The following are previews with betting tips for Round 12 of the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 4 May
Chiefs v Jaguares
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Prior to their bye last week the Chiefs put in a strong performance to see off the Reds 36-12 in Brisbane, with most of the damage done in the first half. They are now 6-2 for the season, which incredibly is only enough to sit 4th in the New Zealand conference. They do occupy the 6th seed in the overall standings, however as New Zealand looks on course to have four representatives in the playoffs once again. The timing of the bye was good given Damian McKenzie had to leave the field after failing a concussion test. The extra week off gives him much better opportunity of featuring this week.
The Jaguares picked up their first ever win over a New Zealand team after they rallied from 13-5 down at halftime to beat the Blues 20-13 in wet conditions at Eden Park last week. The performance of their forwards won the game as they dominated the Blues at the set-piece. They also had the better of the territory and possession and conceded half as many penalties as the Blues. The Jaguares are now 3 from 3 on their overseas tour and are 5-2 away from home over the last 12 months, but this week will present their toughest challenge.
Betting: the weather is forecasted to be dry and mild, which will suit the Chiefs better than the Jaguares, who reveled in the wet conditions last week. The Chiefs should win this, but I don’t expect them to have it all their own way. Over the last 12 months they’ve gone 6-1 at home but only 2-5 at the line at home. I’m going to shy away from the -13.5 line for this reason and instead back the Chiefs -6.5 at 1.40 (Sportsbet).
Rebels v Crusaders
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After a promising start to the season the Rebels lost their 4th consecutive game in their 18-34 defeat to the Stormers in Cape Town last week. Much like in their fixture against the Bulls the week before, they played better in the second half, but paid the price for a slow start. Their indiscipline and poor execution at set pieces cost them the game. The good news is the Rebels are still within touch of the Waratahs at the top of the Australian conference. In team news, the Rebels have signed hooker Nathan Charles for the remainder of the season in an attempt to bolster their forward stocks.
The Crusaders saw off the Brumbies 21-8 in Canberra last week to extend their winning streak against foreign opponents to 16 games, including 9 in a row on overseas soil. Defence won them the game as the Brumbies couldn’t find away through despite a sustained second half siege with a two-man advantage. In mixed injury news, the Crusaders will be without Israel Dagg after he picked up a knee injury, but fly-half Richie Mo’unga is set to return after fracturing his jaw in Round 3. Mo’unga was one of the Crusaders’ best players at the start of the season, so his return should give them a lift.
Betting: largely due to their competition-leading defence, the Crusaders have been clinical in closing out games this season. The Rebels are in improved side to the one that lost this fixture by 22 points last season, but I still think they will be hard pressed to get within 10 points of the Crusaders. I would back the Crusaders -8.5 at 1.41 (William Hill).
Saturday, 5 May
Hurricanes v Lions
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The Hurricanes were made to work for it but eventually ran out 43-15 winners over the Sunwolves last week to move to 7-1 for the season. Incredibly, that record is only good enough to sit second in the New Zealand conference, one point behind the Crusaders. The Hurricanes will need to perform better this week, particularly at line-outs, if they are to beat the Lions, but it’s hard to read into the form of teams who have just played the Sunwolves.
The Lions were left to rue a poor start as they fell 27-22 to the Reds in Brisbane last week. They initially struggled against the Reds’ physical defence in the first half and made 13 missed tackles to go with 9 penalties to trail 0-24 at the break. They outscored the Reds 22-3 in the second half but the damage had already been done. The defeat ended the Lions’ 6-game winning streak in Australia. After beating the Waratahs 29-0 the week before, perhaps the Lions under-estimated their opponents.
Betting: the Hurricanes have won 7 out of 8 against the Lions, but lost their most recent meeting 29-44 in Johannesburg during the playoffs. I predict the Hurricanes will win, but I think the 1.15 head-to-head odds are too short. I would back the Lions +17.5 at 1.53 (Sportsbet). For those looking for more risk I would take the Hurricanes 1-12 at 3.00 (William Hill). The Lions have only lost by 13+ on one occasion over the last 12 months.
Waratahs v Blues
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Prior to their bye last week the Waratahs were held scoreless for the first time in franchise history as they fell 0-29 to the Lions in Sydney. They failed to take their early chances and defensively couldn’t stop the Lions once they found their rhythm. The Waratahs were also second best at the set-piece. The defeat snapped a 4-game winning streak, all over Australian conference opponents. The Waratahs are now 1-1-2 for the season against foreign conference teams. They welcome back Israel Folou for this clash.
The Blues became the first Kiwi side to lose to the Jaguares, going down 13-20 on a wet night at Eden Park last week. Their forwards came off second best, particularly at the breakdown, and they paid the price for poor discipline as they managed to concede twice as many penalties as the Jaguares. The Blues have been ravaged by injury this season, with as many as 19 players out at one point, but they will nevertheless be disappointed with that performance as the visitors played to the wet conditions better. The Blues are now 2-6 for the season, with no other Kiwi team having lost more than twice.
Betting: given how injury-ravaged the Blues are, the Waratahs are in an excellent position to end Australia’s 36-game losing streak to Kiwi teams. I would back the Waratahs in the head-to-head at 1.50 (Sportsbet, Unibet, CrownBet, Palmerbet, Mad Bookie, William Hill). The Waratahs have won 3 of their last 4 at home against the Blues.
Stormers v Bulls
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The Stormers returned to winning ways with a convincing 34-18 win over the Rebels last week. The win was vital in the Stormers’ attempt to keep pace with the Jaguares, who are 3 from 3 so far on their overseas tour. They now face another crucial game as they host the Bulls, who sit two points ahead of them. Only 2 points currently separate 2nd from 5th in the South African conference.
The Bulls’ 3-game winning streak came to an end last week with a 28-29 home defeat to the Highlanders. Their forwards enjoyed the ascendancy, particularly at the scrums, but the Bulls fell victim to the Highlanders’ ruthless efficiency with the 30% of possession that they did have. The defeat has dented the Bulls playoff chances, with the Jaguares now sitting above them in the South African conference.
Betting: this match-up has historically gone the way of the home team, with the Stormers winning 7 of their last 8 at home against the Bulls. I would back the Stormers in the head-to-head at 1.91 (CrownBet, Ladbrokes).
Sunday, 6 May
Sharks v Highlanders
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Prior to their bye last week the Sharks returned to winning ways with a 24-17 home win over the Stormers. They are now 3-1-5 for the season and can still make a playoffs push if they can find more consistent form. The good news is they have the Australian & New Zealnd tour out of the way, with the trip to the Argentina their only remaining overseas fixture.
The Highlanders started their South African tour with a 29-28 win over the Bulls. They only had 30% of possession but, much like in their win over the Blues, the Highlanders were ruthlessly efficient at scoring with the possession they did have. They were also helped by the 7 from 7 kicking performance from Lima Sopoaga, including a 40-minute penalty at the death. The win extended the Highlanders’ winning streak against overseas opposition to 12 games.
Betting: I expect this to be tight. It could go either way, so I would back both the Sharks 1-12 at 4.00 (Sportsbet) and the Highlanders 1-12 at 2.88 (Sportsbet). For those looking for more risk and only want to back one of those outcomes, of the two selections, the Sharks 1-12 is the better value given they’ve won 3 of their last 4 at home against the Highlanders.
Best Bets of the Round