The following are previews and betting tips for Round 2 of the 2012 Super Rugby competition.
Last week was tough for the pundits, with the best ‘expert’ for Rugby Heaven only scoring 4/7. It just goes to show the perils of early round betting.
The games were fairly tight last week, with only one side winning by 13 or more (they won by exactly 13 points). Interestingly, that result was for the only internatinoal fixture of the round. The second highest margin was 5 points, giving an average winning margin of 4.4 for the round. Three games were won by 2 points or less.
Friday, March 2nd
Chiefs v Blues
5:35 PM AEDT, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
The Blues won this fixture 16-13 last year, but lost to the Chiefs 11-16 at home later in the season. The Chiefs enter this fixture on the back of a disappointing 17-19 home loss to the injury affected Highlanders, while the Blues lost to the Crusaders 18-19 after Piri Weepu’s failed drop goal attempt in the dying moments. To compound the Chiefs’ woes, they picked up bad injuries to Ben Afeaki and Toby Smith last week. This has forced them to start with rookie prop Ben Tameifuna. Given the similar score lines, but disparity in the strength of their previous opposition, one would expect the Blues to come out on top here, but you never know what to expect from the Auckland-based outfit. The Chiefs will lift their game this week, as they always do against their northern rivals.
Tip: Blues to win by 1-12
Rebels v Waratahs
7:40 PM AEDT, AAMI Park, Melbourne
In their first ever Super Rugby match last season the Rebels lost 0-43 at home to the Waratahs. The Waratahs then beat the Rebels 28-9 later in the season. Last week the Rebels had a bye while the Waratahs endured a heart breaking last minute loss to the Reds. The Rebels strengthened off season with the notable acquisitions of Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor, but on paper they’re still a fair way behind the Waratahs. Kurtley Beale is unavailable due to injury so Mark Gerrard will play at fullback. The Waratahs will make one change from last week, with debutant Bernard Foley starting at fullback with Ashley-Cooper moving to the wing at the expense of Brackin Karauria-Henry.
Tip: Waratahs to win by 1-12
Lions v Hurricanes
4:10 AM AEDT, Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
The Hurricanes beat the Lions 38-27 in their previous meeting in Wellington. Last year the Lions had a terrible home record against foreign opposition, losing to the Chiefs 30-34, the Reds 20-25, the Force 15-27, and the Blues 32-41. On the road they actually fared better, picking up wins over the Highlanders and Brumbies. Last week the Hurricanes lost 26-39 to the Stormers, while the Lions beat the Cheetahs 27-25. This game is a bit of a toss-up. On paper the Hurricanes are weaker than they were last year, while the Lions won the 2011 Currie Cup to suggest they’re on the up. At the same time the Hurricanes ability to score 26 points against a usually stingy Stormers defence will be a concern for the Lions.
Tip: either side to win by 1-12
Saturday, March 3rd
Highlanders v Crusaders
5:35 PM AEDT, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
The Highlanders and Crusaders resume battle for South Island supremacy, however the venue has changed. The Highlanders are now playing indoors at Forsyth Barr stadium instead of the fortress that was Carisbrook. This could hurt the Highlanders because their one trump card was the harsh icy weather. The likes of the Reds, Rebels and South African sides no longer have to play in frigid conditions, which should result in better performances by the visiting sides. Last season the Highlanders were stung by a home 13-44 loss to the Crusaders. They were then able to beat the Crusaders 26-18 later in the season. Last week both teams enjoyed success. The Crusaders snuck past the Blues 19-18 while the Highlanders upset the Chiefs 23-19. Despite missing Carter and McCaw, the Crusaders looked impressive last week, showing good patience in attack against an athletic Blues side. Given that performance and the Highlanders’ continued injury woes from pre-season, I expect the Crusaders to be too strong on Saturday.
Tip: Crusaders to win by 1-12
Reds v Western Force
7:40 PM AEDT, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
The Reds completed the double over the Force last season, but they had to work for it. The Reds won 21-20 at home and 24-21 away. Last week the Reds beat the Waratahs courtesy of a last minute try, while the Force lost 17-19 to the Brumbies. The Reds should be too strong for the Force, who look vulnerable at the fly half position. Without a strong playmaker, you wonder if the Force will be able to accrue enough points this season to avoid the wooden spoon in the Australian conference. The only spanner in the works for the Reds is its injury list. Ewen McKenzie has had to make five changes from last week, with Anthony Faingaa and Scott Higginbotham ruled out and James Hanson starting on the bench. Radike Samo has been promoted from the bench in a reshuffled back row where Jake Schatz will take Higginbotham’s No. 6 jersey.
Tip: Reds to win by 1-12
Cheetahs v Bulls
2:05 AM AEDT, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
Last season the Cheetahs lost this fixture 23-25. They then lost on the road 32-21 to the Bulls. Last week the Bulls opened their campaign with an 18-13 win over a Sharks side that could go far this season. The Cheetahs lost their first game 25-27 against the Lions. Despite the fact that this is a time of rebuilding for the Bulls, I still expect them to sneak past the Cheetahs. Interestingly, the Bulls have yet to score a try in the competition. All 18 points last week came off the boot of Morne Steyn.
Tip: Bulls to win by 1-12
Stormers v Sharks
4:10 AM AEDT, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
The Stormers were South Africa’s strongest side last year, with the Sharks finishing second in the conference. The Stormers won this fixture 32-12 last season. They also beat the Sharks on the road 16-6. If the Stormers can improve on their offensive efforts from last season they could be a real threat this year, and they got off to a strong start by beating the Hurricanes 39-26 last week. The amount of points conceded against the ailing New Zealand side will be a cause for concern, however. Last week the Sharks lost 13-18 against the Bulls. Based on current form I predict a Stormers victory, however the Sharks are strong enough to challenge anybody.
Tip: Stormers to win by 1-12