The following are previews with betting tips for Round 9 of the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 13 April
Hurricanes v Chiefs
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It took an 85th minute try from Ngani Laumape to do so, but the Hurricanes saw off the Sharks 38-37 last week to extend their winning streak to five games. The Sharks dominated most of the fixture but the Hurricanes showed great character, poise and opportunism in their come-from-behind win. They will back themselves to make it 6 in a row, knowing they have won 7 of their last 8 home fixtures against Kiwi opposition. In team news, fly-half Beauden Barrett is expected to return however halfback TJ Perenara is in doubt.
The Chiefs continue to win despite their injury toll. They also continue to find a way to close out tight fixtures after they saw off the Blues 21-19 last week. They trailed for the majority of the contest but their composure each week is a nod to the leadership and belief within the squad. In mixed injury news Damian McKenzie is in doubt for this clash, while Brad Weber and Charlie Ngatai could return.
Betting: both sides lost their opening fixture before going on a 5-0 run, but the Hurricanes have a two-point lead courtesy of their additional bonus points. I’m on the fence regarding the margin for this fixture. Only 3 of the last 17 meetings between the two were settled by 13+ points, however both of the Chiefs’ 2 away defeats over the last 12 months were by 13+ margins. I will simply back the Hurricanes in the head-to-head at 1.30 (CrownBet).
Saturday, 14 April
Sunwolves v Blues
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The Sunwolves left their defence at home last week as they were beaten 29-50 by the Waratahs to slump to 0-6 for the season. Despite making some interesting overseas signings during the off-season they don’t appear to have the cattle to compete this season. Their line-out is a massive liability, which will not have gone unnoticed by the rest of the competition.
The Blues’ winless streak against domestic opposition extended to 14 games after they fell 19-21 to the Chiefs last week. They’re often competitive but don’t have the ability to close out tight matches, with their 3 defeats to Kiwi opposition this season all coming by 7 points or less. The worrying sign is last season they went 7-2 against overseas opponents but this year they have gone 1-2. On paper the Blues should be too strong for the Sunwolves, but they somehow lost this fixture 21-48 last year.
Betting: this has high scoring written all over it. No totals markets have been published at the time of writing, but this could easily go north of 70 points. If I were to bet on this fixture I would back the Blues 13+ at 1.48 (bet365). Their previous defeat to the Sunwolves was the last fixture of the season, so I will put that result down to a lack of motivation. The Blues should be looking to make amends for that embarrassment.
Rebels v Jaguares
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Prior to their bye last week the Rebels were crushed 19-50 at home by the Hurricanes in the first trans-Tasman clash of the season. In a similar fashion to the Rebels’ defeat to the Waratahs, the Rebels actually led by 11 points at one stage but were blown away by 42 unanswered points from the Hurricanes. Amanaki Mafi had a colossal game until he had to leave the field with a concussion. The Rebels are notably weaker without him so the timing of last week’s bye was perfect.
After spending six weeks at home the Jaguares now commence a four-game tour of Australia and New Zealand. They had mixed results at home, winning 2 and losing 3. Last week in their 14-40 defeat to the Crusaders they had a good amount of possession and opportunities but could not finish them off. They also paid the price for poor discipline. The Jaguares won both fixtures in Australia last season, including a win in Melbourne, but based on current form they will be up against it this week.
Betting: the Jaguares won this fixture 32-29 last season, but the Rebels this season are far superior to 2017. If I had to bet at the line I would lean towards taking the Rebels -11.0, but I’m content to just take them in the head-to-head at 1.25 (CrownBet).
Highlanders v Brumbies
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Prior to their bye last week the Highlanders lost fly-half Lima Sopoaga to injury in the 2nd minute and fell 22-27 to the Chiefs in a tense match in Waikato to slide to 3-2 for the season. They will probably feel they let one get away but they did pick up a valuable bonus point. So far this season the the Highlanders have won every home fixture and lost every away fixture. Lima Sopoaga’s injury looked serious at first, but he is a chance of returning this week.
The Brumbies recovered from a 15-point deficit to see off the Reds 45-21 last week. It was their first win of the season against an Australian opponent and rugby fans in Canberra will hope it serves as a turning point in their season. Having David Pocock back in the side certainly helps, as was evident last week. The Brumbies now take on the first of three consecutive overseas opponents.
Betting: the Highlanders have a 7-0 home record over the last 12 months and the Kiwi teams went undefeated against Australian sides last season, so presuming Lima Sopoaga plays, I expect the Highlanders will win. They’ve won their last 3 against the Brumbies, but none of those wins were by more than 13 points. For this fixture I’m inclined to back both the Highlanders in the head-to-head at 1.15 (William Hill) and the Brumbies +21.5 at 1.41 (William Hill).
Waratahs v Reds
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The Waratahs return home from Tokyo where they saw off the Sunwolves 50-29. Defensively it was a poor performance but they will be pleased to have picked up maximum points which sees them move to withing a point of the conference-leading Rebels.
The Reds dominated the opening exchanges against the Brumbies last week and led 15-0 at one stage before a yellow card helped the Brumbies to claw their way back into the game and run out 45-21 winners. It was a bruising contest that could have implications for this week, with captain Scott Higginbotham picking up a calf injury and Ben Lucas undergoing concussion protocols after being knocked out.
Betting: the Waratahs have won their last 7 against the Reds and with the visitors limping into this fixture on the back of a bruising contest, I would back the Waratahs in the head-to-head at 1.32 (William Hill, Centrebet). For those looking for more risk I would consider the Waratahs -8.5 at the line.
Sunday, 15 April
Sharks v Bulls
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The Sharks started as 22.5 underdogs against the Hurricanes in Napier last week, but gave the hosts an almighty scare before falling 37-38 after conceding an 85th minute try. They dominated most of the game but ill-discipline inside their own half proved costly as the Hurricanes took their opportunities. The Sharks can take heart from their strong performances in New Zealand after two tepid showings in Australia, however. If they can replicate their attacking form from the past two weeks they will be genuine playoff contenders.
Prior to their bye last week the Bulls returned home from their overseas tour and picked up a crucial 33-23 win over the Stormers. It was a well-deserved win as they dominated the set-pieces and breakdown. They were also strong defensively. Under new coach John Mitchell the Bulls are a more entertaining side to watch this season. Their opening two tries came from kicking for the corner rather than opting for penalty kicks – something that was unheard in prior seasons. The Bulls have only the two wins to show for their efforts, but they’ve had an incredibly tough schedule to start the season and are still a chance of making the playoffs.
Betting: the Sharks have only won 1 of the last 8 meetings between the two and have only won 2 of their last 7 home fixtures against the Bulls. I would back the Bulls +9.5 at 1.52 (William Hill, Centrebet).
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