Round 2 of the Super Rugby season has technically kicked off already, with the Hurricanes vs Crusaders game ruled a 0-0 draw after the Crusaders elected not to travel to Wellington due to the Christchurch earthquake. Below are the betting odds for the remaining fixtures.
Highlanders vs Chiefs
The Highlanders surprised many pundits with a 14-9 victory over the Hurricanes last week. The Chiefs return to NZ on the back of an error-strewn display against the Brumbies, where they managed to squander three likely tries. The Chiefs have responded to that display by making eight changes to their starting line up from last week. Tana Umaga has been left out of the matchday 22, while Stephen Donald and Brendon Leonard will start on the bench. Former Crusaders lock Isaac Ross will make his debut for the Chiefs and former Highlander Hayden Triggs will also start. In pre-season earlier this month the Chiefs came from behind to beat the Highlanders 28-26 in Taupo, and I expect to see another close encounter today. I can’t predict the winner, but given that the bookmakers favour the Chiefs, I would back the Highlanders because I think it represents a better value bet.
Rebels vs Brumbies
The Rebels were given a baptism of fire last week against the Waratahs, while the Brumbies managed to get through an error prone Chiefs outfit. I don’t know of anyone who is giving the Rebels any chance of victory here. Given they failed to score a single point last week, the home side will be desperate to put at least some points on the board. I don’t think the Brumbies will be as strong as the Waratahs this season, but I still back them to beat the Rebels. The only disconcerting element is the low odds on offer. You may want to back the Brumbies (-13) in a handicap bet instead.
Cheetahs vs Bulls
After losing 24-9 to the Sharks last week, the Cheetahs will be desperate for captain Juan Smith to overcome his calf injury in time for kickoff. The Bulls come in on the back of a surprisingly close victory over the Lions. Last year’s encounter was a high scoring affair, with the Bulls 54-31 victorious. The Cheetahs failed to score a try last week, so it will be interesting to see whether the Bulls can match the Sharks’ defensive effort. The Bulls are overwhelming favourites with punters, which has led to painfully low odds on them. Despite that, if I had to make one bet on this fixture, I would back the Bulls in a head-to-head bet.
Waratahs vs Reds
The Waratahs return to Sydney on the back of a demolition of the Rebels, while the Reds escaped a surprisingly tight contest with the Force. Given the Waratah’s strong home record against the Reds, I think a head-to-head bet on the Waratahs at odds over 1.40 is decent value.
Sharks vs Blues
The Blues enjoyed a great come from behind victory against a solid Crusaders outfit last week, but the Sharks have a tremendous home record. The Sharks haven’t lost at home to the Blues since 1998, which explains why they are the bookmakers’ favourite. I know of a number of pundits who are backing the Blues, however, and while I think the Sharks will sneak home with a win, I think a better value bet is to back the Blues +4.5 in the handicap market.
Stormers vs Lions
The Stormers had a bye last week, while the Lions surprised many pundits by pushing the Bulls all the way with a four point loss. Given their home ground advantage, I back the Stormers in a head-to-head bet here. It’s one thing to push the Bulls close at home, but I think facing the Stormers away will be a tougher prospect for the Lions.