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.
Blues vs Stormers
The Blues have won four of their last five home games by an average score of 29-15. In the four home matches so far, they've outscored each opponent in the second-half, by an average of ten points. They pushed the Reds to their limits last round, forcing them to make over 200 tackles and will feel upset to have let the win slip so late. Not taking a drop-goal when on offer and a difference in discipline between the sides was a big reason for the result and they face a Stormers team next that offer similar in the way of defensive strength. The visitors have been outscored in five of their eight games in the second-half – by an average of three points. They had to make over 170 tackles against the Hurricanes, with the hosts back-three exposing a few vulnerabilities that will have interested the Blues. However I think the main point to consider is that while players like Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi are returning for the Stormers, the Blues' key performers such as Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua had 'flu this week and Rene Ranger was on a drip suffering from an infection. The visitors have won the last three games against Sir John Kirwan's side and 4/9 in this fixture. A four-point handicap is generous and I am on the Stormers to muscle a 1-12-point win.
Highlanders vs Sharks
The Sharks may have lost three consecutive games but broke a 283-minute try drought when Derick Minnie scored against the Chiefs. Given they hadn't gone over the line in over 300 minutes in previous clashes with the Chiefs, to score four last week was quite an achievement. At 24-0 down after 17 minutes – a real drubbing was on the cards, so it's a testament to the side that they came back twice in the match and really should have gained a losing bonus point. They have trailed at half-time in the last four games, conceding 11/16 tries before the break and won't want to be relying on comebacks every week. There won't be much sympathy for a three-game losing streak from the Highlanders, given they've lost eleven games in a row, by an average score of 18-30 and have trailed at half-time in nine of them – by an average of eight points. Despite the fact they haven't actually been playing that badly, six of the eight defeats this season have been by a margin of eleven points or greater. The Sharks have won their last six against the Highlanders and the last three when visiting them. They've also won their second tour game in five of the last six terms. Even accounting for injuries, all isn't right in the Sharks camp but I'd still rather risk my money on them than a Highlanders side whose last win was May 26, 2012. I'll be taking the visitors with +1 point.
Bulls vs Hurricanes
The Bulls have won their four home games this season by an average score of 29-21 and 15/18 matches there over a longer period by a rate of 32-21. They have scored 140/236 points so far in the second-half and outscored teams in that period in the last five matches. The hosts have also scored ten of their nineteen tries in the final 20 minutes of games. No great surprise then that the second-half has been highest scoring in 7/9 Bulls games this season and eight of their last ten home ties. The 'Canes have lost 2/3 away games by an average score of 14-22 and been outscored after the break in 6/9 matches in 2013. They've only scored three of their 22 tries away from home and conceded fifteen of 24 tries in the second-half. The New Zealand side do have quite a good record at the Bulls – winning 4/8 meetings by a rate of 30-28, however have lost the last three meetings with this opposition by an average score of 15-21 and six of the last nine. The difference in how both sides perform in the final 40 minutes should be the key here and I think there is merit in backing the Bulls -5 on the second-half handicap for the Saturday game at Loftus Versfeld.
It's 15.0 for Gio Aplon and James O'Connor both to score on the anytime while Stormers +9 points, Chiefs -3, Sharks +6, Reds -2, Kings +14, Bulls -3 and Brumbies +3 is 14.6.
I'd take the Sharks, Reds, 'Tahs and Brumbies by 1-12 points and the Bulls 13+.