The following are previews with betting tips for Round 14 of the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 18 May
Hurricanes v Reds
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The Hurricanes swept aside the Blues 36-15 last week to extend their winning streak to 9 games. While they’re known for their dynamic backline, the Hurricanes forwards were dominant in the win as they successfully employed rolling mauls and dominated their counterparts at the set piece. The Hurricanes will have to resist the temptation to have one eye on their upcoming fixtures against the Crusaders and Highlanders when they host the out of sorts Reds this week.
The Reds limp into this fixture on the back of a nightmare 28-63 defeat to the previously winless Sunwolves. Their defence was a key culprit as they fell of tackles easily, but when they did have possession they either failed to string phases together or kicked possession away poorly to the all-too-grateful Sunwolves. The Reds also conceded 12 penalties that resulted in 21 points. The poor performance will be all the more frustrating given they had beaten the South African conference-leading Lions in their previous fixture. The Reds must regroup quickly as they take on the number one ranked offence in the competition.
Betting: it’s hard to find value on the Hurricanes given the stats are so one-sided. The Hurricanes have won 7 of their last 8 against the Reds and are 8-1 at home over the last 12 months while the visitors have gone 1-7 away from Brisbane. Seven of the Reds’ last 9 defeats were by 13+ points and their last two fixtures against Kiwi opponents resulted in 23 and 24 point defeats. I would back the Hurricanes 13+ at 1.17 (Ladbrokes), but I wish I could get better odds. Given the Reds are unloved by punters at the moment, I wouldn’t blame you for taking them in the pick your own line market. The Reds +33.5 selection at 1.50 (Sportsbet) would have won in all of their last 8 fixtures against the Hurricanes.
Saturday, 19 May
Sunwolves v Stormers
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After threatening for parts of games most of the season, the Sunwolves finally put a complete game together as they thrashed the Reds 63-28 in Tokyo. Hayden Parker kicked 12 from 12 as the Sunwolves put on a strong display of attacking rugby. The win was their first of the season and ended a nine-game losing streak. This fixture is being played in Hong Kong, so the Sunwolves won’t have the same vocal crowd behind them as they did last week.
The Stormers suffered their first home defeat of the season when they fell 9-15 in a low quality game to the Chiefs last week. They made countless errors during that fixture so an improved performance will be required if they are to see off the Sunwolves. The Stormers currently sit at the foot of the South African conference but only 1 point separates them from 2nd. They are one of five clubs battling for the final two playoff spots.
Betting: against superior teams the Sunwolves battle hard in the first half before falling away in the second spell. I would back the Sunwolves +5.5 in the first half handicap at 1.84 (Sportsbet).
Blues v Crusaders
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The Blues slumped to a 15-36 home defeat to the Hurricanes last week to extend their winless run against Kiwi sides to 16 games. They’ve now beaten the best teams in South Africa and Australian conferences, but have had no success against their compatriots. The Hurricanes employed the same approach that the Jaguares successfully applied against the Blues, and that was to use a forwards-dominant approach with numerous driving mauls, which is something the Crusaders may look to emulate. The Blues briefly led in the second half but were shut out in the final 20 minutes as the Hurricanes took their chances while the Blues didn’t. They also paid the price for conceding too many penalties. The Blues can take positives from the form, however. Sonny Bill Williams had a successful return and they were right in the game for 60 minutes. To break their streak against their compatriots, however, the Blues will need an 80-minute performance.
The Crusaders played a massive get out of jail card (arguably assisted by the referee) as they rallied from 0-29 down to beat the Waratahs 31-29 in Christchurch last week. The win preserved their 7-game winning streak and their lead at the top of the New Zealand conference. It also showcased their poise and self-belief, despite the circumstances. The match will have shaken off any complacency that may have been building within the squad following their record win over the Rebels, which is bad news for the Blues. Prop Joe Moody has picked up a two-week suspension for a striking offence.
Betting: the Crusaders have won 12 of their last 15 against the Blues, including the last six straight. The last two meetings were settled by 9 points or fewer, so I expect the Blues will be competitive, at least initially, before falling short. I would back the Blues +5.5 in the halftime handicap at 1.90 (CrownBet) and the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.25 (Sportsbet).
Waratahs v Highlanders
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The Waratahs jumped out to a 29-point lead against the Crusaders last week but conceded 31 unanswered points to lose 29-31 in Christchurch. The game reminded me of the Reds vs. Lions fixture a few weeks back, except the Reds managed to hold on for the win. The Waratahs will be wary that the Reds then went on to get shredded by the Sunwolves, so they can’t get too carried away by their competitive first half performance. The Waratahs will have genuine complaints about the refereeing in that fixture, but they can only blame themselves for throwing the game away after building such a strong lead.
The Highlanders returned to winning ways with a 39-27 home win over the Lions last week. It was just what the doctor ordered after a poor performance against the Sharks in Durban a week prior. It was their 11th straight home win but the Highlanders are only 2-3 away from Dunedin this year.
Betting: the Highlanders have won their last 4 clashes against the Waratahs, including their last 2 visits to Allianz Stadium, but their last victory at this venue was by just 4 points. The Waratahs should be competitive but do they have the self-belief to get over the line? I’m not prepared to back the Waratahs in the head-to-head, but given they are 4-0 at the line as the underdog over the last 12 months, I would back the Waratahs +10.5 at 1.50 (Sportsbet).
Sharks v Chiefs
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The Sharks were unable to back up their impressive win over the Highlanders as they fell 33-39 in a competitive affair to the Bulls in Pretoria last week. While they didn’t get the win, the Sharks will be pleased by the improved performance given they lost 10-40 to the Bulls at home in Round 9. Like everyone in the South African conference, their destiny remains in their own hands. After this clash all of the Sharks’ remaining fixtures are against conference opponents. The key will be to find some consistency because they look very good when they play their best rugby and downright awful when they’re at their worst.
The Chiefs got their tour of South Africa off to a positive start with a 15-9 win over the Stormers last week. They’re now 7-3 for the season, which is only good enough to sit 4th in the New Zealand conference. It wasn’t a good quality game, however, particularly in the first half. The Chiefs will have to lift for this clash, knowing that unlike the Stormers, the Sharks have a decent record recently against Kiwi teams.
Betting: the Sharks have won only 1 of their last 6 against the Chiefs, but that sole victory came in their most recent clash in Durban. The last two clashes were settled by 2 points or less, so I would back both the Sharks 1-12 at 3.10 (Ladbrokes) and the Chiefs 1-12 at 4.40 (Palmerbet). Six of the last 7 meetings between the two were settled by 12 points or less.
Sunday, 20 May
Lions v Brumbies
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The Lions played pretty well but lost to the Highlanders 27-39 last week. They return home from their Australasian tour where they won the first game but lost the following three. The Lions are now 6-6 for the season but still enjoy a healthy lead at the top of the South African conference due to their haul of 7 bonus points. Incredibly, if they were in the New Zealand conference the Lions would be 4th. They are 0-4 against Kiwi sides this year so will be pleased they don’t have any further fixtures against New Zealand teams during the regular season.
The Brumbies led 21-3 during the first-half and 24-10 at the 60th minute, but conceded three rapid-fire tries as they slumped to a 24-27 defeat to the Rebels in front of a poor 5,283 crowd in Canberra. The defeat extended their losing streak to four games as playoffs rugby looks ever more out of reach. To dominate three-quarters of the match but still lose highlights their inability to score a sufficient number of points when they are in the ascendancy. While the Brumbies have the 5th best defensive record in the competition, they are ranked second to last in points scored.
Betting: the Brumbies have won their last 2 visits to Johannesburg, but their last visit was back in 2015. The Lions have gone 7-1 as the home favourite over the last 12 months and 4 of the Brumbies’ 5 away defeats have been by 8+ points, so I would back the Lions -7.5 at 1.36 (Sportsbet).
Jaguares v Bulls
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Prior to their bye last week the Jaguares saw off the Chiefs 23-19 to record a perfect 4-0 tour of Australia and New Zealand. The performances themselves weren’t perfect but the Jaguares gave themselves a chance to win due to their stingy defence, which conceded just 18.5 points per game on tour. They have now won 6 of their last 8 away fixtures. The four-game winning streak has put the Jaguares right in contention to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. New head coach Mario Ledesma has certainly been a positive impact on the side.
The Bulls edged out the Sharks 39-33 for a crucial win last week to stay right in the mix for a playoff spot. It was their 6th win in seven games against the Durban side. They haven’t played the Jaguares often because the two sides were previously in different conferences.
Betting: the previous two fixtures between the two sides were won comfortably by the home team, so I would back the Jaguares in the head-to-head at 1.58 (bet365).
Best Bets of the Round