The following are previews with betting tips for Round 8 of the 2017 Super Rugby season.
There has been big news off the field, with SANZAAR confirming that two South African and one Australian team will be cut from the competition next year. It is widely believed that the Cheetahs and Southern Kings will be cut from South Africa while ARU have announced that either the Western Force or Melbourne Rebels will be axed.
Friday, 14 April
Crusaders v Sunwolves
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Prior to their bye last week the Crusaders continued their perfect record by seeing off the Waratahs 41-22 in Sydney. The Waratahs fought back well to make things interesting in the second half, but the Crusaders showed their quality to pull away for a convincing win. With that victory the Crusaders became the first Super Rugby team to win 10 consecutive matches against Australian opposition – a run that includes 5 consecutive wins on Australian soil. The only problem for the Crusaders is they have accumulated just 2 bonus points from 6 games this season. This fixture gives them a good chance of adding to that meager tally.
The Sunwolves picked up their first win of the campaign after they saw off the Bulls 21-20 in Tokyo. The win sparked jubilant celebrations both on the field and in the crowd, with the strong attendance underlining SANZAAR’s decision to keep the Sunwolves in the competition. It was their defence that won them the game, but the Sunwolves did take the opportunities they had and they capitalised well on the sin binning of Jan Serfontein. I say it each week, but the Sunwolves’ horrific start to the season was due to their truncated pre-season. They have since improved markedly and have comfortably covered the line in their last four games.
Betting: the Crusaders should be far too strong but they may be tempted to rotate the squad for this clash. The Sunwolves have had no trouble covering the generous lines of late so I will back the Sunwolves +38.5 at 1.91 (Ladbrokes).
Confidence: medium-low – I’m nervous about taking on the Kiwi teams at the moment
Saturday, 15 April
Reds v Kings
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The Reds went into halftime with the scores locked at 10-all against the Brumbies last week but ended up losing 10-43 after a forgettable second half performance. The Reds were all at sea and under constant pressure in the second spell as the Brumbies ran in 5 tries to nil. The result means they have yet to win since Round 1 and have yet to win away from home since Round 16 in 2015. With a winnable fixture against the Kings this week the Reds will be desperate to end their six-game losing streak ahead of their bye next week.
The Kings started their three-game tour of Australia with a competitive 41-46 defeat to the Force. The Kings led by 13 points in the second half at one stage but couldn’t hold on in a game that defensive aficionados will soon want to forget. The fight to avoid the competition wooden spoon is back on after the Sunwolves’ win last week, so the Kings will be hoping for at least a point this weekend.
Betting: the Kings have gone 6-2 at the line as the road team over the last 12 months while the Reds have gone 2-5 at the line at home. The Kings have yet to lose by more than 5 points away from home this season so I would back the Kings +16.5 at 1.90 (Sportsbet).
Blues v Hurricanes
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The Blues fell 20-26 to the Highlanders in Dunedin last week to extend their lopsided statistics of going 10-1-1 against foreign opponents and 0-9 against New Zealand teams. Last week’s game felt like a replay of the Blues’ Round 3 defeat to the Highlanders in Eden Park, in which their opponents were more physical and treasured possession greater. One positive is that Sonny Bill Williams successfully made his debut for the Blues after recovering from an Achilles tendon injury that has kept him out until now. The Blues’ midfield stocks are now alarmingly strong.
The Hurricanes saw off the Waratahs 38-28 last week in a game of two halves. They raced out to a 21-0 lead inside 12 minutes and led 33-7 at the break, but were second best in the second half as the Waratahs kicked less possession away and tidied up their errors. Hurricanes were lucky not to concede a penalty try late in the game when Beauden Barrett picked up the second of his two yellow cards for a deliberate knockdown. Barrett has escaped any suspension by SANZAAR. Vince Aso, Ardie Savea and Julian Savea return to the starting XV this week. Dane Coles remains out with a sore calf and Matt Proctor is sidelined with a concussion.
Betting: until the Blues can break their poor run of results against Kiwi sides, I’m going to continue to back their compatriots. I would back the Hurricanes in the head-to-head at 1.44 (Ladbrokes). The Blues should make a game of this though, so you might also want to consider the Hurricanes 1-12 at 2.75 (William Hill)
Rebels v Brumbies
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As part of the strange scheduling, some teams haven’t had their first bye yet but the Rebels have already completed both of theirs. Prior to their second bye last week the Rebels put in a dreadful performance and were duly thrashed 51-12 by the Highlanders. On the rare occasion the Rebels did get into the Highlanders’ 22 they too often shot themselves in the foot. The game featured the 5th best team in New Zealand against the 5th best team in Australia, so the result highlighted the gulf in quality between the two conferences. The Rebels sit bottom of the overall standings with just one competition point from five games. Alarmingly, they have both the worst offensive and worse defensive stats in the competition, with 15 point scored per game and 47 points conceded. It will be interesting to see whether the ARU’s announcement that either the Rebels or Force will be axed next season will have an impact on their performances.
The Brumbies extended their winning streak against Australian sides to ten games after they thrashed the Reds 43-10 last week after going into the break 10-10. The Brumbies have struggled offensively this season and have been criticized for relying heavily on the rolling maul but the shackles came off in the second half last week as they ran in five tries. The Brumbies’ last defeat to an Australian team came back in Round 12 of the 2015 season.
Betting: the Brumbies should be too strong, especially if we see a repeat of their second half performance from last week. I would back the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.28 (CrownBet).
Cheetahs v Chiefs
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Prior to their bye last week the Cheetahs put in a poor performance in their 10-53 defeat to the Stormers. The week prior they had been surprisingly competitive against the Sharks and the week before that they were no match for the Jaguares, so it’s fair to say the Cheetahs have been inconsistent this year.
The Chiefs suffered their first defeat of the season last week, losing 26-34 to the Stormers in a highly entertaining game. The Chiefs had a number of chances to score late in the second half but were unable to convert as the Stormers kept them at bay. The Chiefs shouldn’t feel too down about the result given it they were playing away against an undefeated side. If they play to a similar level this week they should see off the Cheetahs comfortably.
Betting: both sides come into this game on the back of a loss but the Chiefs are 4-0 at the line on the back of a defeat over the last 12 months while the Cheetahs are 2-7 at the line on the back of a defeat. I would back the Chiefs -13.5 at 1.90 (William Hill).
Sunday, 16 April
Stormers v Lions
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This is arguably the clash of the round. The Stormers come into this fixture in excellent form, having thrashed the Cheetahs 53-10 in Round 6 and seen off the previously undefeated Chiefs 34-26 last week. The Chiefs’ victory was particularly impressive because up to that point the strongest side the Stormers had faced was the 9th placed Jaguares. The Stormers are now 6-0 for the season but now face their toughest run of fixtures. They take on the 5-1 Lions this week before heading on a three-game tour of New Zealand.
Prior to their bye last week the Lions saw off the spirited Sharks 34-29 in an entertaining game to move to 5-1 for the season. The win extended their unbeaten run at Ellis Park to nine games. The Lions boast the 3rd best offensive record this season but if they are to win the title they will need to tidy up their defence, which is conceding 26.5 points per game. The Lions have been hit by the news that head coach Johan Ackermann will leave the club to coach in England at the end of the season. This is a huge blow because Ackermann has arguably been the best coach in South Africa in recent years.
Bulls v Jaguares
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The Bulls will be hurting after falling 20-21 to the Sunwolves in Tokyo last week to slide to 1-5 for the season. The controversial sin binning of Jan Serfontein didn’t help their cause but the Bulls can only blame themselves for their woes. The late penalty miss by Francois Brummer was the final nail in the coffin. The Bulls currently have the 3rd worst offensive record in the competition as their one-dimensional forwards-dominated approach continues to fail. Astonishingly, this will be only the Bulls’ second home game of the season. Their only previous win came at home so they will be hoping a return to Pretoria will turn their fortunes around.
The Jaguares fell 13-18 to the Sharks in a battle of attrition last week. The Argentinian side is now 4-2 for the season with a 3-0 home record and 1-2 away record. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but ill-discipline continues to be an issue. While the Sánchez yellow last week didn’t prove to be costly, the Jaguares having picked up 8 yellow cards in 6 games this season. Like the Bulls, the Jaguares are much stronger at home than away so this will be a stern test for them.
Betting: the Jaguares are traditionally weak on the road but they can take heart from their competitive performance against the Sharks last week. I expect this to be close so I will back both the Bulls 1-12 at 3.40 (bet365) and the Jaguares 1-12 at 2.88 (Sportsbet). A draw at 25.00 (Betfair) isn’t out of the question.
Best Bets of the Round
Back the Kings +16.5 at 1.90 (Sportsbet)
Back the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.28 (CrownBet)