Rugby Pass stats guru Paul Neazor weighs up this weekend’s round of Super Rugby matches and reveals his tips.
The international break wreaked havoc on the psychic abilities of our guru Paul. Interference from incoming international premonitions meant he picked a below-par 5/8 correct results in Round 14. Fortunately he came back strongly after the break to pick a creditable 7/9 results last week, meaning his overall record is now 88/117 or 75%.
Blues vs Brumbies
This is not a match the Brumbies will be too keen on in a must-win situation, as the Blues have made something of a habit of derailing their playoff aspirations in recent years. The most notable was in 2012, when the Brumbies were one point away from clinching a playoff spot but got done by the 13th-placed Blues and missed out. The 2015 result didn’t do the Brumbies any favours either. Expect the visitors to go with what has worked for the all season – a grinding forward game – but I suspect the Blues can defend against that if they’re up to normal form. If invention is required it’s something of a step into the unknown and it could get tricky. Therefore I’m going to fly against what I think will be the betting agency predictions and go for the Blues, whose nothing-to-lose mentality might be just what the doctor didn’t order for Stephen Larkham and his troops.
Pick: Blues (12 and under)
Reds vs Chiefs
This match only matters to the Chiefs but it is one where they slip up from time to time, and they will have to avoid getting bogged down in a scrum battle that could end up in a penalty flurry against them – although Nick Bryant is less likely to buy into the ‘Reds Super-scrum’ mentality than a couple of the Aussie refs have. All else being equal, the Chiefs should win this game by a comfortable margin and stay hot on the Lions’ heels at the top of the ladder.
Pick: Chiefs (13 and over)
Lions vs Kings
Let’s not waste time here. The Lions will win this game, and win it by miles. It could actually get quite ugly. And the biggest bonus for the Lions is that in the early stages of the ritual trouncing, they will hand over the record for most points conceded from their 2010 team to their soon-to-be victims.
Pick: Lions (13 and over)
Crusaders vs Rebels
This should also be quite straightforward. The Crusaders are a better team than the Rebels and should win comfortably. They’ve had a couple of surprise reverses over the years but I fancy they didn’t take the Melbourne mob as seriously as they might have on those occasions; this time they aren’t in a position to be cruising.
Pick: Crusaders (13 and over)
Waratahs vs Hurricanes
The best game of the round should be one of the best to watch as well. Both teams are eyeing up a playoff spot and given the wildcard situation, it could be the same one. If both teams try and play rugby this could be a cracking match and both can get on a hard-to-stop roll. I’m going to pick the Hurricanes to win though, mainly on the back of a very good performance against the Blues when they couldn’t afford to make many mistakes and didn’t. The Waratahs didn’t have to be that good at Tokyo, so it was hard to judge how well they actually played.
Pick: Hurricanes (12 and under)
Force vs Stormers
The Stormers need to take a couple of points from this game to lock up the moderate South Africa 1 conference. The Force have two games to go before they hit wherever rugby players hit mid-year. One team has motivation, one does not. And one has a pack that will monster the other. Which is why I think the Stormers should do this on the bit.
Pick: Stormers (13 and over)
Bulls vs Sunwolves
The Sunwolves are just playing out the season, and the Bulls will already know if they’re doing the same before kickoff. This could be pretty ordinary, but you have to fancy the Bulls although I have a suspicion they’ll make hard work of it.
Pick: Bulls (13 and over)
Sharks vs Cheetahs
The Sharks should win and, after getting pounded last weekend, will be in no mood to take it easy. The Cheetahs have a lot of issues with ball retention, which plays into the hands of a team like the Sharks, and they give opponents too many chances. The set piece can also come under a lot of pressure, so whoever is kicking for the Sharks had better get his practice in; they can’t afford another rough outing off the tee if they want to lock up that South African wildcard spot.
Pick: Sharks (13 and over)
Jaguares vs Highlanders
The Highlanders, with their first-stringers back, should sort the Jaguares out without too many problems on a dry day, but more of that rain could be a threat. That said, the Highlanders can play long stretches without the ball and still do a lot of damage, but halving that handling error count wouldn’t go down badly with Jamie Joseph. Depending on what has gone on before a win could lock up a playoff spot for the Highlanders, which should be all the motivation they need.
Pick: Highlanders (13 and over)
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now