The following are previews with betting tips for Round 8 of the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 6 April
Hurricanes v Sharks
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It took until Round 7 to have our first trans-Tasman clash and it featured Australia’s highest ranked team, but the Hurricanes’ 50-19 thrashing of the Rebels in Melbourne provided a sobering reality check for the relative strength of the Australian conference. It was the Wellington side’s largest win in Australia since 1997. After losing their opening fixture the Hurricanes are now on a 4-game winning streak. If you haven’t done so already, put Ben Lam in your fantasy squad!
The Sharks bounced back from two losses in Australia by seeing off the Blues 63-40 in Auckland last week. Both sides scores six tries but Robert du Preez’s 13 from 13 performance with the boot separated the two sides. The Sharks are now 2-1-3 for the season and given the struggles of the rest of their conference they remain very much in the playoff hunt. They just need to find more consistency.
Betting: going back to 2011 every fixture between the two sides was won by the home team. It’s hard to pick at the 21.5 line given how erratic the Sharks have been. While they have gone 4-1 at the line away from home over the last 12 months, the last time they visited Wellington they were thrashed 41-0. I would back the Hurricanes 13+ at 1.40 (bet365).
Saturday, 7 April
Sunwolves v Waratahs
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Prior to their bye last week the Sunwolves were smashed 10-61 at home by the depleted Chiefs. They had a nightmare with their set-pieces, particularly at the scrum, and offered little resistance to the Waikato side. While they have lost every fixture this season, the scales of their defeats have been highly erratic. The Sunwolves gave the Brumbies and Lions a real scare, but were comfortably beaten by the Rebels and were wiped off the park by the Sharks and Chiefs.
The Waratahs edged out the Brumbies 24-17 last week to move to 3-1-1 for the season. It wasn’t a good quality game but it was a great result given the Waratahs have a poor record in Canberra. One sour note was Bernard Foley’s poor night with the boot gifted the Brumbies a bonus point. The win came at a cost, with Israel Folau ruled out for 4 weeks with a hamstring injury.
Betting: the Sunwolves lost this fixture 12-57 in 2016 but it’s hard to get a read on their current form based on their erratic losing margins. The Waratahs have a 5-2 line record away from home over the last 12 months, so if I were to bet on this fixture I would back the Waratahs 13+ at 1.70 (bet365).
Chiefs v Blues
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The resilient Chiefs continue to defy their injury headaches as they saw off the Highlanders 27-22 in a tense match last week to extend their unbeaten streak to four games. Much like the fixture against the Blues it was a tight contest but the Chiefs showed good finishing ability to see off a dangerous side who had good chances late in the game. It wasn’t the best performance from the Chiefs, who made too many handling errors, but any win over a domestic opponent is a good win.
The Blues and Sharks scored six tries each last week, but the Blues were undone by the boot of Robert du Preez, whose 13 from 13 performance saw the Auckland side fall 40-63 to slide to 1-4 for the season. The Blues are averaging 41 points conceded per game at the moment, which is the leading contributor to their woes. Once again this season the side is performing as less than the sum of its parts.
Betting: the Chiefs have a 6-game winning streak at home against the Blues but 4 of their 5 most recent home wins over the Auckland side were by 1-12 points. I expect the Blues to lift for this clash, but I predict the Chiefs will still be too strong, even if it is by a narrow margin. I would back the Chiefs in the head-to-head at 1.36 (Sportsbet). For those looking for more risk I would take the Chiefs 1-12 at 2.90 (bet365).
Brumbies v Reds
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The Brumbies fell 17-24 at home to the Waratahs last week to slump to 2-3 for the season. They are 0-3 against Australian sides so far this campaign, which is killing their playoff chances. It wasn’t a good quality game either, with Bernard Foley’s errant kicking keeping the scoreline closer, so there’s not much to cheer about in Canberra at the moment. They urgently need to lift their game at the breakdown and set-piece this week, with the Reds performing well in those department this season. As the 15th ranked offense in terms of points scored, the Brumbies also need to work on their attacking setup.
Prior to their bye last week the Reds fell 19-26 to the Stormers in Cape Town. One of the hallmarks of the Reds’ success this season has been their pack strength and defence, but the pack was dominated by the Stormers and the Reds committed numerous penalty infringements on defence. The timing of their bye was perfect as it has allowed them time to re-acclimate and regroup ahead of two key domestic fixtures.
Betting: the Reds have been the better of the two sides this season, however their three most recent trips to Canberra resulted in heavy defeats. I expect this to be close, so I would back both the Brumbies 1-12 at 2.88 (Sporsbet) and the Reds 1-12 at 3.60 (bet365). Keep an eye on Ladbrokes when they release their margin markets. For whatever reason they tend to offer the best odds for 1-12 selections. Also keep an eye on the total score market when it comes out on Saturday. I expect this to be a low scoring affair.
Sunday, 8 April
Lions v Stormers
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After a 3-0 start to the season the Lions have now lost 3 of their last 4, with their recent victory being a 2-point home win over the unfancied Sunwolves. Up until last week it was the Lions’ defence that was their undoing as they had conceded at least 35 points in each of their 4 prior games. Against the Crusaders, however it was their offence that failed to fire as they fell 8-14 at home in a game where the the visitors dominated territory and possession. The Lions did manage to hold the visitors scoreless for 50 minutes, but two quick tries sealed the result. They paid the price for wasting attacking opportunities in dangerous positions and making basic handling mistakes. The Lions must regroup quickly because this clash will either see them build a comfortable lead in the South African conference or allow the Stormers to move to win striking distance. The Lions added to their personnel during the week by signing former Stormers halfback Nicholas Groom from Northampton Saints.
The Stormers missed the opportunity to close the gap on the Lions last week as they fell 23-33 to the Bulls in Pretoria. They were the second best team in most aspects of that game, particularly the set-piece and breakdown. The Stormers have a perfect 3-0 home record but a dismal 0-4 away record for the season.
Betting: the Lions have a 8-1 record as the home favourite over the last 12 months while the Stormers have gone 0-7 away from home as the away underdog. The Lions’ form at the moment is a concern, but if I were to bet on this fixture I would back the Lions in the head-to-head at 1.41 (Palmerbet, Mad Bookie).
Jaguares v Crusaders
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Prior to their bye last week the Jaguares saw off the Lions 49-35 to move to 2-4 for the season. The Jaguares boast a perfect 3-0 home record against the Lions, but this season’s win is the sweetest given it was the first time the Lions sent over their strongest available squad. With the rest of the conference faltering at the moment, the Jaguares are still in playoff contention if they can find some consistency. In team news, Juan Martin Hernandez has announced his retirement after suffering a knee injury last month.
The Crusaders were held scoreless for the first 50 minutes last week, but two quick tries were enough to see off the Lions 14-8 in Johannesburg. While they did dominate territory and possession, it wasn’t a great performance, but they will be pleased to have picked up points in Ellis Park with such a long injury list. This week the Crusaders will look to extend their winning streak against overseas opponents to 14 games.
Betting: the Crusaders have a 6-0 record as the away favourite over the last 12 months but the Jaguares have a better record as the home underdog than they do as the home favourite. The Crusaders are painfully short in the head-to-head market so if I were to bet on this fixture I would back the Crusaders 1-12 at 3.40 (Sportsbet).
Best Bets of the Round