Super Rugby 2019: Blues vs Bulls
Venue: Eden Park, Aukland (NZ)
Date: Friday 31st May 2019
The teams have met six times since 2010 with the home team winning four of those matches and losing two. The home team has won three on the trot in the series, with the Blues beating the Bulls in Auckland twice in the span, 23-18 in 2015 and 38-14 in 2017.
Neither side comes into this game in any kind of form. The Blues have been particularly bad as of late, with their sole win in their last six games coming against the Chiefs in Round 14. Their biggest problem has been their inability score points as they have broken the 20 point barrier just twice over the course of those six games. The Blues are currently at the bottom of the New Zealand Conference.
The Bulls have not played well as of late either. They are an even 50% over their last six games, winning three and losing three. This slump in form has seen them needing to win out to make the playoffs, an unlikely prospect after a brutal 22-10 defeat by the Brumbies in Australia last time out. The Bulls have seven wins and six defeats for the season.
The one positive for the Blues in terms of their form is that they were impressive, albeit low scoring, as they suffered a 19-11 defeat at the hands of the Crusaders in Christchurch last time out. With a game in hand on the two teams directly above them, it is not out of the question that the Blues could make a late playoff surge if they can pick up a win at home here.
The Blues also have the benefit here of being reasonably healthy this late into the season. James Parsons’ back injury was not as bad as was first feared and Karl Tu’inukafe is expected to return this week after a viral infection. Sonny Bill Williams may also be making his return to the side.
The Bulls have been one of the most frustrating teams to watch in the competition this season. Wildly inconsistent, their inability to put a good string of results together leaves them fighting for their playoff lives in a country where they historically don’t play well.
Their two games against New Zealand opposition this season have both been blowouts, with the Chiefs and Crusaders winning by an average of 34 points. The Bulls have now not won in New Zealand since 2013. With this in mind, the Blues winning by 21-25 points at 8.50 or 26-30 points at 13.00 are intriguing bet options.
Their task this week will not be helped by a trio of injuries that any team would struggle to contend with. Internationals Duane Vermeulen, Jesse Kriel, and Handre Pollard are all back in South Africa having suffered knocks either before or during the current tour.
It is hard to see anything other than a convincing win by the home team here. The Blues might be prone to mental mistakes more than any other side in the comp, but the injuries the Bulls have to contend with leave them far too undermanned to take advantage of those lapses.
Look for the Blues to win convincingly, covering the 9.5-point spread at odds of 0.85.