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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Highlanders vs Brumbies
The Highlanders have lost all six games in 2013, by an average score of 21-30 and their last nine in total. That beats their previous longest losing streak (from 2007-08) of eight games and is the worst run of any New Zealand team ever, in the competition. They aren't in danger of threatening the Lions impressive haul of seventeen straight defeats for a while but with Hayden Parker and Fumiaki Tanaka in at half-back there is a sense that Jamie Joseph's patience is wearing thin with his under-performing side. The Brumbies only won one away game from fourteen attempts from mid 2010-2012, so their recent record of seven wins from eight trips is a great improvement and they have beaten this opposition in five of the last six meetings. To balance that, Jake White's side have lost 7/8 trips to New Zealand teams and 5/8 at the Highlanders. The first-half has been highest scoring in five of last six Brumbies games and the last five for the hosts so that is worth monitoring. You have to go back a while but when the Highlanders were winning games, they often trailed at half-time (occurred in four of last seven victories). With the Brumbies current second-half issues and just because the Highlanders are utterly desperate for a win, I am looking at the Brumbies HT / Highlanders FT and taking the hosts with the +3 points available.
Chiefs vs Reds
The Chiefs have won 5/6 games this season by a healthy average score of 33-19 and eleven of the last twelve home games by a rate of 29-15. They've led at half-time in 5/6 matches and outscored opposition in the second-half in 6/6. That makes for impressive reading, however the Reds have won the last three meetings. The Chiefs were leading 8-22 in Brisbane last season, when a season-ending injury to Richard Kahui and then a four-try blitz from the hosts saw a famous 42-27 win. The All Black has just taken four days off to get married and stated this week that perhaps the Reds were underestimated last season. The Reds have been outscored in the second-half in 5/7 matches this term and with the Chiefs scoring 14/21 tries after half-time that may point to an area to be exploited by the hosts. Under Dave Rennie, the Chiefs are ruthless on attack and suffocating on defence and with the added motivation of revenge, they are going to be well backed. In keeping with the trend of the weekend though, I think the price of 4.0 for a Reds win and a +9 handicap are a bit too big to ignore. Ewen McKenzie's side have beaten NZ opposition in 10/11 games by a rate of 24-18 and Quade Cooper could well have a point to prove to his national selectors. There have been four cards shown in the last three Reds matches and five in the last four Chiefs games. With three cards in the last four meetings, a sin-bin bet may also be in order.
Stormers vs Sharks
The Stormers have won 2/6 matches by an average of 22-23 this season. They've been outscored in the second-half in 4/6 games and the other two games scored just one point more than opponents. Allister Coetzee's team have also lost the last three matches against the Sharks by an average score of 15-21 and eight of last eleven meetings by a rate of 16-19. With a run of four consecutive away games approaching - and a current conference position of fourth - this comes under that old favourite of 'must win' for the hosts. The absence of Peter Grant and Elton Jantjies means the heat is on Gary Van Aswegen so I would expect to see both his more experienced team-mates trying to shoulder some of the decision making and the Sharks to target him early and often. The visitors have won thirteen of their last sixteen games and 5/6 this season by a rate of 26-16. Whilst they showed plenty of spirit to come back against the Crusaders, the backline still isn't firing and ten of their thirteen tries came in the one game - against the Rebels. The Stormers have scored twelve tries themselves and with both teams only letting in nine, going 'unders' on tries looks sensible - especially given the earlier meeting this season was 12-6 (all penalties). It's also 17.0 for no try. With a close game expected, I'm happy to take the Sharks with +2 points.
A multiple of the Highlanders +8, Reds +14, 'Canes +9, Kings +13, Force +15, Sharks +7 and Cheetahs +12 is 16.4. Jesse Mogg, Tim Nanai-Williams, Julian Savea and Raymond Rhule all to score is 64.7 while a Kade Poki, Quade Cooper and Rene Ranger trio is 60.0.
I would opt for the Hurricanes, Kings, Force, Sharks and Bulls to win by 1-12 margins.