The following are previews with betting tips for Round 4 of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 8 March
Hurricanes vs Highlanders
View a detailed form guide for Hurricanes vs Highlanders
The Hurricanes extended their winning streak at home to 11 games after they thrashed the Brumbies 43-13 last week. Beauden Barrett was introduced for the first time this season but it was fellow All Black Ngani Laumape who made the headlines after he scored a hat-trick. The Hurricanes will have to tidy up their discipline after they conceded 13 penalties in the match. They made too many unforced errors as well, but the result puts their season back on track after a Week 2 mauling by the Crusaders. The Hurricanes have named a full-strength side for this clash.
The Highlanders rested most of their All Blacks and were beaten 24-19 by the Rebels in Melbourne last week. A late comeback saw them fall just short. The side is now 2-1 for the season. They have named a much stronger squad for this clash, with Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Luke Whitelock, Liam Coltman, Tyrel Lomax returning, along with winger Tevita Li. Winger Waisake Naholo has been rotated to the bench with Richard Buckman starting. Josh Ioane returns to the fly-half position after playing at fullback last week. Shannon Frizell is being rested.
Betting: the last five meetings between the two have been won by the home team. The Hurricanes are unbeaten at home over the last 12 months while the Highlanders have gone 0-4 as the away underdog. I would back the Hurricanes in the head-to-head at 1.44 (Betstar, Bookmaker, Ladbrokes).
Rebels vs Brumbies
View a detailed form guide for Rebels vs Brumbies
The Rebels defeated an under-strength Highlanders side 24-19 last week to move to 2-0 for the season. They dominated the first half but suffered a scare in the last 20 minutes as the Highlanders came back at them. The result sees the Rebels move to 2-0 for the season, making them just one of two undefeated teams remaining in the competition.
The Brumbies slid to 1-2 for the season after being thumped 43-13 by the Hurricanes in Palmerston North last week. It’s amazing to think that this was the same team that thrashed the Chiefs 54-17 just a week earlier. A telling stat was the Brumbies missed 25 tackles against the Hurricanes. Overall it was a poor, insipid performance on the back of an excellent one. The Brumbies will need to find more consistency if they are to make the playoffs.
Betting: the Rebels have won their last three straight fixtures against the Brumbies. The hosts have gone 4-1 as the home favourite over the last 12 months while the Brumbies have gone 2-5 away from home. I would back the Rebels in the head-to-head at 1.58 (Palmerbet).
Saturday, 9 March
Crusaders vs Chiefs
View a detailed form guide for Crusaders vs Chiefs
The Crusaders extended their winning streak to 18 games after they saw off the Reds 22-12 in Brisbane last week. They rotated a few players but led from start to finish and outscored the hosts by 4 tries to 2. The scary thing is that it was a poor performance by Crusaders’ standards but they continue to win. Despite starting the season without Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock for the first five weeks, the rest of the competition will be bemoaning the fact that the Crusaders are still undefeated. My only concern at the moment is the poor goal kicking performances by fly-half Richie Mo’unga. So far they have gotten away with it but it could come back to bite them in close fixtures.
The Chiefs’ season has gone from bad to worse after they were beaten 15-30 by the Sunwolves at home last week. They now sit at the foot of the competition standings with a 0-3 record. Most of the damage against the Sunwolves was done in the first half, with the visitors leading 3-23 at the break. This was on the back of a 17-54 mauling by the Brumbies, who themselves were then thrashed by the Hurricanes a week later. The off-season departures of Karl Tu’inukuafe, Liam Messam, Tim Nanai-Williams and Charlie Ngatai have really hurt the side. Captain Sam Cane’s long-term injury isn’t helping either. The scary thing is the Chiefs appear to be getting worse from one week to the next.
Betting: the Crusaders have won their last four straight against the Chiefs, with their last two home wins coming by 13+ margins. Spanning this season and the last the Chiefs are on a 4-game losing streak and they have gone 1-3 as the away underdog over the last 12 months. I am wary that the Chiefs have a good away record at the line, so I will simply back the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.17 (bet365, Betstar, Bookmaker, Ladbrokes).
Blues vs Sunwolves
View a detailed form guide for Blues vs Sunwolves
The Blues slumped to 0-3 for the season after they lost 19-23 to the Jaguares in Argentina last week. They enjoyed more than 65% of possession and territory but could only muster one try as the Argentinian defence kept them at bay. They were also beaten at the set-pieces. The Blues have had an incredibly tough schedule to start the season (Crusaders at home, Sharks away, Jaguares away). They must now overcome travel fatigue and take on a Sunwolves side that is full of confidence.
The Sunwolves picked up their first away win in franchise history by shocking the Chiefs 30-15 last week. Prior to that they had lost their previous 23 away fixtures. The win also breaks a 0-17 record that they previously had in Rounds 1 to 6. The Sunwolves were surprisingly competitive in their 30-31 defeat to the Waratahs in Tokyo the week before, so perhaps this season will be a turning point for them. Their heavy contingent of foreign players has been a major factor, with an additional eight Kiwis added to the already heavily international squad during the off-season. Sharpshooter Hayden Parker continues to be a revelation for them as his goal kicking stats again surpass those of his compatriots in the Kiwi franchises.
Betting: the Blues have gone 1-7 at home over the last 12 months, including 1-3 as the home favourite. They are also 1-3 at the line as the home favourite so if I were to bet on this game I would back the Sunwolves +14.5 at 1.95 (Palmerbet).
Waratahs vs Reds
View a detailed form guide for Waratahs vs Reds
Prior to their bye last week the Waratahs had to come from behind in the second half to scrape past the Sunwolves 31-30. It was an ugly win, but they’ll take that over a defeat any day, especially given the Sunwolves went on to beat the Chiefs in New Zealand a week later. In team news, hooker Silatolu Latu has been suspended for six weeks for a dangerous play incident against the Sunwolves.
The Reds remain winless after they were outclassed by an under-strength Crusaders side last week in Brisbane. Their only try came late in the game when the Crusaders were down a player. The 0-2 record was to be expected, however, given the Reds’ tough schedule (Highlanders away, Crusaders at home). They have showed a lot of promise, particularly against the Highlanders, so it’s way too early to rule the Reds out of playoff contention.
Betting: the Waratahs have won their last nine straight against the Reds. The visitors have gone 1-7 away from home over the last 12 months, so I would back the Waratahs in the head-to-head at 1.36 (Betstar, Bookmaker, Ladbrokes).
Sunday, 10 March
Lions vs Jaguares
View a detailed form guide for Lions vs Jaguares
After starting the season with their first ever away win over the Jaguares, the Lions have since suffered shock defeats to the Stormers and Bulls. They looked stronger than the Stormers for much of the game a fortnight ago, but somehow found a way to lose. Against the Bulls they were second best right from the start, however, with the visitors dominating territory and possession. After losing work horse Franco Mostert as well as Jaco Kriel, it appears that the Lions have regressed this season. The loss of captain Warren Whiteley for 6-8 weeks with a pec injury doesn’t help. After suffering only 1 defeat to a South African team in 23 games, the Lions have now lost two straight to their compatriots.
The Jaguares had less than 35% of territory and possession but managed to beat the Blues 23-19 last week to move to 2-1 for the season. The most improved aspect of the win was their discipline. The side also defended well and had the better of the set pieces. The Jaguares kicked the ball away frequently but the Blues were unable to do damage with the possession they had. That approach might not work against higher calibre teams, however.
Betting: the Lions have a 4-0 home record against the Jaguares and the visitors have lost their last nine straight fixtures on South African soil. the Jaguares bring a 4-game losing streak away from home into this clash so I would back the Lions in the head-to-head at 1.37 (Sportsbet).
Bulls vs Sharks
View a detailed form guide for Bulls vs Sharks
The Bulls picked up a rare away win by upsetting the Lions 30-12 in Johannesburg last week. They thrashed the Stormers 40-3 in week 1 so the Bulls have had the measure of their compatriots so far this campaign. Veteran Schalk Brits has proven to be an astute signing as he continues to have an excellent season. It wasn’t a complete performance, with the Bulls wasting a number of opportunities, but they snuffed out the Lions’ offence comfortably as they dominated territory and possession.
The Sharks continue to run hot and cold in the same vein as last season. After starting with two impressive wins (ignoring the second half against the Blues) they put in a terrible performance against the Stormers at home last week to lose 11-16. Their penalty count exceeded their points scored and they were blunt in attack. It’s amazing that they are the same team each week, given the erratic quality of their performances.
Betting: the Bulls are undefeated in their last seven fixtures against the Sharks and the visitors have gone 1-6 as the away underdog over the last 12 months. I would back the Bulls in the head-to-head at 1.62 (Betstar, Bookmaker, Ladbrokes).
Best Bet of the Round