Super Rugby Round 5 – 2017

Saturday Plays:

Best Bet 1: Sunwolves +26.5 (vs Stormers) @ $1.87 – Ladbrokes (early twitter play)

Best Bet 2: Lions -24.5 (vs Kings) @ $1.91 – Sportsbet (early twitter play)

Best Bet 3: Sharks -2.5 (vs Cheetahs) @ $1.91 – Ladbrokes (early twitter play)

Best Bet 4: Jaguares -7.5 (vs Reds) @ $1.87 – Sportsbet (early twitter play)

CRUSADERS ($1.07) VS Force ($7.70)

Round five of Super Rugby kicks off on Friday afternoon at AMI Stadium in Christchurch, where the Crusaders face the Force. The Crusaders reaffirmed themselves as the ‘comeback kings’ this time overturning a 19-point deficit to the Blues, to win their fourth match in a row, 33 – 24 in Christchurch. The Western Force return from their week off having been beaten by the Brumbies in Canberra in week three.

Crusaders: WWWW
Force: LWLB

Prediction:

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has made a number of changes to his team this week. Wyatt Crockett returns to the front row and Luke Romano gets a start in the second row, shifting Scott Barrett to blindside flanker. Matt Todd returns to the number seven jersey, alongside Jordan Taufua who will start his first match at number eight this season. Mitchell Drummond returns to the starting line-up at half back with Tim Bateman starting his first match for the Crusaders for several seasons at outside centre. Digby Ioane also comes into the starting line-up on the right wing.

Force coach Dave Wessels has rung the changes for his team’s clash with the Crusaders. It’s an all new front row with Ben Daley, Tatafu Polota-Nau and Jerome Ainsley all recalled. Isi Naisarani also gets his first start of the season on the side of the scrum. Dane Haylett-Petty’s absence sees Jono Lance handed the captaincy and South African Marcel Brache fills the inside centre position. Luke Morahan moves to fullback and the speedster Alex Newsome gets his first start on the right wing. It’s a strong bench for the Force with club captain Matt Hodgson set for his first minutes of the season and Richie Arnold (2.08m) is in line for his Super Rugby debut.

The Force have often been the Crusaders bogey time, but unfortunately for them, not in Christchurch. Of the four matches played on the South Island, the Force have only managed a draw and suffered three heavy losses. I expect the Crusaders to go into the half-time break with a lead against the Force, however, if they are behind, call your bookmaker, especially given they are at home. The Crusaders have been notoriously slow starters in the competition, predominantly down to the fact that they have to rest their All Blacks at the start of the season. Despite this, the Crusaders and their forward pack are on a role and I expect them to dominate the Force upfront, suffocating the Force’ backs of any decent ball. This match should be over by half time.

Predicted result:  Crusaders to win @ $1.07 – Sportsbet

REBELS ($3.24) VS WARATAHS ($1.24)

For the second time in two weeks, rugby returns to AAMI Park in Melbourne where the Waratahs host the Force in an important local-derby. For the third week in a row, the Waratahs were woeful, this time losing to the Brumbies in Sydney 12 – 22. The Rebels were much improved in their 14 – 27 loss to the undefeated Chiefs in Melbourne.

Rebels: LLBL
Waratahs: WLLL

Prediction:

Rebels coach Tony McGahan has named an unchanged starting line-up for the first time in his 27-game Melbourne coaching career. Meanwhile, Darryl Gibson has made wholesale backline changes to his team that will face the Rebels on Friday after an underwhelming 1-3 start to the season. The only change in the pack sees Ned Hanigan, a genuine lock, selected in the six jersey. Wallabies halfback Nick Phipps has been dropped for Jake Gordon and Bernard Foley returns after recovering from a pre-season head knock. Dave Horwitz and Rob Horne form a new centre partnership, pushing Israel Folau to fullback, which in turn shifts Andrew Kellaway to the wing. Big Taqele Naiyaravoro finds himself back on the bench.

There is no doubt about it that both teams are struggling this season. The Rebels are missing their skipper Sean McMahon and a couple of class acquisitions, whereas, the Waratahs look undetermined and unwilling to go the extra yard on the field, losing three matches in a row for the first time since 2012. There are still some exciting matchups across the park in this game, but it is one that I’m more than likely going to stay away from. Of the 11 matches played between these two, the Rebels have only managed to secure two wins, so on that basis, coupled with the Waratahs more experienced line-up and the return of Bernard Foley, I’ll pick the Tahs in a tight contest.

Predicted result: Waratahs to win @ $1.34 – Sportsbet

BLUES ($1.15) VS BULLS ($5.05)

The first of six matches on Saturday sees the Blues take on the Bulls at QBE Stadium in North Harbour. The Blues let what seemed like an unassailable 19-point lead slip to the resurgent Crusaders in Hamilton last week, stretching their run of losses to New Zealand opposition even further. The Bulls will have also had a stern talking to after their 34 – 21 victory over the Sunwolves, but they did manage the win playing with 14 men for thirty-eight minutes in the second half.

Blues: WLLL
Bulls: LLBW

Prediction:

Tana Umaga has entrusted his team that were unbelievably overturned by the Crusaders last week, by only potentially making the one change. That bracketed change sees All Blacks tighthead prop Charlie Fauimauina an option to come back into the front row. I have been impressed with Pauliasi Manu at scrum-time this season, as well as rookie lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, who is also an asset in open play. Piers Francis gets the nod at flyhalf once again after a solid outing last week, despite making a costly error that led to the Crusaders scoring late in the piece. George Moala is also in career-best form and his direct running is proving to be hard to counter in the opening weeks of the tournament.

The Bulls team announced by head coach Nollis Marais includes a number of changes. Lizo Gqoboko and Adriaan Strauss come back into the front row, positioned in front of locks Jason Jenkins and Lood de Jager. Ruan Steenkamp and Nick de Jager have been selected in the back row alongside Hanro Liebenberg. Piet van Zyl and Handre Pollard get another shot in the halves as a combination, with Jesse Kriel partnering Jan Serfontein in the centres. I expect a better performance from Warrick Gelant at fullback this weekend as well.

Former New Zealand Sevens star Augustine Pulu has been a shining light for the Blues with his crisp passing and insightful runs around the breakdowns elevating him into number three on the All Blacks pecking order (with TKB leaving to France). George Moala at centre has also had a great start to the season, chewing up metres with his direct approach. His challenge from here is to find ways to create space for the dynamically powerful Rieko Ioane.

The Blues and the Bulls have been neck-and-neck the last ten clashes, both winning five apiece, however, the Blues did manage to win the most recent clash in Auckland in 2015. The Bulls have now won their last seven matches at Loftus, but Eden Park is a far cry from the Highveld. I thought the Bulls would be in a much better position heading on their Australasian adventure than they currently are. They fought hard to beat the Sunwolves with only 14 men in Pretoria, but their error rates are some of the highest in the competition and their poor discipline is becoming quite costly. The Blues have been up against much harder opposition and even though they have been so hot and cold this season, at home, they should have a little bit too much firepower for the wounded Bulls.

Predicted result: Blues to win their first in weeks @ $1.15 – Sportsbet

Brumbies ($2.25) VS highlanders ($1.64)

Super rugby returns to Canberra on Saturday afternoon where the Brumbies clash with the Highlanders at GIO Stadium in Canberra. The Brumbies will be brimming with confidence having dispatched the Waratahs 28 – 12 in the local derby last week in Sydney. The Highlanders were defiant in the first half against the reigning champion Hurricanes before the visitors run in seven tries to two en route to a 15 – 41 victory in Wellington.

Brumbies: LLWW
Highlanders: LLWL

Prediction:

Coach Stephen Larkham has made a raft of changes to his team to face the Highlanders this week. In the pack, prop Nic Mayhew, hooker Robbie Abel, lock Blake Enever and flanker Chris Alcock come back into the starting line-up replacing veteran Ben Alexander, Josh Mann-Rea, Rory Arnold and Lolo Fakaosilea. James Dargaville regains his spot on the wing in place of Nigel Ah Wong. It is a strong bench with Wallaby Scott Sio due to get his first minutes of the season, along with the ageing Saia Fainga’a. The Brumbies have now won the last nine matches against Australian opposition and Henry Speight has been in great form this season, scoring a double against the Waratahs last weekend. Brumbies captain Sam Carter continues to lead from the front with a tournament high 53 tackles so far this season.

Tony Brown has made three changes to the Highlanders this week. The only change in the pack sees Alex Ainley return to the engine room at lock alongside Tom Franklin. There is also a new wing pairing comprising of the Fijian flyer Patrick Osborne and Otago back Sio Tomkinson. Tomkinson represented the New Zealand Schoolboys team in 2014.

Many will remember the Brumbies epic (9 – 15) quarter-final loss to the Highlanders last season, a match which saw the whistle blown in the 86th minute after a period of sustained attack from the hosts. It was the Highlanders second victory over the Brumbies last season and their first win in Canberra since 2006.

The Brumbies play a very South African brand of rugby which focuses on the scrum and the driving maul. As Tony Brown concurs, the Brumbies dangerous backs including Tevita Kuridrani and Henry Speight don’t get as much ball as they should. The Highlanders have had a tough start to the season coming up against the Chiefs, Crusaders, Blues and Hurricanes, so they will be ready for the Brumbies. Despite all of their injury concerns, I still feel like they can disrupt the young Canberra team and pick up a narrow win in Canberra.

Predicted result: Highlanders win @ $1.64 – Sportsbet

Sunwolves ($9.50) VS Stormers ($1.05)

The Sunwolves and the Stormers will clash at the Singapore National Stadium on Saturday night. For the second week in a row, the Sunwolves were gallant in their 21 – 34 defeat to the Bulls, but one would’ve expected them to do a little bit more with their one-man advantage for the majority of the second half. The Stormers head to Singapore having had a week off, with their latest victory coming against the Kings in round three on the back of a strong Eben Etzebeth man-of-the-match performance.

Sunwolves: LLLL
Stormers: WWWB

Prediction:

Sunwolves coach Filo Tiatia has made eight changes to his team to face the Stormers. Up front Heiichiro Ito starts at tighthead prop, Shokei Kin starts at openside flanker and Liaki Moli returns at lock alongside Sam Wykes. In the backline, Jumpei Ogura replaces Hayden Cripps at flyhalf, New Zealand-born Derek Carpenter starts at inside centre, Timothy Lafaele shifts to outside centre, pushing Jamie-Jerry Tuilagi to fullback, which sees Shota Emi move to the right wing.

Robbie Fleck has named a youthful looking Stormers outfit with many of their Springboks rested for the clash in Singapore. JC Janse van Rensburg and Wilco Louw return to the front row to corner hooker Bongi Mbonambi. It’s an all-new second-row pairing of Chris van Zyl and JD Shickerling with captain Siya Kolisi returning having been given a rest last week. Dan Kriel, brother of Springbok Jesse, returns to the midfield to partner the impressive youngster EW Viljoen and Dillyn Leyds will start at fullback with Sevens Player of the Year Seabelo Senatla and Bjorn Basson selected on the wing.

The Sunwolves have now lost their last nine matches, including all seven of them when they have travelled to the Republic.  This isn’t a match many people are going to watch. Both teams will be travelling from South Africa so they will be taking their time to acclimatise to the weather and the time zone in Singapore. The Stormers have left their big guns at home and as a result, I would expect this gutsy Sunwolves team to keep the margin within the handicap, especially as they are starting to play some good rugby the more time they spend together. The undefeated Stormers should really win this with a bonus point, but the South African teams haven’t been clinical enough so far this season in putting away the Sunwolves or the Kings, the two worst teams in the competition. The Stormers were in the same position last year as well and were forced to come back from 14 points down to draw 17 – 17. They will remain undefeated and Seabelo Senatla should cross the chalk, but that might be as entertaining as it gets.

Predicted result: Stormers to win @ $1.05 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 1: Sunwolves +26.5 (vs Stormers) @ $1.87 – Ladbrokes (early twitter play)

KINGS ($13.00) VS LIONS ($1.03)

The Kings return to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday night to face the mighty Lions. The Kings fared well against a mediocre Sharks outfit last weekend, whereas the Lions were back to their best in their 44 – 14 demolition of the Reds in Johannesburg.

Kings: LLWL
Lions: WWLW

Prediction:

The Kings team hasn’t been named at the time of writing.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann has only made the one change to his team this week bringing in Harold Vorster for Lionel ­­Mapoe.

The Lions have demolished the Kings the two times they have locked horns, with wins of 35 and 36 points to their name. Courtnall Skosan was on fire (and in the right place at the right time) scoring four tries against the Reds and centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg scored his 15th try in just his 20th match. For the Kings, Irne Herbst, captain Schalk van der Merwe and Lionel Cronje was strong, despite missing a kick late in the match that would’ve given the Kings a win. I can’t see anything other than a Lions victory in this one, in what should be a high-scoring fixture.

Predicted result: Lions to win by more than 20 @ $1.03 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 2: Lions -24.5 (vs Kings) @ $1.91 – Sportsbet (early twitter play)

cheetahs ($2.29) VS sharks ($1.60)

The second South African derby takes place between the Cheetahs and the Sharks at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein. The Cheetahs return to Bloemfontein after a poor showing in Buenos Aires against the Jaguares. The Sharks were also off against the Kings, but their returning stars this week should hold them in good stead to put a good showing in the Free State.

Cheetahs: LWWL
Sharks: LWWW

Prediction:

Franco Smith has made several changes to his team to face the Sharks. Up front there is a whole new front row with Ox Nche, Torsten van Jaarsveld and Johan Coetzee being selected. The hard-working Paul Schoeman comes back in at blindside flanker with Henco Venter at number eight. Shaun Venter returns at halfback and club captain Francois Venter gets his first start of the season at outside centre. Raymond Rhule and Sergeal Petersen return on the wings to flank Clayton Blommetjies at fullback.

Robert du Preez has bolstered his line-up with several Springbok players who rested last weekend. Tendai Mtwawira and Coenie Oosthuizen come back into the front row. Young gun Curwin Bosch gets his first start at flyhalf and internationals Lwazi Mvovo and Clement Poitrenaud.

The Sharks were lucky not to become the Kings first and probably only big scalp of the season last week and I expect coach Robert du Preez and company would’ve put the hard word on the team this week. The Sharks won the only fixture between these two last season and also have a strong record in Bloemfontein, winning five of the seven matches played. With several their better players returning, I expect them to take care of a Cheetahs outfit that will be struggling with the travel back from Buenos Aires.

Predicted result: Sharks to win @ $1.60 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 3: Sharks -2.5 (vs Cheetahs) @ $1.91 – Ladbrokes (early twitter play)

Jaguares ($1.13) VS Reds ($5.06)

The final match of the round sees a confident Jaguares outfit take on the Reds at the Velez Sarsfield in Buenos Aires. The Jaguares once again took care of a weakened South African touring party – this time it was the Cheetahs. On the other hand, the Reds discipline and poor execution cost them against last year’s runners-up, the Lions in Johannesburg.

Jaguares: WLWW
Reds: WLLL

Prediction:

Discipline continues to be an issue for the Jaguares with the home team conceding their 6th card in the four games. Ramiro Moyano was the hero on the day securing his first ever hat-trick. The Reds will need to put bodies in front of Jaguares flanker Pablo Matera, who has made a tournament high 60 carries (averaging 15 a game). The loss of both James Slipper (injured) and Quade Cooper (suspension) really destabilises the Reds and their scrum will get hammered, by the natural scrummagers the Jaguares possess. Rob Simmons and George Smith have also been rested. To add to that, there is a lot of responsibility on the new halves pairing of James Tuttle and Jake McIntyre, two players who haven’t really cut the mustard at this level yet. The Reds have circumnavigated the globe over the past three weeks and the fact that they are missing some key personnel for this contest, coupled with the promise and pack strength of the Jaguares, signals only one result for me. Add to that, the Reds have now lost 10 straight away matches and I expect that to continue this weekend.

Predicted result: Jaguares to win @ $1.13 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 4: Jaguares -7.5 (vs Reds) @ $1.87 – Sportsbet (early twitter play)

Author

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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.

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