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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Lions may not be able to shake off Los Jaguares

Johannesburg outfit have lost last two games in Buenos Aires

Argentina skipper Agustin Creevy is the fulcrum of Los Jaguares pack
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Los Jaguares v Lions
Sky Sports Mix, 9.40pm Saturday 

Los Jaguares are once again proving infuriatingly inconsistent but they could be value with an eight-point start at home to the Lions.

The Lions have lost their previous two meetings with Los Jaguares in Buenos Aires 36-24 and 34-22 and they jet straight back to South Africa for battles with the Crusaders and Stormers to complete an eight-week stretch of matches.

The back-to-back runners-up have also conceded at least three tries in every game this season, including their round two 47-27 win over Los Jaguares and their 49-35 success at the Bulls, so for all their attacking quality sustained intensity looks an issue. 

The Lions have undoubtedly become decent travellers in recent seasons. Apart from the 2016 final to the Hurricanes in Wellington, their only road defeats in 14 outings have come in the Argentinian capital and one of those came when they had already secured their berth in the knockout phase.

However, last season outside South Africa, as well as running riot at the Rebels, the Lions secured narrow successes at the Brumbies and Force.

After opening up with respectable efforts in defeat at the Stormers and Lions, Los Jaguares have endured dire reverses to the Hurricanes and the Reds. But inbetween they walloped the Waratahs 38-28 and the Tahs only put late respectability on the scoreline. 

Los Jaguares +8
1pt 10-11 general

Stormers v Reds
Sky Sports Action, 3.15pm Saturday

The Reds turned over Los Jaguares in Buenos Aires last Saturday and showers are forecast for Cape Town but the Stormers still look worth a bet to give up 11 points.

The Stormers enjoyed their return to Newlands last week after a tough antipodean tour, beating the Blues 37-20 a week after the Aucklanders had stunned back-to-back runners-up the Lions in their Ellis Park den.

The Stormers won the teams' last meeting in the Mother City 40-22 and have prevailed in 14 of their last 19 home games.

Before their 18-7 win in Argentina, the Reds had lost 16 of their previous 17 away days and 13 by a margin of 13 points or more.

Stormers -11
1pt 10-11 Betfair, Paddy Power, Sky Bet

Sunwolves v Chiefs
Sky Sports Action 4.15am Saturday

The Sunwolves showed again that they know what to do with the ball in hand in their 40-38 defeat at the Lions to last Saturday but their defensive structures are clearly still struggling and the Chiefs should prove too good in Tokyo.

A 22-point handicap may be on the big side for the Waikato outfit though, who were 21-7 down at home to the Bulls before powering on to a 41-28 success, so the best value bet looks to be the Chiefs' All Blacks hooker Nathan Harris to score a try.

The Sunwolves have conceded tries to starting hookers in three of their four games and Harris, who has two tries in 11 Test appearances, loves to get involved in rolling mauls off close-range lineouts and appear out wide on the wing in multi-phase play.

The Chiefs pack were at the heart of their comeback against the Bulls so it would be no surprise if they kept attacks tight to gain an advantage and then flung the ball around as the game progressed.

N Harris to score a try
1pt 8-5 Betfred

Hurricanes v Highlanders
Sky Sports Action, 6.35am Saturday

The Hurricanes and Highlanders should be so confident after their recent home wins over the champion Crusaders that not even the forecast showers in Wellington put a dampner on this cracker.

The Canes to give up five points looks the bet. They have had a bye week since beating the Crusaders 29-19 whereas the Landers have to back-up their 25-17 success and are yet to play away from Dunedin this campaign.

Last season, the Highlanders lost 41-15 at the Westcap in round four and they lost their previous two regular season visits to the Kiwi capital 27-20 and 56-20.

Inbetween those last two results, the Landers won the 2015 final at the Cake Tin but all the pressure was on the Hurricanes on that occasion and they bounced back to win the 2016 prize with the perfect mixture of grit and style and like so many other teams in recent times ran out of steam up on the high veldt against the Lions in last year's semi-final.

As well as their win over the Crusaders, the Canes bounced back from the rude awakening of a loss to the Bulls in Pretoria with a crisp 34-9 win over Los Jaguares in Buenos Aires.

The Highlanders extricated themselves from trouble in round two against the Blues and round four against the Stormers but are unlikely to be able to do so again if the Canes get a foothold.

Hurricanes -5
2pts 10-11 general

Crusaders v Bulls
Sky Sports Action 6.35am Friday

Bookmakers are convinced that Super Rugby champions the Crusaders will return to winning ways in good style against the Bulls in Christchurch.

The Pretoria outfit get up to a 21-point start and while they began their campaign with a worthy home success over the Hurricanes, they were then walloped at Loftus Versfeld by local South African rivals the Lions and have lost the first two matches of their antipodean tour at the Reds and Chiefs.

The Reds are a humdrum side and the Crusaders began their season with back-to-back try-bonus triumphs over the Chiefs and the Stormers. And in defeat to the Canes and Highlanders, at least they have continued to look decent in attack.

Have a bet on George Bridge to score two or more tries. The Crusaders left wing has four tries this term, including a brace against the Stormers, and last year, although he did not cross in a 62-24 win at Loftus Versfeld, he claimed two hat-tricks in a debut-season haul of eight.

G Bridge to score two or more tries
1pt 5-2 Betfair, BoyleSports

Rebels v Sharks
Sky Sports Action 8.45am Friday

it was all going so well for the Rebels last week in Sydney.

They were 20-7 up in search of a fourth straight win. Then the defensive wheels came off and they were walloped 51-27 by the Waratahs.

The Sharks are tempting with a seven-point start in Melbourne but they started slowly in defeat at the Brumbies last week, are not always maximising plenty of enterprising play and are without free-scoring left-wing Makazole Mapimpi.

Sbu Nkosi comes back in on the Sharks' right wing at AAMI Park and he is worth a wager to score a 12th try in 20 Super Rugby and Currie Cup outings.

S Nkosi to score a try
1pt 7-5 bet365, BoyleSports

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The back-to-back runners-up have also conceded at least three tries in every game this season, including their round two 47-27 win over Los Jaguares
E.W. Terms
Sky bet