The 2019 Vodacom Super Rugby season kicks off on Friday, and there are a couple of games that could make or break your pursuit of that very first Grand Slam point on SuperBru, writes JUANDRE JOUBERT.
CHIEFS vs HIGHLANDERS
A nice New Zealand derby to start off the season as the Chiefs host the Highlanders in Hamilton. Both teams have some key players out of action. Damian McKenzie and Sam Cane are a big loss for the home side, while Waisake Naholo and Liam Squire will not feature for the visitors. The Chiefs have won their last three games against the Landers. Expect them to make it four.
Chiefs by 5
BRUMBIES vs REBELS
An Aussie snore-fest is up next. Luckily, I will be on a plane to Joburg and don’t have to waste two hours of my life watching the clash in Canberra. Will Genia and Quade Cooper will guide the Rebels to a narrow win.
Rebels by 6
BLUES vs CRUSADERS
Will it be too early to grab a cold one out of the fridge for this game? I think not! The Crusaders just ooze class and will have far too much firepower for a new-look Blues outfit in Auckland.
Crusaders by 12
WARATAHS vs HURRICANES
No Julian Savea? No problem. The Hurricanes travel to Sydney with three of the top try-scorers of the past two Super Rugby seasons. The centre pair of Adam-Ashley Cooper and Karmichael Hunt won’t be able to cope with the likes of Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam and Vince Aso. They won’t even need Beauden Barrett, who has been away on honeymoon. Hurricanes by 14
SUNWOLVES vs SHARKS
The Sharks start their campaign with a trip to Singapore to take on a Sunwolves team they have never lost to. The Durban side’s average winning margin against the Sunwolves is 19.6 points, and that is exactly what I will go with.
Sharks by 19
VODACOM BULLS vs STORMERS
The match of the weekend, from a South African perspective, takes place in die Bulkraal. If it is anything like the pre-season game between Captain America and Thor, we will be in for a treat. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes at the Stormers and no one knows how it has affected the players. The Bulls will make good use of their home advantage, and the experience of Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Brits will see them over the line.
Bulls by 8
JAGUARES vs LIONS
If you are still awake and sober by the time this match kicks off, you are either working or you are a staunch Lions fan. The Lions have not beaten the Jaguares in Argentina in three previous attempts and one of those losses cost them a home final in 2016. Swys de Bruin has picked his best available side, but I think they will fall short once again in a close game.
Jaguares by 6
– Joubert is Highbury Media’s digital media manager, who has won the company’s Super Rugby Superbru pool for two years running.