The following are previews with betting tips for Round 6 of the 2020 Super Rugby season.
To take advantage of odds before they possibly shorten, these previews are published before the team sheets are announced. Those who are more risk averse may prefer to wait for the squad lists before wagering.
Friday, 6 March
Sunwolves vs. Brumbies
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The Sunwolves were beaten 62-15 by the Hurricanes in Napier last week. This followed their 64-5 thrashing by the Reds in Queensland. Against the Hurricanes they led 10-7 at one stage and were down by just 2 points after the first quarter but it was all one-sided after that. As if the Sunwolves’ season couldn’t get worse, their next two home fixtures have been moved to Australia due to the coronavirus outbreak in Japan. They face the Brumbies this week in Wollongong.
Prior to their bye last week the Brumbies caused the upset of the round by defeating the Chiefs 26-14 in Hamilton. It broke a 13-game losing streak in New Zealand and it ended a winless run in Hamilton that stretched back to 2007. The damage was done in the first half as the Brumbies stormed out of the blocks to lead 19-0 at the break. They scored first in the second half to make it 26-0 and were good enough defensively to deny the Chiefs a come-from-behind win. Much of that strong performance drew from their desire to make amends for their shock home defeat to the Highlanders the week before. If the Brumbies can find that level of energy and intensity every week then they’ll be a shoo-in for the playoffs.
Betting: it feels like the wheels have fallen off for the Sunwolves since their opening round win. The Brumbies’ wins over the Sunwolves last season were both by 20+ margins and given the Sunwolves are arguably even weaker this season I will back the ACT side. I’m wary of betting on monster lines given all the Brumbies will want is a bonus point win so I will instead back the Brumbies 13+ at 1.16 (bet365).
Crusaders vs. Reds
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Prior to their bye last week the Crusaders moved to 3-1 for the season by crushing the Highlanders 33-13. It extended the Crusaders’ unbeaten streak Christchurch to 33 games and only four of their losing opponents picked up a bonus point. Much like the win over the Blues the week before, the Crusaders didn’t look at their best but they never needed to get out of second gear to pick up the points. To borrow an expression from American Football, the Crusaders have a “bend but don’t break” defence, which concedes plenty in territory and possession but few points.
The Reds fell 23-33 at home to the Sharks last week to move to 1-4 for the season. Confidence had been high going into that clash following the 64-5 mauling of the Sunwolves, but the side’s deficiencies were exposed by the high-flying visitors. The most disappointing aspect of the result was the Sharks didn’t have to play well to win.
Betting: the Crusaders have won their last seven fixtures against the Reds and they have gone 11-1-0 at home over the last 12 months. The Reds bring a six-game losing streak away from home into this fixture so a win for the Queenslanders would be a huge shock. Nine of the Crusaders’ eleven wins over the past year were by 13+ so I will back the Crusaders 13+ at 1.30 (Sportsbet).
Waratahs vs. Chiefs
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The Waratahs picked up their first win of the season when they defeated the Lions 29-17 at Bankwest Stadium. The scoreline flattered the visitors, with inaccurate place kicking by the Waratahs keeping the scoreline closer. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Waratahs scored a number of well worked tries as they put in a much stronger offensive performance. As I eluded to last week, the Round 4 bye probably came at a good time for them.
Prior to their bye last week the Chiefs suffered their first defeat by falling 14-26 at home to the Brumbies. They knew a Brumbies’ reaction to the Highlanders loss was coming but they had no response to the Brumbies’ initial onslaught which saw the visitors run out to a 26-0 lead. For the third time in four games the Chiefs started the game slowly but this time the deficit was too big to make up in the second half.
Betting: the Waratahs have won their last three straight home fixtures against the Chiefs but they find themselves as +10.0 underdogs. The Chiefs will be smarting from their defeat to the Brumbies and they’ve had a fortnight to stew over it. The Chiefs have gone 4-0 as the away favourite over the last 12 months so I will back the Chiefs in the head-to-head at 1.29 (Bluebet, Unibet). For those looking for more risk, the Waratahs have only lost at home by more than 12 points once over the last 12 months, so I would also consider backing the Chiefs 1-12 at 3.00 (Sportsbet)
Saturday, 7 March
Hurricanes vs. Blues
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The Hurricanes moved to 3-1 for the season by thrashing the Sunwolves 62-15 last week in Napier. They have rebounded well to go three games unbeaten following their 27-0 defeat to the Stormers in Round 1. The Chiefs and Crusaders are also 3-1 but have yet to commence their South African conference tour so the Hurricanes are well placed to compete for top spot in the New Zealand conference.
The Blues return to New Zealand having won both of their tour games in South Africa. The 23-21 victory over the winless Bulls wasn’t surprising, but their 33-14 win over the previously unbeaten Stormers last week certainly did come as a shock. The highlight of that match was the Blues’ ability to keep the Stormers pointless in the second half. Those wins provide the Blues with good momentum heading into this clash.
Betting: the Hurricanes have won their last nine clashes against the Blues and the visitors have a horrible away record against Kiwi teams. I would back the Hurricanes in the head-to-head at 1.54 (Sportsbet). Note that those odds might not last. The Hurricanes are as short as 1.40 with other bookmakers at the time of writing.
Rebels vs. Lions
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The Rebels got the trio of Matt To’omua, Anaru Rangi and Angus Cottrell back from injury and looked notably improved as they defeated the Highlanders 28-22 in Dunedin last week. Most of the damage was done in the first quarter as the Rebels ran out to a 21-0 lead. They also pounced well on Highlanders’ errors by scoring two intercept tries. The Rebels have a bye next week so they can throw the kitchen sink at the Lions.
The Lions put in a listless performance and were beaten 17-29 by the Waratahs in Sydney last week to slump to 1-3 for the season. The scoreline flattered the Lions, who were never really in the contest, with the Waratahs’ failure with place kicking preventing the hosts from breaching the 40-point mark.
Betting: the Lions have won their last five fixtures against the Rebels but this year’s edition of the Johannesburg side is much weaker following the departures of key players. I would back the Rebels in the head-to-head at 1.52 (Sportsbet). As with the Hurricanes tip, those odds might not last, with other bookmakers offering as low as 1.40 at the time of writing.
Sunday, 8 March
Sharks vs. Jaguares
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The Sharks continued their strong start to the season by defeating the Reds 33-23 to pick up their third win out of four in Australasia. It wasn’t a complete performance, with the side conceding too many penalties, but it’s a good sign when you can win without playing at your best. The Sharks are now 4-1 for the season and are the only South African side to have completed the arduous Australasian tour.
The Jaguares defeated the Bulls 39-24 in Pretoria last week to move to 3-2 for the season. Despite the wet conditions they managed to score six tries to three to pick up the bonus point win. The Argentinian club has yet to win or lose consecutive games this season.
Betting: the Jaguares did the double over the Sharks last season but prior to that they went 0-3 in Durban. While the Sharks are 4-1 for the season they have only played one quality side so far, which resulted in a defeat to the Hurricanes. Their four wins were over the Bulls, Highlanders, Rebels and Reds – none of whom have a winning record. We’ll learn more about the Sharks’ title credentials when they take on the Jaguares, Stormers and Chiefs in the coming weeks. At the time of writing the market looks appropriately priced so I will sit this game out.
Bulls vs. Highlanders
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The Bulls remain the only team without a win this season after they fell 24-39 at home to the Jaguares last week. They traditionally rely on a strong set-piece but their scrum came off second best and they lost four line-outs. The Bulls were also guilty of ill-discipline as they conceded 16 penalties. Their offence is beginning to show signs of life, however, with the 24 points they scored being their highest tally of this season.
The Highlanders slumped to a rare home defeat to an Australian opponent when they fell 22-28 to the Rebels in Dunedin. They were slow out of the blocks and put in an error-ridden performance that has led many across the ditch to criticise their two-playmaker system with Mitch Hunt at fly-half and Josh Ioane out of position at inside-centre. The Highlanders also weren’t helped by two looping passes that were intercepted for tries and five lost line-outs. To add insult to injury, captain James Lentjes picked up a dreadful ankle break which has ruled him out for the rest of the season. As I’ve said all season, I have low expectations for the Highlanders this year given the player exodus during the off-season, so their 1-3 start to the campaign doesn’t surprise me.
Betting: the last seven meetings between these two out-of-sorts teams were settled by 7 points or fewer, so I will back both the Bulls 1-12 at 2.50 () and the Highlanders 1-12 at 3.60 (bet365.
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