Our punter Neal Hoogwerf is back this weekend and has his eyes set on a full house. We preview every match from Super Rugby Aotearoa and AU.
Chiefs v Hurricanes
Friday 23 April – 09:05
The Chiefs continued their purple match in making it four wins on the bounce after edging the Crusaders in Hamilton. Their four victories have come by just six, three, three and one point, indicating the small margins separating the sides in Super Rugby. The Hurricanes have a solitary victory to their name, however encouraging performances indicate that they have the potential to click on match day.
The Chiefs are on a dream run and it will take a big performance from the travelling Hurricanes to put a stop to it. The men from Wellington have been below par all year, partly due to their struggles in the pivot position. The Hurricanes enjoy playing at FMG Stadium, having covered in 5 of their last 6 fixtures at the venue. I will be cautiously siding with the Hurricanes to take this game down to the wire.
Western Force v Reds
Saturday 23 April – 11:45
The Force finally picked up the elusive first home victory last week after a late Domingo Miotti penalty edged the Waratahs by 1 point in Sydney. The Western Force have a 2-fold scenario on their hands to reach the finals: They can beat the table topping Reds this weekend or they can hope for the Waratahs to beat the Rebels on Saturday.
The Reds continue their march to a home final as they have picked a strong side to travel to Perth this weekend. It should be business as usual for the Reds and I cannot see this Force side maintaining the pace for the full 80 minutes. The Reds have been strong on the road this season in covering all their away fixtures. I expect the Force to start strongly on their home turf, but ultimately the class of the Reds to prevail.
Waratahs v Rebels
Saturday 24 April – 11:45
The Waratahs return to Bankwest Stadium on the hunt to get off the mark in 2021. Since the sacking of coach Rob Penney, the Waratahs side have shown a resurgence in recording defeats of just one- and two-point margins. The Rebels remain a strong defensive outfit, however, points continue to elude Melbourne which indicates a tight fixture on the cards.
The Rebels struggle to win fixtures by more than a converted score and have been poor against the spread recently, having only covered in 4 of their last 11 fixtures. The Waratahs are being underrated at home and this is one of my most confident picks of the year. Bet on the Waratahs to cover at home.
Crusaders v Blues
Sunday 25 April – 05:35
The Crusaders are in a rare position of struggling for form having recorded 2 losses in their last 3 outings. The Blues have similar form to match, having lost 3 of their last 4 fixtures. Midfield seems to be a cause for concern for the Crusaders, having lost both Jack Goodhue and Brsydon Ennor to the medical bench.
There is plenty to play for in Sunday’s fixture as two of the preseason favourites square off after undergoing midseason hiccups. The Crusaders are always a different proposition in Christchurch and have been priced up accordingly. The Blues don’t traditionally travel well to Christchurch and I’ll be taking home advantage to run its course this weekend.