The following is a preview with betting tips for the 2014 Super Rugby Final between the Waratahs and Crusaders. The match will take place at ANZ Stadium rather than the Waratahs’ usual home of Allianz Stadium.
Saturday, 2 August
Waratahs vs. Crusaders
7:40 PM AEST, ANZ Stadium, Sydney
View a detailed form guide for Waratahs v Crusaders
The Waratahs enter the Super Rugby final on an eight-game winning streak. They have been absolutely dominant in the second half of the season, winning by an average of 25 points in their last six games, with 16 points being their lowest margin during that stretch. At home the Waratahs’ form is even more dominant, where they boast a 9-0 head-to-head record and an 8-1 record at the line. The Waratahs have the best offensive and defensive records in the competition, with 30 points per game scored and 16 points conceded.
I adhere to the principal that offence wins headlines while defence wins titles, and the Waratahs’ defence has been immense this season, particularly over the last third of the campaign where they haven’t conceded more than 19 points in a game since Round 12. Last week was no exception as they withstood a barrage of attacks as the Brumbies threw everything at them for long passages of play only to come away with nothing.
The Waratahs will have to put recent history out of their mind because they have a dreadful record against the Crusaders. It must be said, however, that they were unlucky not to beat the Crusaders in Christchurch last year when they fell 22-23 after Berrick Barnes missed a match-winning kick after the final hooter. I remember at the time thinking the Waratahs were not far off being a very good team, and Waratahs fans will be happy to see their side playing well again after the frustrations of 2012 and 2013.
After a slow start to the season, the Crusaders finished their campaign in ominous form, winning five of their last six games and restricting the opposition to 13 points or fewer in four of those matches. In a year where home sides have dominated, the Crusaders have bucked the trend by posting a league-leading 6-2 record on the road. Like the Waratahs, the Crusaders are balanced offensively and defensively, boasting the second best offensive and defensive records this season, with 28 points per game scored and 19 points conceded.
Like the Waratahs the Crusaders defence has been impressive this season. Last week the Sharks never looked like scoring a try. Four of the Crusaders’ five tries were scored in the second half as they continually clicked into higher gears. While it was a poor performance from the Sharks in that semi-final, the 38-6 score line should have Waratahs fans feeling nervous. As I wrote last week, the Crusaders struggled offensively earlier in the season but have looked much more threatening in the backline once they settled on Colin Slade at fly-half with mid-season signing Nemani Nadolo added to the wing. Dan Carter’s return from sabbatical to play at inside-centre has added another attacking dimension, although it must be said his kicking accuracy hasn’t been very good since his return. Carter went 5/9 in penalties and conversions both last week and in Round 19. All Blacks captain Richie McCaw was impressive on his return last week. He played well at blindside with the in-form Matt Todd keeping the number seven jersey. Fijian winger Nemani Nadolo will no doubt relish taking on the team that dumped him five years ago.
Waratahs vs. Crusaders History
- The Crusaders have won their last 11 straight games against the Waratahs.
- The Crusaders have won their last 4 straight away games against the Waratahs.
- The Crusaders and Waratahs last played in Round 16 of 2013, when the Crusaders won 23-22 in Christchurch.
- The Waratahs last hosted the Crusaders in Round 10 of 2012, when the Crusaders won 37–33.
- The Crusaders and Waratahs have only previously played each other twice in the playoffs. Both occasions were Super Rugby finals hosted by the Crusaders. The Crusaders won 35-25 in 2005 and 20-12 in 2008.
Super Rugby Finals History
- Since the inception of Super Rugby there have been 18 finals, 14 of which were won by the home side.
- Since 2001 the home team has won 12 out of the 13 finals, including the last 6.
- Three of the four previous away victories were achieved by the Crusaders (1998, 1999, 2000) while the fourth was achieved by the Bulls (2007).
- On only one occasion has the visiting team won the Super Rugby final on foreign soil – a feat accomplished by the Crusaders when they beat the Brumbies in Canberra in 2000.
- Of the 12 previous occasions where the first seed hosted the second seed in the final, the first seed won 9 times.
- The average winning margin when the home team won is 15.6 points (min 4, max 44).
- The average winning margin when the away team won is 3.5 points (min 1, max 7).
- Excluding the finals that featured a South African team playing a non-South African team, the average winning margin when the home team won is just 9 points (min 4, max 18), with no side winning by more than 10 points since 2003.
- As the away team in a final, the Crusaders have a 3-3 record. They have lost their last three straight finals as the away team, with their last away finals victory coming in 2000.
- The Waratahs have never previously hosted a final.
- The Waratahs have made the final as the visiting team in 2005 and 2008. Both games were played against the Crusaders, with the Waratahs losing both.
- The Crusaders have won seven Super Rugby titles (1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008) while the Waratahs have yet to win.
Head-to-head pick: Waratahs
Line pick: Waratahs -1.5
Conservative betting: if the Waratahs were hosting any other team in the final I would push all in on them, however the Crusaders boast fantastic playoffs pedigree and they are peaking at just the right time. The Crusaders have won their last four visits to Sydney and they boast an eleven-game winning streak over the Waratahs, so you could argue the Crusaders were the one team the Waratahs were hoping not to play this weekend. I think this could go either way, but if I had to pick one team I would side with history and take the home team. Keeping in mind the defensive strengths of both sides and the fact that no visiting team has won the final by more than 5 points since the Crusaders won by 7 in 1998, I would make the following wager combination:
It’s up to you, but I would wager four to five times as much on wager #1 as I would wager #2.
Aggressive betting: given the Waratahs have won 7 of their 9 home games by 13 points or more, I wouldn’t blame you for taking the Waratahs 13+, however the Crusaders haven’t lost by more than 13 points away from home this season and they have been the best travelling team in the competition. The fact that this game will be played away from the Waratahs’ usual home of Allianz Stadium and the fact that the Crusaders have won their last four visits to Sydney also give me cold feet regarding the Waratahs 13+. Another point concerns finals history: due to the amount of travel involved, finals containing a South African team and a non-South African team have often resulted in large winning margins. However, when you exclude finals data concerning a South African team vs. non-South African team, the average winning margin tends to be low. When you exclude the aforementioned scenario, the last eight finals that were won by the home team were won by 10 points or less. With that in mind, I would back the Waratahs 1-12 at 2.70 odds (bet365).