Best Bet 1: Hurricanes -13.5 (vs Reds) @ $1.90 – Sportsbet (early twitter play)
*More plays to be added
highlanders ($1.03) VS Rebels ($14.00)
Round six kicks off in Dunedin on Friday afternoon when they Highlanders host the winless Rebels at Forsyth-Barr Stadium. The Highlanders came from behind in Canberra last weekend to beat the Brumbies in a gutsy 18 – 13 performance. On the other hand, the Rebels snatched defeat from the jaws of victory after letting a 21-point lead slip in Melbourne to the Waratahs. The Highlanders have won four of the five matches played, including both in Dunedin.
Highlanders coach Tony Brown has made five changes to his team looking to secure their first back-to-back win sequence this season. In the front row, last week’s hero Aki Seiuli comes in for Daniel Lienert-Brown and lock Joe Wheeler and backrower Gareth Evans replace Alex Ainley and the impressive Elliott Dixon respectively. Marty Banks replaces Fletcher Smith at halfback and Tevita Li returns in place of the impressive Sio Tomkinson, who had a solid debut against the the Brumbies. Interestingly, Tupou Sopoaga, brother of Lima, is in line to make his debut in the back row after an impressive season in the NRC in 2016.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan has kept faith in his team that narrowly went down to the Waratahs by making just the one injury-enforced change. Injury-prone winger Sefa Naivalu has failed to recover from a shoulder problem, so Tom English, who probably had one of his best games for the Rebels last week, shifts to the vacant wing position with Mitch Inman coming into the fray at outside centre.
One would expect this to be a free-flowing game under the roof in Dunedin. The Rebels must attack the Highlanders and the home team know they need to win this match with a bonus point given their position in the New Zealand conference (5th). The Highlanders have been hit and miss this season and last week shows that you simply don’t know what to expect from the Rebels. Reece Hodge was impressive for the Rebels scoring two tries and collecting 10 points off his cannon of a right boot last week, but in what will be halfback Aaron Smith’s 100th game, no plays for me, other than the home team picking up the victory.
Predicted result: Highlanders to win @ $1.03 – Sportsbet
blues ($1.06) VS force ($8.90)
The first of six matches on Saturday comes to us from Eden Park in Auckland where the Blues face the struggling Western Force. The Blues secured their first victory since round one with a strong 38 – 14 performance over the Bulls last weekend. The Force weren’t able to end the Crusaders winning streak, going down 17 – 45 in Christchurch.
Blues coach Tana Umaga has made just the two changes to his team that clicked into gear last week against the Bulls. Former New Zealand Sevens player Murphy Taramai gets a chance at openside flanker with the incumbent Blake Gibson given a rest after a physical start to the season. Former New Zealand under-20 player TJ Faiane starts at inside centre and will partner George Moala, with Rieko Ioane coming off the bench. I’m not sure if the Ioane experiment has worked and would prefer to see him on the wing. Matt Duffie and Michael Collins are the unsung heroes in a star-studded Blues backline this season and although they don’t have the raw size or power of their teammates, Duffie’s guile and Collins’ positional play from fullback has brought some stability to the team.
Western Force coach Dave Wessels and his squad are awaiting news on whether their club will exist in the new Super Rugby format. He has brought in the reinforcements this week making six changes to his team. The three changes in the forward pack see Tetera Faulkner, Rory Arnold and Matt Hodgson all return. Bill Meakes comes back into inside centre shifting Marcel Brache to 13 and Dane Haylett-Petty returns to fullback. Haylett-Petty offers this team so much leadership and composure and will no doubt sure up their backline performance.
The Blues haven’t lost to the Force since 2008, with the majority of those being by more than 13 points and even though the Force might put up a fight initially, I can’t see that record changing this weekend.
Predicted result: Blues to win@ $1.06 – Sportsbet
stormers ($1.24) VS cheetahs ($3.80)
The first of two South African local derbies takes place between the Stormers and the Cheetahs at the picturesque Newlands Stadium in Cape Town. The Stormers are starting to run away with their conference, despite putting a poor performance together in their 44 – 31 win over the Sunwolves in Singapore. The Cheetahs weren’t so lucky, going down 30 – 38 to the Sharks in Bloemfontein.
Robbie Fleck has been hit with even more injuries with flanker Rynardt Elstadt ruled out for three months and speedster Seabelo Senatla who setup one of the tries of the season last week joining him on the sidelines for six weeks. He has made a number of changes this week bringing in prop Frans Malherbe, locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit and flanker Cobus Wiese. Jano Vermaak returns at halfback, Dan du Plessis comes in at inside centre and winger Cheslin Kolbe and SP Marais bolster the outside backs.
Franco Smith has made a few changes this week with Charles Marais replacing Ox Nche at prop and Armandt Koster comes in for Justin Basson at lock. In the backline, Neil Marais starts at inside centre and Sergeal Petersen from injury on he right wing. Cheetahs wing Raymond Rhule seems to have taken his game to another level this season, no doubt catching the Springbok coach Alastair Coetzee’s eye with a 156 running metre performance, capped off with a consolation try.
The Stormers have won the last three matches played and 12 of the 17 matches played overall. With the return of the big guns in Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth, the home team should have too much for the Cheetahs, who are slowly starting to fall away.
Predicted result: Stormers to win@ $1.24 – Sportsbet
Chiefs ($1.06) VS Bulls ($8.60)
Super Rugby returns to Waikato Stadium in Hamilton for a match between the undefeated home team and the Bulls from Pretoria. The Chiefs return from the bye refreshed and ready to face a physical Bulls outfit that was easily overpowered and outclassed by the Blues last week in Auckland.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has made several changes to his team this week. In the front row, Siegfried Fisi’ihoi starts his first match of the season at loosehead alongside Hika Elliott and Nepo Laulala. Liam Messam will bring his 150th cap for the Chiefs, joining Wyatt Crockett, Ma’a Nonu, Nathan Sharpe and Kevin Mealamu in the elite club. He is joined in the back row by Captain Sam Cane and Michael Leitch. Aaron Cruden comes back in at flyhalf, shifting Damien McKenzie to fullback. Johnny Faauli starts at inside centre and Shaun Stevenson shifts to the wing.
Bulls coach Nollis Marais has made a number of changes after last weekend’s disappointing loss to the Blues. In the front row, Lizo Gqoboka and Edgar Marutlulle return, with RG Snyman and Arno Botha also coming in at lock and number eight respectively. Piet van Zyl returns at halfback swapping with Rudy Paige and Burger Odendaal’s return shifts Jesse Kriel to fullback. Bulls coach Nollis Marais must be concerned about the way his team has started the season. There are a lot of solid individuals in the setup, however, they are failing to gel as a unit and flyhalf Handre Pollard needs to quickly find some form after a long injury line-up.
The Chiefs haven’t lost to the Bulls since 2011, when the Bulls were on their Championship-winning run, but a lot has changed since then, and the home team should have far too much in their arsenal to combat the physicality of the patchy Bulls.
Predicted result: Chiefs to win easily @ $1.06 – Sportsbet
reds ($6.35) VS hurricanes ($1.10)
The Reds and the Hurricanes will clash at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday night. The Reds completed their circumnavigation of the globe returning to Brisbane this week, but they were soundly beaten in round five by the Jaguares 8 – 22 in Buenos Aires. The Hurricanes also had the week off and will be ready to looking to extend their three-game winning streak over the home team come Saturday night.
Nick Stiles has made four changes to his team that were beaten by the Jaguares last weekend. Rob Simmons returns to the starting side, replacing the injured Izack Rodda, and Adam Korczyk and George Smith return to partner Scott Higginbotham in the back row. The only change to the backline sees Chris “Panther” Kuridrani replace Izaia Perese on the wing who shifts to the bench. Hamish Stewart, currently representing Queensland’s under 20 team, has been selected as the backup flyhalf.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has made just the one change, allowing Dane Coles another week to rest his knee, so in comes Ricci Riccitelli at hooker. The side is settled and they will be looking to cash in and gain a vital bonus point as they currently sit behind the Chiefs and the Crusaders in the New Zealand conference.
Averaging 65 points per game in dry conditions from three matches this season, the Hurricanes are going to be a handful for anyone. The Hurricanes have scored 24 tries off turnovers this season in just four games, that’s more than any other team has in a single season in the last four years. The Reds can ill-afford to give the ‘Canes any opportunities because they will make them pay. There are a couple of shining lights for the Reds this season in Karmichael Hunt and Samu Kerevi (who beat 10 defenders last week), but they don’t have the cohesiveness or the belief after a poor start to the season. Brisbane has experienced some torrential rain in the last couple of days, but with the weather due to clear up, the Hurricanes forward pack and running game should be too much for a tired Reds outfit.
Predicted result: Hurricanes to win easily @ $1.10 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 1: Hurricanes -13.5 (vs Reds) @ $1.90 – Sportsbet (early twitter play)
lions ($1.29) VS sharks ($3.60)
Last year’s finalists the Lions return to Ellis Park in Johannesburg to face the Kings on Saturday night. The Lions relied on an impressive first half to beat the Kings 42 – 19 on the back of an impressive Jaco Kriel all-around game, where the Sharks played one of their better games of the season beating the Cheetahs 38 – 30, with Curwin Bosch putting on a kicking masterclass, adding 17 points at flyhalf. The Lions have won the last three matches against the Sharks.
Sharks coach Robert du Preez has been forced to replace Tendai Mtwawira due to a family grievance and Dan du Preez starts at number eight alongside brother Jean-Luc and Tera Mtembu. Curwin Bosch returns the number ten jersey and the diminutive Garth April comes in for former French International Clement Poitrenaud at fullback.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann has named an unchanged starting line-up for the clash this week. The front row anchored by Malcolm Marx has been strong and Jaco Kriel, last week’s man-of-the-match is back to his best, beating nine defenders, more than some of last week’s teams. Warren Whiteley continues to lead his troops around well and the halves pairing of Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies are proving they are good Super Rugby players, even though the latter still needs to learn how to tackle. Rohan Janse van Rensburg is a beast in the midfield, Madosh Tambwe looks a raw talent on the wing and Andries Coetzee is a sound fullback.
The Lions are a different beast at home and feast on turnover ball and the Sharks will need to be very wary of coughing up possession, no matter where they are on the park. I feel like the Lions will play a fast-paced brand to try and move the Sharks big forwards around the park and can see them winning by around 10 points.
Predicted result: Lions to win @ $1.29 – Sportsbet
waratahs ($3.60) VS crusaders ($1.25)
Fans will get their first taste of Sunday action in 2017 when the Waratahs host the table-topping Crusaders at Allianz Stadium in Sydney. The Waratahs will have gained a lot of confidence out of their comeback win over the Rebels last weekend, but now they face the Crusaders, who have started with a 5 – 0 record this season.
Waratahs coach Darryl Gibson has made just the two changes this week in the inside backs. Bernard Foley has been omitted for concussion reasons for Mack Mason and Irae Simone replaces Rob Horne who has been ruled out with a hamstring injury. Foley missed the first four games of the season due to concussion protocols and returned to put in one of the best performances by a flyhalf across the weekend. He carried the ball on 23 occasions, clearly showing how eager he was to get his hands on the ball. The fact that he will miss this game with the aforementioned symptoms is alarming, from a professional and personal standpoint.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has made two changes and two positional switches to his team o face the Waratahs. Joe Moody returns to the front row for Wyatt Crockett and Whetu Douglas is restored at number eight. Jordan Taufua returns to blindside flanker, which means Scott Barrett will now be alongside Sam Whitelock in the second row.
The Waratahs and the Crusaders have contested three Super Rugby Finals, with the former winning one (2014) and the latter two (2005, 2008). Last year’s match saw the Crusaders win, however, the Crusaders haven’t won in Sydney since 2012. The Crusaders have scored 23 tries off turnovers in their first give games, currently sitting only just behind the Hurricanes (24). The Waratahs will need to meet them up front and stop their rolling maul before they can any ascendancy. The second half against the Rebels may have been the turning point of the Waratahs season, but even though they have a star-studded line-up, the loss of Foley will hurt against a Crusaders team high in confidence.
Predicted result: Crusaders to win @ $1.25 – Sportsbet