Super Rugby enters the penultimate round this weekend. The Waratahs v Highlanders fixture looks to be the pick of the round, with both teams’ finals hopes possibly on the line. The Crusaders v Blues and Stormers v Bulls fixtures are also ones to look forward to. 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).
Each team’s points tally is provided in brackets.
Friday – June 10
Chiefs (38) vs. Hurricanes (39)
5:35 PM AEST
Expert tips: 12 for Chiefs, 3 for Hurricanes
With both teams out of finals contention, it is pride they will be playing for as they open Round 17. Both sides are in pretty good form, and both come into this fixture on the back of wins. Midweek the Hurricanes shocked many supporters by sacking All Blacks Ma’a Nonu and Andrew Hore for next season. Also, former Hurricane Norm Hewitt has suggested that coach Hammett does not understand how to work with Polynesian and Maori players. This has spurned a lot of discussion across the ditch about back room issues within the club. Given their strong away victory over the Blues last week and the fact that they’re playing at home, I predict a Chiefs victory. Unfortunately, I think the odds look spot on. I think it’s marginal, but I would still be inclined to back the Chiefs in a head to head bet.
Brumbies (28) vs. Rebels (23)
7:40 PM AEST
Expert tips: 12 for Brumbies, 3 for Rebels
The Brumbies caused arguably the upset of the season by beating the Reds at Suncorp stadium last week. Meanwhile, the Rebels succumbed 3-40 at home against an understrength Stormers outfit. After a mixed start to the season, the Rebels look to be getting weaker as the season progresses. In fact, they haven’t won a game since their one-point victory over the Force in Week 7. Perhaps this is why they’re giving bad boy Danny Cipriani another start. The five-eighth hasn’t played since the end of April when he was suspended for an off-field rules breach and then due to a contractual stand-off with the club. The Rebels will be without lock Hugh Pyle (groin) while the Brumbies will be without second-rower Mark Chisholm (knee). The bookmakers are very bullish on the Brumbies, which makes a head to head bet on them poor value. I do expect a Brumbies victory, but given the odds, I will sit this one out.
Saturday – June 11
Crusaders (53) vs. Blues (55)
5:35 PM AEST
Expert tips: 13 for Crusaders, 2 for Blues
The Blues succumbed to a poor home loss against the Chiefs last week, while Crusaders supporters will be happy to hear that Sonny Bill Williams came through his boxing match during their bye week unscathed. With two points separating them, it’s likely that this fixture will determine which team tops the New Zealand conference. The Blues beat the Crusaders in Week 1, so the Crusaders will be keen to avoid a second defeat on Saturday. Crusaders captain Richie McCaw looks to be out for both this and the next as a result of his recurring foot injury. Based on the Blues poor performance last week they’ve been marked as the heavy underdogs by the bookies. Despite the low odds, I still think backing the Crusaders in a head to head bet is fair value.
Waratahs (47) vs. Highlanders (45)
7:40 PM AEST
Expert tips: 12 for Waratahs, 3 for Highlanders
I’m pessimistic about the Highlanders chances here. They were in a really strong position mid-season but have fallen at home to the Lions and the Force, who are two of the weakest sides in the competition. Their only glimmer of hope lies in the Waratahs fatigue as they return from two bruising encounters in South Africa. The Waratahs welcome back Wycliff Palu and skipper Phil Waugh from hamstring injuries, but may be without winger Lachie Turner (hamstring) and prop Benn Robinson (ankle), pending fitness tests on Friday. The Waratahs have been installed as the heavy favourites, but I would still back them in a head to head bet.
Force (32) vs. Reds (58)
10:05 PM AEST
Expert tips: 6 for Force, 9 for Reds
After being in such good form and beating the Crusaders in a test-match like encounter two weeks ago, the Reds fell in one of the shocks of the season to the lowly Brumbies at home. The Force, meanwhile, will be on a high after beating the Highlanders in Dunedin. It’s interesting what one game can do, because you can now get 1.53 odds on the top side in the competition to beat the 12th best side. If you think that last week’s loss served as a wake-up call to the Reds and that they will be sharper this week, then 1.53 is great value for the Reds. If you think that the Reds wobbles will continue then 3.50 on the Force to win by 1-12 is your best bet. I’ll leave it up to you!
Sunday – June 12
Lions (23) vs. Sharks (51)
12:05 AM AEST
Expert tips: 2 for Lions, 13 for Sharks
A win for the Sharks could see them cement their place in the finals, while the Lions are fighting to avoid the league’s wooden spoon. A bye next week means this is the final game of the season for the Lions, so they will be desperate to end the season on a high. The Sharks beat the Cheetahs away 18-23 last week, and its hard to see them losing to the Lions here. I would back the Sharks in a head to head bet.
Stormers (57) vs. Bulls (49)
5:35 PM AEST
Expert tips: 13 for Stormers, 2 for Bulls
Sitting 6th on the table, and with the 7th and 8th placed teams playing each other this weekend, this fixture is a must win for the Bulls because a loss would likely see them fall out of a wildcard position with only one more round to play. With six points between them and the 2nd placed Sharks, a victory here would see the Stormers win the South African conference. In the corresponding fixture in Week 5 the Stormers won 23-13, and a similar scoreline this round wouldn’t surprise me. This should be a fantastic fixture, and it may not be the last time the two sides play each other this season. I think the odds are pretty spot on, so I’m inclined to it it out. If you are keen to bet, I think the best value is a line bet on the Stormers (-4).