The following is a preview with betting tips for the 2013 Super Rugby final between the Chiefs and Brumbies at Waikato Stadium. The game will be played on Saturday, the 3rd of August at 5:35 PM AEST (7:35 PM local).
Road to the Final – Chiefs
The Chiefs secured the 1st seed in the playoffs thanks to the Bulls falling 13-30 to the Stormers in Round 20. They topped the New Zealand conference courtesy of a critical home victory over the Crusaders in Round 15. The Chiefs finished the regular season with a 12-4 record. Their form improved as the season wore on, with a 7-1 record in the second half of the season, compared to a 5-3 record in the first half.
After receiving a bye during the qualifying finals, the Chiefs found themselves in the rare position of being a home playoff underdog in the semi-finals. They were hosting a red hot Crusaders outfit that had beaten them 43-15 in Round 19. After trailing 3-9 at the break the Chiefs stunned the Crusaders with tries to Lelia Masaga and Aaron Cruden. The Crusaders then fought back with an Israel Dagg try and a 75th minute penalty, but the Chiefs defended brilliantly in the dying minutes to thwart Dan Carter’s drop goal attempt. It was a fantastic game of rugby for the neutral, but it will have taken a fair bit out of the Chiefs going into this weekend’s final.
Road to the Final – Brumbies
The Brumbies picked up the 3rd seed in the playoffs by topping the Australian conference with 60 points. They would have been the 4th seed, with the 3rd seed going to the Crusaders, if it weren’t for the rule that the third best side to top their conference automatically gets the higher seed. The Brumbies finished the regular season with a 10-2-4 record. In contrast to the Chiefs, they enjoyed their best run of form in the first half of the season. In the second half of the season the Brumbies had a 4-1-3 record, compared to a 6-1-1 record in the first half.
The Brumbies hosted the 6th seeded Cheetahs in the qualifying final. In a nervy contest the Brumbies just got home with a 15-13 win. The Cheetahs scored a late try but the conversion attempt – to send the game into overtime – hit the posts.
The Brumbies travelled to Pretoria to play the Bulls at altitude in the semi-final. The Brumbies started as the 3.68 odds outsider with the Bulls boasting an 8-0 home record this season and an undefeated home record in Super Rugby playoffs. The Brumbies caused a major upset by beating the Bulls 26-23 courtesy of a last minute Tevita Kuridrani try. The hosts will be kicking themselves for passing up on three penalty goal opportunities in the final 13 minutes and Morne Steyn was made to rue two uncharacteristic misses earlier in the game. With that being said, you have to give the Brumbies credit for defending gallantly to keep the Bulls at bay. Veteran flanker George Smith had another fantastic game and the Brumbies forwards managed to outmuscle the Bulls at the scrum. The Brumbies were arguably guilty of kicking possession away on too many occasions – something they can ill afford to do against the Chiefs – however a win’s a win and the whole purpose of sudden death rugby is to live for another week.
In all of Super Rugby playoffs history the home team has a 49-10 record. The Chiefs are unbeaten at home in playoffs rugby, however the same could be said for the Bulls going into last weekend’s semi-final.
During the regular season the Chiefs had a 7-1 home record. Their solitary defeat was a 23-31 loss to the Reds in Round 9. The other Australian team they hosted this year was the Force in Round 13. The Chiefs only just got over the line that week with a 22-21 win. When you combine that with their defeat to the Waratahs and the fact that they were made to work hard for their win over the Rebels, it appears the Chiefs don’t enjoy playing Australian sides.
The Brumbies had a 4-1-3 away record during the regular season. They won both of their visits to New Zealand by dispatching the Highlanders 30-19 in Round 9 and the Blues 20-13 in Round 15. With that being said, there’s a big step up from the Highlanders & Blues to the Chiefs. The Highlanders and Blues picked up 29 and 44 points, respectively, this season, while the Chiefs topped the overall standings with 66 points. The Brumbies hosted the Crusaders in Round 12 and lost 23-30, and given there’s little to separate the Chiefs and Crusaders, the Brumbies will be under no illusions of how hard their task will be on Saturday.
This game bears a close resemblance to last season’s final where the Chiefs hosted the Sharks. Both this year and last the Chiefs received a bye for the qualifying final before beating the Crusaders in a closely contested semi-final in Hamilton.
Like last year, the Chiefs will now host a team that has had to do a lot of travelling. In 2012 the 6th seeded Sharks travelled from Durban to Brisbane where they upset the Reds in the qualifying final. They then flew back to South Africa where they beat the Stormers in Cape Town. The Sharks then flew back to Oceania where the travel schedule finally caught up with them and they were hammered 37-6 by the Chiefs.
This year the Brumbies were able to host the qualifying final in Canberra where they saw off the Cheetahs. They then flew to Pretoria where they upset the Bulls in the semi-final. The Brumbies have now made the long trip over to Hamilton where a relatively fresh Chiefs side awaits them.
While the travelling gives the Brumbies an uphill task on Saturday, I’m not prepared to rule them out because their schedule isn’t as bad as that of the Sharks in 2012. The Sharks had to make three journeys between Oceania and South Africa last year while the Brumbies have only had to make two.
The Sharks proved last year that you can win three consecutive games in different continents. It was the fourth game that was too much to ask. The critical difference this year is the Brumbies were able to play their qualifying final in the same country as their final regular season game. This meant one fewer trip across the Indian Ocean so they shouldn’t be too despondent about the Sharks’ poor showing in last year’s final.
Chiefs vs. Brumbies History
The last four clashes between the two sides have been won by the home team:
2012 — Chiefs vs. Brumbies — 29-22
2011 — Brumbies vs. Chiefs — 28-20
2010 — Brumbies vs. Chiefs — 30-23
2009 — Chiefs vs. Brumbies — 10-7
All four games were settled by eight points or less.
The Brumbies are a well-balanced team, with the 5th best offensive record and 2nd best defensive record in the competition. The Canberra side averaged 26.2 points scored per game compared to 18.5 points conceded. On the road during the regular season the Brumbies weren’t as effective, with 23.4 points scored and 20.0 points conceded, on average.
While the Chiefs have an average defensive record, they boast the best offence in the competition. They averaged 28.1 points scored per game, which is the best in Super Rugby, while they conceded 23.0 points on average, which is the 8th best in the league. At home during the regular season the Chiefs were only slightly more potent on offence, however they were much stronger defensively. They averaged 28.9 points scored and 18.5 points conceded as the home side.
One other interesting stat is the Chiefs lead the competition in tries scored per minute of time in possession so the Brumbies will have to be wary of kicking possession away too soon.
News and other Details
The Chiefs put emphasis on their set-pieces in training during the week. Their lineouts were frequently disrupted by the Crusaders in the semi-final and the Brumbies are known for their strong set-pieces. The Brumbies lineout is especially strong with Ben Mowen the leading pilferer in the competition. During the course of the season the Chiefs have had one of the least effective lineouts in the league.
Given the amount of travelling the Brumbies have had to do there’s a good chance the Chiefs will try to play the game at the same blistering pace as last week. The Chiefs came out of the blocks incredibly fast against the Crusaders and will have learned their lesson from turning down early opportunities to kick for goal.
Chiefs winger Lelia Masaga is fighting to overcome an ankle injury, however he is expected to play. The Chiefs have no other major injury concerns.
The Brumbies will again be relying on veteran flanker George Smith to have a big game. He has been immense for them since returning from injury. Playoffs rugby puts a lot of pressure on decision makers – just ask the shell-shocked Bulls – and his title winning experience has been invaluable for the young Canberra side. Also invaluable is the experience of coach Jake White, who has good experience in elimination stage rugby, having won the 2007 World Cup as coach of the Springboks.
I can’t go past the Chiefs as my tip because their home record combined with the Brumbies’ travel schedule gives the Waikato side a massive advantage. The Brumbies did upset the Bulls in Pretoria, however while the Bulls were excellent for most of the season, they weren’t the same side after injuries on the Springboks tour impacted their squad. The Chiefs are closer to full strength and were in better form at the tail end of the season than the Bulls. When you combine that with a long journey from Pretoria to Hamilton, the Chiefs start as the rightful favourite in the final.
The Sharks won two upset games on the road to the final last year only to be spanked 37-6 by the Chiefs in Hamilton. The Brumbies will be up against it but that one fewer away leg compared to the Sharks means they should be that much fresher for this game. I back coach Jake White to make this close but I tip the Chiefs to get over the line in a close, low scoring game. I would back the Chiefs 1-12 at 2.62 (bet365). Given the recent closely contested games between the two sides you may also want to consider the Brumbies +8.5 at 1.95 (Pinnacle Sports). In three of the four playoff games so far the underdog has covered the line comfortably.