Super Rugby – Round 1 Preview

Super Rugby OddsThe following are previews and betting tips for Round 1 of the 2014 Super Rugby competition. It is an all South African affair this round, with the Australian and New Zealand sides commencing their seasons next week.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our season previews for the Australian, New Zealand and South African conferences.

Sunday, 16 February

Cheetahs v Lions

2:05 AM AEDT, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
View a detailed form guide for this fixture

Hopefully for the neutral the Cheetahs will continue to play the expansive style of rugby that saw them rewarded with a playoff spot last year. The Cheetahs welcome back fly-half Johan Goosen after a long injury layoff and will be hoping the talisman can stay fit after a couple of injury-hit seasons. They will be without Heinrich Brussow for the start of the season, however Boom Prinsloo is a handy replacement. I question whether the Cheetahs have the squad depth to push for the title, but they should certainly be too strong for an under-strength Lions this weekend.

The Lions can be forgiven for being rusty after they were sidelined for the 2013 Super Rugby season. On paper they’re the weakest side in South Africa and they have suffered a number of injury blows pre-season, with Andries Coetzee, Rudi Mathee, Elton Jantjies, Anthony Volmink and Ruan Dreyer unavailable for this fixture. The Lions didn’t win a single away fixture in 2012, so it would be an upset if they won this weekend.

Head-to-head Tip: Cheetahs
Line Tip: Cheetah -13.5

Conservative Betting: having a team sit out a full Super Rugby season is unprecedented, so it’s difficult to gauge how much weight to apply to previous head-to-head results. I’m wary of picking a winning margin so I’m inclined to take the Cheetahs in the head-to-head at 1.21 (Pinnacle Sports).

Aggressive Betting: for those who want to take on more risk, my best guess for a winning margin is the Cheetahs somewhere between 10 and 20. The equivalent bets are to back the Cheetahs to win by 11-15 (4.50) and 16-20 (6.00) with bet365.

Sharks v Bulls

4:10 AM AEDT, Kings Park, Durban
View a detailed form guide for this fixture

Of all the South African sides, the Sharks look the best placed to start the 2014 season strongly. The side is laden with Springboks – 11 are in this week’s starting XV with 3 more on the bench – and they carry decent momentum into this season, with the Natal Sharks having won the 2013 Currie Cup. The Sharks have had the least upheaval of any South African franchise during the off-season and they now have the highly rated Jake White as head coach. They looked good in pre-season, albeit against weaker opposition, and I expect them to do well against a youthful Bulls side. The Sharks lost their two fixtures against the Bulls last year by a combined three points, so there will be an element of revenge here.

The Bulls lost a lot of players during the off-season, with Morné Steyn one of the big departures. They may start the season slowly, given the number of new faces in the squad and injuries to Arno Botha, Marvin Orie, Morne Mellett, Jesse Kriel and Deon Stegmann. In their favour is the fact they they have a strong record against the Sharks, picking up wins in two of their last three visits to Kings Park.

Head-to-head Tip: Sharks
Line Tip: Sharks -6.5

Conservative Betting: the line looks to be spot on, so I feel more comfortable taking the Sharks in the head-to-head at 1.42 (Sportingbet).

Aggressive Betting: for those who want more risk, I like the Sharks 1-12 at 2.80 (Sportingbet). This should be a typical South African derby, with a lot of focus on the battle at the breakdown and a small winning margin.

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