Super Rugby enters Round 8 this weekend. We’re getting to that stage of the season where certain teams already face must win fixtures if they are to remain in playoff contention. Last week was my bet prediction round to date, with four wins out of four at odds of 2.65, 2.00, 1.45 and 1.85, respectively.
Alongside my own opinions I have included the winner predictions of 15 ‘experts’ from Rugby Heaven in Australia and TVNZ in New Zealand. Below are the Luxbet odds for this weekend’s fixtures (subject to change). Keep in mind that Readbet is offering 2.00 lines on Super Rugby this season.
Highlanders vs. Cheetahs
5:35 PM AEST
Expert tips: 15 for Highlanders, 0 for Cheetahs
The Highlanders returned to winning form last week with a hard fought victory over the Brumbies. This week provides another very winnable game for them, and the Highlanders will be looking to pick up at least four points this weekend.
The Cheetahs have had a tumultuous road-trip. They upset the Waratahs in Round 5, only to be slaughtered by the Reds a week later. Last weekend they were improved in their 29-22 loss to the Blues, and will be hoping to finish their travels on a high before returning to South Africa. I think the Highlanders should be wary here. Apart from the Reds game, the Cheetahs have been competitive in every fixture, and the Highlanders aren’t the type of team to blow sides away. I would back the Highlanders to win by 1-12 points.
Crusaders vs. Bulls
5:35 PM AEST
Expert tips: 14 for Crusaders, 1 for Bulls
The first Saturday game sees the Crusaders take on the Bulls in Timaru (a large town south of Christchurch). The Crusaders will be without the services of Dan Carter, who will miss the fixture due to a hamstring injury. He will be replaced by Matt Berquist, who will make his first start in a Crusaders uniform after playing as a Highlander for the past two seasons. The Bulls head further south after a 26-14 away victory over the Hurricanes, but the Crusaders will be much tougher opposition. To be honest, I think like most sides, the Bulls would settle for a bonus point here. The Crusaders have played some scintillating rugby this year, and their depth on the bench makes any opposition coach cry. Sonny Bill Williams and Robbie Fruean have been huge for them, and despite the absence of Dan Carter, I would back the Crusaders in a head to head bet.
Brumbies vs. Hurricanes
7:40 PM AEST
Expert tips: 13 for Brumbies, 2 for Hurricanes
This is a must-win fixture for both teams, who only one have win a piece this season. The Brumbies languish at 4th in the Australian conference, and are now an outside chance to make the playoffs. The Hurricanes sit bottom of the New Zealand conference with a playoff place now looking unlikely. The Brumbies would have felt they could have won against the Highlanders last week. The dominated possession, and had a real opportunity to win when Tony Brown was yellow carded. The Hurricanes will still be haunted by their capitulation against the Rebels two weeks ago, and will be keen to avoid the same fate this weekend. All in all, this may well be the most even fixture of the round. I would give a slight edge to the Brumbies due to their historical home form, but this fixture could go either way. I’m inclined to sit on the sidelines for this one.
Force vs. Waratahs
10:05 PM AEST
Expert tips: 5 for Force, 10 for Waratahs
With just one win so far, the Force will already feel this season is slipping away from them. They currently languish at the bottom of the Australian conference, and require a great string of results to get into playoff contention. It’s looking more and more like the Waratahs and Reds will be Australia’s playoff sides, and the Waratahs will be keen to reinforce this with another victory over Australian opposition. The Force will rue missed opportunities come the end of this season. They drew 22-all against the Blues at home, and lost 25-26 at home to the Rebels last week. Unless they can take more of their chances, I anticipate a Waratahs victory here. Having said that, the Force face a weakened Waratahs outfit this week, with Phil Waugh, Matt Hodgson and David Pocock on the sidelines. Given the current odds I will sit this one out.
Stormers vs. Reds
1:05 AM AEST
Expert tips: 9 for Stormers, 6 for Reds
The Stormers have been an efficient machine this tournament. As the only undefeated team remaining, they currently sit top of the overall ladder, despite picking up only one bonus point this season. The Reds will be a tough fixture, however. The Reds are flying high at the top of the Australian conference, and haven’t lost since Round 2. Newlands Stadium is a tough place to visit, however, so a Reds victory would be against the odds. I would back the Stormers to win by 1-12 points.
Sharks vs. Lions
3:10 AM AEST
Expert tips: 15 for Sharks, 0 for Lions
After a great start to the season, the Sharks have flat-lined, with their notorious travel schedule partly to blame. This week provides a genuinely winnable fixture, however, and their fans will be desperate to win and stay in contention for a playoff spot. The Lions have only managed one win this season, but most of their games have been fairly tight. I would back the Sharks to win by 1-12 points.