Eden Park hosts the first game of the season and a North Island rivalry meeting between the Blues and Chiefs. The Blues secured the prized signature of Beauden Barrett in the offseason but he’ll be unavailable until April. They did finish off the 2019 season with a few close losses against the Crusaders and Hurricanes. So they’ll be expecting to reach the finals after a fairly disappointing 2019 campaign. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have lost the experience of Brodie Retallick and it’ll be interesting to see how they perform in the early stages of the season without him. Overall, they have dominated the Blues with 14 wins in the last 16 meetings but it’s usually a close affair. As such, 4 of the last 5 meetings have been decided by under 7 points so we like the value of the either team bet.
The second game of the Friday double-header travels to GIO Stadium with the Brumbies up against the Reds. ACT dominated the Australian conference last year with a 10-6 record and smashed the Sharks in the finals 38-13 before losing to the Jaguares in Argentina 39-7. They’ve added some good pieces in the offseason and should be hard to beat again. The Reds are in a rebuilding phase at the moment but did secure James O’Connor in the offseason. Ultimately, playing the Brumbies in Canberra is not an easy task at the moment as they’ve won 8 straight home games and have smashed the Reds 40-27 and 45-21 in the last 2 meetings here. So Brumbies at the line looks the best bet.
It’s an all South African affair on Saturday morning with the Sharks hosting the Bulls in Durban. Both sides reached the finals in 2019 and suffered early exits in the Quarters. Coming off the World Cup, both sides will also look to replace some of their experienced Springboks, especially the Bulls who’ll be without 6 players. So while the Bulls have a 9-0 ATS and 5-0 SU record against the Sharks, this could be the Sharks chance to finally break through on their home turf.
It could be the Sunwolves farewell season in 2020 so they’ll keen to end it with a bang. First up will be the Melbourne Rebels, a team that the Sunwolves haven’t been able to get near. They last met in Round 15 last season with the Rebels smashing them 52-7 and that’s been the theme in the last 5 meetings (Rebels 5-0 SU). However, we have to consider the Rebels late-season form in 2019 when they were absolutely smashed 59-8 and 66-0 against the Chiefs/Crusaders. So we’ll be steering clear of this game.
The three-time defending champs return on Saturday night in their campaign for an incredible 4th straight finals appearance. It’s likely going to be alot tougher challenge in 2020 with the experienced trio of Read, Whitelock and Crotty all missing from the squad. It’s a similar story for the Tahs as they’ll be without the likes of Foley, Kepu, Latu and they’ve obviously missed the flare of Folau. However, the Waratahs seem to be a bogey side for the Crusaders. They beat them 20-12 in Round 6 last year and also led 29-0 in their last meeting at this venue. So have to like the massive underdog line on offer.
The Stormers open their 2020 campaign at DHL Newlands with an expected tough affair against the Hurricanes. The New Zealanders pushed the Crusaders all the way in last year’s semi-finals and will be keen to win the conference after a 12-1-3 season. But like many of the NZ sides, they’ll be missed a few key players, such as Beauden Barrett (Blues) and Ardie Savea (injured). While for the Stormers, they can count themselves as unlucky after missing out on the finals by a few points and will be confident about hosting the ‘Canes in South Africa for the first time since 2014 (19-18 Stormers win). They’ve played the last 3 meetings in NZ with the Stormers being competitive in 2 of those games, including a 34-28 defeat last season. So we do like the value in the either team bet in what should be a close encounter.
Round 1 concludes in Argentina with the breakout team of 2019 in the Jaguares and they’ll face the Lions. The Argentian side showed great improvement last year and that saw them feature in their first Super Rugby final. While the Crusaders were too good, the finals experience should only benefit this squad in 2020. After reaching the finals in 2 straight seasons, the Lions just missed out in 2019 after an inconsistent campaign, especially defensively after allowing the 2nd most points in the competition. However, considering they have won 4 of the last 5 meetings with the Jaguares and their Round 1 encounter at this venue in 2019, we do like the Lions at the line if they can show better defensive structure.
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