It is that time of the week again when 'Orrible Punt sits down in the Planet Rugby hot-seat to give you his calls. Today, get set for some Super Rugby.
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Crusaders have won eight of the last 10 clashes by an average score of 30-19. In the ITM Cup, Auckland have lost seven of their last eight matches with Canterbury, including last season's final. The Blues have also lost 10 of their last 12 conference games and it was only six games ago that they were humbled 59-12 by this opposition. Despite those stats, I'm backing the 'new and improved' Blues with +5 points. They've won their last three games, which is their best stretch of form since the middle of the 2011 season. At home, they've won 6/11 games between the sides by an average score of 22-21 and Crusaders have won just 2/8 first round away games, (with the most recent being that single point victory over Blues in 2012). Giving the hosts +5 would have covered in 7/8 games in Auckland against the Crusaders. An interesting trend is that the first half was highest scoring in nine of the last 10 matches where the Crusaders faced a conference rival away and in 7/10 games when Blues have met a NZ rival at home. Matt Todd has scored two tries in the last three and Corey Flynn five in the last eight against this opposition. They are available at 7.0 and 9.0 to score anytime while Charles Piutau at 3.5 suits for the Blues.
The 'Tahs have lost their previous nine games, with their last win coming against the Rebels. You have to head further back, 16 rounds, for when they last covered a -10 handicap and that again was a match against the Melbourne side. They have in fact won all four clashes against this opposition, leading at half-time every time and the bookies probably have that handicap amount about right. The Rebels have lost 14/16 away games and in the opening rounds this season have been forced to make over 280 tackles. They've also missed their fair share, with Kurtley Beale already up to 10. You would expect plenty of traffic heading towards his well-publicised injured left shoulder. Australian conference games do tend to be low scoring, however nine of the last 10 'Tahs home games and 32/34 of Rebels matches (14/16 away) have seen more than the 40.5 points line. Both meetings last season featured more than 50 points and I will be backing 'overs' in this one. There have been eight cards shown in the last seven Rebels contests against Australian opponents and three in their four games with the 'Tahs. There have also been four cards shown in their two games thus far, so backing a sin-bin may appeal. Polatau-Nau has collected three tries in four games against this opposition and is available at 5.5 to score anytime while team-mate Bernard Foley scored two in two last season (albeit from full-back) and is priced at 5.5.