The following are previews with betting tips for Round 2 of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 22 February
Highlanders vs Reds
View a detailed form guide for Highlanders vs Reds
The Highlanders saw off the Chiefs 30-27 in Hamilton last week to get their campaign off to a promising start. The away win was notable given how poor they were on the road last season. The Highlanders started with a number of key players on the bench and gained the ascendancy as the game wore on and their big names joined the field. They will be pleased with the solid performance of fly-half Josh Ioane, who has big shoes to fill following the departure of Lima Sopoaga. The Highlanders have named a strong side, featuring nine All Blacks, for this clash. Liam Squire is out with a hip injury.
The Reds had an unfortunately timed bye in Round 1 and must now face the Highlanders (A), Crusaders (H) and Waratahs (A), so it’s fair to say they’ve been given a tough ride to start the season. The biggest news during the off-season were the signings of three well regarded assistant coaches, including defence guru Peter Ryan (view the Super Rugby season preview). The young squad should benefit from the injection of coaching know-how, but it might take a few seasons for the side to reach its peak.
Betting: the Highlanders have gone 7-1 at home over the last 12 months and have won their last 12 straight at Forsyth Barr Stadium. The Reds, meanwhile, have gone 1-7 on the road over the last 12 months and have lost their last 12 straight on New Zealand soil. I’m expecting a Highlanders victory, but the +20.5 line is a different matter. The Reds have covered 5 of the last 6 lines in clashes against the Highlanders. Given the Reds haven’t played a game yet I will add on a few more points and back the Reds +25.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.50 (Sportsbet).
Saturday, 23 February
Sunwolves vs Waratahs
View a detailed form guide for Sunwolves vs Waratahs
Once again the Sunwolves had made a high number of squad chances during the off-season and once again, they’ve made a terrible start to a campaign. They actually began last week’s game well, but ended up getting swatted aside 10-45 by the Sharks. The defeat extends their record in Rounds 1 to 6 to 0-16. To add insult to injury, new signing Rene Ranger left the field with a serious knee injury. After playing in Singapore last week the Sunwolves return to their true home in Tokyo, where they will be backed by a much stronger crowd.
Bernard Foley missed a straight forward penalty in the 79th minute as the Waratahs fell 19-20 to the Hurricanes at Brookvale last week. It was a much improved defensive performance on last season and overall the scrum held up well, but the Waratahs were dominated in the final quarter and they were held to just one try for the game. The Waratahs have a golden opportunity this week to pick up five points against an under-cooked Sunwolves. After resting him in Round 1, the Waratahs welcome back Kurtley Beale this week. This will create a selection query given the strong showing of new singing Karmichael Hunt from the Reds.
Betting: I can’t back the Sunwolves at the moment given their poor record at the start of each season. The Waratahs won this clash by 21 points last season so the current line range of -19.5 to -21.5 looks about right. I would back the Waratahs 13+ at 1.42 (bet365, Neds).
Crusaders vs Hurricanes
View a detailed form guide for Crusaders vs Hurricanes
The Crusaders extended their winning streak to sixteen games with a hard fought 24-22 win over the dangerous Blues in Auckland last week. The Blues could have won the game had their goal-kicking been more accurate, but once again the Crusaders showed good composure to secure a close victory. One sour note is that prop Tim Perry broke his arm. This leaves the Crusaders with just two healthy looseheads on the roster, so they will likely have to bring someone else in. The Crusaders will hope that Richie Mo’unga has a better night with the boot after he got away with a poor kicking performance in Auckland. The Crusaders remain under-strength in the forwards, with Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read and Codie Taylor out.
The Hurricanes held on to see off the Waratahs 20-19 in Sydney last week. They conceded too many penalties but showed good composure to come from 10-19 down in the second half to secure the win. The Hurricanes are short at the fly-half position for this clash after James Marshall dislocated his shoulder last week. They are remaining coy on whether they will rush back Beauden Barrett, who joined the squad this week after his extended break and honeymoon. He wasn’t due back until Round 3. If Barrett doesn’t feature then Fletcher Smith will most likely get the No. 10 jersey with Jackson Garden-Bachop added to the bench.
Betting: for this bet I’m presuming that Beauden Barrett will either start from the bench or be left out of the Hurricanes side altogether. Those who are more cautious might want to wait for the team sheets to be announced. The Hurricanes looked short of flair without Barrett last week so I’m going to side with the Crusaders. They’ve won their last 11 straight home games as well as their last 3 home fixtures against the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes have a 0-2 record as the away underdog over the last 12 months. I would back the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.40 (Unibet).
UPDATE: the Hurricanes have announced their team sheet and Beauden Barrett has been excluded while Ardie Savea is being rested after he picked up a minor knee injury against the Waratahs.
Brumbies vs Chiefs
View a detailed form guide for Brumbies vs Chiefs
The Brumbies fell 27-34 at home to the Rebels last week, with a number of injuries creating headaches for the franchise. David Pocock was the first to leave the field after five minutes with a concussion. It’s his second concussion in three months so he will most likely miss this clash. Only five minutes later winger Toni Pulu had to leave the field with a fractured cheekbone, which will require surgery. Fellow winger Henry Speight also had to leave field with a hip complaint. The Brumbies offered little backline spark during the match, with all four of their tries coming from the forwards – two of which were from driving mauls.
The Chiefs had leads of 11 and 12 points at various stages, but fell 27-30 to the Highlanders at home last week. The visitors started with a number of key players on the bench and slowly gained the ascendancy as the game wore on and the big names were introduced. The Chiefs will be hurting from the fact that they couldn’t punish the Highlanders for a red card which saw the visitors play the final 13 minutes with fourteen men. One positive is new fullback Etene Nanai-Seturo scored two tries on debut. They will likely get Super Rugby player of the year Damian McKenzie back from injury this week, although his services may not be needed against the wounded Brumbies.
Betting: the Brumbies have won 4 of their last 5 home games against the Chiefs but their most recent home result was a 23-48 defeat. The Chiefs have gone 8-1 as the favourite over the last 12 months and 3-0 as the away favourite. They have won their last four straight against the Brumbies and with Damian McKenzie likely to return I would back the Chiefs in the head-to-head at 1.36 (Palmerbet, Unibet).
Sunday, 24 February
Sharks vs Blues
View a detailed form guide for Sharks vs Blues
After starting poorly, the Sharks hammered the Sunwolves 45-10 last week, with their balanced attack featuring both successful driving mauls and backline plays. Tendai Mtawarira lived up to his Beast nickname as the Sharks dominated the Sunwolves’ scrum and fly-half Robert du Preez had a perfect game with the boot. The Sunwolves tend to be a basket case early in the season, however, so it’s hard to know how much to read into that result. We’ll learn a lot more about the Sharks when they take on this dangerous Blues outfit.
The Blues fell 22-24 at home to the Crusaders last week, but they looked dangerous and there were plenty of positives to take from the result. The Blues started with a number of key players on the bench and won the second half 19-12. Their scrum held up well against the Crusaders pack. What really hurt them, however, was poor goal kicking, with two missed late kicks by debutant Harry Plummer proving costly.
Betting: during the regular season the Sharks went 3-1 against Kiwi sides last year, with their sole defeat coming by just one point. One of those victories was a 63-40 away win over the Blues. The Sharks have won 7 of their last 8 against the Blues and have gone 6-1-1 at home over the last 12 months. The visitors, meanwhile, have won only 1 of their last 7 games. I would back the Sharks in the head-to-head at 2.20 (Betstar, Bookmaker, Ladbrokes).
Stormers vs Lions
View a detailed form guide for Stormers vs Lions
The Stormers were mauled 3-40 last week to extend their losing streak away from home to nine games. Spanning this season and the last, the Stormers have now lost five of their last six games. The final score did genuine justice to the quality gap between the two sides. The Stormers’ line-outs were completely dominated and the side seemed to lack intensity. They’ve had a disrupted pre-season due a power struggle within the Western Province Rugby Football Union, which may have played a role. Coach Robbie Fleck was heavily criticized last season and that result won’t have helped his job security. Offence continues to be a concern. The Stormers scored fewer tries than any other team last season and 3 points from their opening fixture doesn’t bode well.
The Lions came back from 5-13 down last week to defeat the Jaguares for the first time on Argentinian soil 25-16. The Jaguares came out firing on all cylinders but the Lions took control of the game as it wore on. The win could be crucial given only bonus points separated the two sides at the top of the South African conference last season.
Betting: the Lions have won their last 4 straight against the Stormers and have lost just 1 of their last 23 fixtures against South African opposition. I would back the Lions in the head-to-head at 1.40 (Betstar, Bookmaker, Ladbrokes).
Jaguares vs Bulls
View a detailed form guide for Jaguares vs Bulls
The Jaguares suffered their first ever home defeat to the Lions last week, going down 16-25, having been up 13-5 at one stage. They dominated possession and territory in the first half, but came unstuck with poor discipline. They were brilliant one minute and dreadful the next, much to the frustration of their fans.
The Bulls steamrolled the Stormers 40-3 last week to get their campaign off to the best possible start. Rosco Specman, freshly signed from South Africa Sevens, was the star as he scored two tries on debut. Newly signed veteran Duane Vermeulen also had an excellent game as the Bulls dominated the breakdown, while Lood de Jager dominated the Stormers’ line-outs. The Stormers have had a disrupted build up to the campaign, however, so it will be interesting to see whether that result was due to the Bulls’ brilliance or the Stormers’ weakness.
Betting: all four previous clashes between the two were won by the home side. The Bulls have gone 1-7 away from home over the last 12 months so I would back the Jaguares in the head-to-head at 2.05 (bet365). With the enforced rotations of national team players, the Bulls may be tempted to leave a few at home this week.
Best Bets of the Round