Super Rugby – Round 17 Preview and Betting Tips

Super Rugby Odds

The following are previews and betting tips for Round 17 of the 2012 Super Rugby competition.

With two rounds to go there are nine teams in contention for the six playoff spots. At this stage only the Chiefs are guaranteed a place in the finals. The Hurricanes who are on 49 points currently hold the 6th and last playoff spot with their superior win/loss record and points difference separating them from the Reds and Sharks. The Highlanders sit four points behind and will need to beat the Reds this weekend to remain in contention. The Hurricanes will pick up four points for their bye this week while the Highlanders have a bye in the final round. A bonus point win for the Reds on Friday would put them into 6th place going into the final week.

View the head-to-head form guide for the round.

Friday 6 July

Chiefs v Crusaders

5:35 PM AEST, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

The Chiefs lead the competition by six points so a win this weekend could guarantee the top seed in the six-team playoffs. The Crusaders’ 22-23 home loss to the Hurricanes last week puts them at risk of missing out on a playoff spot, so they have everything to play for.

The Chiefs secured their third consecutive win by beating the Highlanders 27-21 in Dunedin last week. Forsyth Barr Stadium is a tough place to visit so they did well to come away with four points. Their first try of the night once again showed how dangerous they can be from turnover possession. Fullback Robbie Robinson in particular was a constant threat with ball in hand. They were dominated in possession for large parts of the game by the Highlanders but made good use of the possession they had. They only point of concern for the Chiefs is their scrum, which came off second best last week. The Crusaders forward pack boasts seven players will All Blacks caps so the Chiefs will have their work cut out for them at set pieces this week.

The Crusaders were absolutely flying prior to the international break, but the three Test series against Ireland took its toll, with Carter, Reid and Dagg out last week as the Crusaders fell 22-23 at home to the Hurricanes. They had beaten the Hurricanes 42-14 earlier in the competition so they will be bitterly disappointed by that result. To add salt into the wound is the fact that the Hurricanes will pick up four points for a bye this round so a loss to the Chiefs would likely see the Crusaders slip out of a playoff spot. The last time the Crusaders suffered an upset defeat was their 19-28 loss to the Rebels. They bounced back by destroying the Blues 59-12 the following week, so you can be rest assured they’ll lift for this game. Also on their minds will be a desire to avenge their 24-19 loss to the Chiefs earlier in the season.

UPDATE: Dan Carter, Kieran Read and Israel Dagg are back for the Crusaders this week while the Chiefs welcome back Sona Taumalolo and Sam Cane.

Tip: Crusaders to win by 1-12

Betting: This is an excellent fixture to start the round because both teams could win and neither side will be afraid to pass the ball around. Despite the Chiefs’ fantastic 12-2 record this year I feel the wounded Crusaders outfit, with their season on the line, will somehow manage to get the victory this weekend. I will tentatively back the Crusaders in a head-to-head bet @ 1.91 (bet365).

Reds v Highlanders

7:40 PM AEST, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

This is a fantastic game for the neutral, with both sides arguably needing to win to remain in playoff contention. The Highlanders face an uphill battle, it must be said, with the Reds entering this fixture on a four-game winning streak. This is the Highlanders’ last game of the season so they’ll be giving 100% on Friday. They’ve only won two of their last six games – albeit against good opposition – but it’s hard to fancy their chances at Suncorp Stadium.

The Reds enter this fixture on the back of an impressive 32-17 win over the Rebels in Melbourne. They weathered the early storm and were effective at taking advantage of their opportunities. The only downside from that performance was their drop in form after the likes of Quade Cooper were replaced. The Reds will be aiming for a bonus point victory to put themselves in a playoff spot with one round remaining. Anything short of that and they’ll have to rely on other results to go their way in Round 18. One concern will be that Kurtley Beale looked troubled with his rib injury last week. Quade Cooper was benched early in the second half, reportedly as a precautionary measure, so it will be interesting to see how match fit he is this round.

UPDATE: The Reds will be without with flanker Liam Gill (hamstring) and winger Digby Ioane (pneumonia).

Tip: Reds to win by 13+

Betting: Suncorp Stadium is a tough place to visit in Super Rugby, with only the Stormers managing to pick up a win in Brisbane this season. I expect the Reds to be too strong for the Highlanders and will back them in a head to head bet @ 1.28 (bet365). For those who wish to be more aggressive I recommend the Reds -8.5 at the line @ 1.91 (bet365).

Saturday 7 July

Sharks v Bulls

3:10 AM AEST, Kings Park, Durban

This is a fantastic fixture for South African rugby fans. The Bulls sit two points behind the Stormers while the Sharks sit outside the last playoff spot courtesy of an inferior win/loss record and points difference to the Hurricanes. It is still a mathematical chance that neither team, or both teams will make the playoffs, so there’s everything to play for. The Sharks fell 38-28 in a shock loss to the Lions prior to the break and had a bye last week to stew over that potentially season wrecking result. They will be buoyed by the fact that they beat the Bulls in Pretoria 29-23 in Round 8, but will be wary of the Bulls’ potent attack. Springboks Willem Alberts and Patrick Lambie are both out this week with injury, while Frans Steyn returns to play at centre. If the game comes down to a kicking contest then the loss of Lambie could be the Sharks’ undoing this week.

Against the Cheetahs last round the Bulls shot out to a 40-0 lead within 60 minutes courtesy of six tries from six different players. The Bulls then went to sleep to allow four late Cheetahs tries but the game was already in the bag at this stage. Both sides need this win, and both sides will fancy their chances, so this a great fixture for any night owls who are still up after watching the Tour de France.

Tip: either team to win by 1-12

Betting: this is a hard game to predict. Kings Park is a notoriously difficult place to visit, with only the Chiefs picking up an away victory in Durban this season. On the other hand the Bulls attack looks rejuvenated after the international break. You may want to wager on both sides to win by 1-12, as both sides should be competitive.

Blues v Western Force

5:35 PM AEST, Eden Park, Auckland

After two fantastic Friday fixtures we start Saturday with a rather dour one. The Blues are looking to avoid the competition’s wooden spoon while the Force will be looking to avoid the wooden spoon in the Australian conference. The two teams enter this fixture in equally poor form, with only home wins against the Lions to crow about in their last six games. The Blues did give the Chiefs an almighty scare prior to the international break, so if they can replicate that form and intensity they should be too strong at home against the Force. They will be buoyed by the return of Keven Mealamu for this fixture.

Tip: Blues to win by 1-12

Betting: this is a risky fixture to bet on given the erratic nature of the Blues. If they play to their potential they should be too strong for the Force but the 1.10 head-to-head odds are too short. I will sit this one out but you may want to consider the Force +15.5 @ 1.91 (bet365).

UPDATE: The Force’s injury list now also includes David Pocock and Matt Hodgson so things are looking evermore bleak for the visitors. You may want to disregard my line tip above.

Waratahs v Brumbies

7:40 PM AEST, ANZ Stadium, Sydney

The Waratahs’ playoff chances extinguished a few rounds ago but they have the opportunity to play the role of the spoilers when they host the Brumbies. Historically they have been Australia’s two best sides so there should be plenty of rivalry in this fixture. The two last played in Canberra in Round 11 with the Brumbies winning comfortably 23-6. The Waratahs were awful in their 12-33 home loss to the Hurricanes prior to the international break, but that was on the back of a tour of South Africa. They’ve now had the international break plus a bye last week to stew on what has been a horrendous season. I fancy they will lift for this fixture, however, with the opportunity to thwart their rivals and coach Michael Foley having his job on the line. Foley has rolled the dice for this fixture, selecting rookie Grayson Hart at halfback. Hart has not even made the 22-man squad this year. Bernard Foley will make his debut at the five-eighth position. Berrick Barnes will move to inside centre with Rob Horne at 13 and Adam Ashley-Cooper at fullback.

Against Australian opposition the Brumbies have only lost to the Reds this season, and they’d love to keep it that way. They sit five points ahead of the Reds and will eye this and next week’s games as must win fixtures if they are to secure the Australian conference. In their favour is the fact that the Canberra side has only lost one of its last five games, while the Waratahs have lost their last six.

Tip: Brumbies to win by 1-12

Betting: given the Waratahs’ persistently poor form I can’t back them. I would take a head to head bet on the Brumbies @ 1.91 (bet365)

Sunday 8 July

Cheetahs v Stormers

11:00 PM AEST, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

Like the Waratahs, the Cheetahs have the opportunity to play the role of the spoilers when they host the Stormers. The Stormers lead the South African conference with the Bulls just two points behind and the Sharks mathematically within striking distance six points back. The Cheetahs will be rueing their poor start against the Bulls which saw them down 40-0 before fighting back to lose 40-24. They scored four tries in the last twenty minutes, but it was against a side full of tired Springboks and in a game that the Bulls had already won.

The Stormers had to fight hard to beat the Lions 27-17 last week, but they have a reputation for winning without blowing sides away. Like the Chiefs they boast a 12-2 record and given their ability to win tight games I fancy their chances to pick up their 13th win this weekend.

Tip: Stormers to win by 1-12

Betting: I expect the Stormers to do what they always do, and that is just enough. I would back the Stormers to win by 1-12.

Lions v Rebels

1:05 AM AEST, Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg

In another poor fixture for the neutrals the bottom of the table Lions host the Rebels as they fight to avoid the wooden spoons in the competition and Australian conference, respectively. The Lions shocked the Sharks 38-28 prior to the break before making the Stormers work hard in their 27-17 loss last week, so despite their managerial disruptions, they’re not playing bad rugby at the moment. The Rebels have only beaten the Force away from home this season, so given their poor record on the road I find it hard to fancy their chances. The Rebels will be without James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale, so I don’t see them winning this week. They are playing the worst side in the competition, however, so they should be competitive.

Tip: Lions to win by 1-12

Betting: I predict the Lions to win, but find the 1.33 odds (bet365) a bit short. I will sit this one out, but would back the Lions in the head-to-head if I had to bet.

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