After two big wins by Australian teams over their Kiwi rivals last weekend, things get tougher in Round 12 of Super Rugby Pacific with the first trips to New Zealand for the season.
The NSW Waratahs, ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels all face tough games on the road while the Queensland Reds and Western Force must take advantage of home games.
We picked up a nice $2 collect by tipping the Brumbies to beat the Hurricanes last Sunday as well as taking the start and winning with tips on the Reds ($1.91), Fijian Drua ($1.91) and Waratahs ($1.85).
The Waratahs didn’t need the 20.5-point start to beat the Crusaders.
Where is the value this week?
Fri, May 6, Eden Park, 5.05pm (AEST)
Back at Eden Park, the Blues are formidable. Actually, they are formidable anywhere they play because they have won 16 of their past 17 Super Rugby matches.
It’s hard to see the Rebels troubling them although it will be closer than last year’s 50-3 margin.
These are the tests you want to see for promising young flyhalves like Carter Gordon, who has shed his anxious early season form to play some quality rugby for the Rebels. This will be his fourth and toughest starting assignment of the year.
The Rebels’ backline defence might not be equipped to hold out weapons like Caleb Clarke and Rieko Ioane although look for try-scoring options with fullback Zarn Sullivan.
It’s not bad if you are on a nine-game winning streak and can bring along slowly a gun like former NRL star Roger Tuivasa-Sheck at inside centre. He’s yet to blow apart a game. The Rebels just hope not to be on his highlights reel after this one.
The bookies are offering the Rebels with 24.5-points start. They’d have to play well to get that close and have backrowers Brad Wilkin and Richard Hardwick slow down the Blues’ ball non-stop.
Fri, May 6, Suncorp Stadium, 7.45pm (AEST)
This is must-win time for the fifth-placed Reds if they are to earn their dream of a home quarter-final.
The Highlanders haven’t been far off all season for a 2-8 team and they did find a good finish to beat the Fijian Drua in Suva last weekend.
They’ve had some travel between Melbourne, Suva and Brisbane over the past three weekends so the Reds must fancy themselves if they can be level pegging at the hour mark against tired legs.
The big issue for the Reds is having three big weapons sidelined. No James O’Connor and no Hunter Paisami they may be able to cover but no Taniela Tupou is a huge negative.
The Reds scrum fades from a feared, armoured tank to a 2008 Corolla with bad suspension and a bung wheel with his absence.
Thankfully, the return of pack enforcer Lukhan Salakaia-Loto to starting lock adds some grunt to the pack. Seru Uru is all dynamism. Another tick.
In the backs, fullback Jordan Petaia and winger Suliasi Vunivalu can’t just be returning as names on a sheet. The Reds need 160 running metres and 15-plus ball-carries in total from them to enliven the attack.
Teammate Jock Campbell called the pair “Juli” with a slip of the tongue. It’s a power couple name we like.
The Reds were stodgy against the Chiefs last round when kicking when on halfway. More attack please.
Tate McDermott against All Blacks legend Aaron Smith at halfback is one of the match-ups of the season.
Still think the Reds can guts this one out but they are not the 4.5-point favourites that TAB.com.au would have you believe.
Sat, May 7, Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland 2.35pm (AEST)
Being able to back up the great win over the Crusaders means everything for the Waratahs. The men from NSW haven’t just lost their last 12 games on NZ soil, they conceded 41 points per game.
This is a new Waratahs side but harassing defence, limiting mistakes and well-taken tries is the formula or Moana can pinch this.
Moana have made 22 per cent of their total running metres from kick returns this season, according to Stats Perform. That’s the most of any side and reflects how dangerous they are off poor kicks but also less ability to construct meaningful plays.
Not even the Brumbies have scored more than the six tries from mauls that the Waratahs have come up with. That’s a big weapon with top hooker Dave Porecki back from concussion.
There’s a nice stability to this Waratahs side. They are winning this to reach 7-4.
Sat, May 7, FMG Stadium, Hamilton 5.05pm (AEST)
The Brumbies have been superb in their back-to-back wins over the Highlanders and the Hurricanes. The Chiefs will be tougher in Hamilton.
Brumbies backrower Rob Valetini has been a relentless, world class match-winner in both victories with his hammering runs and defence.
The Brumbies can win again with a settled side and Wallaby prop Allan Alaalatoa as a rock-solid scrum reinforcement off the bench. Will they? It’s a tough question with the Chiefs on a three-game winning streak. The Chiefs in this one.
Both these sides have excellent efficiency in launching try-raids off lineouts. In fact, no side scores more tries starting with possession from a lineout than the Brumbies.
Expect some lineout maul action here as Brumbies hooker Folau Faingaa going at the tryline.
Watch the moves of Chiefs finisher Etene Nanai-Seturo. He’s scored three tries in five games and he’ll be threatening again here.
Sat, May 7, HBF Park, Perth, 7.45pm (AEST)
The Force have lost their last seven home games at HBF Park which is a mystery with such a passionate fan base behind them.
They might have caught a complacent Crusaders side if they'd played last week but not this week with the Kiwis stung by a surprise loss to the Waratahs.
The Crusaders will be right up for this one. Richie Mo’unga is back at No.10 and that transforms the Crusaders in a blink with his speed of foot and mind.
The Force have a shot at grabbing eighth spot for a quarter-final spot but it will take an upset somewhere. This would be a huge one.
Hurricanes v Fijian Drua - Hurricanes –15.5 ($1.90 at TAB)
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