RUGBY betting analyst Christian Murray (@wncomwncobutt) makes his debut on WLB with a few thoughts on Friday morning's Super Rugby action.
Hurricanes v Highlanders | Friday 1st March 2019, 06:35 | Sky Sports
Due to the All Black’s World Cup rotation requirements it will always be prudent to wait until New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchises have announced their teams before making a selection this season.
Take last Friday, for example. I thought the -4 start for the Rebels was very attractive once I’d seen the Highlanders line-up – Ben Smith, Aaron Smith and Luke Whitelock were all rested in line with All Black management policy to ensure stars see no more than 180 minutes of rugby in the first three matches.
That all-star trip will be back on Friday at the Westpac Stadium, which will be a big boost for the Highlanders, as I felt they struggled against the Rebels for 60 minutes without them, lacking leadership and direction in Melbourne.
Bryn Gatland had a shocker at outside half and the team’s many handling errors saw the Highlanders struggle to build any momentum and continuity early doors. The pack, and in particular, the awesome Shannon Frizzell got them back into the match – dominating the last quarter by keeping it tight and coming close to nicking it late on.
The Hurricanes, on the other hand, looked irresistible against the much-improved Brumbies in the other Friday clash. They had flattered to deceive in their opening two rounds of matches, but with the return of key All Blacks such as Beauden Barratt, Ardie Savea and Ngani Laumape they played some fantastic rugby and embarrassed a Brumbies team many had tipped to run them close.
Run them close? The Hurricanes run the Brumbies off the field. They demonstrated, to me, that with all their 1st XV team available they will be serious title contenders this season.
With the Hurricanes making only two changes to last week’s winning team and Jordie Barrett returning, they are not far off that 1st XV for this weekend’s Kiwi derby date against the Highlanders. I’m delighted the rotation requirements have not impacted the Hurricanes as I can’t wait to watch the best back row in Super Rugby ply their trade again.
The frightening back row combination of Ardie Savea, Du'Plessis Kirifi and Vaea Fifita set the platform for that win against the Brumbies and will do the same again here. Add to that, my concerns over outside half Josh Ioane, the Highlanders midfield in defence, their stand out player Frizzell being rested, playing Jackson Hemopo out of position at six and selecting inexperienced props, I would happily take Hurricanes/ Hurricanes at 3/4 with 888.
Hurricanes v Highlanders – Hurricanes/Hurricanes (3/4 888)