Rugby Pass stats guru Paul Neazor weighs up this weekend’s round of Super Rugby matches and reveals his tips.
Paul disappointed us all and brought great shame on his family by incorrectly predicting three games in Round 11, his worst tipping week to date. 4/7 picks takes his season record to 63/85 to bring his percentage down to 74%. He is deeply remorseful and has promised to do better this week.
Highlanders vs Crusaders
The decibel rating at Forsyth Barr Stadium will be through the roof, literally – no doubt the noise from this game will be able to be heard for some distance. The defending champs appear to have gotten over their two-game glitch that saw them lose to both the Reds and Sharks, while the Crusaders are playing like the immediate pretenders to the throne. Both teams have most parts of their game working very well: the Crusaders showed they can be deadly with minimal possession but I doubt the Highlanders defence will be as soft as the Reds’. The Highlanders also showed they can make something out of nothing, and also tackle as if the fate of the Western world depended on it. That win in Hamilton was hugely impressive, and makes picking this one really tough as you could make a convincing case for either. I might lean towards the Highlanders on the strength of recent opponents, but it’s a game I’d much rather watch than bet on.
Pick: Highlanders (12 and under)
Rebels vs Brumbies
I think this might be the beginning of the end for the Rebels, who over-achieved through the easy part of their draw but now find the going is about to get a hell of a lot tougher. The Brumbies might not have turned on the style against the Bulls but they were clinical and efficient, and that has been enough to see the Rebels off each time they’ve been confronted with it this year. All the Brumbies need to do is study the tapes of the Highlanders and Hurricanes when they visited Melbourne, Ctrl C, Ctrl V, repeat. Anything other than a decent Brumbies win will be a surprise.
Pick: Brumbies (13 and over)
Hurricanes vs Reds
The Hurricanes got a pummeling from the Sharks, who forced them into a ton of errors they normally don’t make. That included getting turned over at the breakdown almost half as many times in one game as they had been in the previous eight, creating handling errors through pressure and doing a job on the lineout. That’s three things for the coaching staff to get grumpy about, and there was enough wrong in each case to keep them grumpy all week. The Reds got a hiding in Christchurch, and weren’t good enough to ever threaten to escape from it. They won’t escape from the Hurricanes either; I’m expecting a large win for the home side.
Pick: Hurricanes (13 and over)
Waratahs vs Bulls
We saw the trailer for this game twice last weekend, in both Canberra and Sydney. It could be ugly. It will, most likely, send the majority of us to sleep. It could result in lots of reset scrums, lots of penalties, very little creative play and lots of calls of “advantage!” Am I excited by the prospect? No, not at all. But I think the Waratahs may have cause to be interested, as a win here will move them right into challenging position for the playoffs and, I suspect, be necessary for them to stay on the Brumbies’ tail. Given that the home side does at least have imagination, even if skill levels are not always up to par, I give them every chance of success in this one.
Pick: Waratahs (12 and under)
Sunwolves vs Stormers
Last time these sides met the Stormers won easily. This time they will be playing to stay on top in their conference – I bet I’m not the only person surprised at how long the Bulls have hung in there, and the Stormers want to see them off. Results this weekend might go a long way towards achieving that. The Sunwolves will try hard, make the usual mistakes, get hammered by the very good Stormers set piece and the visitors will win handsomely.
Pick: Stormers (13 and over)
Cheetahs vs Kings
The game is on the schedule so it has to be played, but do we really have to watch it? I think the Cheetahs will win it and win it well enough, because everyone is beating up on the Kings at the moment and there’s no reason to suspect that’s going to stop any time soon.
Pick: Cheetahs (13 and over)
Lions vs Blues
This could be a good match, or it could get a little raggedy. Both sides have it in them to provide a fast-paced affair that may prove to be one of the more entertaining contests of the week. Blues teams have a decent record at Johannesburg, even if their recent form against the Lions has been patchy, and the speed of games on the high veldt would seem to suit their style. The Lions will run all day, and if the Blues make mistakes they’ll make them pay – they’ve done that to several sides this year already. But if the Blues play a controlled game as the Hurricanes or Crusaders did, they can squeeze the life out of the home side. The Lions have sneaked up the rails this year and I don’t think their run is over yet. I still have a few reservations, but I think the home side should get up in this one. It could be a hell of a ride.
Pick: Lions (12 and under)
Jaguares vs Sharks
This match should be quite easy to forecast. If the Sharks defend as well as they did against the Hurricanes, and if they play even half the clever rugby they produced in that game, they win this easily. They impressed in almost every area against the Hurricanes, not least in their ability to force turnovers, an area which has been a season-long failing for the Jaguares. That monster loose trio of theirs will slam the door, and Patrick Lambie can get on with the decoration.
Pick: Sharks (13 and over)
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