Rebels v Southern Kings – Sky Sports 3, 10.40am
The Rebels bounced back from their nightmare tour of South Africa with a win over the Force in Perth last Saturday but they are unlikely to find matters all that easy back home in Melbourne against the Kings.
Super rugby’s newest franchise stunned the Brumbies with their last-minute converted try for a 28-28 draw in Canberra eight days ago and they worried the Hurricanes in Wellington for a long time a fortnight ago before losing 46-30.
The Kings also claimed 20 points despite shipping 55 to the Crusaders in Christchurch three weeks ago and, before embarking on their trans-Tasman tour, they claimed 24 in a Port Elizabeth defeat to the champion Chiefs.
Indeed, back the Kings to score 23 or more points at AAMI Stadium at 5-6 with Ladbrokes because their fly-half Demetri Catrakilis has been potting penalties for fun and the Rebels have been one of the most indisciplined outfits on the park (ignoring of course, their alleged off-field internal bust-ups) this season.
The Rebels may also be frustrated in their ambitions to run the ball from the off through Wallaby wonder James O’Connor at fly-half by lingering wet and windy weather.
In contrast, the Kings will be content to use their forwards as a springboard for possession and territory and bide their time to present opportunities for the sprightly Andries Strauss, Sergeal Petersen and Ronnie Cooke.
The Rebels have c0nceded 23 points or more in all seven of their previous matches this season including their two wins over the Force.
Southern Kings to score 23 or more points 1pt 5-6 Ladbrokes
Rebels: R Kingi; J Woodward, M Inman, R Sidey, C Vuna; J O’Connor, N Phipps; N Henderson, G Robinson, P Alo-Emile; H Pyle, C Neville; L Jones, S Fugistaller, S Higginbotham. Replacements: S Horie, L Weeks, J Reid, J Saffy, N Stirzaker, L Mitchell, A Roberts.
Southern Kings: G Whitehead; S Petersen, W Murray, A Strauss, R Cooke; D Catrakilis, S Venter; S Fereira, H Franklin, G Kemp; S Sykes, R Bernado; D Oosthuizen, W van der Walt, C Du Preez. Replacements: B Maku, K Buys, D Bulbring, J Engelbrecht, N Vergallo, M Sampson, S S Soyizwapi.
Force v Crusaders – Sky Sports 3, 12.40pm
A humid evening is forecast for Perth.
And the Crusaders’ two games in South Africa over the last fortnight were frugal, forward-dominated affairs.
However, a bet on 48 or more points at nib Stadium, at 5-6 with Ladbrokes, could prove profitable.
A static, abrasive game will do neither side any good.
The Force need to entertain their fans as they are not getting any results while the Crusaders are in danger of slipping off the pace in the play-off race.
Sure the red and black machine have games against the Highlanders and Rebels at home in Christchurch coming up over the next fortnight. But then they go the Brumbies before likely tough battles with the Blues, Chiefs and Waratahs. And there is a second crunch clash with the champion Chiefs to come to.
Last Saturday at nib, the Rebels beat the Force 30-23 and even though Dan Carter’s return from paternity leave has been delayed by a hamstring strain, class acts in the Crusaders backline Israel Dagg, Tom Marshall and Robbie Fruean will be primed to exploit the likely defensive deficiencies of a new-look Force back division.
Hugh McMeniman’s shoulder injury robs the Force of their most potent front-five weapon too.
But the Crusaders may not have it all their own way in the forwards as Mat Todd and Sam Whitlock join Kieran Read and Richie McCaw on the sidelines (through coach Todd Blackadder’s choice) and the Force boast a back-row trio that have all played for the Wallabies in Ben McCalman, Matt Hodgson and Richard Brown.
Force winger Alfie Mafi has five tries to his name this season for all their struggles while centre Kyle Godwin crossed for one of the Force’s tries in last year’s week 18 38-24 defeat in Christchurch. The 2011 week 11 meeting in Perth finished 42-30 to the Crusaders.
More than 47.5 points 1pt 5-6 Ladbrokes
Force: J Hayward; A Mafi, S Rasolea, K Godwin, E Stubbs; S Norton-Knight, A Mathewson; P Cowan, H Tessmann, S Ma’afu; T Lynn, S Wykes; B McCalman, M Hodgson, R Brown. Replacements: B Whittaker, T Faulkner, R Walton, C Alcock, M Snowden, S Ebersohn, P Dellit.
Crusaders: I Dagg; A Whitelock, R Fruean, R Crotty, T Marshall; T Bleyendaal, A Ellis; W Crockett, C Flynn, O Franks; L Romano, D Bird; G Whitelock, S Christie, L Whitelock. Replacements: B Funnell, J Moody, T Donnelly, J Taufua, W Heinz, T Veainu, Z Guildford.
Return to racingpost.com from 1pm on Saturday for betting verdicts on the week nine games in South Africa
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