The following are previews with betting tips for Round 13 of the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 11 May
Blues v Hurricanes
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The Blues picked up their third win of the season as they saw off the Waratahs 24-21 in Sydney last week. They didn’t play particularly well, but defensively they were strong enough to nullify the Waratahs’ attack and they were the better of the two sides at the breakdown. The key for the Blues to turn their fortunes around is to start picking up wins over domestic opponents. The Blues’ last 17 wins have all been over foreign opposition. Their last domestic win came back in Round 1 of 2016. The good news is the Blues’ injury crisis is abating. Following the returns of Augustine Pulu, Jerome Kaino and Patrick Tuipulotu last week, the Blues welcome back Sonny Bill Williams for this clash. Melani Nanai also returns and will start on the bench.
The Hurricanes recorded their 8th consecutive win last week as they saw off the Lions 28-19 in Wellington. While the scoreline was relatively close, the Lions never looked like winning as the South African teams continue to struggle on New Zealand soil. The Hurricanes are now 8-1 for the season, but one caveat to their record is 6 of their last 7 games were at home. They have only two more home fixtures compared to five away games for the rest of the regular season.
Betting: the news out of New Zealand is that one punter has wagered $100,000 on the Hurricanes to win at 1.23 odds. Given the Hurricanes have won their last 5 straight against the Blues, including the last 3 at Eden Park, it’s easy to see why everyone is writing the Blues off. The Blues always lift for the domestic clashes, however, and the last two meetings at Eden Park were each settled by 4 points, so I expect that the Kiwi punter will be given an almighty scare before the Hurricanes eventually win. I would back the Hurricanes in the head-to-head at 1.30 (Unibet, William Hill). For those looking for more risk I would take the Hurricanes 1-12 at 3.20 (Ladbrokes).
Saturday, 12 May
Sunwolves v Reds
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Prior to their bye last week the Sunwolves fell 15-43 to the Hurricanes to slide to 0-9 for the season. They enjoyed the better of the territory and possession in the first half and only trailed by 6 at the break, but conceded three late tries to give the Hurricanes a 28-point win. The result continues the Sunwolves’ trend of putting in competitive first half performances before being blown away late in the second half. If they can start turning 74-minute performances into 80-minute performances they would suddenly be a competitive team.
Prior to their bye last week the Reds caused the shock of the round by upsetting the Lions 27-22 in Brisbane. The game was won in the first half, with the Reds leading 24-0 at the break before being outscored 22-3 in the second spell. The Reds managed to score 4 first-half tries, having scored just one first half try in their prior four games. They were completely outplayed in the second half, but nevertheless can take confidence from the win over a high quality opponent.
Betting: given the Sunwolves are often competitive early in the game, I would back the Sunwolves +3.5 in the halftime handicap at 1.90 (CrownBet).
Crusaders v Waratahs
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The Crusaders secured their biggest ever victory on Australian soil last week as they shut out the Rebels in the second half to win 55-10. They only led by 3 points at the break despite dominating possession, but showed great patience, knowing that the pressure would eventually pay off. The win extended their winning streak against foreign opponents to 17 games, including 10 on the trot on overseas soil. The only negative of that performance was the Crusaders found themselves down to 13 men for the second game in succession due to ill-discipline. The Crusaders remain at the top of the New Zealand conference with an 8-2 record, which is sobering given they have had their fair share of injuries this season.
Despite dominating the territory and possession, the Waratahs fell 21-24 to the injury-ravaged Blues at Brookvale Oval last week to notch Australia’s 38th consecutive defeat to a Kiwi team. They outscored the visitors 3 tries to 2 but paid the price for wasting too many opportunities in red zone as they repeatedly coughed up possession. Despite not having won in three weeks (one week was a bye), the Waratahs remain the top of the Australian conference standings as their conference rivals have only managed two wins between them over the last six rounds! In positive news, Israel Folau made a successful return from injury last week.
Betting: going back to 2010 the Waratahs have a 0-4 record in Christchurch and the form guide suggests their drought at this venue will continue, with the Crusaders unbeaten at home over the last 12 months while the Waratahs have only won twice away from home. Moreover, six of the Crusaders’ 8 home wins over the last 12 months have been by 13+ points, while 3 of the Waratahs away defeats were by 13+ margins. On the other hand, the line is +20.5 and the Waratahs have gone 3-0 as the away underdog over the last 12 months, so I would place two bets. I would back the Crusaders 13+ (-12.5) at 1.45 (bet365) and the Waratahs +24.5 at 1.53 (Sportsbet, William Hill). Since 2009 the Crusaders haven’t beaten the Waratahs by more than 19 points.
Highlanders v Lions
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The Highlanders limp home from South Africa after suffering a thrashing at the hands of their bogey team, the Sharks. The 12-38 defeat ended a 12-game winning streak against overseas opposition, but the Highlanders have only won 1 of their last 6 against the Sharks. In previous away fixtures the Highlanders were starved of possession but were ruthless with the ball when they did have it. Against the Sharks, however, they struggled to put phases together. They now have to regroup quickly and shake off any travel fatigue as they take on a wounded Lions outfit.
The Lions put in a sloppy performance as they fell 19-28 to the Hurricanes last week. A late score added some respectability to the scoreline, but they never looked like winning. The Lions paid the price for kicking the ball away too often to the dangerous Hurricanes backline. Having lost two games in a row, they now find themselves looking over their shoulders in the South African conference as the Jaguares have come roaring into contention.
Betting: the Highlanders have only lost consecutive fixtures once over the last 12 months and they have a 6-0 record (5-1 at the line) at home over this time. Also, 6 of the 7 meetings between the two sides were won by the home team. I predict the Highlanders will win but am wary of the fact that the Lions have only lost 1 game by 13+ points over the last 12 months. I would back the Lions +12.5 at 1.53 (William Hill). For those looking for more risk I would take the Highlanders 1-12 at 3.20 (Ladbrokes).
Brumbies v Rebels
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Prior to their bye last week the Brumbies lost their third consecutive game as they fell 8-21 at home to the Crusaders. It was their 8th consecutive defeat to the Canterbury side. Despite having a two-man advantage at one stage, the Brumbies simply couldn’t find a way through the Crusaders defence and from the 2nd minute onward they only managed to score 3 points. The Brumbies will be without winger Chance Peni for 5 weeks after he picked up a suspension for a dangerous tackle.
The Rebels suffered a demoralising 10-55 defeat to the Crusaders at home last week, which was their 5th loss in succession. The 8 tries to 1 result was their biggest ever defeat at home. The Rebels did well to be down just 10-13 at halftime, but ran out of answers as the Crusaders piled on 45 unanswered points in the second half. The turning point in the game was the departure of Will Genia near the end of the first half with a knee injury. The Rebels lacked direction after he left the field so they will be sweating on his return date. Early estimates are he will be out for 8 weeks.
Betting: given how poor the Rebels looked without Will Genia on the field, I’m going to side with the Brumbies. They’ve won 5 of their last 6 at home against the Rebels, plus the Rebels have gone 0-6 over the last 12 months as the away underdog. I would back the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.57 (Sportsbet, Ladbrokes).
Stormers v Chiefs
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The Stormers picked up a vital 29-17 win over the Bulls last week to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot in what is turning out to be an extremely competitive South African conference. The victory continues the Stormers’ lopsided run of going 5-0 at home and 0-6 away this season.
The Chiefs started as 13.5 favourites but suffered a shock loss the Jaguares at home last week, falling 19-23, with the game largely determined by a penalty try and two yellow cards conceded inside two minutes. They are now 6-3 for the season and will be under pressure to pick up points on tour to keep pace with the rest of the New Zealand conference.
Betting: in a quirk of the scheduling, the last four meetings between the two were all played in Cape Town. The Chiefs won 3 of those games, including their 17-11 win last year. I expect this will be close so I would back both the Stormers 1-12 at 3.25 (bet365, Ladbrokes) and the Chiefs 1-12 at 3.25 (Ladbrokes).
Sunday, 13 May
Bulls v Sharks
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The Bulls were their own worst enemy as they fell 17-29 to the Stormers in Cape Town last week. After starting the slower of the two sides, they fought their way back into the game, but paid the price for conceding needless penalties when in good field position. The Bulls now find themselves at the foot of the South African conference, but only 4 points separate 2nd from 5th. This fixture is massive because they can ill-afford to give up more points to conference opposition.
The Sharks continue to be one of the more mercurial sides of the competition as they thrashed the Highlanders 38-12 last week. They are on a two-game winning streak but have yet to win or lose more than two games in a row this season as their form yoyos up and down. At their best the Sharks look like serious playoff candidates, as we saw last week, but at their worst they are capable of losing 46-14 to the Rebels. The Sharks are now 2-1 against New Zealand sides this season, while 0-1-2 against Australian sides. Try and make sense of that!
Betting: if the Sharks played like they did last week then they’ll win this, but they are notoriously inconsistent. The Bulls are unbeaten in their last 6 against the Sharks, but all of the last 6 meetings in Pretoria were settled by 1-12 points, so I would back both the Bulls 1-12 at 3.20 (Ladbrokes) and the Sharks 1-12 at 3.50 (Ladbrokes).
Best Bets of the Round