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Melbourne Rebel Quade Cooper set to put Sunwolves to the sword

The Hurricanes will be desperate to bounce back into form when they take on the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday night. Canes coach John Plumtree will be praying to the rugby gods that Jordie Barrett can help his side to a win this weekend.

All of the Australian sides are in action this weekend, with the Rebels the favourites to take control of the Australian Conference. After decimating the Reds last weekend in Brisbane, the former Wallaby playmaker will be eager to pick up the points against the Sunwolves.

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Bye: Chiefs

Highlanders vs Hurricanes

When & Where: Friday 5th April, 5.35PM, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Keep an Eye on: Ben Lam

The All Black flyer continues to be a major attacking weapon for one of the best-attacking sides in Super Rugby. Lam leads the competition in meters gained with 383 meters over the opening seven rounds of Super Rugby.  

Match Comment

The Hurricanes issues have been well documented in 2019 and they face a Highlanders side that is coming off the bye. The Canes were belted last week against the Crusaders 32-8 and another loss this weekend will open up the fight for second place in the New Zealand Conference. 

Hurricanes coach John Plumtree has made only two changes to his starting XV, with Jordie Barrett coming in off the wing for Matt Proctor and Kane Le’aupepe starting at lock. The Highlanders were unlucky losing to the Blues 33-26, prior to the bye and will be better for the break. The Highlanders have an outstanding record in Dunedin, winning 14 of their last 15 home matches and are a serious chance of edging the visitors in this clash.

Who Wins & Why?

The Hurricanes have struggled with their fluency and combinations in attack and the loss of Dane Coles for a second week will be telling against the Highlanders forward pack. The Highlanders traditionally struggle in the conference derby fixtures but their outstanding home form can’t be ignored. 

Betting Value

The Hurricanes have struggled for consistency this season and the Highlanders are well rested after coming off a bye last week. The last six matches between these two sides have been won on the home team on the day. The Stats Insider model is backing the trend to continue with the Highlanders 46% favourite in the H2H stakes. See the model’s suggested bets.

Reds vs Stormers

When & Where: Friday 5th April, 8.00PM, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Keep an Eye on: Samu Kerevi

The Reds centre continues to be a workhorse for his side, consistently getting them out of their own danger area. Kerevi has made 74 carries this season two less than leader Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco.

Match Comment

The Reds were well beaten 32-13 last weekend at home by the Rebels, while the Stormers were outplayed 24-9 by the Blues in Auckland. The Reds squandered a golden opportunity against a Rebels side coming off a trip to South Africa and Brad Thorn has a job on his hands to motivate his side.

The Stormers have the edge in terms of Super Rugby experience and I’d expect they’ll use this to their advantage against a home side that struggles under the spotlight of Super Rugby. A loss this week will be devastating to the Reds finals chances and the Stormers won’t be taking a backward step.

Who Wins and Why?

Historically the home side has been favoured in this clash with the Reds winning five of their last home games against South African opposition. The Stormers were competitive against the Blues in Auckland last week but couldn’t last the full 80 minutes. The Stormers have won 10 of the last 13 matches against the Reds and there’s value in backing them to buck their travel blues this week at Suncorp.

Betting Value 

Just when Brad Thorn had me as a believer the Reds disappoint me again. Last week’s performance against the Rebels has done little to inspire me or the model. The Reds have a slight edge in the H2H stakes but the model is backing the Stormers at 33% for the little win. Check out the model’s suggested bets.

Lions vs Sharks

When & Where: Saturday 6th March, 1.10AM, Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg

Keep an Eye on: Elton Janties

The Springboks winger has been a defensive liability for the Lions in 2019 missing more tackles than any other player in Super Rugby and only completing 67% of his tackles per game. 

Match Comment

The Lions come into this weekend’s clash in Johannesburg fresh after enjoying the bye last weekend, while the Sharks were edged out by the Bulls 16-19. Both of these sides will have a point to prove this weekend in what’s looming as a competitive African Conference in 2019. The Lions haven’t been at their best this season but are currently enjoying a three-match streak; their longest since their 14- match winning run that helped them to the 2017 Super Rugby Final.

Who Wins & Why?

The Sharks have struggled away from home against local opposition, losing their last away games against Conference rivals. The Lions have won seven of their last eight matches against the Sharks, including the corresponding match in 2018 by seven points. The Lions have been a second half team in 2019, scoring 10 tries in the first 20 minutes after halftime and look for them to come home strong over the Sharks in the second half. 

Betting Value 

These two sides have fought some close battles and the model likes the 38% value of the Lions claiming the small win. See the model’s suggested bets.

Crusaders vs Brumbies

When & Where: Saturday 6th April, 3.15PM, Christchurch Stadium, Christchurch

Keep an Eye on: George Bridge

Bridge remains a key strike weapon for the reigning Super Rugby Champions. Bridge has two tries to his name in his last four matches and has averaged 9.2 meters per carry this season. 

Match Comment

What are the chances of the Crusaders dropping consecutive games to Australian opposition; the stats insider model doesn’t believe it will happen in 2019. The Crusaders will be intend on sending a message across the Tasman after dropping points to the Waratahs in Sydney. The 2018 champs were clinical last week destroying the Hurricanes 32-8. Despite coming off the bye, the Brumbies remain massive underdogs to cause an upset against the Crusaders on their home turf.

Who Wins & Why?

The Crusaders have not lost to the Brumbies since February 2009 in Canberra. The Brumbies have a horrendous record in New Zealand, losing their last 12 games in the land of the long white cloud. I can only see one result here and if the Brumbies aren’t careful things could get ugly in the second half.

Betting Value 

The Brumbies will have to pull off the mother of all upsets, with the Crusaders an overwhelming 96% chance in the H2H stakes. Check out the model’s suggested bets.

Blues vs Waratahs

When & Where: Saturday 6th March, 5.35PM, Eden Park, Auckland

Keep an Eye on: Israel Folau

Folau is the trump card for a struggling Waratahs side that is coming off a poor loss to the Sunwolves at home. Izzy has found the try line three times in 2019 to surpass the great Doug Howlett on the all-time try scorers list in Super Rugby.

Match Comment

The Waratahs continue to frustrate Australian rugby supporters; after defeating the Crusaders in Round 6 the NSW team were embarrassed by the Sunwolves last week 31-29. Worryingly, Waratahs coach Darryl Gibson has been forced to rest skipper Michael Hooper for the must-win clash against the Blues. The home side have found some form of late, defeating the Stormers last week 24-9. With Reiko Ioane on the sidelines this week, keep an eye on Sonny Bill Williams to continue the home side’s resurgence up the Kiwi Conference ladder.  

Who Wins & Why?

2009 was the last time that the Waratahs tasted success across the Tasman against the Blues. The Blues have quietly grown in confidence this season, comfortably winning their last three matches on the bounce. The Waratahs will be desperate after dropping some easy points against the Sunwolves but will have to find a way to stop Sonny Bill Williams. 

Betting Value 

With Wallaby captain Michael Hooper on the sidelines the model likes the Blues as a clear favourite in the H2H stakes at 71%. Take a look at the model’s suggested bets here.

Rebels vs Sunwolves 

When & Where: Saturday 6th March, 7.45PM, AAMI Park, Melbourne

Keep an Eye on: Quade Cooper 

Cooper is clearly enjoying his time in Australia’s spiritual home of sport and the results are there to see on the field. Cooper leads the Super Rugby competition with eight try assists so far in 2019.

Match Comment

The Rebels dominated the Reds at Suncorp to record a 32-13 win last week in Brisbane. Quade Cooper was at the heart of their attack and a similar performance against the Sunwolves will see the Rebels take control of the Australian Conference. The Sunwolves were brilliant against the Waratahs to record a two-point win in round seven and will be chasing consecutive wins for the second time in franchise history. The Rebels should have no issues at home and I’m tipping Jack Maddocks and Tom English to continue their terrific try scoring form for the home side.

Who Wins & Why?

The Rebels have a real opportunity to put themselves in control of the Australian Conference with a victory this weekend at home. The Rebels recorded a 40-13 win in the corresponding match last season and with Cooper driving their attack, a big win will be expected. 

Betting Value 

The model has taken note of the Rebels dominance over the Sunwolves in their past three outings, with the home side winning by more than 20 points on each occasion. The model suggests backing the Rebels at 53% to record the ‘big win’ at home. Take a look at the model’s suggested bets.

Bulls vs Jaguares

When & Where: Saturday 6th April, 12.05AM, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Keep an Eye on: Handre Pollard 

The Bulls playmaker continues to lead the point scoring tables in Super Rugby. Pollard has 96 points for the season and easily the Bulls most consistent performer after seven rounds.

Match Comment

Jaguares are coming off a tough 30-27 loss to the Chiefs at home, while the Bulls dropped their round 7 fixture to the Sharks 19-16. The Bulls have been one of the stronger sides in the African Conference and have not dropped consecutive home matches since 2017, which won’t help Jaguares.  The South American side are notoriously poor performers away from home, losing their last five matches on the bounce. 

Who Wins & Why?

Jaguares struggled to match the Chiefs for enthusiasm and will have their hands full coping with a Bulls forward pack. All five of the previous matches between these two have been one by the home side and the trend should continue this weekend. 

Betting Value 

The Bulls have been tough to beat at home in 2019 with defence being a key feature for the home side. The model gives the Bulls a 38% chance of claiming the little win. Take a look at the model’s suggested bets.

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Daniel Gardner

Dan’s claim to fame was once being mistaken for David Beckham while living in South Korea. The ex U/8 most improved football prodigy now spends his days solving the mysteries of Wallaby selections and debating the quota of WA players in the Australian cricket team.

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