• Neal Hoogwerf

Super Rugby Preview: Week 7

Chiefs vs Hurricanes

The Chiefs bounced back from their disappointing home loss against the Brumbies to dispatch a shocking Waratahs side 51-14. Surprisingly, the ‘Tahs led at the break but 5 tries in 20 minutes ultimately led to the Sydney side’s demise in Wollongong. The ‘Canes were rocked by the Blues at home recording their first loss against the men from Auckland in 10 fixtures. The Chiefs have overcome the Hurricanes in 5 of the last 7 fixtures in Hamilton. To add to this, the Hurricanes have only covered the handicap in 4 of their last 13 away NZ derbies and in 1 out of their last 6 against the Chiefs on the road. The Hurricanes face a hefty task this weekend and I’m backing Gatland’s table-topping troops to do the business and maintain the Chiefs’ strong start to the 2020 season.

Bet: Chiefs -6.5

Confidence: 4/5

Blues vs Lions

The Blues have run into a purple patch, with 3 consecutive victories including unlikely scalps in the Stormers and Hurricanes on the road. They have only lost 2 games this season, to the tournament favourites in the Crusaders and Chiefs. The Lions underlined their wooden spoon credentials by enduring a 20 point loss to the Rebels in Melbourne. The Blues typically perform poorly at Eden Park having only covered the spread in 1 of their last 6 home games. The statistics don’t look too pleasing for the Lions’ away form, with them failing to cover the handicap in their last 6 fixtures on the road. SA sides typically raise their game against NZ opposition and with this fixture getting moved earlier, it favours the travelling Lions team. The Blues aren’t a side that beats teams by big margins, so I will be cautiously siding with a big Lions plus here.

Bet: Lions +16.5

Confidence: 2/5

Sunwolves vs Crusaders

The Crusaders were given a scare at home when they fronted up to a spirited Reds outfit. Had it not been for the Reds goal kicking, the Crusaders could have lost their first home fixture in 33 outings. The Sunwolves have suffered 4 straight losses with the average deficit being 46 points. There really isn’t too much historical analysis to look into granted that this is a completely different Sunwolves team from previous years. This season, the ‘Wolves have covered 1 out of the 5 fixtures to date. Looking at how the Crusaders fare against big handicaps sees them only covering 3 of their last 9 when favoured by 30 or more points. With the All Black rest protocols taking shape, I am giving the Sunwolves one last chance to beat this handicap. I expect the ‘Saders second stringers to chalk up some points, but this handicap is a try too big.

Bet: Sunwolves +40.5

Confidence: 1/5

Reds vs Bulls

The Reds dished up their best performance of the season in being downed 24-20 in Christchurch. It seems to be a season of ‘what if’ for the Queenslanders and they get another crack when hosting the Bulls this weekend. The Bulls will be emboldened by their victory on Saturday, but to be frank, the ‘Landers aren’t exactly a force to be reckoned with. This is the Bulls first game on the road, and I just can’t see them having a good tour. The Bulls have covered only 1 of their last 5 handicaps in Australia with significantly stronger past sides. Couple this with the fact that the Reds love playing at Suncorp, having covered the spread in 12 of their last 19 at home, and it really doesn’t make pleasant reading for the travelling side.

Bet: Reds -7.5

Confidence: 5/5

Sharks vs Stormers

The Sharks underlined their SA conference credentials by easing past the Jaguares by 14 points in Durban. The Stormers had a bye week, where they were left to ponder their complacent home performance against the Blues a fortnight ago. The Stormers have been hit hard by injuries with news that Pieter-Steph du Toit went under the knife and will be unavailable for 8 weeks. The Stormers are not a side that travels well and have only covered the handicap once in their last 7 SA derbies away from home. The Sharks are in scintillating form and will be licking their lips when the Stormers come to town. It’s tough to see this going any other way than a resounding home victory at the Shark Tank.

Bet: Sharks -4.5

Confidence: 4/5

Jaguares vs Highlanders

The Jaguares put their SA conference title hopes in serious jeopardy by losing to the high-flying Sharks in Durban last weekend. Their task of catching the Sharks will be no easy feat seeing as they, unlike the Sharks, are yet to tour NZ. The Highlanders continued their miserable start to the season by being outplayed by the Bulls in Pretoria. The 4 losses that the Highlanders have suffered this season have come by an average of 18 points, which really underlines their struggles in 2020. The Jaguares are a different beast at home, having covered the handicap in 7 of their last 8 games in Buenos Aires. The Highlanders have covered the handicap in only 2 of their last 12 fixtures, and with All Black rest protocols sending Aaron Smith and Liam Coltman back to NZ, things are about to get worse for the ‘Landers.

Bet: Jaguares -12.5

Confidence: 4/5

Brumbies vs Waratahs

The Brumbies got some minutes under the belt by coasting home to a comfortable 33 point victory against the Sunwolves last weekend. For the Waratahs, it was a horror show against the Chiefs, taking a 50 point beating in front of the home support. The Brumbies will be back to full strength and should have more than enough to beat a ‘Tahs side in disarray. Australian derbies tend to be tight affairs, with the Brumbies’ last 4 victories at home against the ‘Tahs all being decided by a margin less than 12. At first look, it seems tough to expect the Brumbies to cover this double digit spread, but this Waratahs side is exceptionally poor. I’ll play the form guide and back the Brumbies to continue their streak in Canberra.

Bet: Brumbies -11.5

Confidence: 3/5

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*All handicaps were correct at the time of writing and prices are subject to change.

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