Rugby Pass stats guru Paul Neazor weighs up this weekend’s round of Super Rugby matches and reveals his tips.
Paul made some bold calls last week, none more so than picking the Lions to beat the Hurricanes – a prediction which will surely go down as his worst of the season as the Hurricanes went on to win 50-17. Together with a bad call on the Stormers vs Waratahs game, this wildly incorrect pick meant another 6/8 week for Paul to bring his season record to 59/78; his percentage holding steady at 76%. Here’s what Round 11 holds in store.
Crusaders vs Reds
This is a match the Crusaders should win, and should win comfortably. Given the sort of form they’ve been in over the last month or so – and particularly in that demolition job on the Brumbies at Canberra – they should have far too much oomph across the park for what is a moderate Reds outfit. But they have to be careful: that untidy outing and late escape at Perth is recent enough not to be forgotten just yet.
The Reds have a decent set piece and can apply pressure that way, and, like most underdog teams, the longer they stay in the game the more they believe. Set against that the fact they haven’t won in New Zealand since 1999, quite a few hidings ago, and you suspect this Reds side won’t actually believe it can win this one – at least, not unless they get a lot of help.
Pick: Crusaders (13 and over)
Brumbies vs Bulls
Depending on your tastes, this could be an interesting match or a crashing bore. What it does promise is a clash of similar styles – and who has the better game at present is open for debate. The Brumbies forwards probably won’t be talking to their backs this week, since the attacking potential of the side started and stopped with the rolling maul at Invercargill, but they could have done themselves a lot of favours by kicking early penalty goals, showing just a glimmer of imagination or varying their play just a little bit. At the moment the Bulls are playing more accurate rugby than their hosts, but you can’t overlook home field advantage here: the Brumbies are 8-1 against the Bulls in Canberra, with the visitors’ only win being in 2007. So despite a couple of less than impressive recent showings I think the Brumbies will get a much-needed win here.
Pick: Brumbies (12 and under)
Sunwolves vs Force
Help! How can anyone possibly be expected to either a) pick this one or b) watch it? The Force have little going for them, with their only saving grace the fact that they kick almost all their goals. The Sunwolves have a little more imagination, many of the same limitations and only a slightly worse kicking percentage. Between them they are 2-15 this year, and the only reason one of them isn’t at the bottom of the log is because the Kings are in the competition. Still, I’ve seen enough from the Sunwolves to suggest they’ll go out and get another win, running their streak to an all-time high of two.
Pick: Sunwolves (12 and under)
Chiefs vs Highlanders
These teams forged a rugged rivalry last year, and the Highlanders seem to have developed a liking for the tough contest that this match always seems to become. Both teams have injury concerns, both still have their biggest stars on the track and both have the never-say-die attitude they’ll need. This was exemplified by each team last weekend when both won games they could easily have lost (and in the Highlanders’ case, should have lost by a mile). Trying to pick a winner really comes down to trying to balance the Chiefs attack against the Highlanders defence and goal-kicking. Given that the long-range forecast is for a decent sort of a day with no talk of rain, I think I might go for the attacking punch to prevail.
Pick: Chiefs (12 and under)
Waratahs vs Cheetahs
After their quick in-and-out trip to South Africa the Waratahs might be wondering which continent they’re on – but that might be the only thing that the Cheetahs have going for them just at the moment. The Waratahs took a very good win at Cape Town and, as noted here last week, look as if they’re getting their mojo back (not to mention some sort of coherent game plan). That has a lot to do with Bernard Foley getting back up to speed but he’s basically there now – and the Cheetahs don’t have a playmaker who can match half of him. I’ll be surprised if the visitors can stay within 20 points.
Pick: Waratahs (13 and over)
Sharks vs Hurricanes
This should be an interesting contrast in styles: watertight defence against an attack that can shred any cover in the blink of an eye. The Hurricanes didn’t have to do a lot against the Lions except say thanks for each error and freebie, because try after try was handed to them through some pretty naïve play – something the Sharks are never guilty of. They won’t, for example, play 40 minutes and make only one kick from hand in that time, while forcing a bunch of passes that let the Hurricanes swoop. Neither will they run out of patience, but they will tackle all day. But they probably won’t play to anything like their true ability unless forced to, and against this Hurricanes team that may well be too late. Given what’s been happening with the ‘Canes in recent weeks, I think you could just about write your own ticket on the Sharks, and I’m going to stick with the visitors.
Pick: Hurricanes (12 and under)
Kings vs Blues
The Blues haven’t won away from home since Sean Fitzpatrick was playing (actually it was against the Force in week 17 of 2014 but you get the idea) – any ground outside the greater Auckland area is the kryptonite in their track suit pants. So starting a South African tour against the Kings, who have just made the out-and-back to Argentina and copped a hiding while there, is no bad thing. The Blues are much better than the Kings; they just have to concentrate and not get too flashy and they’ll win by a lot. Details from the Rebels game that require attention are things like passing to the unmarked man while he’s still unmarked, kicking goals, not forcing passes when taking a tackle is a better idea and a few other things along those lines. Sort that out, and that road hoodoo will be road kill, and there will be a healthy spread as well.
Pick: Blues (13 and under)
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