The following are previews with betting tips for Round 11 of the 2015 Super Rugby competition.
Friday, 24 April
Chiefs v Force
5:35 PM AEST, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
View a detailed form guide for Chiefs v Force
The Chiefs moved to just one point behind the table-topping Hurricanes with a convincing 26-9 win over the Crusaders in Christchurch last week. After an unbroken eight-week stretch of games to start the season, the Chiefs looked refreshed after their Round 9 bye, preventing the Crusaders from getting any penetration with ball in hand. The only sour note is a big one. Fly-half Aaron Cruden ruptured his ACL, ruling him out of rugby for six months. Marty McKenzie will start in his place. Liam Messam is rested this week.
After upsetting the Waratahs in Sydney in Round 1 the Force have yet to win since, losing 6-13 at home to the Stormers last week for their 8th consecutive defeat. It’s been a similar story each week, with side enjoying plenty of possession but being unable to get over the try line. Sam Wykes and Alby Mathewson are out injured this week, however captain Matt Hodgson has recovered from injury and is available for selection.
Head-to-head pick: Chiefs
Line pick: Force +16.5
Conservative betting: the Force have been more competitive against the Chiefs every time they’ve play them. The Force only lost by a point in 2013 when they last visited Hamilton and they upset the Chiefs with a three-point win last year in Perth. The majority of Chiefs’ home wins over the last 12 months have been by 8-12 points and I’m expecting a similar scoreline this Friday. I would back the Force +19.5 at 1.53 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: bookmakers appear to be expecting a blowout, however a 1-12 victory for the Chiefs wouldn’t surprise me. Five of their last seven home wins were by 1-12 points and the Force enjoy plenty of possession during games. The Force may struggle to get over the try line, but they defend reasonably well, no better highlighted than by their 1-1-7 over/under record on the road over the last 12 months. I would back the Chiefs 1-12 at 3.40 (bet365).
Brumbies v Highlanders
7:55 PM AEST, GIO Stadium, Canberra
View a detailed form guide for Brumbies v Highlanders
The injury-hit Brumbies fell 8-13 to the Rebels last week to end an eleven-game unbeaten streak at home. They fielded three players on debut, with halfback Michael Dowsett in particular having a tough time against his opposite number. The Brumbies still hold a three-point lead at the top of the Australian conference, however the Waratahs and Rebels have a game in hand.
The Highlanders’ strong season continues after they saw off the fast finishing Blues 30-24 in Dunedin last week. The Blues threw the kitchen sink at them but the Highlanders played the smarter rugby. The Highlanders are resting Aaron Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and Ben Smith this week. They are also missing seven forwards to injury so this is far from a full-strength team this week.
Head-to-head pick: Brumbies
Line pick: Highlanders +7.5
Conservative betting: the injury-hit Brumbies are certainly hurting from their absentees at the moment, but the Highlanders are without ten players themselves. Also, the Highlanders haven’t won in Canberra since 2006. The last time the Highlanders visited Canberra they lost by 7 points back in 2012 and a similar scoreline this week wouldn’t surprise me. I would back the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.40 (Betstar).
Aggressive betting: the Brumbies boast an 8-1 home record over the last 12 months and are 6-2 on the back of a loss, but I expect the Highlanders will be a stern test for them this week. I would back the Brumbies 1-12 at 2.95 (Palmerbet).
Saturday, 25 April
Crusaders v Blues
5:35 PM AEST, AMI Stadium ,Christchurch
View a detailed form guide for Crusaders v Blues
The Crusaders’ mid-season slump continues as they fell 9-26 at home to the Chiefs. They fielded a starting line-up with 10 Test players but couldn’t get any penetration with ball in hand. The Crusaders also came unstuck with too many kicking errors. The result leaves them with a 4-5 record for the season, with their 52-10 hammering of the Sharks now looking like a distant memory.
The Blues showed plenty of endeavour but fell 24-30 to the Highlanders in Dunedin last week to move to 1-8 for the season. As I’ve said before, their win-loss record is not a true reflection of their abilities, no better highlighted by their 6 losing bonus points from 8 losses. Blues management will be pleased by the performance of 19-year old loose-forward debutante, Akira Ioane, who caught my eye numerous times last week. I get the feeling the Blues aren’t far off getting on a winning streak. Five of their last seven fixtures are at home, so I’m expecting a strong finish to the season for the Auckland side. After being rotated to the bench last week, the All Blacks front row of Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu and Charlie Faumuina will start this week. Jerome Kaino, James Parsons and Charles Piutau, meanwhile, are being rested.
Head-to-head pick: Crusaders
Line pick: Blues +9.5
Conservative betting: this fixture has been dominated by the home side in recent years. If the Blues repeat their performance from the first half of last week they will be blown off the park, but if we see the second half version of them then a win is not out of the question. It just remains to be seen whether the Blues can put together an 80-minute performance. It would be almost unheard of for the Crusaders to lose three in a row at home but their head-to-head odds are too short for my liking. I would back the Blues +13.5 at 1.54 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: I expect the Blues to be highly competitive this week. Six of their eight losses this season have been by 1-7 points and I’m going to back that trend to continue. I would back the Crusaders 1-12 at 2.78 (Palmerbet).
Waratahs v Rebels
7:55 PM AEST, ANZ Stadium, Sydney
View a detailed form guide for Waratahs v Rebels
The Waratahs bounced back well from their disappointing home defeat to the Stormers two weeks ago by beating the previously unbeaten Hurricanes in Wellington. The Brumbies home defeat to the Rebels enabled the Waratahs to move to three points behind them in the Australian conference with a game in hand. Despite all the criticism of the Waratahs this season, this time last year they had the same 5-3 as they do now. Last year the Waratahs then went on a 7-1 rampage to top the overall standings, a feat that certainly looks possible given the Waratahs’ run of fixtures to see off the season.
The Rebels will be looking for their third consecutive Australian scalp when they take on the Waratahs this week. In recent rounds they beat the Reds at home and the Brumbies in wet conditions in Canberra. The side now has a respectable 4-4 record for the season, keeping them in touch of the playoff race.
Head-to-head pick: Waratahs
Line pick: Waratahs -10.5
Conservative betting: the Waratahs have dominated the Rebels in recent years, with seven wins from their last eight meetings. The Waratahs won by 10 points in Melbourne earlier this year and I back them to at least match that winning margin this week. I would back the Waratahs -6.5 at 1.54 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: all four of the Rebels’ away losses over the last 12 months have been by 13 points or more. I would back the Waratahs -10.5 at 1.91 (William Hill).
Sunday, 26 April
Lions v Cheetahs
1:05 AM AEST, Ellis Park, Johannesburg
View a detailed form guide for Lions v Cheetahs
Prior to their bye last week the Lions extended their winning streak to four games when they saw off the Sharks 23-21 in Johannesburg. The Lions sit seven points behind the conference leading Bulls who, like the Sharks, have yet to head overseas. The Lions have received a boost, with Mark Richards, Courtnall Skosan, Sampie Mastriet and Stokkies Hanekom all available for selection after returning from injury.
Joe Pietersen’s 79th minute hit the post last week as the Cheetahs fell 17-18 at home to the Reds. They have now won just one out of their last eight games and last week’s defeat was compounded by the loss of Heinrich Brussow with a broken arm. Tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen and fullback Coenie van Wyk are out for one and four weeks respectively after also picking up injuries last week. van Wyk’ absence is compounded by news that fellow fullback Willie le Roux will miss the next three to four weeks with an ankle injury.
Head-to-head pick: Lions
Line pick: Lions -7.5
Conservative betting: of the two sides the Lions have been playing the better rugby this season. They’re particularly strong at home, where they’ve won five of their last seven. The Cheetahs, meanwhile, have lost six of their last eight on the road. I would back the Lions in the head-to-head at 1.35 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: five of the last six away losses for the Cheetahs were by 8 points or more. I would back the Lions -7.5 at 1.91 (bet365).
Stormers v Bulls
3:10 AM AEST, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
View a detailed form guide for Stormers v Bulls
The Stormers ground out a 13-6 win over the Force last week in Perth to maintain their pressure on the Bulls in the South African conference. The Cape Town side has a 6-3 record for the season and are well placed to win the South African conference given that the Bulls and Sharks have yet to play overseas. All three Stormers’ losses were to New Zealand sides so they will be pleased to have seen the back of them for the regular season. In player news, winger Kobus van Wyk is out for six weeks with injury while captain Duane Vermeulen returns to training after a two-week rest period. Manuel Carizza is back after missing last week with injury.
The Bulls remain top of the South African conference after beating the Sharks 17-10 in Durban. It was an ugly game to watch, with numerous errors committed as both teams played extremely physical brands of rugby, however the Bulls will be delighted with the crucial win given the need to stay ahead of the Stormers, who have an easier run for the rest of the season. The Bulls will be without halfbacks Rudy Paige and Jacques-Louis Potgieter for the next two weeks due to injury.
Head-to-head pick: Stormers
Line pick: Stormers -1.5
Conservative betting: this fixture may be key to how the South African conference plays out. The Bulls lead the conference by two points over the Stormers, however they have yet to head overseas, so a win for them is arguably more important than it is for the home side. Another factor is the Stormers may be fatigued having just returned from South Africa after a four-game tour. With so much at stake I expect this to be a close contest. I would back both the Stormers 1-12 at 2.91 (Pinnacle Sports) and the Bulls 1-12 at 3.22 (Pinnacle Sports).
Aggressive betting: the Bulls have won six of their last seven games and with many key players back in the squad they will be tough to beat, but given the Stormers have won five of their last seven clashes against the Bulls, I’m going to side with the home team. I would back the Stormers 1-12 at 2.91 (Pinnacle Sports).
Reds v Hurricanes
4:05 PM AEST, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
View a detailed form guide for Reds v Hurricanes
After showing some promising signs two weeks ago in their loss to the Bulls, the Reds snapped a six-game losing streak with an 18-17 win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week. Bit by bit the injury-hit side looks to be getting stronger and more confident as reinforcements come back. The Cheetahs are one of the weakest sides in the competition, however, so it remains to be seen whether the Reds can trouble the strongest sides.
The Hurricanes suffered their first defeat of the season last week when they fell 24-29 at home to the Waratahs. It wasn’t a complete disaster, however, with the Wellington side picking up two bonus points to remain top of the competition standings with a game in hand over the Chiefs, who sit one point behind them.
Head-to-head pick: Hurricanes
Line pick: Reds +6.5
Conservative betting: the Reds are finally building some momentum, however they have had to make the long trip back from South Africa and the Hurricanes are much sterner opposition than the Cheetahs. The Hurricanes boast a 4-1 away record as the home favourite over the last 12 months so I would back the Hurricanes in the head-to-head at 1.40 (Luxbet).
Aggressive betting: the Reds have done enough in recent weeks to show that they have turned a corner. If they can go a few weeks without further injury disruptions then they can finally start improving continuity in attack. The Hurricanes should be too strong but I expect the home side to be competitive. I would back the Hurricanes 1-12 at 2.84 (Pinnacle Sports).