The following are previews with betting tips for Round 1 of the 2020 Super Rugby AU season and Round 4 of the 2020 Super Rugby Aotearoa season.
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.
When wagering on total scores, keep in mind that New Zealand saw a lot of penalty infringements in the opening rounds but those figures have subsided. Round 3 saw 30 penalties compared to 60 in Round 1. This has resulted in lower scores. The average total scores in Rounds 1-3 of Super Rugby Aotearoa were 52.5, 45.0 and 41.0, respectively. While the Australian franchises have had the advantage of watching the interpretations of the new laws in the NZ games, it wouldn’t surprise me if their matches initially have higher penalty counts, and in turn higher total scores. Kicking accuracy will be more important than usual initially.
Friday, 3 July
Reds vs. Waratahs
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Prior to the covid-19 disruption the Reds were 2-5 for the season. Their losing record didn’t reflect their competitiveness, with three of their five defeats coming by 7 points or less. Just prior to the break the Reds gave the Crusaders an almighty scare in Christchurch before losing 24-20. A week later they spanked the Bulls 41-17 at Suncorp Stadium. In team news, the Reds will have to make do following the departures of Izaak Rodda, Harry Hockings, Isaac Lucas and Henry Speight.
The covid-19 break came at a good time for the Waratahs, who had just been defeated 51-14 by the Chiefs and 47-14 by the Brumbies to slide to 1-5 for the season. The statistics weren’t pretty. Only the Sunwolves had scored fewer points than the Waratahs’ 17 per game or conceded more than the Waratahs’ 36 per game. The NSW side will be hoping to replicate the Highlanders and start the AU season with far better form than what we saw in Rounds 1-7. In team news, Damien Fitzpatrick has retired and Kurtley Beale, who had been out of form in 2020, has departed. Beale’s exit leaves Michael Hooper as the lone survivor of the 2014 title-winning team.
Betting: the three-month break muddies the waters, but based on form prior to covid I will have to back the Reds in the head-to-head at 1.60 (bet365). I acknowledge that the Waratahs have won the previous 11 meetings between the two but in 2020 they have been awful, with an average losing margin of 24.4 points.
Saturday, 4 July
Highlanders vs. Crusaders
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The Highlanders slid to 1-1 for the campaign with a narrow 24-27 defeat to the Blues in Auckland. The Highlanders arguably came off the better in the forward exchanges but were second best in the backs. It was their second close game after they pipped the Chiefs 28-27 in Round 1. What will please Highlanders’ fans is their increased competitiveness since Super Rugby restarted. They had suffered three 20+ point defeats in the five games preceding the break but have been productive at the drawing board to sort their issues out.
The Crusaders fought off the Chiefs in wet, slippery conditions to win 18-13 in Christchurch last week to move to 2-0 for the competition. They played to the conditions well by employing a tactical kicking game. The Crusaders have incredibly only lost 1 of their last 21 fixtures. In team news they have received a blow, with captain Scott Barrett ruled out for the season with the toe injury that he picked up prior to last week’s game.
Betting: the Crusaders have won the last four meetings between the two by an average of over 23 points, but all four wins were in Christchurch. The last time the Cantabrians visited Otago they lost 17-25. Given the exodus of talent from the Highlanders squad since 2019 I will side with the visitors. I expect the Highlanders will put in a valiant performance but the Crusaders will sneak away with a close win. I would back the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.26 (Sportsbet). Those looking for more risk should consider the Crusaders 1-12 at 3.10 (Sportsbet).
Brumbies vs. Rebels
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The Brumbies were on top of the Australian conference with a 5-1 record when the Super Rugby season was terminated. They had just thrashed the Waratahs 47-14 and looked set to dominate the conference once again. Spanning the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the Brumbies were in 12-2 form. In team news Caderyn Neville will miss the first month and Nick Frost is expected to miss round 1. Their absences have been softened by the re-signing of former Brumbies player Ben Hyne from the Sunwolves.
Prior to the covid disruption the Rebels made a slow 0-2 start to the season before going 3-1 to keep their playoff aspirations alive. They and the Reds were tied 2nd, 10 points behind the conference-leading Brumbies. There’s a sense that the side has been less than the sum of its parts. The new AU tournament gives them the opportunity to push for domestic supremacy with a clean slate. Due to the rise of covid in Victoria, the Rebels will relocate to Canberra on Friday. They were set to host the Reds in Melbourne next week but that clash is now likely to take place in Sydney or Canberra.
Betting: the Brumbies won this clash 39-26 in February and they went 5-1 prior to the break. The Rebels did win 3 of their last 4, but those wins were over other struggling franchises (1-5 Lions, 1-4 Highlanders 1-5 and Waratahs). I would back the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.40 (Sportsbet).
Sunday, 5 July
Chiefs vs. Hurricanes
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The Chiefs were left to rue their decision to turn down a few kickable penalties when they fell 13-18 to the Crusaders in Christchurch last week. They struggled with the Crusaders’ kicking game in the wet conditions and were punished for their mistakes. The results leaves the Chiefs with a 0-3 record in the competition and a four-game losing streak. One positive is that all four defeats were by 1-12 margins and three were by five points or less, so they’re not far off the pace.
Prior to their bye last week the Hurricanes slumped to 0-2 for the season after they fell 25-39 at home to the Crusaders. The visitors dominated the contest but the Hurricanes were kept in the game by the Crusaders’ ill-discipline. Hurricanes fans will be hoping their side used the week off to sort out their line-out, which has been poor in both fixtures. In team news, the side has received a boost with the return of Jordie Barrett from injury.
Betting: eight of the last nine meetings between the two in Hamilton were settled by 1-12 points so I would back both the Chiefs 1-12 at 2.80 (Sportsbet) and the Hurricanes 1-12 at 4.00 (bet365).
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