby marks its return this coming weekend with five Round 1 fixtures going down on Saturday the 16th of February.

The long wait is almost over for rugby fans and punters alike, with the 2019 Super Rugby season just a few short days away. While the action will get underway on Friday the 15th of February, we'll get our first full day of Super Rugby on Saturday with seven games set to keep rugby enthusiasts glued to their television sets.

Blues v Crusaders
Eden Park

To Win (80 Mins)
Blues 5/2
Draw 25/1
Crusaders 3/10

Blues (+7.5) 9/10
Crusaders (-7.5) 9/10

What a way to start a 'Super Saturday'! The defending champions and what should be a greatly improved Blues franchise square off in the opener which should be filled with fireworks.

The hosts head into this one off the back of a dire 2018 campaign that saw them finish at the foot of the New Zealand Conference and 14th on the Overall Conference.

There have been mass changes in Auckland since the close of last season, however, with Leon McDonald taking over the head coaching reigns from Tana Umaga; some serious talent being recruited in the off season; and a number of the current crop of Blues players being involved in the Auckland's Mitre 10 Cup Premiership title run. Needless to say, the Eden Park faithful will be rather overoptimistic of their side causing an upset this Saturday.

Onto the visitors now, and as always they look a strong unit who are more than capable of retaining their title. They have unearthed some real gems during last year's Mitre 10 Cup, with a few Canterbury youngsters sure to make an impact off the bench this coming weekend.

Both teams head into this off the back of solid preseason outings with the Blues beating the Hurricanes 38-31 last Friday and the Crusaders beating the Chiefs 43-38.

Verdict: Blues (+7.5) 9/10
The Crusaders only managed to win last year's fixture between the two sides by eight points, and I think this year's fixture will be an even closer run affair. My money is on the hosts keeping it within a rather generous 'cap.

Waratahs v Hurricanes
Brookvale Oval

To Win (80 Mins)
Waratahs 5/2
Draw 25/1
Hurricanes 3/10

Waratahs (+7.5) 1/1 
Hurricanes (-7.5) 8/10

Next up, we cross the Tasman for what should be an exhilarating affair between last year's two beaten semi-finalists the Waratahs and the Hurricanes. Both teams pride themselves on playing attacking rugby, so this game should be a thrill a minute.

In terms of big-name player movement during the off-season, the hosts lost try-scoring machine Taqele Naiyaravoro, while the Hurricanes let go of former golden boy, Julian Savea. Both teams still possess quality backlines but the loss of Naiyaravoro will no doubt affect the Waratahs proficiency on attack.

In terms of pre-season results, both teams ended their build up with defeats with the 'Canes going down by seven points to the Blues and the Waratahs losing 34-28 to the Brumbies. While the result won't have pleased coach 'Tahs veteran Daryll Gibson, he'll be more concerned with the injury that centre Lalakai Foketi sustained, which is set to keep the New Zealand born midfielder out of the opening three rounds of the season.

Verdict: Waratahs (+7.5) 1/1
These two sides last met in 2017 with the Hurricanes running out 38-28 victors out in Wellington. I suspect we're in for a tighter game here which is why I'm backing the hosts on the plus line.

Sunwolves v Sharks
Singapore National Stadium

To Win (80 Mins)
Sunwolves 7/2
Draw 30/1
Sharks 1/5

Sunwolves (+12.5) 9/10
Sharks (-12.5) 9/10

We make our first but certainly not our venture into Asia in 2019 this coming Saturday where the dogged Sunwolves will take on Currie Cup champions, the Sharks.

The hosts may have finished last season at the foot of the Overall Conference but they still gave a better account of themselves than they had done on previous seasons winning three of their 16 fixtures. With some smart off-season recruiting, the 'Wolves look set to better that record in 2019.

The Sharks produced something of a mixed-bag during last year's Super Rugby season as they just snuck into the play-off spots before being utterly hammered by the Crusaders in the quarter-finals.

Verdict: Sunwolves (+12.5) 9/10
While they will be without a host of their Japanese internationals, the Sunwolves should still have enough about them to run the Sharks close.

Phaka Predictions with Kaunda Ntunja - Super Rugby - Hollywoodbets

Bulls v Stormers
Loftus Versfeld

To Win (80 Mins)
Bulls 11/20
Draw 25/1
Stormers 29/20

Bulls (-4.5) 9/10
Stormers (+4.5) 9/10

The second and final derby of the day is sure to be a feisty one with age old rivals the Bulls and Stormers set to square off at Loftus.

Both teams endured underwhelming campaigns last term with neither able to secure a spot in the play-offs with the Stormers finishing fourth on the South African Conference and the Bulls in last place.

The brains trust at Loftus have been hard at work trying to rectify the deep seeded issues that have plagued the Bulls franchise for so long. One step they have taken is to bring in two quality signings in the form of veteran Springboks Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Britz. Both men will add vital know how to a talented but inexperienced squad.

While the Bulls have been addressing their issues at a broad level, the Stormers have been plagued by scandals, with political infighting greatly affecting preseason training - at one point, a strike was being mooted by the players over the proposed appointment of Paul Treu as one of the assistant coaches.

Verdict: Bulls (-4.5) 9/10
The hosts looked rather good in preseason registering wins over the Lions and before drawing with the Sharks. I fancy the hosts to open their tournament up with an impressive victory over their arch-rivals.

Jaguares v Lions
Estadio Amalfitani

To Win (80 Mins)
Jaguares 27/20
Draw 25/1
Lions 6/10

Jaguares (+3.5) 9/10
Lions (-3.5) 9/10

The curtain will come down on Round 1 with a clash between perennial tournament runners-up, the Lions, and the ever-improving Jaguares. The visitors endured yet another solid season last year as they reached their third successive final before being blown out the water by the Crusaders. The Jaguares also produced a great campaign in 2018 as they advanced to the quarter-finals for the first time before going down to this weekend's opponents in Johannesburg.

The visitors lost a host of first stringers to English clubs during the close season with Franco Mostert, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Jaco Kriel and Ruan Dreyer all having moved on. These are big-name players who the Lions may well struggle without.

Verdict: Jaguares 27/20
I can see the Lions struggling this year, particularly at the start of the campaign, with the amount of player turnover they've had to endure. As such, the Jaguares offer tremendous value on the straight win here.

Written by Darry Worthington for Hollywoodbets

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