Wed 28 Feb 2018 | 12:36

OPINION: The Hard Numbers

OPINION: The Hard Numbers
Wed 28 Feb 2018 | 12:36
OPINION: The Hard Numbers

Blues v Chiefs

  • The Chiefs are undefeated in their last 12 games against the Blues (W11, D1), though the Blues picked up a draw against their domestic rivals (16-16) when they last met.
  • The Chiefs will be looking for a 13th consecutive game without a loss to the Blues, setting the record for the longest unbeaten run of any team against another in Super Rugby history.
  • Though the Blues are winless in their last six home games against the Chiefs (D1, L5), they’ve picked up competition points in all but one of those games.
  • The Blues have won only one of their last 23 games against fellow New Zealand opposition, though only once last season were they defeated by their countrymen by a double-digit margin.
  • Rieko Ioane has scored four tries in his last three games on home turf for the Blues.

My pick: This is easily the toughest game to pick this weekend but I am going to back The Blues to get the win and am putting my money where my mouth is having already lodged a $4 multi with the bookmaker.

Reds v Brumbies

  • The Reds picked up a one-point win against the Brumbies in their most recent encounter, snapping a five-game losing streak against them in which time they conceded an average of 37 points per game.
  • The Reds will be looking for consecutive home wins against Australian opposition for the first time since Round 2, 2013.
  • The Brumbies have won three of their last five games away from home, with two of those wins coming after they had trailed at half-time.
  • Each of the last five Australian derbies in Super Rugby have been won by the home team on the day.
  • Six of the Reds’ last eight tries against the Brumbies at home have been scored by forwards.

My pick: I think the Reds are going to have a horrible season and they will lose this weekend to the Brumbies.

Crusaders v Stormers

  • The Crusaders have won 14 of their last 16 games against the Stormers, including each of their last six.
  • The Crusaders have never been defeated by the Stormers when playing at home (W10, D1), scoring an average of 31 points per game across that time.
  • The Crusaders have won their last 12 games at home against teams from outside New Zealand; their last such loss came in the opening round of the 2015 campaign against the Rebels.
  • The Stormers haven’t won in New Zealand since an 18-16 win over the Hurricanes in Round 11, 2013; they’ve lost eight games there since.
  • George Bridge has scored six tries from his four previous games against South African teams, including a hat-trick in his only previous encounter with the Stormers.

My pick: Who are the Stormers? Are they any good?

Sunwolves v Rebels

  • The Rebels came away with a 35-9 victory when these teams met in March 2016, the only previous meeting between them.
  • The Sunwolves have now earned competition points in each of their last two games; never before have they earned points in three consecutive fixtures.
  • Melbourne will be looking to open their Super Rugby campaign with consecutive wins for the first time in their history.
  • The Sunwolves managed a tackle success rate of 90% in their opening game, their rate last season overall was just 80%, the joint lowest.
  • Will Genia provided three try assists last weekend, the first time a Rebels player had made three in a single game since James O’Connor did so against the Highlanders in July 2013.

My pick: Rebels. I will very rarely pick the Sunwolves to win.

Sharks v Waratahs

  • Each of the last six games between these teams has been won by the home team on the day.
  • The Sharks have now lost their last two games at home; the last time they lost more in succession was a four-game stretch from May 2009 to February 2010.
  • Waratahs lost both of their games in South Africa in Super Rugby 2017; however, they had won four of six games in the country prior (L2).
  • The Sharks have conceded just eight tries in their last six home games against Australian opposition, twice keeping their opponents tryless in that period.
  • Bernard Foley has crossed for a try in each of his three previous games against the Sharks.

My pick: Given what I now know about home advantage in this fixture, I am somewhat confident that the Sharks will be victorious.

Bulls v Lions

  • The Lions have won four of their last five games against the Bulls, including their last two meetings; they had previously never beaten them as the Lions (D1, L10).
  • Each of the Bulls’ last three games against South African opposition has been won by the away team on the day.
  • The Lions have won their last six games away from home, and haven’t lost on the road against South African opposition Round 12, 2015 against the Bulls.
  • The Bulls have had one player receive a yellow card in each of their last three games at home; only once in 21 home games prior was a Bulls player on the receiving end of a yellow card.
  • Malcolm Marx has crossed for a try once in each of his last three games away from home within South Africa.

My pick: Just like the bookmakers, I am certain the Lions will defeat the Bulls. However, I was similarly certain that the Hurricanes would beat the Bulls last week. So who knows.

Jaguares v Hurricanes

  • The only previous meeting between these teams came back in Round 7, 2016, when the Hurricanes ran out to a 40-22 victory at the Westpac.
  • The Jaguares have lost their last three games on home turf and are currently enduring their longest ever losing streak at home.
  • The Hurricanes will be looking to avoid opening their campaign with consecutive defeats for the fourth time in the last six Super Rugby seasons.
  • The Jaguares have lost six scrums in their last two games, twice as many as they had lost in their seven games prior combined.
  • Wes Goosen has scored seven tries in his last six Super Rugby games, crossing at least once in each of those fixtures.

My pick: Hurricanes. The Jaguares are just in this to make up the numbers, right?

Thanks to Opta for providing the sweet stats for this article.

Matches and local Kick off times:

Friday, 2 March: Blues v Chiefs @ Eden Park, Auckland (19:35)
Friday, 2 March: Reds v Brumbies @ Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane (19:00)
Saturday, 3 March: Sunwolves v Rebels @ Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo (13:15)
Saturday, 3 March: Crusaders v Stormers @ AMI Stadium, Christchurch (19:35)
Saturday, 3 March: Sharks v Waratahs @ Kings Park Stadium, Durban (15:05)
Saturday, 3 March: Bulls v Lions @ Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria (17:15)
Saturday, 3 March: Jaguares v Hurricanes @ Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires (18:40)

By Sam Smith, RugbyPass

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Opinion: The Hard Numbers | Rugby365