12 February 2020, by: Quintin van Jaarsveld

Super Rugby Predictions – Round 3

South Africa’s coastal franchises will be looking to continue their perfect starts to the season in the third round of Super Rugby this weekend, writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.

The Sharks are up first in Wellington, where they’ll be plotting another siege on New Zealand soil on Saturday after their stunning triumph over the Highlanders in their tour-opener last weekend.

Then it’s the South African Conference-leading Stormers’ turn as they square off against a Lions team fresh off a confidence-building win over the Reds at Ellis Park. The Bulls, rooted to the bottom of the division standings, have a bye.

Here’s how we see things playing out in Round Three:

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Blues v Crusaders (Friday - 08:05 SA time)

The Crusaders (0.35) will be hurting after their loss to the Chiefs and a backlash can be expected against the Blues (2.65). The hosts have been rather impressive thus far, threatening to upset the Chiefs before cantering to a 32-12 win over the Waratahs in Newcastle in a match that was expected to be close.

They won’t be pushovers, but as the opening-round contest against Warren Gatland’s charges showed, they don’t quite have the class to hang in there against elite sides for the full 80 minutes. We’re tipping the Saders to win by two scores. It’ll be even more emphatic if Richie Mo’unga, who they missed dearly last weekend, is available for selection.

Prediction: Crusaders by 10.

Suggested BET: Crusaders -7.5 at 0.90

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Melbourne Rebels v Waratahs (Friday - 10:15 SA time)

An early dance of the desperates in the Australian Conference. Two teams who’ve gotten off to the worst possible start, each searching for their first victory after dropping their first two in alarming fashion. The Rebels (0.60) have been slightly less poor, which says a lot considering they went down to the Sunwolves (36-27), but they at least showed a bit of fight in the 39-26 loss to the Brumbies last weekend.

The Waratahs (1.50) have been woeful, offering little to no resistance against the Crusaders (43-25) and Blues (32-12). They’ve dominated this rivalry, winning 15 of the 17 meetings, but the Rebels – at home – should pick up their first win over the men from Sydney since 2016.

Prediction: Rebels by 7.

Suggested BET: Rebels -3.5 at 0.90

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Sunwolves v Chiefs (Saturday - 05:45 SA time)

A mismatch between perennial wooden spoonists and strong title contenders. It’s taken no time at all for the Gatland effect to kick. The Chiefs (0.07) are a team transformed – tactically and mentally. It’s clear that the players have bought into the ex-Welsh coach’s plan and philosophy. They’re brimming with belief and character, which saw them absorb immense pressure to hold out the Crusaders at end of the first half and ultimately defeat the defending champions 25-15. Complacency won’t be a factor and they’ll pummel the poor Sunwolves (7.75).

Prediction: Chiefs by 30.

Suggested BET: Chiefs -20.5 at 0.90

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Hurricanes v Sharks (Saturday - 08:05 SA time)

Punters have more than enough legitimate reasons to back the unbeaten Sharks (2.35) in this one. They were simply sensational in their 42-20 dismantling of the Highlanders in Dunedin last weekend and will ironically be the less travel-fatigued team with the Hurricanes having flown around the world to kick-off their campaign.

That said, the Canes (0.40) showed incredible character in their 26-23 upset victory over the Jaguares last weekend. Buenos Aires is one of the toughest places for visiting teams to pick up a win, and for the Canes to do so after trailing 23-12 with 10 minutes to go – and following a crushing 27-0 defeat in Cape Town – was astounding.

Discipline could be the difference maker as both teams have rocket launchers in their arsenal capable of punishing the opposition from far and wide, the Sharks – who conceded nine penalties in the first quarter alone last weekend – boasting Curwin Bosch (who’s missed just one kick at goal so far) and the Canes Jordie Barrett, who slotted a New Zealand record 63m penalty against the Argentinians.

If the visitors are to claim their first win in Wellington since 2010, now’s their chance, but the Canes showed enough last weekend to suggest they’ll edge it.

Prediction: Hurricanes by 5.

Suggested BET: Hurricanes to win at 0.40

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Brumbies v Highlanders (Saturday - 10:15 SA time)

The Brumbies (0.40) have looked the business thus far, securing back-to-back wins (27-24 over the Reds and 39-26 over the Rebels) to shoot into an early lead in the Australian Conference. The Highlanders (2.35) were left shell-shocked by the Sharks in their tournament-opener at home last weekend, so they’ll come out firing in their quest for redemption. Canberra holds no fear for them, having emerged victorious on their last two trips to the Australian capital (15-9 in 2016 and 18-15 in 2017). It’ll be a hard-fought battle, but one the Brumbies ought to win.

Prediction: Brumbies by 6.

Suggested BET: Brumbies 1st Half -3.5 at 0.95

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Lions v Stormers (Saturday - 15:05 SA time)

This looks set to be mauling in every sense of the word. It doesn’t take a rugby genius to know the Stormers (0.40) will target the Lions at scrum time after the men from Johannesburg were butchered by the Reds last weekend. Carlu Sadie will surely start in place of Jannie du Plessis and will have to step up in a big way. Willem Alberts would’ve been a welcome boost to the pack as well, but the hulking back-rower’s still struggling with a bicep injury.

By all indications, the lean Lions (2.35) will come off second best in the gainline battle against a Stormers side who manhandled both the Hurricanes and Bulls. With the possibility of rain, even more, emphasis will be placed on pragmatic play and will lessen the Lions’ chances of becoming the first team to cross the Capetonians’ tryline this season. The Lions have won the last three encounters between the sides at Ellis Park, but this is where that streak ends.

Prediction: Stormers by 15.

Suggested BET: Stormers -6.5 at 0.90

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Jaguares v Reds (Sunday - 01:00 SA time)

The Jaguares (0.18) will be in a menacing mood after allowing the Hurricanes to snatch a late win last weekend. They’ll be hell-bent on making it up to their home fans, which spells trouble for the winless Reds (4.50). The visitors have been knocking on the door, narrowly losing to the Brumbies (27-24) and Lions (27-20), so they’re not far off from where they want to be. After destroying the Lions at scrum time, they could present the Jaguares with problems if they’re able to play set-piece to set-piece. The hosts, however, will be wise to that and have played with a fluidity that’ll limit scrums and wear out the jet-lagged visitors.

Prediction: Jaguares by 14.

Suggested BET: Jaguares -12.5 at 0.90

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