The following are previews with betting tips for Round 16 of the 2018 Super Rugby season. This round features just the Australian and New Zealand conferences. It is the final round prior to the June internationals. Round 17 will commence on the 29th of June.
Friday, 1 June
Highlanders v Hurricanes
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The Highlanders rested key players last week but still managed to overcome the Reds 18-15 in Brisbane. They had to come from behind to do so and it was a low quality game, but the gutsy win was a good result at a venue that the Highlanders have previously struggled at. They enjoy an 8-point lead over the 9th placed Sharks and have a game in hand, but finals rugby isn’t guaranteed with the Highlanders facing the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Crusaders in three of their four remaining fixtures. Three of their four fixtures are at home, however, where the Highlanders usually excel.
The Hurricanes had a superb opportunity to wrestle away control of the New Zealand conference from the under-strength Crusaders last week, but the wet conditions nullified their lethal backline and ill-discipline undid their cause as they fell 13-24 in Christchurch. The defeat ended a 10-game winning streak and sees the Hurricanes sit 5 points behind the Crusaders, however the Hurricanes have a game in hand. What will concern the Hurricanes the most is the fact that their pack came off second best against a Crusaders side that was missing three props and captain Sam Whitelock. If they meet the Crusaders again in the playoffs the Hurricanes will have to hope it’s in dry conditions. Their backline will relish the indoor Forsyth Barr Stadium this week as they seek to return to winning ways.
Betting: at home the Highlanders have gone 6-0 both in the head-to-head and at the line over the last 12 months, but they’ve lost their last 3 against the Hurricanes, albeit in Wellington. Every one of the last 7 meetings between the two in Dunedin were settled by 12 points or less, so I would back both the Highlanders 1-12 at 3.75 (bet365) and the Hurricanes 1-12 at 2.88 (Sportsbet).
Saturday, 2 June
Blues v Rebels
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Prior to their bye last week the Blues fell 24-32 to the Crusaders in a bruising encounter to extended their winless run against Kiwi opposition to 17 games. They can take heart from the fact that they won the second half 12-3 and matched the Crusaders in the number of tries scored, but it still hurts that it was their 7th consecutive defeat to the Canterbury side. The Blues are now 3-9 for the season and are once again well adrift of the playoffs, but management have kept the faith in Tana Umaga by reappointing him for a further season.
The Rebels kept the pressure on the Waratahs in the race for the Australian conference title with a commanding 40-13 win over the understrength Sunwolves in Melbourne last week. Ironically it was Japanese international Amanaki Mafi who was a stand out for the Rebels as the No.8 continues to have a fantastic season. The best aspect of the win was the fact that the Rebels didn’t fade in the second half as we’ve seen them do on a number of occasions this season.
Betting: the Blues’ stats at home over the last 12 months (0-6 in the head-to-head, 1-5 at the line) are awful, but so are the Rebels’ stats away from home (2-5 in the head-to-head and the line). Both sides look improved with players returning from injury, but I am mindful that both sides have been bad to punters in this scenario. The Blues have a 3-0 record against the Rebels at home, so I expect they will win this, but the last two meetings at Eden Park were settled by 4 and 6 points. I would back the Rebels +14.5 at 1.53 (William Hill). For those wanting more risk, I would take the Blues 1-12 at 3.10 (William Hill).
Chiefs v Crusaders
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The Chiefs fought off the Waratahs 39-27 last week to move to 8-4 for the season. They are now 9 points ahead of the 9th placed Sharks and have a game in hand, so the Chiefs are in a great position to make the playoffs for the 7th straight year. After starting the season with a 5-1 record the Chiefs have since gone 3-3. Their last seven results have been W-L-W-L-W-L-W, so based on that they’re due a loss this week.
Despite being under-manned, particularly in the forwards with three props and Sam Whitelock absent, the Crusaders took control of the New Zealand conference with a 24-13 win over the Hurricanes in Christchurch. The win has given them a 5-point lead in the New Zealand conference and it brought to an end the Hurricanes’ 10-game winning streak. The wet conditions certainly helped the Crusaders’ cause, but nevertheless it was an impressive result given their under-strength forward pack dominated the Hurricanes, with all three tries coming from set-pieces. The Crusaders welcome back prop Joe Moody from suspension this week. Fellow prop Owen Franks remains suspended for a further week.
Betting: an interesting stat for the Crusaders is they have gone 6-0 away from home as the favourite and 0-3 away from home as the underdog, so they have consistently performed to bookmakers’ expectations. The Crusaders have been installed as the favourite in this clash, which is understandable given they’ve won their last three against the Chiefs. I would back the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.52 (CrownBet). Four of the last 5 Crusaders’ victories in Hamilton have been by 1-12 points so for those looking for more risk I would take the Crusaders 1-12 at 2.88 (Ladbrokes, Sportsbet).
Reds v Waratahs
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The Reds led 15-8 at one stage but fell 15-18 to the under-strength Highlanders in a poor quality game last week. Jono Lance will be left to wonder what could have been had he not missed an easy penalty in the first half as the Reds’ pack dominated the Highlanders at the scrum. In the end, however, the Reds were too predicable in attack and their in-game kicking was poor. They are now 4-8 for the season with just 1 win from their last 8 games
The Waratahs put in a competitive performance in Hamilton but fell 27-39 to the Chiefs last week to slide to 6-1-5 for the season. At times they looked exhausted as the Chiefs played high tempo rugby, but the Waratahs showed good poise to stay in the game, with a late score by the Chiefs hiding what was actually a very close match. The Rebels are now only one point behind them but the Waratahs have an easier schedule to finish off the season, so they are still in the box seat to win the Australian conference.
Betting: the Waratahs have won their last 8 straight against the Reds and recent form suggests they will make it 9 in a row. I would back the Waratahs in the head-to-head at 1.47 (Mad Bookie, Palmerbet). The Waratahs’ last two wins in Brisbane were by 2 and 3 points, so for those looking for more risk I would take the Waratahs 1-12 at (Ladbrokes, Sportsbet).
Sunday, 3 June
Brumbies v Sunwolves
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The Brumbies shocked the Bulls 38-28 in Pretoria last week to end a 5-game losing streak. Unlike in their fixture against the Rebels they continued to push hard once they had built a lead and finished the stronger of the two sides, despite being down a player. The Brumbies actually showed signs of improvement the week before in their competitive showing against the Lions and prior to that they really should have beaten the Rebels, so they’re a stronger side at the moment than their 4-8 record suggests. Following the June international break the Brumbies have a tough set of fixtures (Hurricanes, Chiefs, Waratahs), so it’s hard to see them making the playoffs, however. Folau Fainga’a was red carded for a headbutt last week and has received a one-match ban.
With the June international series coming up, coach Jamie Joseph has kept a number of key players in Japan for this tour and the weakening of the squad showed last week as they fell 13-40 to the Rebels. The defeat extended their winless streak away from home to 20 games. The timing of the internationals is a shame given the Sunwolves had won back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history prior to that. They will have to hope the drop off in results while under-strength doesn’t impact their form following the international break.
Betting: the Brumbies should be too strong against this weakened Sunwolves outfit, but there is little value on them in the head-to-head market, with some boomakers offering as little as 1.01 odds on the home side. Given the Sunwolves tend to fight hard in the first half before fading in the second spell, I would back the Sunwolves +14.5 in the halftime handicap at 1.95 (Sportsbet).
Best Bets of the Round
Back the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.52 (CrownBet)