Super Rugby – Round 17 Preview

Super Rugby OddsThe following are previews and betting tips for Round 17 of the 2014 Super Rugby competition.

Friday, 27 June

Highlanders v Chiefs

5:35 PM AEST, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
View a detailed form guide for Highlanders v Chiefs

The Highlanders come into this fixture sitting 2nd in the New Zealand conference and 5th in the overall standings, however their form was poor leading up to the international break and they have visits to Sydney and Christchurch to come, so I don’t see them making the playoffs. Against the Reds they were particularly poor, suffering a pushover try from a scrum to go with countless errors, so they will be hoping the international break has arrested their slump.

The international break couldn’t have come fast enough for the Chiefs either, who suffered two heavy defeats in Round 15 and 16. They have only won two of their last six games which has seen them slide to 4th in the New Zealand conference. The good news is they are only two points off a playoff spot and fit again fly-half Aaron Cruden looks to have regained some form during the All Blacks Tests. The Chiefs welcome back centre Robbie Fruean and halfback Augustine Pulu for this clash.

Head-to-head pick: Chiefs
Line pick: Chiefs -0.5

Conservative betting: both sides put in poor, error-strewn performances last round but the international break will have disrupted the form guides to some extent. The bookmakers have had a hard time separating the two sides and so have I. This fixture could easily go either way. The Chiefs have yet to win on the road by more than 12 points this season while the Highlanders have yet to win by more than 12 at home. I would back both the Highlanders 1-12 at 3.05 (Palmerbet) and the Chiefs 1-12 at 2.75 (Sportingbet).

Aggressive betting: with Aaron Cruden getting closer to peak form, if I had to pick as side I would I tip the Chiefs to win this. I would back the Chiefs 1-12 at 2.75 (Sportingbet).

Rebels v Reds

7:40 PM AEST, AAMI Park, Melbourne
View a detailed form guide for Rebels v Reds

As has been the case for a number of rounds now, the Rebels are simply playing to avoid the competition’s wooden spoon, with their 4-9 record putting them at 14th in the overall standings, just one point ahead of the Cheetahs. They’ve only won one of their last five games but that victory was against the Reds at Suncorp Stadium.

Prior to the international break the Reds snapped their six-game losing streak by beating a sub-par Highlanders outfit 38-31 at Suncorp Stadium. The Reds have no chance of making the playoffs either, but will seek to be a thorn in the side of their compatriots over the next few weeks. This fixture will be the second time in three Rounds that the two sides have faced each other. The Rebels won 30-27 in Brisbane so the Reds will be hoping to return the favour this week. After losing Quade Cooper for the campaign, the Reds will now also finish the season without halfback Will Genia, who will go under surgery for an ankle injury. The Reds will start with Nick Frisby and Ben Lucas at halfback and fly-half, respectively. This will be the first time since 2008 that neither Genia nor Cooper have been named in the Reds starting line-up.

Head-to-head pick: Rebels
Line pick: Reds +3.0

Conservative betting: it’s difficult to pick a winner here. I don’t see either team blowing the other off the park on Friday, so I would back both the Rebels 1-12 at 2.75 (Sportingbet) and the Reds 1-12 at 3.25 (Sportingbet).

Aggressive betting: while the Reds did play some of their best rugby of the season to snap their losing streak prior to the June Test window, much of their success was due to a terrible Highlanders performance, so I’m not convinced they are out of the woods yet. The Rebels have been installed as home favourites twice already this season and they won both games. I would back the Rebels 1-12 at 2.75 (Sportingbet).

Saturday, 28 June

Hurricanes v Crusaders

5:35 PM AEST, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
View a detailed form guide for Hurricanes v Crusaders

The Hurricanes paid the price for numerous fist half errors to lose 19-34 to the Blues prior to the international break. They remain in the 6th and last playoff spot, however they have the Bulls, Chiefs and Force all within touching distance. With a bye coming up in the final round, the Hurricanes must beat the Crusaders this week and the Chiefs next to give themselves any chance of playing post-season rugby. They will be without captain Conrad Smith, possibly for the rest of the season, after he suffered a broken thumb against England. Faifili Levave is also out.

Prior to the international break the Crusaders beat the Force 30-7 in a scrappy encounter to move top of the New Zealand conference. They never managed to get out of second gear but still won by 23 points thanks to their stifling defence. With captain Kieran Read close to full fitness after a lengthy absence with a concussion, the Crusaders are well placed to not just win the New Zealand conference, but to also secure a home semi-final, because the first placed Sharks have a bye this week. Dan Carter returns from a seven-month sabbatical for this clash. He and Kieran Read will start from the bench. Richie McCaw is out for three to four weeks with a rib injury while Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo is away on international duty. Israel Dagg is out injured so Tom Taylor will start at fullback.

Head-to-head pick: Crusaders
Line pick: Crusaders -1.0

Conservative betting: the Crusaders are on an impressive six-game winning streak on the road. They will also be out for revenge after losing at home to the Hurricanes in Round 7. I would back the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.82 (Sportsbet).

Aggressive betting: the Hurricanes haven’t lost at home by more than 13 points over the last 12 months. I would back the Crusaders 1-12 at 2.76 (Palmerbet).

Waratahs v Brumbies

7:40 PM AEST, ANZ Stadium, Sydney
View a detailed form guide for Waratahs v Brumbies

Prior to the international break the Waratahs saw off the out of sorts Chiefs to move to the top of the Australian conference. With the Sharks having a bye this round and the Brumbies coming to visit, this week provides a great opportunity for the NSW side to both move into the driver’s seat for the coveted top overall seed and put some breathing room between themselves and their Australian conference contenders. Coach Michael Cheika has made just one change to the starting side from Round 16, with Sekope Kepu starting at tighthead prop in place of Paddy Ryan.

The Brumbies rebounded from three losses in four fixtures to foreign teams by seeing off the Rebels 37-10 to move back into a playoff spot. This clash is a critical fixture for the Brumbies because they have a bye next week, which could see them fall out of playoff contention. The Brumbies’ title aspirations have suffered a massive blow, with Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore ruled out for the rest of the year with a knee injury. Sam Carter is also out for a number of weeks while Pat McCabe, Joe Tomane and Matt Toomua will miss this week’s clash. In better news, prop Ben Alexander is fit again after missing the June internationals with a neck injury.

Head-to-head pick: Waratahs
Line pick: Waratahs -8.5

Conservative betting: the Waratahs have been immense at home this season so I tip them to be too strong for the injury-hit Brumbies. I would back the Waratahs -4.5 at 1.51 (Sportsbet).

Aggressive betting: the Brumbies are a very good team and they’ve beaten the Waratahs in four of their last five clashes. With that being said, their injury count will hurt them. I would back the Waratahs 6-10 at 4.50 and 11-15 at 6.00 (Sportsbet).

Force v Blues

9:45 PM AEST, NIB Stadium, Perth
View a detailed form guide for Force v Blues

After enjoying a strong run where they won seven out of eight games, the Force were patchy leading up to the international window, beating the Lions but losing heavily to the Stormers and Crusaders. The Force should be bolstered by a host of key returning players, with inside-centre Kyle Godwin, utility back Solomoni Rasolea, winger Luke Morahan, scrumhalf Alby Mathewson and lock Hugh McMeniman all expected to return from injury for this clash.

The Blues enter this fixture knowing they must win from here on out to have any chance of making the playoffs. They played impressively to see off the Hurricanes 34-19 at home in Round 16, however they are winless on the road since February last year. Furthermore, the Auckland side are 1-7 at the line away from home over the last twelve months. For whatever reason, they never seem able to match their work rate at the breakdown when they’re away from Eden Park. Fly-half Simon Hickey will likely miss the rest of the Super Rugby season with an ankle injury, so Ihaia West will continue to pull the strings at No. 10.

Head-to-head pick: Force
Line pick: Force -1.0

Conservative betting: while the Blues have the better upside potential of the two squads, I can’t look past the fact that the Force are 6-1 at home this season while the Blues are 0-8 on the road and 1-7 at the line on the road. If this were being played at Eden Park I’d be all over the Blues, however I have to take the Force here. I would back the Force in the head-to-head at 1.83 (Pinnacle Sports).

Aggressive betting: the Blues should be very competitive here. If they play to their full potential they should in fact win. If the Force do win I don’t think it will be by much. I would back the Force 1-12 at 2.80 (Palmerbet).

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