The following are previews with betting tips for Super Rugby Round 13.
Friday, 8 May
Crusaders v Reds
View a detailed form guide for Crusaders v Reds
The Crusaders are at risk of missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2001 after last week’s defeat to the Hurricanes left them with a 5-6 record. The Crusaders can take positives, however, from the fact that they put in arguably their best performance of the season last week. The competition-leading Hurricanes were simply too good. Richie McCaw returns via the bench this week. This is the Crusaders’ final fixture at AMI Stadium. It will likely be the last time Dan Carter plays in Christchurch before playing in France, so the Crusaders will be hoping to send him off on a high.
Prior to their bye last week the Reds fell 19-35 at home to the Hurricanes after flying back from South Africa. The Reds played well in patches but were punished from turnover ball that stemmed from their mistakes. Despite a third of the season still to play the Reds are already out of playoff contention so they will be looking to build some momentum to take into next year. There’s also the Rugby World Cup looming, so many players will be playing to retain their Wallabies jersey. In the only change to the starting XV from last week, No. 8 Jake Schatz returns after recovering from injury. Ben Tapuai and Jamie-Jerry Taulagi also return from injury, with both named in the reserves.
Head-to-head pick: Crusaders
Line pick: Crusaders -15.5
Conservative betting: while the Crusaders did lose last week it was one of their strongest performances of the season. They have a dominant record over the Reds at home and should be too strong on Friday. I would back the Crusaders -9.5 at 1.42 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: the last two times the Reds played the Crusaders they were hammered. The Crusaders boast a 7-4 line record at home over the last 12 months so I would back the Crusaders -15.5 at 1.91 (William Hill).
Rebels v Blues
View a detailed form guide for Rebels v Blues
The Rebels generally have been poor at home, but they upset the Chiefs 16-15 last week to win back-to-back home games for the first time since 2013. Fly-half Jack Debreczeni continues to have an impressive season, with his 56-metre penalty kick proving to be the difference between the two sides last week. With six games to play the Rebels have already equaled their highest ever win tally so this season will likely be their best ever.
Back at the fortress that is Eden Park the Blues picked up their second win of the season last week, beating the Force 41-24. The Blues led 31-0 at one point, highlighting that the Force were never in the game. Teenage flanker Akira Ioane continues to impress in his debut season, making him one to keep an eye on in Fantasy Rugby. The win came at a cost, however, with captain Jerome Kaino ruled out for the rest of the season with an injured finger. Dan Bowden, Charles Piutau and Luke Braid are also unavailable this week.
Head-to-head pick: Rebels
Line pick: Rebels -4.5
Conservative betting: the Blues have always been good at Eden Park, but away from home they have been appalling, winning just 1 of their last 22 away fixtures. The Rebels have been playing well all year, with a heavy away defeat to the Hurricanes the only blemish on their season. With the Blues likely to shoot themselves in the foot sometime in the game, I would back the Rebels in the head-to-head at 1.54 (Luxbet).
Aggressive betting: on the road the Blues have a habit of being competitive without winning. Of their nine away losses over the last 12 months only one was by more than 12 points. I would back the Rebels 1-12 at 2.81 (Pinnacle Sports).
Saturday, 9 May
Hurricanes v Sharks
View a detailed form guide for Hurricanes v Sharks
The Hurricanes enjoy a five-point lead over the Chiefs thanks to a classy win over the Crusaders last week. The Chiefs sit this round out so the Hurricanes have the opportunity to put further breathing room between them and their local rivals before they take them on next week. The Hurricanes have suffered a major hit, however, with fly-half Beauden Barrett ruled out for a month with a knee injury. James Marshall is expected to take his place.
After losing three consecutive fixtures in South Africa the Sharks started their four-game overseas tour in the worst possible way, losing 15-48 to the Highlanders. The Highlanders have no All Blacks in their pack and were struggling with injuries, so the Sharks’ inability to dominate through the forwards would have been demoralising. The result leaves them 10 points adrift of the playoffs and with fixtures against the Hurricanes and Waratahs to come, it looks highly unlikely that the Sharks will feature in the post season. Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach has returned to South Africa with a broken hand, however the Sharks have received a much needed boost, with Frans Steyn returning from suspension.
Head-to-head pick: Hurricanes
Line pick: Sharks +11.5
Conservative betting: if the Sharks were unable to contain the Highlanders backline last week they will definitely struggle against the Hurricanes. With the Sharks on a four-game losing streak it’s hard to see anything other than a Hurricanes victory. The Hurricanes just have to avoid complacency, because the Sharks do have plenty of quality in their side. I would back the Hurricanes -4.5 at 1.42 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: the loss of Beauden Barrett is big for the Hurricanes, no better highlighted by his fantastic performance against the Crusaders last week before coming off injured. His absence will make a blowout less likely. I’m also mindful of the fact that earlier in the season the Stormers were hammered by the Highlanders in their first game on tour only to put in a more competitive performance against the Hurricanes a week later. Only twice in the last 12 months have the Hurricanes won at home by more than 12 points so I would take the value and back the Hurricanes 1-12 at 2.93 (Pinnacle Sports).
Force v Waratahs
View a detailed form guide for Force v Waratahs
The Force’s miserable season continued with a 25-41 loss to the Blues in Auckland last week. Despite some respectability in the scoreline the Force were never in the game, with the scores at 0-31 at one stage before the Blues got sloppy in the second half. The loss is the Force’s 10th in a row, with their only win of the season coming against the Waratahs in Round 1.
The Waratahs beat the Brumbies for the fourth consecutive time last week to move to within one point of their Australian conference rivals. It was a great defensive performance, with the Waratahs holding off the Brumbies even with a man in the bin, and crucially it keeps them well in the hunt for a home playoff semi-final with a very manageable schedule to come. My only concern for the Waratahs is how they manage to stay fresh in the midst of their 10-game run of fixtures leading up to the playoffs. They will likely have to rotate players at some stage, which makes backing them before the squad announcement risky. Hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau suffered a concussion last week and is unlikely to play.
Head-to-head pick: Waratahs
Line pick: Waratahs -8.5
Conservative betting: the Force upset the Waratahs in Round 1 but the NSW side comes into this fixture in their best form of the season with a three-game winning streak. The Waratahs boast an excellent away record and they have a good habit of winning the close games that could go either way. I would back the Waratahs -3.5 at 1.47 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: the Force have unperformed this season, going 1-1-5 at the line at home over the last 12 months. The Waratahs, meanwhile, are 7-1 at the line on the road. I would back the Waratahs -8.5 at 1.92 (Luxbet).
Lions v Highlanders
View a detailed form guide for Lions v Highlanders
Last week the Lions put in a spirited performance in their 33-35 loss to the Bulls in Pretoria. It was just their first defeat since Round 5 and they managed to pick up a losing bonus point, so the Lions haven’t lost too much momentum. The key to their playoff chances will likely be their three remaining home fixtures, which are against fellow playoff contenders the Highlanders, Brumbies and Waratahs.
After resting key players and losing to the Brumbies two weeks ago the Highlanders fielded a full-strength backline and shredded the Sharks 48-15 in Dunedin. Their high tempo passing game and ability to score points from turnover ball reminds me of the Hurricanes and their attacking play is very easy on the eye. The Highlanders have a respectable record in South Africa so this should be a good match for the neutral.
Head-to-head pick: Lions
Line pick: Lions -1.0
Conservative betting: fixtures between these two sides tend to be close contests, with three of the last four meetings won by 5 point or less. I would back that trend to continue and take both the Lions 1-12 at 3.00 (bet365) and the Highlanders 1-12 at 3.20 (Sportsbet).
Aggressive betting: the Lions are 6-2 at home over the last 12 months while the Highlanders are 3-5 on the road. For that reason I will lean towards the home side and take the Lions 1-12 at 3.00 (bet365)
Sunday, 10 May
Stormers v Brumbies
View a detailed form guide for Stormers v Brumbies
After grinding out a crucial win over the Bulls two weeks ago the Stormers shot themselves in the foot with an error-ridden performance against the Cheetahs. In all the Stormers made 15 handling errors and substitute goal kicker Kurt Coleman fluffed four penalty attempts after their sharp-shooter Demetri Catrakilis came off. The loss leaves them sitting outside the playoffs, however the Bulls have yet to head overseas so the Stormers remain in an excellent position to top the South African conference.
The Brumbies’ conference aspirations were dealt a hammer blow with a second loss of the season to the Waratahs. They enjoyed plenty of territory and possession but weren’t able to breach the Waratahs’ unyielding defence. The Brumbies have now just won one of their last four games but have receive a boost, with scrumhalf Nic White rejoining the side ahead of this clash.
Head-to-head pick: Stormers
Line pick: Stormers -3.0
Conservative betting: I suspect the Brumbies will face the backlash this week from a Stormers side that will be fuming from last week’s result. I would back the Stormers in the head-to-head at 1.657 (Pinnacle Sports).
Aggressive betting: the Brumbies had suffered from Nic White’s absence, so I expect an improvement presuming he starts this weekend. Nevertheless they are 2-7 at the line on the road over the last 12 months. I would back the Stormers -3.0 at 1.97 (Pinnacle Sports).