Rugby Pass stats guru Paul Neazor weighs up this weekend’s round of Super Rugby matches and reveals his tips.
Ask any sports tipster and they’ll all tell you the same thing: it’s the little wins that keep you sane. So instead of focusing on the three matches Paul got wrong last week (Lions vs Crusaders, Brumbies vs Chiefs, and Waratahs vs Rebels) let us instead celebrate the minor triumph of his first correct Blues call of 2016. A really proud moment. 4/7 on the week takes Paul’s season record to 35/48 for a success percentage of 73%. Round 7’s slate of games appear – on paper, at least – fairly straightforward to pick. Here are Paul’s oracular selections.
Chiefs vs Blues
After watching the Chiefs’ demolition job on the Brumbies, you have to wonder where the Blues can challenge them. The answer is probably in defence, as the Blues tackling is normally resolute and heavy – big hits delivered by big men. They will need to mark up for 80 minutes though, as the Chiefs have been killing teams in ten-second bursts. Behind the scrum is where the biggest imbalance seems to lie. Damian McKenzie is in his best position – he always looks more dangerous when allowed to roam around the backfield and inject himself into the line at opportune moments – while Charlie Ngatai is perhaps the form New Zealand player at the moment. Ngatai going up against George Moala should be a huge battle. I have to take the Chiefs here, and I would be thinking about a decent margin too.
Pick: Chiefs (13 and over)
Force vs Crusaders
Perth might not be the Crusaders’ favourite venue – they’ve had some bad days out West in the past – but they’re simply a much better footy team in 2016 than the Force. The Crusaders will have them covered across the park, and any sloppy kicking will come back with interest The Force can’t count on another opponent dropping the ball 20 times as the Highlanders did (the Crusaders had only four fumbles against the Lions), and even then the Highlanders still drew away. The Crusaders will win and should win by plenty.
Pick: Crusaders (13 and over)
Stormers vs Sunwolves
This looms as a total mismatch unless the Stormers decide to rest their entire forward pack. Given the way the Stormers have been bullying some decent eights into submission, and given the Sunwolves struggles at the set piece, the visitors can expect a really tough workout. The Stormers have the best lineout and, in Eben Etzebeth, one of the best forwards in the whole competition; the Sunwolves have the weakest lineout of the 18 teams. The Stormers love bashing sides up at scrum-time, too, another Sunwolves weakness. And the Stormers aren’t prone to doing dumb things and leaving gaping holes in the defensive line; it takes most of an afternoon to break them down even once. If the home side doesn’t win this one by plenty, swabbing will be conducted immediately after the match.
Pick: Stormers (13 and over)
Hurricanes vs Jaguares
The Hurricanes had moments against the Force when they looked really good but, like the Highlanders last week, played down to the visitors’ level rather than burying them. The Jaguares are still coming to grips with the demands of this competition and it’s not something they can learn overnight, even for a nearly test-strength outfit. They won’t make it easy for the Hurricanes, but the game-breakers are wearing yellow shirts and the home forwards can be relied upon to put in a solid shift. It’s also Cory Jane’s 100th game for the Hurricanes, so the team will have that in the back of their minds as added motivation.
Pick: Hurricanes (13 and over)
Reds vs Highlanders
The Reds have the most talked-about scrum in the competition just now. The Highlanders actually have the most stable and most successful, with hardly any of their own ball lost and a decent supply pinched off the opposition. The Reds have nothing else. The Highlanders can kill teams from close in, from long-range, in the air, on the ground, by boot or by sleight of hand … you name it and the Highlanders can do it. If they get a fair go from the ref at scrum time, this one should be quite lop-sided and if the visitors concentrate properly they should run away with it.
Pick: Highlanders (13 and over)
Sharks vs Lions
I’m looking forward to this one. The Sharks have a good record but they’ve played pig-ugly all season, while the Lions have been prepared to attack, take chances and occasionally have things blow up in their faces. They, too, have a good record. The Sharks like to get ahead and sit on the opposition through the second half, while the Lions have a more up-tempo, win-some lose-some in attitude, but they’re also hard-headed and increasingly successful. I got it wrong with the Lions last week but I’m prepared to go back to the same well again; an attacking mindset is often better than a defensive one, and here the visitors hold an edge.
Pick: Lions (12 and under)
Kings vs Bulls
The Bulls have won three and drawn one of their last four, yet how they’ve managed that will forever remain a mystery as they’ve looked far from formidable. A decent but unthreatening pack is the team’s best weapon; the backline is workmanlike at best with not a great deal of speed. The Kings aren’t as good as the Bulls, but they try hard all the time and have one of the quickest guys I’ve seen in some time in Malcolm Jaer. Trouble is he seldom gets good running ball, since the Kings backline isn’t all that flash either. Former Bull Louis Fouche is the best of the available kickers and his old mates won’t want to give him too many chances. It shouldn’t matter though; the visitors should be good enough to win, even if it almost certainly won’t be pretty.
Pick: Bulls (12 and under)
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