Down The Blindside: Super Rugby Round 5
The first four rounds of the 2019 season have shown that there remains a huge gulf in class between the Crusaders and the rest of the Super Rugby competition.
The defending champions are the overwhelming favourites to remain undefeated this weekend in their clash with the Highlanders, while things don’t get any easier for the winless Chiefs this weekend when they host the Hurricanes.
The Waratahs travel to Canberra for a grudge match against the Brumbies and the Reds will be favoured to claim their first win of the (not so) new season, when they face off against an inconsistent Sunwolves side in Tokyo.
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Round 5 Bye: Bulls, Sharks, Blues
When & Where: Friday 15th March, 5.35PM, FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
Keep an eye on: Ngani Laumape
The All Blacks flyer continued his stellar start to the season last weekend against the Chiefs. Laumape made three clean breaks and beat six defenders from 14 carries, as well as crossing for a brace of tries and completing 5/5 tackles. Laumape sits at the top of the Super Rugby try scorer list with five tries in four appearances for the Hurricanes in 2019.
The Chiefs have had the wood on the Canes in Hamilton, winning eight of the last 12 clashes. The Hurricanes have struggled to perform in Hamilton but should have no issues this weekend against the home side. The Chiefs have the worst defence in the competition so far in Super Rugby 2019, conceding 43-points per match over the first four rounds. The home side have struggled for stability at flyhalf, and are paying the price for some high-profile departures in the off-season.
The Hurricanes needed a late penalty to overcome the Highlanders 25-22 last week. Expect the visitors to come out firing this week against a home side playing for pride. Ngani Laumape has been in devastating form for the Canes and will be a favourite to get on the scoresheet in Hamilton.
Who Wins & Why?
Given the Chiefs poor start to the season, it’s difficult to make a compelling case for the home side this week. The home side have the worst defensive record in the competition and are struggling for continuity at the breakdown. The Hurricanes have the strike power out to end a five-match hoodoo in Hamilton this week.
The Stats Insider model is backing the Hurricanes to end the Chiefs slim finals hopes this week in Hamilton, backing the visitors with a 75% probability in the H2H stakes, compared to the bookmakers implied odds of 71%. View the model’s suggested bets here.
When & Where: Friday 15th March, 7.45PM, GIO Stadium, Canberra
Keep an eye on: Michael Hooper
The Wallabies skipper made a round high 23 tackles against the Reds last week - four more than any other player - and gained 17 metres from six carries, winning two turnovers. With David Pocock set to miss the clash, look for Hooper to dominate at the breakdown.
The Waratahs enter their second local derby in as many matches without the services of Karmichael Hunt. Hunt’s hamstring injury has forced a backline reshuffle with Kurtley Beale moving to inside centre and Israel Folau shifting to fullback.
The Waratahs found the right balance between defence and attack to record a 28-17 win over the Reds last week, and a face a Brumbies side minus David Pocock. The Brumbies were beaten in the final minutes against the Rebels in Melbourne 29-26, with Pocock and Wallaby prop Allan Alaalatoa ruled out for the Waratahs match.
Who Wins & Why?
The Brumbies have won four of their last five matches against the Waratahs and have it all to play for this week. Pocock is a huge loss for the home side, with the Brumbies unable to put any points on the board after he left the field against the Rebels last week.
The visitors have won six of their last seven Australian derbies, including a 24-17 win over the Brumbies in this fixture in 2018. Injuries will hurt the home side and the Waratahs should get over the line.
After 10,000 match simulations, the Stats Insider model has a 1% edge over the bookies markets, on the Waratahs straight up. Take a look here at the model’s suggested bets.
When & Where: Saturday 16th March, 4.10PM, DHL Stadium Newlands
Keep an eye on: Tomas Lavanini
The Argentinian forward has become a defensive liability for the visitors, conceding eight penalties thus far this season. In a tight clash against the Stormers, discipline could be the difference between a win a loss.
The Stormers are fresh off a bye and have bounced back impressively from an opening round 40-3 drubbing at the hands of the Bulls. Prior to the break, the Stormers were impressive in a 16-11 win over the Sharks.
Jaguares were well-beaten 47-39 by the Lions last week, and have now lost their last ten matches in South Africa. The South Americans struggled at the breakdown, and will be in for another tough outing against a Stormers side that have missed an average of just 15 tackles per game this season.
Who Wins & Why?
Jaguares have lost their last four matches away from home, conceding 40+ points on three of those occasions. The Stormers have won seven of their last nine games at Newlands, and have the form on their side to add to the visitor’s travel woes.
The Stats Insider model projects the Bulls as a 81% probability in the H2H stakes at home, 6% higher than the average bookmaker. Take a look at the model’s suggested bets.
When & Where: Saturday 16th March, 3.15PM, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo
Keep an eye on: Harry Hockins
The Reds’ forward was a standout for Brad Thorn’s side last week against the Waratahs in the set piece. Hockins won an impressive eight lineouts; more than any other player in the round.
The Sunwolves showed plenty of heart against the Blues last week, with two yellow cards in the final moments sinking their hopes in a 28-20 loss. The Reds have shown plenty of promise under Brad Thorn in 2019, and will be determined to bury the ghosts of a 63-28 thumping yb the Sunwolves in the corresponding game in Super Rugby 2018.
The Reds are coming off 28-17 loss to the Waratahs in Sydney, but have shown plenty to suggest they could turn a corner in Tokyo this weekend.
Who Wins & Why?
The Reds enjoyed 71% of possession against the Waratahs last weekend but were unable to convert pressure into points. The Queenslanders have had a tough schedule to start the season but are good enough to claim a win against an inconsistent home side.
It seems the model can’t look past the Reds poor away record, and projecting a Sunwolves win at 66% in the H2H stakes. This is an intriguing match and I think the Reds will be desperate enough to claim their first win of the season. View the Stats Insider model's suggested bets.
When & Where: Saturday 16th March, 5.35PM, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
Keep an eye on: Will Jordan
The Crusaders fullback had a day out against the Chiefs in Round 4. Jordan scored two tries and carried the ball for 98m from 14 carries. In his last two matches, Jordan has scored three tries, made seven clean breaks and carried the ball 219 meters.
Four rounds into the Super Rugby season and the Crusaders already have a mortgage on one spot in the 2019 Super Rugby Final. The Crusaders have won their last 19 consecutive Super Rugby games, and lead the competition in points scored per game, also boasting the 3rd best defence in the competition.
The Crusaders were clinical last week in burying the Chiefs 57-28.
The Highlanders were undone last week by a late penalty, to slump to a 25-22 loss to the Hurricanes. The Highlanders were the last team to defeat the Crusaders but don't expect history to repeat itself this weekend.
Who Wins & Why?
The Highlanders have leaked +24 points in their four outings in 2019, to leave them with a 2-2 record in a tough New Zealand Conference. A poor defensive line will leave them at the mercy of a Crusaders attack that has been clinical in 2019.
The Stats Insider model rates the crusaders a 55% chance of covering their -7.5 point line, a 5% edge on what is generally a 50/50 bookmaker market so there is some value there following 10,000 simulations of the match. Check out the model’s suggested bets here.
When & Where: Saturday 16th March, 12.05AM, Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Keep an eye on: Elton Jantjies
The Lions playmaker is one of only three players to make four try assists this season. Jantjies shares top spot with Rebels elite duo Quade Cooper and Will Genia.
The Rebels were able to overturn a halftime deficit to record a memorable 29-26 win over the Brumbies last week in Melbourne, while the Lions got over the line against Jaguares 47-39.
The Lions have won their last four matches against teams from outside South Africa, scoring 40+ points over the same period. The Rebels have never tasted victory against the Lions in four attempts and the home side’s forward strength should prove to be the difference on the weekend.
Who Wins & Why?
The Rebels struggled last week against the Brumbies rolling maul, and expect them to have a tough time against a Lions forward pack containing Malcolm Marx. The Rebels are 0-4 against the Lions and will need a disciplined performance from their forward pack to score an upset.
The Lions have been consistent at home and have enough talent to get across the line against the Rebels.
The Lions sit strongly as outright favourites according to the Stats Insider model, projecting a straight up win in 76% of 10,000 match simulations, which differs to bookmakers implied probabilities by a 6% edge. Take a look at the model’s suggested bets.
How do the Stats Insider predictions work?
READ: What is the Edge?
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