The following are previews and betting tips for Round 10 of the 2012 Super Rugby competition.
The Australian sides have slipped further behind the rest of the pack, with the Waratahs’ win over the Rebels the only victory for an Australian team last week. The Chiefs and Stormers remain the pace setters, with the Highlanders and Bulls not far behind.
Head to head stats and form guides for the round can be viewed here.
Friday 27 April
Blues v Reds
5:35 PM AEST, Eden Park, Auckland
This should be an excellent game. The out of sorts Blues host the injury ravaged Reds in a game that could go either way. The Blues started well against the Highlanders last week, with Nonu showing glimpses of how dangerous he can be with ball in hand. At times during the game they were able to put phases together and were more patient and composed in attack. They made too many errors during the course of the game, however, including failing to secure kick offs on a number of occasions. With that being said they were always in the game and could have kicked for a draw in the dying stages. They ended up losing 30-27 in a game that featured nine lead changes.
The Reds’ horrific injury run continued last week in their 13-23 loss to the Stormers. Sam Lane, playing at fly-half, suffered a season-ending knee injury and centre Ben Tapuai broke his collarbone shortly afterwards. The Reds had opted for a 5-2 heavy reserves bench, so they had to reshuffle their backline for the rest of the match. The Reds did enjoy lineout and breakdown superiority during the game, and Ben Lucas and Mike Harris should be available to don the #10 and #12 jerseys, so the Red can take a few positives into the Blues game. Also, Digby Ioane is back from injury.
Tip: Blues to win by 1-12
Betting: the head-to-head odds of 1.35 on the Blues is too short in my opinion. I’d take the Reds (+7.5) at the line (odds from Centrebet).
Saturday 28 April
Lions v Brumbies
3:10 AM AEST, Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
The Brumbies will like their chances against the Lions. While the Canberra side have lost three of the last four, they have lost to quality sides (Sharks, Reds, Bulls), while the Lions have lost their last six games since beating the Cheetahs in round 1. The problem for the Lions is scoring. They currently average fewer points per game than any other side. More worryingly, there is a downward trend in their points scored as the season has progressed and their injury list has mounted. The Hurricanes and Crusaders had to fight hard for their wins in Johannesburg, so I don’t expect the Brumbies to blow them away.
Tip: Brumbies to win by 1-12
Betting: back the Brumbies to win at 1.77 odds (Centrebet)
Chiefs v Hurricanes
5:35 PM AEST, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
The Chiefs’ fantastic run continued when they beat the Cheetahs and Sharks in South Africa. They now return home to play the wounded Hurricanes who endured a 14-42 home loss against the Crusaders last week. The Chiefs are known for their attacking abilities, but their resolute defence won them the game last week as they repelled a persistent Sharks attack. That result will give them real confidence that they can beat any team, anytime, anywhere. The Hurricanes will be reeling from their loss last week, however they were disrupted by injuries ahead of that game. Cory Jane and Julian Savea were ruled out late in the week, along with James Broadhurst and TJ Perenara. In the first 35 or so minutes they put on a clinic on how not to play the Crusaders, kicking the ball away aimlessly, gifting the Crusaders opportunities. At 0-32 down they finally changed their tactics. They kept the ball in hand as we’re more used to seeing, and they effectively won the remaining 45 minutes of the game 14-10, so the Hurricanes can take positives from that. Fullback Andre Taylor continues to impress me. He scored the Hurricanes first try and I wonder if we’ll be seeing him in an All Blacks jersey before too long.
Tip: Chiefs to win by 1-12
Betting: back the Chiefs to win at 1.40 odds (Centrebet). I find it hard to predict a winning margin for this one.
Western Force v Stormers
7:40 PM AEST, NIB Stadium, Perth
The Force will be bracing themselves for a stern test when they host the 7-1 Stormers in Perth. The Force have been the spoilers of the Australian conference thus far, beating the more highly rated Waratahs and Reds, but they haven’t beaten foreign opposition this season. It will be interesting to see how they fare now that their coach Richard Graham has been sacked. The Stormers bounced back well from their defeat against the Crusaders with a 23-13 win over the Reds last week. Fly-half Peter Grant was impressive, not only with the boot but in scoring a brilliant try. They have picked up some injuries on their travels, but I still expect them to be too strong on Saturday.
Tip: Stormers to win by 1-12
Betting: back the Stormers to win at 1.53 odds (Centrebet)
Sunday 29 April
Cheetahs v Highlanders
1:05 AM AEST, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
This should be a good game. The Cheetahs have played attractive rugby all year, while the Highlanders have kept the ball in hand more than any other team this season. After a rough 0-3 start to the season the Cheetahs have won three of their last five games, with their two losses by 6 and 7 point margins against the highly rated Crusaders and Chiefs, respectively. The Highlanders returned from their bye to beat the Blues 30-27 last week in a game that featured nine lead changes. The result further highlighted the Highlanders finishing ability this season. Five of their six wins have been by 4 points or less. The main stand out for them last week was fly-half Mike Delany, who was brought in from the Japanese side Panasonic Wild Knights to cover for the injured Colin Slade and Lima Sopoaga. I had previously expressed concerns over their other fly-half back up, Chris Noakes, and the Highlanders management must have felt the same way to bring Delany in. The former Chief, Highlander and All Black was excellent with the boot and he set up the home side’s first try. I would argue that he made the difference between the Highlanders winning and losing last week, so his signing was an inspired decision. This should be a really open contest, with both sides capable of winning. Given the long trip from Dunedin to Bloemfontein and the fact that the Cheetahs will be fresh from a bye, I’m leaning towards the home side for this one.
Tip: Cheetahs to win by 1-12
Betting: back the Cheetahs to win at 1.77 odds (Centrebet)
Waratahs v Crusaders
4:10 PM AEST, Sydney Football Stadium, Sydney
The Waratahs will be pleased to have maintained their unbeaten record against the Rebels with their 30-21 win, but it was far from a complete performance and certainly not one that would be sufficient against their next opponents, the Crusaders. To add to the Waratahs concerns, Rob Horne has been suspended for two matches while Bernard Foley is out with injury, which will force Michael Foley to reshuffle the backline – something the Hurricanes were forced to do ahead of their 14-42 loss to the Crusaders last week – ask them how that turned out.
After a slow start the Crusaders are really starting to kick into gear. They effectively won their clash against the Hurricanes in the first 35 minutes last week, but will be disappointed to have lost the final 45 minutes of the game 14-10. As I wrote earlier, the Hurricanes put on a clinic on how not to play the Crusaders last week, but looked much more competitive when they stopped kicking and kept ball in hand – something that the Waratahs could learn from.
Tip: Crusaders to win by 1-12
Betting: back the Crusaders to win at 1.35 odds (Centrebet)