Rugby Pass stats guru Paul Neazor weighs up this weekend’s round of Super Rugby matches and reveals his tips.
In the end, Round 7 went largely the way everyone expected, although a lot of games were far closer than they should have been. The only big surprise was the Reds win over the Highlanders in Queensland, which ruined an otherwise perfect week for Super Rugby tipping oracle Paul Neazor. 6/7 on the week brings his season record to 41/55 and raises his success percentage by one point to 74%. Here are his predictions for Round 8’s smorgasbord of Super Rugby.
Crusaders vs Jaguares
The Crusaders completed a good tour with a very scruffy win, while the Jaguares are finding Super Rugby tours can be a grind, and their odyssey is nowhere near at an end. Many expected them to go quite well this season but they’ve battled just like every other expansion team in competition history. The Crusaders need to understand that they can’t be as careless as at Perth again, and that hanging onto the football rather than booting it away for no good reason might be quick roads towards earning a superior position in this match. If they get that right they should go on to win comfortably, even if the margin may not blow out until the dying stages.
Pick: Crusaders (13 and over)
Rebels vs Hurricanes
The Rebels are travelling well and currently sit second in the Australian conference, but that’s due to the weakness of the group as much as any superior ability from the Melbourne lads. The Hurricanes are just starting to get their act together and have put 40 points on each of their last three opponents. When they start rolling they can be formidable and they’re starting to roll a little more regularly. I think the Rebels are overachieving just at present and they aren’t good enough to get close to a playoff spot, and they’re likely to have that pointed out this Friday.
Pick: Hurricanes (13 and over)
Cheetahs vs Sunwolves
The Cheetahs beat the Sunwolves at Singapore by a point after seemingly not taking them all that seriously. They haven’t won since, but also haven’t got a hiding in that time. The Sunwolves haven’t won since then either and have been close a couple of times, but they got thoroughly done over last week at Cape Town. For many of them this week will be their first experience of altitude (while Bloemfontein isn’t high veldt it’s still high enough to notice a difference). The Cheetahs will really target this game, and most likely do it through their big forward pack. I’m going for the home side to win comfortably.
Pick: Cheetahs (13 and over)
Blues vs Sharks
A cursory glance at the tables might suggest the Sharks are strong and going well, while the Blues are average and struggling, but it’s not quite as simple as that. For all their big names, the Sharks aren’t showing much on attack. The Blues are defending well, and started looking like the business on attack last week. Reiko Ioane played as if he meant it for the first time, while Ihaia West is getting more comfortable running the show. I rate the Blues a good chance to end this ten-match losing run they’ve had against the Sharks over the last decade. From what I’ve seen in the last few weeks they should be the better side, and could be comfortably the better side.
Pick: Blues (13 and over)
Waratahs v Brumbies
This is early to be playing a return match of what should be one of the most important matches in the Australian group, but on 2016 form it won’t live up to pre-season expectations. The Brumbies – even without David Pocock – are going well enough, while the Waratahs simply are not. The ‘Tahs have any number of issues that need fixing but a creaking tight five, careless handling in the backs, average goal-kicking and the inability to get Israel Folau into the game are high on the list. So I’m picking the Brumbies, who will be steady-as-she-goes, to buck the 20-year trend and take the win on Waratahs soil.
Pick: Brumbies (13 and over)
Bulls vs Reds
The Bulls haven’t played anyone who matters for weeks; the closest they have come was the Sharks, who should have won but for Joe Pietersen’s inexplicable miss from straight in front, and they’ve played some dire footy in that time. The Reds are still not a playoff team, but they do have two or three things going for them: a very steady set piece, a rugged defence that’s getting better, and a blossoming young playmaker in Jake McIntyre who is actually a good player despite what the Courier Mail might say about him. So I’m going out on a limb and picking the Reds. If they were good enough to crack it against the Highlanders, they’re good enough to take the Bulls.
Pick: Reds (12 and under)
Lions vs Stormers
Take a deep breath – this is the first of two meetings that will decide which of these sides is the better-placed South African outfit at the end of the season. Who would have picked it? The Lions are travelling well, while the Stormers have that big pack and a serviceable backline that has been grinding out wins – not pretty ones, but wins nonetheless. But they also have issues at flyhalf (down to number three at the moment) and lock, where Eben Etzebeth is injured again, and the Lions don’t seem to have many worries about much. Since the game is at Johannesburg I’m going for the home side; they play a different style at Ellis Park and understand it, and I think it may just be a few points too much for the Stormers.
Pick: Lions (12 and under)
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