The Chiefs have played 2 matches so far, both were New Zealand derbies, and after losing 45-25 to the Crusaders they opened their account with a 27-21 win over the Blues in Auckland in Round 3. That victory over the Blues was full of merit, especially as the Chiefs were hit by late injury withdrawals which saw them start as underdogs. They scored 4 tries to the Blues’ 3, and after a bye in Round 4 they now play at home to the first time this season. The Chiefs are currently bottom of the New Zealand Conference, 10 points off the pace, but they do have games in hand. Since 2011, the Chiefs have won 13 of 14 at home to South African opposition
This is the second match on tour for the Bulls, who lost 20-14 to the Reds in Brisbane last week. The Bulls were slight underdogs for that game and they led 14-10 at the break, but the Reds dominated much of the second half.
After starting their campaign with a surprise home win over the Hurricanes, the Bulls have slipped to third in the South African Conference standings, 10 points behind the Lions, who have played a game more. The Bulls have won just 1 of their last 12 in New Zealand, and that and as well as the Bulls’ loss last week helps explain why the Chiefs are 18-point handicap favourites, which is a hefty handicap, but I do think the Chiefs stand a good chance of covering it at 10/11 at BMR’s green-listed bookmakers.
A late try saw the Highlanders cover the handicap in last week’s 33-15 home win over the Stormers, and they now have 2 wins from 2 outings. They are just 1 point behind the Hurricanes and the Crusaders in the New Zealand Conference with a game in hand, and victory here would take them to the top of the table. The Highlanders’ opening match of the tournament produced a 41-34 home win over the Blues.
The Crusaders were beaten 29-19 away to the Hurricanes last weekend, and they now have a record of 2 wins and 1 defeat. That was their first away fixture of the season after 2 home wins, 45-23 over the Chiefs in a derby in Round 2 and 45-28 over the Stormers a week later. They beat the Highlanders in each of the 3 meetings last season, twice in the regular season and again in the playoffs.
I like the Crusaders to bounce back here -2 at 10/11.
Pre-tournament, the Brumbies were favourites to top the Australian Conference but after starting their campaign with a come from behind 32-25 win at the Sunwolves in Tokyo, their next 2 matches have ended in defeat. In Round 3 the Brumbies scored the only 2 tries of a derby encounter with the Reds in Brisbane, but they still finished on the losing side, going down 18-10. Last weekend they started their match against the Rebels in Melbourne well but faded as the game went on and the final score was 33-10.
The Brumbies have been worth opposing on the handicap in all 3 of their matches so far, and they are already 11 points behind the Rebels who top the Australian table.
The Sharks were 50-22 winners at home to the Sunwolves last weekend, their first win of the tournament at the third attempt and they covered the handicap in the process. They have faced Australian opposition once this season, a home fixture against the Waratahs which finished in a 24-24 draw.
The Sharks lost their opening match of the tournament 26-19 at the Lions and they are now second in the South African Conference with 8 points. Since 2011 the Sharks have played 13 matches in Australia, winning 8 and losing 5.
A close game is in prospect with the Brumbies at home 2-point favourites, I will take a chance on the Sharks upsetting the so far disappointing hosts with a 2-point start.
The Stormers have 1 win and 3 defeats so far this season and a three-match tour of Australia and New Zealand saw them add just 1 losing bonus point to their tally. Their only success so far came in Round 1 when they beat the Jaguares 28-20 at Newlands and they are fourth of 5 in the South African Conference, 10 points behind the Lions.
In the last 11 home games against New Zealand opposition, 11 have been settled by margins of 12 points or less.
The Blues will return home after this game and their 2-match stay in South Africa got off to an excellent start with a late try giving them a 38-35 win over the Lions in Johannesburg last week. They showed great character to come back from 28-10 down in that game where they started as 9.5-point underdogs, and they were 34-23 down heading into the final 6 minutes.
The Blues now have a record of 1 win and 2 defeats and they finished Round 4 in fourth spot in the New Zealand Conference. They earned losing bonus points in their first 2 matches, going down 41-34 away to the Highlanders and 27-21 at home to the Chiefs.
Prior to last week’s win over the Lions the Blues had won just 1 of their previous 10 visits to South Africa and their last 3 at Newlands have seen the Stormers win by margins of 8, 11 and 10 points.
The Blues -1 at 10/11 is one of the best bets of the weekend.
The Lions began their season with 3 straight wins, covering handicaps at home to the Sharks (26-19) and Jaguares (47-27) and away to the Bulls (49-35). In Round 4 they came unstuck at home to the Blues (38-35), a game they will feel they should have won after leading 28-10 at one stage and 34-23 up well inside the last 10 minutes. Despite the late surrender last week, the Lions remain top of the South African Conference and they finished Round 4 with a 7 point lead over the Sharks who have played 1 game fewer.
The Lions now take aim at the Sunwolves, who shipped 14 tries in the most one-sided of games at this venue last season.
The Sunwolves arrived in South Africa last week and their first tour match saw them go down 50-22 at the Sharks. They failed to stay within the handicap set in the early 20’s. The Sunwolves had started their season with home defeats to the Brumbies (32-25) and the Rebels (37-17). The losing bonus point against the Brumbies is their only point earned so far and they have lost all 10 of their previous visits to South Africa by an average margin of 53-19.
The Lions are 33-point handicap favourites here! No bet.
Heading into the Round 4 clash at home to the Waratahs the Jaguares had failed to earn a point in losing their first 3 matches, 28-20 at the Stormers, 47-27 at the Lions and 34-9 at home to the Hurricanes. The Jaguares were 4.5-point underdogs for the clash with the Waratahs, but they raced into a 33-7 half-time lead and went on to win the game 38-28.
In 2017 Jaguares played all 5 of the Australian franchises competing at that time, winning 3 and losing 2. They beat the Reds 22-8 in Buenos Aires.
When the Reds crashed 45-19 to the Rebels in Melbourne in their opening match of the tournament a long season looked likely, however they have put together back to back wins to lift themselves into second spot in the Australian Conference, albeit 7 points behind the Melbourne side.
They opened their account with a hard earned 18-10 win at home to the Brumbies and followed up with a 20-14 victory against the Bulls in Brisbane last week. The task now is to improve on an away record which has seen the Reds win just 2 of the last 19.
The Reds are 6-point underdogs here at 10/11 and that is also a nice bet.
The Waratahs have 1 win, 1 draw and 1 defeat this season and they finished Round 4 in third spot in the Australian Conference with 6 points, 2 points behind the Reds and 9 shy of their opponents here. In their only home game so far, they took advantage of a late error by the Stormers to snatch a 34-27 win in Round 2 and they also punished some shoddy play from the Sharks in a 24-24 draw in Durban in Round 3. They were 4.5-point favourites for last week’s visit to Jaguares in Buenos Aires, but they trailed 33-7 at the break and a couple of late tries saw them eventually go down 38-28.
This is their first derby of the season, and in 2017 they won 4 and lost 2 against local opposition and they did beat the Rebels home and away.
All the early evidence suggests the Rebels will be a very different proposition in comparison to last season. They have won all 3 of their matches so far, covering handicaps each time and 2 of their victories were derby matches, home wins over the Reds (45-19) and the most recently the Brumbies (33-10). In between they beat the Sunwolves 37-17 in Singapore and the Rebels have scored a total of 18 tries in setting the pace in the Australian Conference.
I like the Rebels -2 at 10/11 here.