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, AU and the European Champions Cup.
Highlanders v Chiefs
Saturday 10 April – 09:05
The Highlanders recorded a miraculous victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch last weekend to snap a seven-match losing streak against the champions. It’s been a spike of resurgence from the Highlanders as injuries/suspensions have starved them of continuity in team selection.
The Chiefs return from their week’s rest to face a Highlanders side that overran them in the tournament’s opening game week. Before their bye, the Chiefs had recorded two victories on the bounce and have looked a new side led by mercurial fullback Damian McKenzie.
The Highlanders return to home base this weekend and will be riding the euphoria of last week’s heroics. The Chiefs have performed well on the road and have covered 20 of their last 26 spreads. The Highlanders seem to be overrated at home having only covered the handicap in four of their last 21 fixtures at Forsyth Barr. Bet on the Chiefs to keep it close in Dunedin.
Reds v Brumbies
Saturday 10 April – 11:45
There is a Grand Final on the line as the two dominant sides in Australian rugby face off in Brisbane on Saturday. The Reds have been immense in Super Rugby AU, having won all six fixtures by an average margin of 17 points. The Brumbies only loss of the season occurred in a thrilling two-point loss to the Reds, however, their performances have fallen by the wayside given how they were nearly toppled by basement-boys Waratahs last weekend.
It’s tough to look past anything other than a Queensland victory this weekend. Factor in the home advantage, the form of both sides and the motivation of the victory – there is only one team to back. The Brumbies have only covered the spread in six of their last 15 fixtures, and I don’t foresee that statistic improving this weekend.
Crusaders v Hurricanes
Saturday 10 April – 08:05
The champions will be looking to shake off last week’s flash in the pan as they head to Sky Stadium to face the Hurricanes. The Hurricanes sit at the foot of the table with only a solitary victory to their name. The Hurricanes are notoriously poor at home, having only beaten the spread in five of their last 17 fixtures in Wellington. It will require another Jordie Barrett masterclass if the hosts hope to enforce a second defeat against the tournament front-runners.
The facts are clear. The Crusaders don’t enjoy losing and will be desperate for a strong bounce back from last weekend. The danger signs should be sounding for the home side as they look to contain the dominant ‘Saders pack. The Crusaders have covered 16 out of a possible 23 fixtures off the back of a loss and I can’t see any other result than a double digit away victory.
Exeter v Leinster
Saturday 10 April – 18:45
The reigning champions Exeter Chiefs square off against the Pro-14 winners Leinster in the pick of the Champions Cup quarter-finals on Saturday. The fixture boasts enough quality to be labelled as a final with fans being provided with a mouth-watering battle between the Chief’s forward-dominated style of play to match the astuteness of the Leinster ball runners.
The Chiefs looked shaky against Lyon in the Round of 16, with the chemistry between returning internationals still to be found. They will need to sharpen up as they face a Leinster side that has only lost twice this season. Leinster will do what Leinster does best. Precision decision making, an effortless interchange between backs and forwards and turning opportunities into points.
The betting suggests that there is little to separate between the two sides. The Chiefs have never beaten Leinster in their 4 prior meetings and Leinster will look to rectify their Champions Cup exit last season. I feel as if this fixture will be separated by the barest of margins, and I’ll be leaning with the home side to send Leinster tumbling out of the competition.