• Neal Hoogwerf

Super Rugby Preview: Week 4

Crusaders vs Highlanders

The Crusaders reinstated their dominance in NZ derbies by recording a comprehensive away win in Auckland last weekend. Despite the result, I still feel that the ‘Saders haven’t really clicked and are yet to turn in a complete performance. The Highlanders silenced their critics by snatching an unlikely last gasp win against the Brumbies in Canberra. Although the morale will be boosted in the ‘Landers camp, I expect it to come crashing down when they travel to Christchurch on Friday night. History shows that it has been very one sided between the sides, with the Crusaders having won 5 straight by an average of 19 points in Christchurch. Looking at the spreads, the Highlanders have covered just 5 out of their last 20 on the road and I can’t see that statistic improving this week.

Bet: Crusaders -13.5

Rebels vs Sharks

The Rebels got their campaign back on track with a derby win against the low-riding Waratahs. This is a tricky fixture to call but the Rebels will face a significantly tougher task when the Sharks come to Melbourne. The Sharks, fresh off a comprehensive defeat against the ‘Canes, will not be too disheartened following their backline injury woes during the game contributing to the scoreline. The Sharks welcome back Curwin Bosch, who will be instrumental in the Natal side’s chances this weekend. The Rebels have only beaten the Sharks once in 6 prior fixtures and I can’t see them snapping that streak.

Bet: Sharks to win

Chiefs vs Brumbies

The Chiefs go in to this fixture after securing a full house against the Sunwolves last Saturday, remaining as one of the two undefeated sides after the opening three rounds. The Brumbies succumbed to their first defeat of the season following a last gasp try from the Highlanders in Canberra. It ended a 10 match home winning streak for the Brumbies. The Chiefs enter this fixture as 13 point favourites and this is expected as they have won four out of their last five fixtures against the Brumbies. The Chiefs have been great to back on the handicap recently and have covered the spread in five of their last six games. I don’t expect a sickness-hit Brumbies side to be walkovers, but I am not ready to abandon the Chiefs train just yet.

Bet: Chiefs -13.5

Reds vs Sunwolves

The Reds will be delighted to be back in front of their home fans following three tough fixtures on the road. It’s been an indifferent start for the Queenslanders as they've looked promising for large portions of games, only to end up on the wrong side of the scoreline. The Sunwolves play their first game on the road following a victory and a defeat in their opening two fixtures. There isn’t too much historical data to go by, however the Reds are yet to lose to the Sunwolves in Super Rugby. The home side will be looking to get their campaign back on track so expect an entertaining affair where I will be keeping a close eye on the total and team points markets.

Bet: Reds -12.5

Stormers vs Jaguares

The Stormers bailed themselves out with a last ditch try and secured a 30-33 away win in Johannesburg. The Stormers looked out of puff in the second 40 at altitude and it nearly cost them their unbeaten start to the season. The Jaguares bounced back from their home defeat to the ’Canes by overturning a 14 point deficit against the Reds to run out eventual 43-27 victors. The Jaguares have lost all of their prior visits to Cape Town and have failed to cover the spread in all of those fixtures. The Cape side look set to welcome back Herschel Jantjies and Jaco Coetzee and should have enough to put away the visitors at their fortress, Newlands.

Bet: Stormers -4.5

Bulls vs Blues

The Bulls are coming off a rest but have not been impressive in their two games in 2020, failing to score a single try. The Blues have endured a tough start to the campaign, although they have faced the two tournament favourites in the Crusaders and the Chiefs. Having a glance at the archives doesn’t make for pleasant reading for the Blues as they have lost 6 out of 8 games played at Loftus. The Blues are perennial under performers on the road having only covered 2 out of their last 10 spreads in South Africa. It isn’t often that you get the Bulls as underdogs at home against the lowest ranked NZ side, so it seems foolish not to have a strike on the home side.

Bet: Bulls to win

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