The following are previews with betting tips for Round 10 of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
Please note that to take advantage of odds before they possibly shorten, these previews are published before the team sheets are announced. Those who are more risk averse may prefer to wait for the squad lists before wagering, especially given the enforced resting of international players this season.
Friday, 19 April
Chiefs vs Lions
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The Chiefs’ season revival continued after they saw off the Blues 33-29 in a fast-paced game last week. They have now won three straight after losing their opening four fixtures. The Chiefs have suffered a massive blow, however, with 2018 Super Rugby player of the year Damian McKenzie ruled out for the rest of the season with an ACL tear. He has been a major contributor to their turnaround so it remains to be seen whether they can continue their rise up the table without him.
The Lions got their Australasian tour off to a poor start with a 20-31 defeat in Canberra. Their defence went walkabout as they missed 36 tackles in total. This was on the back of their humbling 42-5 home defeat to the Sharks, so the Johannesburg side appears to be in a real slump at the moment. The injury absences of Kwagga Smith, Vincent Tshituka, Dylan Smith and Dillon Smith aren’t helping their cause.
Betting: Damian McKenzie’s injury is a massive blow for the Chiefs, but they still should be too strong at home against the Lions who are without one of their key players in Kwagga Smith. The Chiefs also have an imposing 5-1 record against the Lions in recent seasons. I would back the Chiefs in the head-to-head at 1.44 (bet365, Ladbrokes).
Sunwolves vs Hurricanes
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Prior to their bye last week the Sunwolves were dominated by the Rebels in their 15-42 defeat in Melbourne. This was on the back of a shock win over the Waratahs so their two-game tour of Australia was still overall a success. Both of the Sunwolves’ wins this season have been away from home so they would love to pick up at least one win in front of their fans over their next two fixtures in Tokyo.
Prior to their bye last week the Hurricanes defeated the Highlanders 32-29 in Dunedin to end the hosts’ 13-game winning streak at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Whilst entertaining, it wasn’t the highest quality game – particularly in the first half – as the Hurricanes’ attack continues to struggle to find the fluency and finishing qualities that we’ve seen in previous seasons.
Betting: the Hurricanes defeated the Sunwolves by 28 points in Wellington last year but this fixture is being played in Japan and the Sunwolves’ squad is notably stronger this season. I would back the Sunwolves +27.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.30 (Sportsbet).
Sharks vs Reds
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The Sharks continue to live up to their mercurial reputation after they were thrashed 51-17 at home by the Jaguares last week. It’s hard to believe this is the same team that hammered the Lions 42-5 in Johannesburg the week before. To be fair, Tendai Mtawarira, Coenie Oosthuizen and Jacques Vermeulen were rested, but it was a terrible performance on the back of an excellent one. Whether they choose to play well or poorly, the Sharks don’t seem to do thing in half measures. Their average winning margin this year is 26.25 while their average losing margin is 16.25. Quite appropriately, the Sharks are now 4-4 for the season.
The Reds fought hard but were swept aside 32-17 by the Bulls in Pretoria last week to slide to 3-5 for the season. Errors undid their cause as the side continues to struggle for consistency.
The Reds have not been strong travellers in recent seasons so I’m not optimistic about their chances against what will be a fired up Sharks side.
Betting: the Sharks have blown hot and cold all season, and given they were bad last week, I’m expecting a strong performance this week. They haven’t lost at home to the Reds in the last decade and the visitors have gone 1-6 away from home over the last 12 months. I would back the Sharks in the head-to-head at 1.21 (Sportsbet).
Saturday, 20 April
Highlanders vs Blues
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The Highlanders led 10-7 at halftime against the Crusaders last week but had no answers to the hosts’ second half onslaught as they fell 17-41. Ignoring their cancelled Round 5 game, the Highlanders are now on a five-game losing steak. They have also lost 6 of their last 7 fixtures against New Zealand opposition. The departure of star fly-half Lima Sopoaga during the off-season and the absence of world-class halfback Aaron Smith for 4-6 weeks has left the Highlanders looking notably weaker than previous seasons.
The Blues fought gamely but fell just short, losing 29-33 to the Chiefs in Hamilton last week to end a four-game winning streak. As I wrote last week, the caveat to the Blues winning streak was the fact that all four of those fixtures were at home. The Blues are on a five-game losing streak away from Auckland.
Betting: the Highlanders have won their last six home games against the Blues, but that streak will be severely tested this week. All of the last 8 games between the two in Dunedin were settled by 1-12 points so I would back both the Highlanders 1-12 at 2.88 (Sportsbet) and the Blues 1-12 at 3.40 (bet365, Sportsbet).
Waratahs vs Rebels
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Prior to their bye last week the Waratahs fell 29-32 to the Blues in Auckland. They made a valiant comeback after falling 0-17 behind in the first quarter but weren’t able to overcome the initial deficit. The defeat was on the back of the shock loss to the Sunwolves, so their upset win over the Crusaders in Round 6 feels like a distant memory now. In team news, Israel Folau is set to be sacked by Rugby Australia following his social media breach of contract. At the time of writing his future is still up in the air because he has until Wednesday to respond. Either way, the saga has been a huge distraction for the squad.
Fresh off two commanding wins over the Sunwolves and Reds, the Rebels received a wake up call as they suffered a shock 24-41 home defeat to the depleted Stormers last week. The Rebels had 70% of possession but were repeatedly forced into making mistakes by the Stormers defence. It was their first home defeat of the season and it prevented the Rebels from putting clear daylight between themselves and the rest of the conference. In team news, the Rebels have been boosted by the availability of Matt Philip, Anaru Rangi Jack Maddocks. The trio were sorely missed last week.
Betting: the Waratahs have won 7 of 8 at home against the Rebels, however their best rugby hasn’t looked as good as the Rebels’ best rugby this season. With so much on the line I’m expecting a close encounter so I will back both the Waratahs 1-12 at 3.25 (bet365) and the Rebels 1-12 at 3.00 (Sportsbet, TopBetta).
Stormers vs Brumbies
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Just as it appeared the wheels had fallen off the Stormers Australasian tour, they defeated the in-form Rebels 41-24 to salvage some points from the otherwise winless four-game trip. The depleted side only had 30% of possession but they defended well, showed patience and took the opportunities they did have. The Stormers are now just 5 points off the top of the South African conference and they are the only team in the conference to have completed their Australasian tour. The tour did come at a player cost, however, with Jaco Coetzee the latest to pick up an injury on the back of half a dozen players returning to South Africa early. He is expected to miss the next two to three weeks. In better news, Pieter-Steph du Toit returns from paternity leave this week and JJ Engelbrecht has returned to full fitness.
The Brumbies snapped a two-game losing streak by defeating the Lions 31-20 in Canberra last week. Despite their poor 3-5 record, the Brumbies remain in the hunt for a playoff spot due to the struggles of the other Australian franchises this season.
Betting: the Stormers have gone 5-2 at home over the last 12 months while the Brumbies have gone 2-6 away from home. I would back the Stormers in the head-to-head at 1.36 (bet365).
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