Super Rugby – Semi-Finals Preview and Tips

Super Rugby Odds

The following are previews and betting tips for the semi-finals of the 2012 Super Rugby competition.

Two teams apiece from New Zealand and South Africa remain in the competition, which is probably a fair reflection of the relative strengths of the conferences this year. The Sharks will be accumulating plenty of frequent-flyer miles this month. The Durban side had to make the long trip to Brisbane for last week’s clash before making the return trip to Cape Town. Should they win this weekend the Sharks will have to make the even longer trip over to New Zealand for the final. This amount travelling puts the Sharks at a major disadvantage. It will require a Herculean effort for them to win this year’s competition.

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


Chiefs vs. Crusaders

5:35 PM AEST, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton

This fixture is a replay of the round 17 clash that the Crusaders were lucky to win 28-21. A couple of things have changed since then. First, the Crusaders have started to find their rhythm once again. They were in scintillating form in rounds 13-15, but the international break was a major disruption to the All Black-heavy side. They lost to the Hurricanes (round 16) and weren’t convincing against the Chiefs (round 17), but they killed off the game in the first half against the Force (round 18) and were always in control against the Bulls in last week’s qualifying final. The second change to the Crusaders is they will be without No. 8 Kieran Read, who scored a crucial try against the Chiefs earlier in the month. Richie McCaw has done a fantastic job playing at No. 8 in his place, however I still feel the Crusaders lose a lot in Read’s absence. He’s been a real workhorse for the side this year.

The Chiefs had a bye last week and they won’t be too thrilled by the fact that they’re playing the Crusaders. The visitors have a great record at Waikato Stadium, having won their last three games in Hamilton. The Chiefs lost to the Crusaders 21-28 at home in round 17, however it was an error-strewn Chiefs performance. Their lineout was dreadful and their kicking game was well below par. They can take heart, however, from the fact that they only lost by seven points in a game where one of the TMO’s try decisions to the Crusaders was highly controversial.

Tip: Crusaders to win by 1-12

Betting: I would back the Crusaders to win at 1.60 (bet365). They enter this fixture on the back of three wins while the Chiefs lost their final two fixtures of the regular season. The Crusaders dominated the Chiefs’ forward pack in round 17, and with two evenly matched backlines, it will be their superiority in the forwards that will get the Crusaders over the line. They’re not afraid to kick their way to victory and if Carter has a solid game with the boot then the Crusaders should be able to keep their noses ahead of the Chiefs. If I had to bet at the line I would take the Crusaders -3.5 at 1.91 (bet365), however I prefer the 1.60 head-to-head odds.


Stormers vs. Sharks

1:05 AM AEST, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town

This fixture sees two of the most in-form sides of the competition square off. The Stormers have won eight of their last nine games, while the Sharks have won seven of their last eight. The Stormers will be wary of the threat posed by the visitors. Their last defeat this season was to the Sharks in round 14, with the Durban side winning 25-20. The Stormers had earlier beaten the Sharks 15-12 in Cape Town, so history suggests this will be close. Much has been said of the Stormers’ inability to score tries this season. They are the only side in the competition to not have picked up a bonus point for four tries this year while every other side has at least two. The reason the Stormers boast a league-leading 14-2 record is their defence. Conceding less than 16 points per game, the Stormers defence is comfortably the best in the competition. The next best defenders are the Crusaders, who have conceded 21 points per game. The Sharks are much more balanced in this regard, featuring the 5th best offence and 4th best defence in the competition.

The Sharks will be rueing the finals system which installed the Reds as the third seed. Had the seeds been based on points tallies then the Sharks would have played the Bulls in the qualifiers, thus avoiding the traveling back and forth to Australasia. They played supremely well to beat the Reds at Suncorp Stadium last week, with Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniel and Ryan Kankowski in particular having strong games. A lot has been made of the suspension of Quade Cooper and the injury to Ben Lucas, but let’s not forget the Sharks were without their playmaker Pat Lambie as well as Francois Steyn. Suncorp Stadium is a tough place to visit so they’ve done extremely well to make the semi-finals.

Tip: Stormers to win by 1-12

Betting: I find this tough to predict. The Stormers haven’t been all that convincing in the way they’ve won games, but they have a reputation for always doing just enough to win. The Sharks are in excellent form, with convincing wins over fellow top six sides in recent games (32-10 against Bulls and 30-17 against the Reds). My primary concern is the travelling they’ve had to do. To make the trip to Australia for one game before returning immediately to South Africa is tough, especially with the changes in time zones. They now have to take on a side that will be fresh from their bye last round. For this reason I would back the Stormers to win by 1-12 at 2.62 (bet365). If you wish to be more conservative then another solid option is to back both sides to win by 1-12, as history suggests this will be a close game. If I had to bet at the line I would actually be more inclined to take the Sharks -4.5 at 1.91 (bet365) due to the Stormers’ track record of just getting over the line.

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