Super Rugby 2016 – Week 3 Preview

The second round of Super Rugby was what we have come to expect over time – upsets, form swings, blowouts and the odd-dire match. Four teams remain unbeaten and surprisingly, none of them are from New Zealand. The Brumbies, Stormers, Sharks and Lions have all had strong starts to the season, but for the most part, the games have been of a high standard (barring the Reds vs Force last weekend).

Looking ahead to this weekend, on Friday night the Blues will host the Hurricanes and the Western Force will welcome the Brumbies. Saturday’s action sees the Highlanders host the Lions, the Reds travel to Melbourne and the Sunwolves and the Cheetahs will fight it out in Singapore. The final two matches of the round come to us from South Africa with the Kings on a collision course with the Chiefs before the match-of-the-round between the Stormers and the Sharks in Cape Town.
Last week’s bets went two from three for a nice profit, but I am hoping for more this week with two, two-unit plays. Let’s get the weekly preview started and hopefully we will end up in the positive come Sunday morning. Make sure you follow me on Twitter (@S15_TheProfits) for last minute tips, game coverage, expert insight or just for a chat.

Friday Plays: 

Best Bet 1: Brumbies -7.5 x 2-Units (vs Force) @ $1.83 – Bet365 (early twitter play) 

Saturday Plays: 

Best Bet 2: Chiefs -14.5 x 2-Units (vs Kings) – 1.90 – Bet365 (early twitter play)

Best Bet 3: Stormers vs Sharks – Total Match Points Under (anything below 45)

Note: More Saturday plays to come – keep an eye on twitter

Blues ($1.75) vs Hurricanes ($2.10)

We return to Eden Park in Auckland on Friday afternoon for our first match of round three where the Blues host the Hurricanes. The Blues lost their first match of the season and their fourth in a row to the Crusaders 13 – 28 as a result of making far too many simple errors. The Hurricanes experienced their second loss of the season in Dunedin, this time getting beaten by the Highlanders in the 2015 Super Rugby Final rematch, 16 – 17. The Hurricanes won both matches last season against the Blues, snapping a two game losing streak at Eden Park.

Prediction: 

Tana Umaga has surprised once again with regards to his squad announcement, recalling Ihaia West, but dropping powerful lock, Patrick Tuipulotu. All Blacks prop Charlie Faumauina also finds himself selected in the front row alongside James Parsons and Ofa Tu’ungafasi. Jerome Kaino, Blake Gibson and Akira Ioane form an extremely dangerous and balanced back row and I like the selection of Rene Ranger on the wing, allowing George Moala and Japanese centre Male Sau more time to gel in the centres.

At the time of writing, Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd hasn’t named a finalised starting lineup with late fitness tests scheduled for Cory Jane, Nehe Milner-Skudder and squad captain Dane Coles. Given the quality of all three players it is hard to make a prediction, without knowing that they are playing. The Hurricanes clearly look a little bit off the mark in comparison to last year but it is still early days. I think the one thing that is going to hurt them this season is their lack of depth on the bench. Gone are the days where you can have a strong scrum (note: the Reds) and use that as a catalyst to power your way to victory.
I’m not really sure what to make of both teams so far this season, especially when looking at recent reputations and form line. Both teams have players that can put in performances that swing the momentum in favour of their teams, but given it is so early on in the season, there is still a lot of room for improvement. There is chat that Dane Coles won’t play and he is crucial to the Hurricanes cause, as he plays like an extra flanker with his strong breakdown play and good speed for a big man. I don’t think there will be much in it at the end of the match, but I would expect a pretty high score line and some razzle dazzle.

Predicted result: Too hard to call 

Force ($4.50) vs Brumbies ($1.21)

The Western Force return to nib Stadium in Perth on Friday night when they face the Australian conference leading Brumbies. The Force will be buoyed by their 15 – 6 victory over the hapless Reds in Brisbane last weekend, as will the Brumbies who overpowered the Waratahs 32 – 15 in Canberra and snapped a five-game losing streak to the visitors.

Prediction: 

A lot of the discussion after last week’s match for the Force has been about how poor the Reds were, but they really played right into the visitors’ hands. The Force aren’t a flashy team – they do the basics well and generally rely on their opposition to make mistakes as opposed to outclassing them. Their pack is solid and the back row is industrious, but the outside backs combination of Luke Morahan, Semesi Masirewa and Dane Haylett-Petty provide great impetus and spark from the back. Jono Lance also has a great eye for the gap and feasts on tired defences. Michael Foley has made five changes this week and opted to leave Nathan Charles, Steve Mafi and Alby Mathewson on the bench which is somewhat surprising, maybe adopting to use them as ‘finishers’ like Michael Cheika has done with the Wallabies. Ben McCalman will start his first match of the season and I have been impressed with how he has grown as a player and a leader over the past couple of seasons. In saying that, coming up against a powerful pack – I think the Force are going to struggle in the set piece and the tight exchanges.

After two rounds, the Brumbies are starting to solidify themselves as title favourites. The Brumbies lead the try-scoring ladder with 11 from their two matches to date. Stephen Larkham has a good thing going in Canberra and it is clear that a lot of the squad members are benefitting from the extra cohesion created during the NRC last season. They have looked a class above all of their opposition so far this season, but they won’t be underestimating the Force, who have a habit of wearing teams down.
Statistically speaking, the Force are the third best team in the competition in terms of tackle success with 86.8%, but they haven’t faced a team with the attacking threats that the Brumbies possess. The Western Force organisation is experiencing financial difficulties at present and they could do with beating the Brumbies to help turn things around. I don’t think that is going to happen this week and with the Brumbies upcoming tour of South Africa, this is a must win match. The Brumbies should have far too much in the tank for the Force and although the home team might keep it close in the first half, the visitors should run away with it by double digits.

Predicted result: Brumbies to win @ $1.21 – William Hill

Best Bet 1: Brumbies -7.5 x 2-Units @ $1.83 – Bet365 (early twitter play) 

Highlanders ($1.24) vs Lions ($4.10)

For the second week in succession, the reigning champion Highlanders will play at Forsyth-Barr Stadium in Dunedin, this time against the unbeaten Lions from Johannesburg. In round two, the Highlanders beat the struggling Hurricanes 17 – 16 in a controversial match that saw the TMO make a number of interesting calls. The Lions also won their first match ever in Hamilton stunning the Chiefs in a high-scoring match 36 – 32.

Prediction: 

From the last seven matches, these teams have alternated being victorious with the Lions the most recent winners last year in Johannesburg. The Highlanders were dealt a rough hand by the referees and TMO last weekend, but they still had enough in the tank to overcome the Hurricanes in a match that could’ve gone either way. Hayden Parker is proving to be a solid kicking replacement off the bench and his accurate boot played a big role in the home team being victorious.
The Lions will love playing under the roof at Forsyth-Barr on Saturday to test their attacking style of play against the reining champions. Against the Chiefs, the Lions scrum was totally dominant. Led astutely by Warren Whitely, the scrummaging platform laid up front by former high-school teammates Dylan Smith and Malcolm Marx really gave the visitors the edge over the Chiefs. This allowed diminutive halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies to shine in Hamilton and outclass a back line with more talent than theirs. They are a gritty team and one that really enjoys playing for each other.
Is it time to take the Lions seriously? Yeah, it probably is, but for them to dethrone the Champs in Dunedin might be too much to ask. An unofficial play would be taking the Highlanders by 1-12.

Predicted result: Highlanders to win a high-scoring match @ $1.24 – Sportsbet

Rebels ($1.39) vs Reds ($3.00)

The Rebels and the Queensland Reds will clash in an all-Australian derby on Saturday night at AAMI Park in Melbourne. The Rebels let the Bulls get out to far too big a lead in Pretoria last weekend, but they did manage to score the four tries to make the 25 – 45 score line more respectable. The Reds failed to score any tries against the Western Force in Brisbane and as a result, left their fans utterly disappointed having started the season with two losses. Looking at the history between these two teams, the Reds hold a strong 8 – 2 advantage, but last year’s matches were squared, one game all.

Prediction: 

This match will be the first time the Rebels have played at home this season and given their fairly strong start to the season, I would expect a solid turnout in Melbourne. They will need to start faster than what they did in Pretoria and having been coached by Tony McGahan, I can assure you it would’ve been a very quiet dressing room after the match, let alone flight back to Melbourne. Halfback Ben Meehan has played well deputizing for the injured Nic Stirzaker, but with a few first choice players on the sideline, we haven’t seen the Rebels in full-flight just yet.
I just knew that Richard Graham was going to be the first coach relieved of his position within the first couple of months of the season, but I didn’t expect it after week two. The writing was on the wall last season and I am really surprised the QRU waited this long to make the decision. Either way, the problem stems a lot deeper than what meets the eye and it is going to be a few years before the Reds are competitive again. Their match against the Force last week where they failed to score a try or kick their goals was simply woeful. Basic mistakes are being made and they have to be eradicated from their game if they are going to get the most out of a roster that has talent.
Teams often bounce back when their coach is sacked and I do feel the Reds have that potential against a Rebels team that has traveled back from Africa. In saying that, two head coaches working together, both vying for head coach selection next year is a recipe for disaster. I expect the Rebels to win by 1-12.

Predicted result: Rebels to win @ $1.39 – Sportsbet

Sunwolves ($3.00) vs Cheetahs ($1.40)

Rugby fans in Singapore will get their first taste of Super Rugby action when the Japanese Sunwolves host the Cheetahs on Saturday night at the Singapore National Stadium. The Sunwolves had the bye last weekend, but they will be better off having lost to a tough Lions outfit in round one. The Cheetahs are winless so far this season, but they did give both the Jaguars and the Stormers a fright in their first two matches of the season.

Prediction: 

It’s going to take a few weeks until we really know how competitive the Sunwolves are going to be competitive this year. The team named by Mark Hammett is similar to the one that played in the first match of the year, whereas the Cheetahs have opted for a whole new front row. The Cheetahs had defensive issues in round one but tightened them up last weekend and if they can maintain that defensive momentum, I can see them beating the Cheetahs by a 1-12 margin.

Predicted result: Cheetahs to win @ $1.42 – William Hill

Kings ($9.00) vs Chiefs ($1.07)

Super Rugby action returns to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday night when the Kings host the Chiefs. The Kings will be fresh after last weekend’s bye and they would’ve spent a lot of time reviewing what went wrong in their 8 – 43 loss to the Sharks in round one. After a solid victory over the Crusaders in week one, the Chiefs were brought back down to earth in Hamilton last weekend at the hands of a spirited Lions outfit. The Kings and the Chiefs inaugural matchup in 2013 saw the New Zealand-based outfit secure victory, 35 – 24.

Prediction: 

The Kings are undersized, under-skilled and are an organisation in shambles. When the line was first released on Monday, it was way too low and I expect the Chiefs to wipe the floor on Saturday night en route to a comfortable victory.

Predicted result: Chiefs to win in a blowout @ $1.07 – William Hill

Best Bet 2: Chiefs -14.5 x 2-Units (vs Kings) – 1.90 – Bet365 (early twitter play)

Stormers ($1.45) vs Sharks ($2.75)

Two of the last four remaining undefeated teams in the Stormers and the Sharks will face-off at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday night in the final match of the round. The Stormers were too good for the Bulls and the Cheetahs and the Sharks easily dispatched the Kings before finding a way to nullify the Jaguars last weekend on a humid night in Durban. Looking at their history, it is hard to split the two coastal provinces with the Stormers winning the first match last season before the Sharks hammered them in the final round of the regular season.

Prediction: 

This is a clash between South Africa’s two best teams and I expect it to be an old fashioned derby. Both teams have solid packs, but I do give the Sharks the edge in the backline. Rather than pick a head-to-head winner, I will settle with the Total Match Points – Unders market as the total points market hasn’t gone overs (I expect it to be around 47.5) since 2004 – a stretch of 16 matches.

Predicted result: Stormers to win @ $1.45 – William Hill

Best Bet 3: Stormers vs Sharks – Total Match Points Under (anything below 45)

Author

mm

Glenn

Glenn has followed rugby union for 19 years and has expert knowledge on the game freely committing to over 500 viewing hours a year. Having played with and against some current Super Rugby players and International superstars, he understands the game, the players and the laws inside out. Having been born in South Africa, spent time in New Zealand and currently living in Australia, Glenn lives and breathes rugby. With so many different tournaments happening around the world simultaneously and the addition of Rugby Sevens to the Olympic program, there are always plenty of healthy betting options available. An obsession, a passion, call it what you will, Glenn enjoys sharing his insight, opinions and predictions with anyone who wants to listen.

Leave a Reply