The following are previews with betting tips for Round 1 of the 2018 Super Rugby season. Round 1 only features the South African conference so there are only two fixtures this weekend. If you have not done so already, be sure to check out the 2018 Super Rugby season preview, which contains team-by-team previews and futures betting tips.
Sunday, 18 February
Stormers v Jaguares
View a detailed form guide for Stormers v Jaguares
The Stormers went 10-5 last year but that strong record was aided by the fact that they were in the Africa 1 conference, which featured the 4-11 Bulls, 4-11 Cheetahs and 2-13 Sunwolves. While they were highly consistent at putting weaker sides away, against sides with a winning record they went 1-5 during the regular season. The Stormers have been hit by injuries ahead of this campaign. Lock Pieter-Steph du Toit will miss the start of the season with a back injury while fellow lock Eben Etzebeth is recovering from shoulder and back injuries and isn’t due back until at least May. Tighthead prop Frans Malherbe is sidelined until May while fellow tighthead Michael Kumbirai is recovering from a back injury. In the backs, fly-half Jean-Luc du Plessis is out until at least Round 4 with a hip injury.
The Jaguares burst out of the gates with a 4-1 run at the start of last season then slumped badly with a 1-7 run before finishing the campaign with two wins following the international break. As always, they have to overcome the horrific travel schedule this year, which likely contributed to their mid-season woes in 2017. Another issue is ill-discipline. The side averaged over 10 penalties per match and over one yellow card per game last year. The Jaguares fielded a full strength squad and lost 12-21 to the Bulls in Pretoria in pre-season, but they will be better for that hit out.
Betting: the Stormers and Jaguares have only played twice before, which the Stormers won by 5 points away in 2016 and by 7 points at home in 2017. With the home side limping into this fixture with injuries and the Jaguares not yet fatigued by their accumulated mileage, I will back the Jaguares +12.5 at 1.59 (William Hill). Only 1 of the Jaguares’ 4 away defeats last season was by more than 7 points. They went 4-1 at the line as the away underdog and are 8.5 underdogs at the time of writing. If you want to be more aggressive, a higher odds selection is the Stormers 1-12 at 3.00 (Ladbrokes).
Lions v Sharks
View a detailed form guide for Lions v Sharks
The Lions come into 2018 on the back of their best ever campaign in which they went 14-1 during the regular season and were tournament finalists. They didn’t have to play a single New Zealand team during the regular season, however, and the side has since lost head coach Johan Ackermann, flanker Ruan Ackermann and scrum-half Faf de Klerk.
Despite the departures of fly-half Pat Lambie and halfback Cobus Reinach the Sharks still boast a strong squad, featuring over a dozen players capped for the Springboks. They boast a strong forward pack and should be competitive in the South African conference. The Sharks have a few injury headaches ahead of the season. Scrumhalf Louis Schreuder is out for 4-6 weeks, centre Jeremy Ward is out for 8 weeks, flanker Jean-Luc du Preez is due back sometime in March while Coenie Oosthuizen is expected to miss the entire season.
Betting: my tip mirrors the Stormers v Jaguares fixture. The Lions have won their last six straight against the Sharks but the last meeting was settled by just 2 points. The Sharks had a 7-1 line record away from home last season and went 5-0 at the line as the away underdog. Four of the last five home wins for the Lions over the Sharks were by 1-12 points. I will back the Sharks +12.5 at 1.52 (William Hill). For more risk & reward you can instead opt for the Lions 1-12 at 3.00 (Ladbrokes).