Down the Blindside: Super Rugby Round 4
All four Aussie sides are in action this weekend, with the Waratahs to square off against the Reds and the Brumbies taking on the Rebels. The Crusaders are heavily favoured to continue the Chiefs misery in their clash at home this weekend. The Sharks are set for an intriguing battle with the Bulls in South Africa, while the Lions renew their rivalry with Jaguares.
All eyes will be on the Sunwolves this weekend as the Japanese side chase another away win against an underwhelming Blues side.
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Round 4 Bye: Stormers
When & Where: Friday 8th March, 5.35PM, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Keep an eye on: Ngani Laumape
Laumape was the main beneficiary of Beauden Barret’s return to the Hurricanes line-up last week, helping himself to a hat-trick in the 43-13 win over the Brumbies. The All Black flyer has recorded 225 meters in carries this season and will be tested against a Highlanders side coming off a loss to the Rebels last round.
The Hurricanes turned a corner last week with a commanding 43-13 win over the Brumbies. The return of Beauden Barrett was the catalyst for the Hurricanes who rediscovered their best form. Dane Coles bagged a rare double and Ngani Laumape crossed for a hat-trick of tries. The Highlanders fell short against the Rebels and will welcome back a host of stars for the trip to Wellington.
Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Luke Whitelock are all expected to be restored to the starting line-up this week.
Who Wins & Why?
The Hurricanes have an outstanding home record against the Highlanders, winning their last three games at Westpac Stadium and leading at half-time on each occasion. While both sides will be at full strength, I can’t look past any line-up featuring Beauden Barrett at home.
The model is projecting the Hurricanes to cover the -9.5 point line in 51% of our 10,000 match simulations. I’m sticking with model’s suggestion in what should be an entertaining affair to kick off Round 4 of Super Rugby. View the model’s suggested bets here.
When & Where: Friday 8th March, 7.45PM, AAMI Park, Melbourne
Keep an eye on: Jack Maddocks
The Melbourne flyer has packed on some muscle in the off-season and this work has clearly paid off already in 2019. Maddocks has picked up three tries in his last two appearances, including a double against the Brumbies in Round 1 at GIO Stadium.
Quade Cooper continues to push his case for a Wallabies recall, thanks to an outstanding display over the Highlanders last week. The Melbourne #10 has had the ball on a string, setting up tries for Jack Maddocks and Tom English in the 24-19 win.
The Brumbies were comprehensively outplayed by the Hurricanes last week in a 43-13 thumping. The Brumbies have struggled away from home losing six of their last eight matches.
Who Wins & Why?
The Rebels are one of only two teams to make an unbeaten start to the season and will be favourites at home to continue their run. The Rebels have won three of their last four games against the Brumbies, including the 2019 season opener. Quade Cooper gives the home side some real options at flyhalf and I’m backing the home side to record another tight win.
The model has identified a small edge on the Melbourne Rebels over the bookies implied odds, and projects the home team to capture a "little win" (1-11 points) in 39% of 10,000 match simulations. Take a look at the model’s suggested bets.
When & Where: Saturday 9th March, 5.15PM, Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch
Keep an eye on: Lachlan Boshier
The loose forward has been one of the few shining lights for the Chiefs in 2019. Boshier has made 33 tackles so far this Super Rugby campaign, the most of any player who is yet to miss an attempt.
The Chiefs were humbled 30-15 at home by the Sunwolves last weekend, handing the Japanese side their first overseas win in Super Rugby. The Crusaders continued their record run, accounting for the Reds 22-12 in Brisbane. The Crusaders have won their past four matches against the Chiefs and will be chasing win No. 22 at home. The Chiefs looked lost last week against the Sunwolves and I expect the home side to run out comfortable winners.
Who Wins & Why?
The Crusaders have won the last six matches in Christchurch by an average margin of 16+ points. On current form, it’s difficult to see the Chiefs causing the home side any major issues, with talent to burn in their march towards the 2019 Super Rugby title.
This will be a one-sided contest and the model agrees, with the Crusaders a projected 84% chance H2H. See the model’s suggested bets here.
When & Where: Saturday 9th March, 5.35PM, QBE Stadium, North Harbour
Keep an eye on: Hayden Parker
The Kiwi fly-half has performed admirably for the Sunwolves in 2019. Parker is second on the points scorer list with 35 points from seven conversions. His boot could be the difference maker for a second consecutive away win for the Japanese side.
It will be interesting to see how the Sunwolves respond this week after their 30-15 underdog win over the Chiefs. The Sunwolves had already improved, pushing the Waratahs at home before their breakthrough last week. The Blues could only muster a single try against Jaguares last weekend, and return home after consecutive games in South Africa and Argentina.
Who Wins & Why?
The Kiwi contingent showed plenty of promise to help the Sunwolves record their first win away from home. Sonny Bill Williams has struggled and the Blues have won only one of their last nine matches at home. Alarmingly the Blues have only scored more than 22 points on two occasions during that run, and face a Sunwolves side who skipped out to a 23-5 halftime lead against the Chiefs last week.
While the model is relying on history, I’m a huge fan of the commitment shown by the Japanese side last week. The model has the Sunwolves a slightly stronger chance to cover the 15.5+ point line than the bookies, and this match has upset written all over it. View the model’s suggested bets.
When & Where: Saturday 9th March, 19.35PM, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney
Keep an eye on: Israel Folau
The Wallaby fullback has enjoyed playing against the Reds. Folau has crossed for four tries in his last three games and needs two more tries to surpass Doug Howlett’s Super Rugby record of 59 career tries.
The Reds have shown plenty of promise in 2019, but would love nothing more than to grab their first win of the season against their traditional rivals. The Reds have struggled away from home, losing their last seven by an average of 40 points. The Reds performed admirably in their 22-12 loss to the Crusaders, but face a tough ask against a one-eyed home crowd at the SCG.
Who Wins & Why?
The Reds have worked hard in defence in 2019, making 156 tackles so far this season; 50 more than the Waratahs. The Waratahs have plenty to prove after a slim 31-30 win over the Sunwolves in round two, so expect them to put pressure on a young Reds side in Sydney.
The Waratahs have won the last nine matches against the Reds, including a 52-41 try fest in their last meeting in 2018.
The model has the Waratahs coming out on top at the SCG, projecting victory 84% of the time. View the model’s suggested bets.
When & Where: Sunday 10th March, 12.05AM, Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Keep an eye on: Pablo Matera
The Argentinian flanker has scored three tries in his last three matches away from home, averaging 16 carries per game.
The Lions fell to the Bulls last week 30-12, but boast a 4-1 record over Jaguares. The South African side were able to pull off a 25-16 win in the opening round of their 2019 campaign.
After their opening round loss, Jaguares have been impressive with consecutive wins over the Bulls and Blues at home. The South Americans have a 0-4 record in Johannesburg and the Lions will be desperate to avoid back to back defeats at home for the first time since 2015.
Who Wins & Why?
The Lions have won four of the last five against Jaguares, and have never tasted defeat against the South Americans at home. The Lions should have enough in the tank to get the job done in front of their home fans.
The model has the Lions as outright favourites, predicting them H2H in 83% of 10,000 match simulations. Check out the model’s suggested bets.
When & Where: Sunday 10th March, 2.15AM, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Keep an eye on: Handre Pollard
Bulls fly-half, Pollard, has scored 52 points this season, more than any other player in 2019. The South African international has scored a total of 50 points in his last four meetings with the Sharks.
The Sharks started the season with plenty of promise with wins over the Sunwolves and Blues, before falling to the Stormers last week 16-11. The Bulls showed plenty of commitment to capture a 30-12 win over the Lions at Ellis Park.
Who Wins & Why?
The Bulls haven’t tasted defeat against the Sharks in their last seven matchups, and have won five of their last seven South African derbies. Their win last week against the Lions was quite impressive, and they should be too strong at home for the Sharks.
The model projects the Bulls as a 64% probability in the H2H stakes at home. Take a look at the model’s suggested bets.
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