It is that time of the week again when 'Orrible Punt sits in the Planet Rugby hot-seat to give his calls. Get ready for some Super Rugby.
It is that time of the week again when 'Orrible Punt sits down in the Planet Rugby hot-seat to give you his calls. We give you some Super Rugby.
Remember you can contact Russ with all your comments and questions on Twitter – @rpetty80.
Despite rare glimpses, neither side has played anywhere near their optimum yet. The difference being that crucially, the Reds have won four of their six games and the Highlanders none. Indeed, the hosts have lost their last seven games going back to last season and have been plagued by inaccuracy, both in front of goal and in converting scoring chances. They have carried for a combined total of 1215 metres in the last two games and scored just two tries. There are positives though in the form of Ben Smith, Hosea Gear and Elliot Dixon and a record of 7/7 home wins against the Reds, by an average score of 38-17. The visitors are clearly a better side with Will Genia involved and Quade Cooper's play noticeably improved when that pairing was reunited. They have the chance to put pressure on the Aaron Smith / Colin Slade combo but will be without main strike weapon Digby Ioane, who has already carried for over 500 metres so far. His absence may be negated by no Kade Poki, who has racked up 450 himself. It is now the Reds' seventh game, which raises questions over whether they will tire and they have been outscored second-half in 4/6 games so far and in seven of their last nine away matches. I'll back a late home win at 1.75 and by a 1-10 point margin at 3.4.
The hosts are another side that haven't yet clicked but this may well be the match that sees their backline jump a few levels up the Beaufort scale – away from moderate breeze and closer to hurricane status. The Kings have showed plenty of spirit in their early games but the points conceded per game is creeping up from ten against the Force to 21 (Sharks), 35 (Chiefs) and 55 last week against the Crusaders. The 'foreign player' row is dragging on, with French hooker Virgile Lacombe threatening to break his contract if an answer from the Kings hierarchy isn't provided soon. They've been outscored at half-time in every match and with the 'Canes leading at the break in their last six home games, I will back the hosts -13 on the half-time handicap. The hosts are coming off the bye and their next four games are the Kings and Waratahs at home, Blues away and Force at home. It's likely that the 21.0 available for the 'Canes to win the Grand Final is much lower after that run of matches.
It was a 34-41 classic the last time these sides met, in a match that saw the Blues awake from a season-long slumber, albeit too late. Despite losing, they did go on to record wins in the next two matches – including an upset against a Brumbies team pushing for a playoff spot – and the opening two games of this season, scoring 30+ points in every match. The issue will be whether that was a reaction to the coaching change and the performance from the last two games is a truer reflection of where they are – or if the last two defeats are mere blips on their road to recovery. The Chiefs have won the last three clashes with the Blues and have carried on last season's ruthless efficiency on turnover ball. The visitors are certainly dangerous themselves but also prone to errors – something John Kirwan blamed for the loss of a fourteen-point lead last week. Gareth Anscombe is going to have plenty to prove against the Blues management and I'm expecting a big game from him. The 1-12 winning margin for the Chiefs at 2.75 will do, but with the hosts averaging 35 points a game and the Blues 29, it may be an idea to back points and tries when the markets are up.
It's 17.6 for a Andre Taylor / Hosea Gear / Rene Ranger anytime scorer treble in these early games and a similar price for Julian Savea / Frank 'the tank' Halai / Ben Smith. A touch more ambitious would be the 108.0 for Victor Vito / Liam Messam / Elliot Dixon all to score punt.