The following are previews with betting tips for Round 13 of the 2017 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 19 May
Chiefs v Crusaders
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Prior to their bye last week the Chiefs defeated the Reds 46-17 for their biggest winning margin of the season. Surprisingly for a side that’s 9-1, their biggest margin up to that match was 16 points. This season the Chiefs have looked a frustrated side, lacking in continuity in attack, but in the second half against the Reds they showed signs of what they’re capable of once they started doing the basics well. The infusion of returning players from injury has certainly strengthened the squad. They welcome back Aaron Cruden for this clash.
The Crusaders are now 11-0 after seeing off the Hurricanes 20-12 in Christchurch last week. The result was impressive given the Crusaders had just returned from South Africa and were missing Sam Whitelock and Kieran Read. The Crusaders had scored 40+ points in their previous six fixtures but this win came on the back of their airtight defence, which kept the Hurricanes tryless for the first time since February 2014. The Crusaders also dominated the Hurricanes at the scrum, with their forwards dominance enabling them to keep the Hurricanes’ backline quiet. The Crusaders welcome back captain Sam Whitelock for this fixture. In a rotation of halfbacks, Bryn Hall gets the start this week with Mitchell Drummond starting from the bench.
Betting: this fixture is being played at a neutral venue in Fiji. The two sides played at this venue last year, which the Chiefs won 23-13. Once again the Crusaders are facing a side much fresher than themselves, but as we saw last week, the travel doesn’t seem to adversely affect them. The Chiefs have won six of their last seven against the Crusaders, including the last four, but the Crusaders have been far more consistent than the Chiefs this season. I think it will be close so I will back both the Chiefs 1-12 at 3.50 (bet365) at and the Crusaders 1-12 at 3.10 (Ladbrokes). Eleven of the last fifteen clashes between the two have been settled by 1-12 points.
Saturday, 20 May
Stormers v Blues
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Prior to their bye last week the Stormers finished their tour of hell in New Zealand with a 22-41 defeat to the Hurricanes. The scores were 22-22 at the 52-minute mark and 22-27 after 73 minutes, but the Hurricanes found another gear in the final 8 minutes to finish the Stormers off. After starting the season with a 6-0 run the Stormers have now lost their last 4 straight. The good news is their overseas travels are complete for the regular season, but a shot at the first overall seed now looks remote. My concern for them is they don’t have the goods to beat the top teams. The Stormers are 5-0 against sides in the bottom half of the table but 1-4 against teams in the top half. The overseas tour took its toll on the squad, with flyhalf Robert du Preez the latest casualty after he tore a pectoral muscle against the Hurricanes. Centre Dan du Plessis and flanker Cobus Wiese are both out for the next four months. In better news, centre Damian de Allende and winger Seabelo Senatla both returned to full training after lengthy lay-offs. Locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit have recovered from minor niggles and have been named in the starting line up.
The Ioane brothers continue to have a strong season as the Blues defeated the Cheetahs 50-32 last week to stay within touch of the Highlanders in the race for the final playoff spot in the Australasian Group. They made the Cheetahs miss a lot of tackles but the visitors’ set pieces worked well against the Blues, which is a bad sign leading into this fixture. The win extends the Blues’ lopsided runs of 13-1-1 against foreign teams and 0-10 against Kiwi opponents. The Blues welcome back Sonny Bill Williams from injury.
Betting: the Stormers are the only side to get a win against New Zealand opposition this season. The last five games between the two were all settled by 1-12 points so this should be close. I would back both the Stormers 1-12 at 3.60 (Ladbrokes) and the Blues 1-12 at 3.60 (Ladbrokes).
Hurricanes v Cheetahs
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The Hurricanes’ six-game winning streak came to an end last week when they fell 12-20 to the Crusaders in slippery conditions in Christchurch. The Crusaders put on a clinic on how to keep the Hurricanes backline quiet, with their dominant forwards display denying the Barrett brothers the opportunity to impose themselves. The Hurricanes’ scrum also took a hiding and their lineout let them down, so they will certainly be hoping to get Dane Coles back soon. The Hurricanes have named a reshuffled squad for this clash, with one of four changes seeing Beauden Barrett shift to fullback and Otere Black start at fly-half.
The Cheetahs’ defence continues to be terrible as they let in eight tries in their 32-50 defeat to the Blues last week. The Cheetahs missed 24 tackles to the Blues’ four, which is an ominous statistic given they’re now taking on the famed Hurricanes’ back line.
Betting: the Hurricanes should win this comfortably. The last time they lost a game they thrashed the Highlanders by 26 points a week later. With that in mind I would back the Hurricanes -18.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.36 (Sportsbet). No over/under market has been published at the time of writing, but the last four fixtures between the two have been high scoring affairs, with 97, 85, 73 and 87 points scored. The Cheetahs’ last three fixtures coming into this clash were all against Kiwi teams and resulted in 69, 86 and 82 points. Keep these numbers in mind if the total is south of 69.5.
Confidence: medium-low – I wish I could get better odds. You might find better value in the total score market once it is released.
Force v Highlanders
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The Force finished their overseas tour on a high after upsetting the Jaguares 16-6 in Argentina. They kept their hosts scoreless up until the final quarter and scored two late tries to seal the win despite starting as 15.5 point underdogs. The Force will be aiming to win consecutive games for the first time since Round 13 in 2014. Since then the Force have gone 0-10 on the back of a win. The injury-hit side is set to receive a number of reinforcements this week, with Matt Hodgson, Luke Morahan and Tatafu Polata-Nau set to return. Jermaine Ainsley, Matt Philip and reserve Michael Ruru are also a chance of returning.
For the second straight week the Highlanders left it late before beating a South African opponent away from home. They saw off the Bulls 17-10 last week in poor conditions, with the Bulls shooting themselves in the foot, it has to be said. Nevertheless the Highlanders are on a seven-game winning streak and face three Australian teams in their last four fixtures, so they now find themselves eyeing up a higher playoff seeding despite their 1-3 start to the campaign. All Blacks winger Waisake Naholo is suspended this week.
Betting: the Force are good in scrappy games where they drag mistakes out of their opposition. They’ve only been defeated by 10+ margins twice this season, with the Lions, Blues and Chiefs only beating them by 9-points. One of those 10+ defeats was to the all-conquering Crusaders in Christchurch and the other was to the Sharks in Durban in a game where the referee did them no favours. The Highlanders’ four away wins this season have been by 4, 5, 4 and 7 point margins, so I would back the Force +17.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.50 (Sportsbet).
Sunwolves v Sharks
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Prior to their bye last week the Sunwolves covered the bookmaker’s line with ease when they fell 39-46 to the Jaguares in Argentina. The two sides traded tries throughout the game and the Sunwolves actually held the lead for the majority of the match. This was on the back of their surprisingly competitive 7-point defeat to the Chiefs. While they have been thrashed by the Hurricanes, Highlanders and Crusaders, the Sunwolves have been competitive in their other six defeats this season.
The Sharks will be reeling from their 32-35 defeat to the Kings last week in a seesawing game. The Jaguares’ defeat means they still hold a large lead in the race for the third African Group playoff spot, but the Sharks will nevertheless be seething. The upside is the Durban side is 6-0 on the back of their last six regular season draws or defeats.
Betting: this game is being played in Singapore so the Sunwolves won’t get the same vocal support and atmosphere as they get in Tokyo. The Sharks are 8-1-1 as the favourite over the last 12 months while the Sunwolves are 1-13 as the underdog. I think the visitors will win but I back the Sunwolves to keep it close, they only lost by 11 points in Durban last season. I would back the Sunwolves +18.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.41 (William Hill).
Sunday, 21 May
Lions v Bulls
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The Lions return to South Africa after winning all three tour games in Australia. They had to dig deep to get past the stubborn Brumbies but the 13-6 win was a tribute to the Lions’ self-belief and character. The result highlighted a lack of depth in the front row, however. The Lions rotated out their starting front row last week and didn’t really get going until they brought their usual starters in as substitutes in the second half. The Lions have now won their last eight straight games and the Stormers’ recent demise means they enjoy a sizable lead at the top of the South African Group.
The Bulls seemed to do everything in their power to lose last week. They turned down a number of kicks for goal, including one at 10-all in front of the posts, despite the game being played in poor conditions. The Highlanders had a player red carded in the 64th minute but had the final say with a 76th minute try after Rudolph Snyman got himself red carded in the 73rd minute. The game seemed to sum up the Bulls season really. To add insult to injury, Syman has been suspended for four weeks for his red card offence. The Bulls have since announced they have instituted a turnaround plan to improve their performances on and off the field, which will involve “embarking on wide-ranging consultation”.
Betting: the Bulls have been poor this season and they have a dreadful 1-6 away record (2-5 at the line) over the last 12 months. The Lions meanwhile are undefeated at home over the past year. Six of the Lions’ last eight home games have been won by 8+ points so I would back the Lions -7.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.40 (Sportsbet).
Kings v Brumbies
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Lionel Cronje starred as the Kings upset the Sharks 35-32 last week to mark their first ever win over a South African opponent. The Port Elizabeth side is now on a three-game winning streak. As I wrote last week, there seems to be a fantastic vibe within the squad despite their likely axing from the competition. The team spirit has translated into results as they now look to claim a fourth straight scalp after being installed as the underdog.
The Brumbies were condemned to their fourth straight defeat when they fell 6-13 to the Lions in Canberra last week. They have now gone 210 minutes of Super Rugby without scoring a try. The Brumbies certainly had their chances against the Lions, but handling errors and ill-discipline stymied their opportunities as the Brumbies wasted their territorial and possession advantage. They can take positives from that result, however. The Brumbies kept the Lions scoreless in the first half and only conceded 13 points. They now face a tricky fixture against a side they will be expected to beat but is full of confidence.
Betting: the only previous meeting between the two resulted in a 28-28 draw in Canberra in 2013. Given the Brumbies simultaneously boast one of the best defensive records in the competition (21 points per game) and one of the worst offensive records (20 points per game), I expect this will be close. I would back both the Kings 1-12 at 3.60 (Ladbrokes) and the Brumbies 1-12 at 3.25 (Ladbrokes).
Waratahs v Rebels
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Prior to their bye last week the Waratahs fell 33-40 to the Blues in Sydney after trailing 0-26 at halftime. While the second half comeback to snatch a point was admirable, the ill-disciplined, error-ridden first half performance was inexcusable. Defence continues to be the biggest issue, with the Waratahs currently conceding 33 points per game. They continue to say all the right things off the pitch but persistently fail to deliver an 80-minute performance on it.
The Rebels will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing 24-29 home defeat to the Reds last week which saw them slide to 1-1-8 for the year. The scoreline was close throughout the match due to the penalty kicking efforts of Reece Hodge, but in the end the Rebels were outscored 5 tries to 2 at home. This follows disappointing performances against the Kings and Lions. The Rebels have been dismal on offence this season, averaging just 14 points per game, compared to the competition average of 27 points. There’s a decent chance some of their recent woes is due to the ARU’s poor handling of the downsizing of the Australian conference. Rebels assistant coach Morgan Turinui has said that some of the players are suffering from mental health issues due to the stress caused by the uncertainty over their playing future. The Rebels now face the Waratahs in the first of four straight domestic clashes as they try to salvage something from what could be their last season.
Betting: I expect the Waratahs will win this but I’m not prepared to back them at the -12.5 line given the Rebels won their last visit to Sydney and the last four meetings were all settled by 10 points or less. I would back the Rebels +18.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.40 (Sportsbet).
Best Bet of the Round
Back the Force +17.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.50 (Sportsbet).