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Preview of Super Rugby round 1

NZN 22/02/2017 Melissa Woods

Preview of Super Rugby round one (all times AEDT):

THURSDAY, Feb 23

Melbourne Rebels v Blues at AAMI Park, Melbourne 19.45pm

Head to Head: Played 5 Blues 3 Rebels 2

In Melbourne: Rebels 2 Blues 0

Last clash: Round 10, 2016, Blues 36 bt Rebels 30 at Auckland

The Melbourne Rebels have won their past four season openers and have a strong chance to make it five, coming up against an understrength Blues. However, the Rebels have again been hit hard by injury missing NRL signing Marika Koroibete, as well as injured Wallabies Sefa Naivalu, Sean McMahon, James Hanson and Toby Smith. The Blues are missing Jerome Kaino, Patrick Tuipulotu and Sonny Bill Williams but with three All Blacks on the bench they should come home strong.

Tab Sportsbet: Rebels $2.45 Blues $1.55

Tip: Blues by 7 points

FRIDAY, Feb 24

Highlanders v Chiefs at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin17:35

Head to Head: Played 28 Chiefs 15 Highlanders 13

In Dunedin: Highlanders 7 Chiefs 7

Last clash: Round 17, 2016, Highlanders 25 bt Chiefs 15 at Dunedin

Tab Sportsbet: Highlanders $1.63 Chiefs $2.30

Tip: Highlanders by 5 points

Reds v Sharks at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane21:00

Head to Head: Played 18 Reds 9 Sharks 9

In Brisbane: Reds 6 Sharks 3

Last clash: Round 15, 2015 Sharks 21 bt Reds 14 at Brisbane

The Reds only managed three wins for the 2016 season but should take a stride towards beating this record with a win over the Sharks. They have one of the best set pieces in the competition and adding George Smith and Scott Higginbotham to that mix as well as returning playmaker Quade Cooper, they should be firing across the park. The Sharks scraped into the 2016 finals and have a ton of young talent but the Reds should prove too strong at home.

Tab Sportsbet: Reds $1.55 Sharks $2.45

Tip: Reds by 13 points

SATURDAY, Feb 25

Sunwolves v Hurricanes at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo at 15:15

Head to Head: Played 0

Tab Sportsbet: Sunwolves $15.00 Hurricanes $1.01

Tip: Hurricanes by 22 points

Crusaders v Brumbies at AMI Stadium, Christchurch17:35

Head to Head: Played 23 Crusaders 15 Brumbies 8

In Christchurch: Crusaders 9 Brumbies 2

Last clash: Round 9, 2016 Crusaders 40 bt Brumbies 14 at Canberra.

The Brumbies have lost more than 700 games in Super Rugby experience from their squad and this could be the start of a long, tough season. They are lacking an established halves pairing although injury to Puma Tomas Cubelli could be a good thing for the Wallabies with Joe Powell expected to start at No.9 alongside unheralded Kiwi Wharenui Hawera . No All Blacks skipper Kieran Read but the Crusaders should have too much class.

Tab Sportsbet: Crusaders $1.15 Brumbies $5.50

Tip: Crusaders by 8 points

Waratahs v Western Force at Allianz Stadium, Sydney19:45

Head to Head: Played 16 Waratahs 10 Force 5 Draws 1

In Sydney: Waratahs 3 Force 3 Draw 1

Last clash: Round 9, 2016 Waratahs 49 bt Force 13 at Perth

Playing in Sydney seems to hold no fears for the Force and they have been bolstered by former Tahs hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau as well as exciting NRL back Curtis Rona, who is a noted tryscorer. They also have a new coach in Dave Wessels. The Waratahs have turned over some key talent and could be vulnerable if five-eighth Bernard Foley doesn't recover from a head knock from their final trial match to play. If he does his side, anchored by their strong scrum, should open with a win.

Tab Sportsbet: Waratahs $1.14 Force $5.65

Tip: Waratahs by 13 points

Sunday Feb 26

Cheetahs v LionsFree State Stadium, at Bloemfontein0:05

Head to Head: Played 14 Cheetahs 5 Lions 9

In Bloemfontein: Cheetahs 3 Lions 4

Last clash: Round 4, 2016, Lions 39 bt Cheetahs 22 at Johannesburg

Tab Sportsbet: Cheetahs $3.75 Lions $1.27

Tip: Lions by 9 points

Kings v Jaguares at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth 02:15

Head to Head: Played 2 Kings 1 Jaguares 1

In Port Elizabeth: Kings 1 Jaguares 0

Last clash: Round 14, 2016, Kings 29 bt Jaguares 22 at Port Elizabeth

Tab Sportsbet: Kings $4.35 Jaguares $1.22

Tip: Jaguares by 7 points

Stormers v Bulls at DHL Newlands, Cape Town 04:30

Head to Head: Played 26 Stormers 15 Bulls 10 Draw 1

In Cape Town: Stormers 9 Bulls 3 Draw 1

Last clash: Round 13, 2016, Bulls 17 bt Stormers 13 at Pretoria

Tab Sportsbet: Stormers $1.55 Bulls $2.45

Tip: Stormers by 5 points

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