The following are previews with betting tips for Super Rugby Round 14.
Friday, 15 May
Blues v Bulls
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Last week the Blues continued to do what they’re renowned for, and that is disappoint away from home. The Auckland side has now won just 1 of it’s last 23 away fixtures. They’re a completely different proposition at home, however, where they have a strong record at Eden Park. The Auckland side has been hit hard by injuries, however, with Jerome Kaino, Luke Braid, Bryn Hall, Charles Piutau, Hayden Triggs, Hamish Northcott, Patrick Tuipulotu and Dan Bowden all unavailable.
Prior to their bye last week the Bulls capitalised on a shock Stormers defeat by seeing off the in-form Lions 35-33. The bonus point win gave them a timely boost ahead of their four-game overseas tour, which could make or break their playoff chances. The Bulls have lost scrumhalf Piet van Zyl for the rest of the season due to a ruptured ACL, while in better news, Werner Kruger, Jacques-Louis Potgieter and Dean Greyling have been named on the bench after recovering from injury.
Head-to-head pick: Bulls
Line pick: Blues +2.5
Conservative betting: the Bulls have lost their last seven straight overseas games and the Blues have a strong record at Eden Park, however the home side has been hit hard with injuries. It’s worth noting that the Bulls’ most recent overseas win came against the Blues in 2013. Either way I expect this to be close so I would back both the Blues 1-12 at 3.20 (bet365) and the Bulls 1-12 at 2.87 (bet365).
Aggressive betting: of the above two selections I’m leaning slightly towards the Bulls 1-12 at 2.87 (bet365) due to the Blues’ injury crisis.
Reds v Rebels
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The Reds enter this fixture on the back of an appalling defensive performance which saw them shredded 58-17 by the Crusaders. Reds players fell off countless tackles with the eight tries conceded providing a good reflection of how poor they were on the night. The Queensland side now has both the worst offensive and worst defensive records in the competition as they sit at the foot of the competition standings. With just one win from their last nine games the Reds have become the side that everyone wants to play. Nick Frisby suffered a head knock last week so Jake McIntyre will make his debut at fly-half.
The Rebels maintained their playoff hopes with a dominant win over the Blues. The side has now won six games this season, which is a franchise record. Last week’s win was made all the more impressive by the fact that they were missing Wallabies flanker Sean McMahon, with Colby Fainga’a having a great game in his absence.
Head-to-head pick: Rebels
Line pick: Rebels -2.5
Conservative betting: in Christchurch the Reds played like a side that had nothing to play for, however I expect they will deliver a better performance in front of their home crowd. Nevertheless the Rebels have been playing the better rugby all season and I back them to get the double over the Reds this season. I would back the Rebels in the head-to-head at 1.71 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: Australian domestic fixtures tend to be tight, low scoring affairs and the Rebels’ four away wins over the last 12 months have all been by 12 or fewer points. I would back the Rebels 1-12 at 2.75 (Betstar).
Saturday, 16 May
Hurricanes v Chiefs
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After getting away with a sub-par performance in Round 11 the Chiefs paid the price for an indifferent performance in Round 12, losing 15-16 to the Rebels after trailing 3-16 at halftime. Ill-discipline continues to be a problem for the side, with two players picking up yellow cards in Melbourne. With two fixtures to come against the competition-leading Hurricanes, the Chiefs’ destiny remains in their own hands, however they must win this week if they want to win the conference.
With star fly-half Beauden Barrett ruled out for a month, the Hurricanes managed to continue their winning ways with a hard-fought win over the Sharks last week. It was a good result against the Springbok-laden side given that Julian Savea and TJ Perenara were rested in addition to the injury-enforced absences of Barrett and Dane Coles. The Hurricanes enjoy a 10-point lead over the Chiefs and this week provides an opportunity for them to virtually wrap up the New Zealand conference.
Head-to-head pick: Hurricanes
Line pick: Hurricanes -2.5
Conservative betting: the Chiefs could end this weekend as close as 5 points behind the Hurricanes or as far back as 15 points. With so much on the line I expect this to be a closely fought tussle. It’s just a shame neither side can feature their first-choice fly-halves, as it would have been an excellent audition for the All Blacks jersey. Given the rather limp performances of the Chiefs over the last few weeks I’m going to side with the home team. I would back the Hurricanes in the head-to-head at 1.68 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: six of the last eight clashes between the two were settled by 12 points or less so I would back the Hurricanes 1-12 at 2.75 (Betstar).
Waratahs v Sharks
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The Force are fast becoming a bogey team for the Waratahs after the Perth side defeated them for the second time this season and the third time in a row. The loss scuttled an excellent chance for the Waratahs to take the lead in the Australian conference however they do have a game in hand over the Brumbies. Michael Hooper left the field with a knee injury in Perth but says he does expect to play this week.
The Sharks pushed the Hurricanes hard last week but a late flourish from the home team saw the Durban side miss out on even a bonus point. The loss was the 6th in a row with the Sharks now fighting to avoid the wooden spoon in the South African conference just one year after running away with it by 12 points.
Head-to-head pick: Waratahs
Line pick: Waratahs -8.5
Conservative betting: they do look stronger for having Francois Steyn back in the squad, but the Sharks will struggle against a Waratahs side that will be fuming from last week’s defeat. You have to go back to 2013 for the last time the Waratahs lost back-to-back games. They have an 8-0 record on the back of their last eight losses and I expect them to continue that streak this weekend. I would back the Waratahs in the head-to-head at 1.31 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: given the Waratahs are 3-0 at the line on the back of a loss over the last 12 months, I would back the Waratahs -8.5 at 1.92 (Sportsbet).
Sunday, 17 May
Lions v Brumbies
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The Lions came back from 3-20 down last week to see off the Highlanders to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Lions have now won six of their last seven, so if they do miss out on the playoffs they will be left to rue their 1-4 start to the season.
The Brumbies outscored the Stormers two tries to one last week but poor discipline, particularly at scrum time, saw them concede eighteen penalties as the home side won by a solitary point. This was the fifth defeat by five points or less for the Brumbies this season. The Brumbies have been boosted during the week, with fly-half Matt Toomua rejoining the squad after missing the last four weeks with injury.
Head-to-head pick: Lions
Line pick: Lions +2.5
Conservative betting: this could go either way. After suffering a run of injuries the Brumbies have been improving each week as reinforcements return. The Lions, meanwhile, have been playing well with a strong ability to finish off close games – all of their seven wins this season have been by 5 points or less. I would back both the Lions 1-12 at 3.59 (Pinnacle Sports) and the Brumbies 1-12 at 2.88 (Betstar).
Aggressive betting: given the Lions have a knack for winning tight games while the Brumbies have lost five out of six games that were settled by 5 points or less this season, I would take the value and back the Lions 1-12 at 3.59 (Pinnacle Sports).
Cheetahs v Highlanders
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Prior to their bye last week the Cheetahs upset the Stormers 25-17 in Bloemfontein to throw a spanner in the works of the South African conference. The win was as much to do with the Stormers shooting themselves in the foot as anything, however the Cheetahs can take pride from only making three handling errors all game as they capitalised on Stormers’ errors. Sarel Pretorius and Joe Pietersen are injured this week so Tian Meyer and Francois Brummer will start and 9 and 10, respectively.
The Highlanders led 20-3 at one stage but fell 23-28 to the Lions last week as the home side put on a clinic of ball retention and excellent defence. The Highlanders still hold a playoff spot but they have a tough run of fixtures when they return to New Zealand so they may arguably need to win either one or both of their remaining overseas fixtures against the Cheetahs and Force -a feat that is certainly possible given the way they’ve been playing this season.
Head-to-head pick: Highlanders
Line pick: Highlanders -3.5
Conservative betting: the Highlanders have won four of their last five against the Cheetahs, including their last two visits to Bloemfontein. I would back the Highlanders in the head-to-head at 1.58 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: the Highlanders have yet to win on the road by more than 7 points over the last 12 months and their three most recent wins over the Cheetahs were by 7 points or less so I would back the Highlanders 1-12 at 2.88 (Betstar).