Rugby Pass stats guru Paul Neazor weighs up this weekend’s round of Super Rugby matches and reveals his tips.
Round 8 was another near-perfect week for Super Rugby tipping genius Paul Neazor. For the second week in a row the Reds were the only team who tripped him up, losing to the Bulls. Still, 6/7 takes his season tally to 47/62 and brings Paul’s success percentage up to a commendable 76%. Here are his picks for Round 9.
Highlanders vs Sharks
Playing at home has always been an advantage in this fixture. These days, when it means playing under the Dunedin roof or in the steamy Durban autumn heat, that applies more than ever. The Sharks haven’t impressed in recent weeks, apart from their tackling – and that is all that has been keeping them in games. They defend bash-bash-bash well enough, but lightning raids like those the Highlanders make could be a different threat altogether. The visitors don’t offer much through the backs; the home side lives on the skill of its rearguard. The home side will be at short odds to win and probably win well, although games at Forsyth Barr are often closer than you might expect. I’m having the Highlanders, and I think they may do it with something in hand.
Pick: Highlanders (13 and over)
Rebels vs Cheetahs
A couple of weeks ago some were starting to wonder if the Rebels weren’t, in fact, a playoff team. Well, they’re not – the Highlanders and Hurricanes have pointed that out. A couple of weeks ago the Cheetahs were being bagged as hopeless; now they’re the talk of the town for scoring close to 100 points in one match. What we have is a battle between two lower-mid table outfits who can and do have good days, but who should be (and usually are) beaten by the big teams. The Rebels have been beating sides they can impose their game plan on, and the Cheetahs should be in that category.
Pick: Rebels (12 and under)
Sunwolves vs Jaguares
The good news is that one of these teams will end a long losing streak this weekend. The Sunwolves look likely to make my pre-season forecast of 0-15 come true, and the Jaguares should be 30 points the better team.
Pick: Jaguares (13 and over)
Hurricanes vs Chiefs
This is the game of the round without any question, and could well be a preview of a playoff fixture down the track. The Chiefs are the hot hands at the moment, showcasing several of the competition’s most talked-about players (Damian McKenzie, Aaron Cruden, Charlie Ngatai, James Lowe), while the Hurricanes also have a few who are getting the tongues wagging. Interestingly almost all of them are backs, yet it could well be a forward – the Chiefs’ Michael Leitch – who has the biggest influence on the outcome. His mates follow where he leads, and the backs can do their thing because the forwards do theirs so well. I’m really looking forward to this one, but in the end I’m picking the Chiefs might be that little bit better in enough places to claim what will be a very hard-earned win.
Pick: Chiefs (12 and under)
Force vs Waratahs
If we can expect the Wellington match to be one of the best of the year, this stacks up as one of the season’s most missable games. Neither side is playing well at the moment, both are making errors, neither packs much scoring punch, and worst of all, almost everyone who plays against the Force fumbles and bumbles even more than usual. In all honesty the Waratahs should win this game – but they should have beaten the Rebels on their own patch, too.
Pick: Waratahs (12 and under)
Stormers vs Reds
After last weekend, when both teams lost to demonstrably superior sides, this match becomes quite important in the overall scheme of things. The Reds are improving (yes, I did think they might upset the Bulls) while the Stormers are battling just a little without Eben Etzebeth, who was in rare form before his injury. But the Stormers do have the security of a particularly powerful set piece, even if the Reds are no mugs at the scrum in particular. It’s just that the home side has lived by this particular sword for about ten years, seldom playing much adventurous rugby but doing enough to beat sides that can’t force them to break that stranglehold. I think the Reds will fall into that category, and therefore pick the Stormers.
Pick: Stormers (12 and under)
Kings vs Lions
A couple of years back these two sides were considered about equal; they had to play a promotion-relegation series in 2013 to see which one would be in Super Rugby the next year. But the Lions have moved on at a rapid pace since returning to the fold while the Kings have stagnated, and this one should be easy – unless the Lions go against the grain, and take their hosts lightly. If that happens, the Lions will still win, but if they concentrate, they’ll win by heaps.
Pick: Lions (13 and over)
Brumbies vs Crusaders
Okay, time to prove a point. Or make a statement. Or bloody another pretender’s nose. The second of two matches that really capture the imagination this week, the Sunday game is probably more important to the Brumbies because if they can win it, they’ll be so far out in front in Australia that daylight will be second. If the Crusaders win it will be a real statement of intent from the New Zealand conference and a warning for the Wallabies, whether admitted or not. And it will keep the Crusaders in prime challenging position for top spot and home field, with all the attendant benefits. Given the strength of the New Zealand conference, one small slip even now might be fatal. I’m not picking that the Crusaders will slip. They have a decent record at Canberra and a better one this season – even if they don’t play well, they’re finding ways to win. It will be easier if Richie Mo’unga can kick his goals, but even so I think the visitors will take it out.
Pick: Crusaders (12 and under)
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