Super Rugby has reached the semifinals stage. The Reds host the Blues on Saturday night, while the Stormers host the Crusaders early Sunday morning AEST. History is on the side of the home teams as it has been over a decade since a team won a Super rugby playoff match outside their own country. 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). Note that you can view and compare the latest odds for Australia’s leading bookmakers using the live rugby odds comparison tool. Also note that IASbet is offering 2.00 NRL, AFL and Super Rugby lines this weekend (learn more).
Reds vs Blues
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Saturday, July 2
7:40 PM AEST
Expert tips: 14 for Reds, 1 for Blues
After losing four games on the trot the Blues have found some timely form, beating the Highlanders in the last round of the regular season and then seeing off the Waratahs last week. Having said that, the wheels had fallen off for the Highlanders, and the Waratahs were heavily depleted due to injury. The Blues are confident about their chances, however, and hope that the lack of finals experience will hurt the Reds. The Blues squad is relatively unchanged from last week. Loose forward Chris Lowrey will replace the injured Anthony Boric in the second row. This could have consequences for the strength of the Blues line out, especially if they seek to attack from it. Utility back Rene Ranger has been recalled from injury but is likely to start from the bench.
The Reds are relishing their first play-off Super Rugby game in ten years. They have received a timely boost, with injured stars Digby Ioane, Beau Robinson and Anthony Faingaa all returning from injury. The Reds are highly confident they can get the job done on Saturday, with Queensland mentor John Connolly tipping Genia and Cooper to repeat their dominance of Alby Mathewson and Stephen Brett in the Reds’s 37-31 victory over the Blues in Week 13. The Blues scrum will be the main area of concern for the Reds. The Blues dominated the scrum in their previous meeting, and tighthead prop James Slipper is out with an ankle injury.
In their previous meeting the Reds actually lead 24-0 at one stage, the Blues managed to close the gap to 27-24 before the Reds finally prevailed. The bookies seem to be cautiously optimistic about the Reds, and I think there is good value in backing them. I would back the Reds in a head to head bet.
Stormers vs Crusaders
Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Sunday, July 3
1:05 AM AEST
Expert tips: 7 for Stormers, 8 for Crusaders
The Stormers enter this fixture on the back of indifferent form, with a 3-4 record to finish the season. They beat the Cheetahs 44-34 in the last round of the competition, but lost at home 16-19 to the Bulls a week earlier. Like many teams at the tail end of this season, the Stormers are struggling to find reserves for their growing injury list. The Stormers have resorted to drafting English-based hooker Schalk Brits to help cover injuries to their loose forwards Duane Vermeulen and Siya Kolisi. Sanzar has given him permission to play as a loose forward and not as a hooker. Brits is expected to start from the bench, while Nick Koster covers for Vermeulen. In other squad changes, Conrad Jantjies returns to a reshuffled backline in place of Juan de Jongh.
No team has ever travelled to South Africa and back to win a Super Rugby title, so the Crusaders will be well aware of the task at hand. The Crusaders do have a great chance, however. They have a near full-strength team with skipper Richie McCaw expected to return from injury and they beat the Stormers 14-20 at Newlands Stadium in Week 12. I was hoping the Crusaders would be installed as the underdog, but the bookies seem to share my mindset, with the Crusaders currently sitting as 1.72 favourites.
While I would back the Crusaders to win, this should be a tough match, and it’s marginal whether the 1.72 odds are worth the risk. I would hunt around for better value if you have numerous memberships. You can actually get 1.80 head to head odds on the Crusaders with Pinnacle Sports, which is fair value.