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.
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Hurricanes vs Chiefs
The extended format of the Super Rugby tournament means squad rotation and managing injuries have become increasingly important. Dave Rennie's thwarted attempts to bring in Casey Laulala led him to bemoan the issue of a player exodus from New Zealand and depth available. That inability to field a consistent side has likely been the reason his side have conceded an average of 28 points in the last five matches. They ended last season with defeats to both the Crusaders and Hurricanes and now face those sides home and away in their run in. The 'Canes have proved an infuriatingly unpredictable team for pre-game predictions this year, scoring plenty of points against the Kings, 'Tahs and Cheetahs and then looking blunt in other matches. It seems that Naka Drotske's comments about targeting them up front caused plenty of consternation and were used as motivation last week but it remains the case that they've conceded the most tries against front-rowers in the competition. 'Canes have won seven of the last eleven meetings between the side by an average score of 26-21 and the last seven at home by 31-20. The recent meetings, bar one exception in 2012, have tended to be close affairs with 5/6 games decided by six points or less. The Chiefs appear to be comfortable enough scoring early points (they've reached ten points first in 9/11 games) but have let sides back into matches recently. The hosts have led at half-time in their previous ten home games and won the 'race to ten points' in eight matches so far - but have been outscored in the second-half in 7/11 games at all venues. Given the tight nature of this fixture and with home advantage, I think a price of 2.5 and a +4 point advantage are a touch too generous, so I'm on the hosts.
Rebels vs Stormers
The Rebels have lost nine of their eleven games this season with the only victories coming against the Force, a side they've beaten on 5/6 occasions. If you ignore those wins over the Perth-based side then the season can be split, firstly into a run of five games between Rounds 2-6 when they lost by an average of 15-36 and were heavily outscored each time in the second-half by an average of nineteen points. Since Round 8 though, the average score has been 30-34 and they've outscored teams after the break in the last three. Coach Damien Hill has lamented "I'm sick of bonus points" and it remains to be seen whether his side can go that extra step now and start winning these close games. The Stormers were always going to be deemed heavy favourites going into this match, however last season the Rebels were one of only four sides to score more than 20 points against them and are the only team in 27 matches to score 21 points in a half against them. The visitors' results have seen a pattern of two wins, then two losses (and repeat) so far. With no byes remaining and two games against the Kings they are in danger of ending the season in a relegation scrap rather than a title challenge. There has been an average score of 20-21 in their games, though that is slightly inflated by high-scoring matches against the Chiefs and Brumbies in Rounds 3-4. They've scored 37 of 50 points in their last three games in the second-half and carried for a paltry 85 metres last week. The visitors are minus Rynhardt Elstadt and Duane Vermeulen and that Elton Jantjies / Louis Schreuder partnership can be targeted. Allister Coetzee may be calling it an "exciting" side but I'm not sure that's a term that can be applied to the Stormers at the moment. The last five Rebels matches and eight of ten Stormers games have been decided by a seven points or less so I will take the Rebels +8 here.
Waratahs vs Brumbies
The 'Tahs have won five of their last seven games and five of six home games by an average score of 26-22. All six of those home matches have been decided by a margin of six points or less. They've lost the last three games with the Brumbies but won 9/11 clashes at home against them, by a rate of 28-18. The Brumbies have won ten of their last thirteen Australian derbies by 25-13 and are unbeaten in eight. The visitors are also top of the conference but whilst they've only lost twice this season, the draws against Kings and Reds mean it's three wins from their last seven games. With the Reds starting to find form and memories of what happened at the end of last season, there will be a desire not to slip away after a strong start. The Brumbies have scored 21/30 tries in the first-half and have led at the break in eight matches. They've scored first in nine games and the first try in ten contests. However after the break, they've been outscored in six of the last eight games. The hosts lost in eight rounds last season by less than a converted try and only outscored two teams in the second-half. The late-earned victories over Chiefs and Stormers this year suggest that the side has a greater confidence now and belief in the system that Michael Cheika has put in place. On paper, there appears to be a high chance of a style clash and Jake White will have noted the hosts' woes at the line-out. However, I think this will be far different to the 35-6 hammering in Round 3 and like the look of the Waratahs +1, with the hosts and in-form full-back Israel Folau catching the Brumbies cold after their week off.
It's 112.5 for Liam Messam, Scott Higginbotham and Willem Alberts each to score a try with a price of 47.0 for Bundee Aki, Nick Cummins and Frank Halai. The unlikely prospect of the 'Canes, Rebels, Force, Crusaders, 'Tahs, Bulls and Reds all winning by a margin of 1-12 points is a 3139.0 shot. Last but not least, a multiple of backing the Hurricanes +9, Rebels +13, Western Force +8, Blues +16, Waratahs +5, Bulls -9 and Reds +6 is at the 15.0 mark.
I will take Crusaders, 'Tahs, Bulls, Clermont and Reds by the 1-12 margin.