The following are previews with betting tips for Super Rugby Round 15.
Friday, 22 May
Chiefs v Bulls
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The Chiefs’ New Zealand conference aspirations were dealt a major blow last week with their loss to the Hurricanes, however they can take positives from still holding ont 4th seed and the fact that they were so competitive against the competition leaders despite missing five key starters. They arguably should have won the game, but were denied by a controversial TMO decision. The Chiefs are struggling for locks at the moment, with Brodie Retallick out and both Michael Fitzgerald and Michael Allardice picking up injuries last week. Allardice has been since ruled out for the season.
The Bulls got their tour off to a poor start with a defeat to the Blues last week. The Bulls had the bulk of the chances but paid the price for too many mistakes. The loss extends their overseas losing streak to eight games. The Bulls still hold onto a playoff spot but with away fixtures against the Chiefs and Brumbies to come, they are a good chance of missing out on the playoffs this year. Hooker Adriaan Strauss is being rested this week.
Head-to-head pick: Chiefs
Line pick: Chiefs -4.5
Conservative betting: the Chiefs are 6-2 at home over the last 12 months while the Bulls have been dreadful overseas over the last few years. I would back the Chiefs in the head-to-head at 1.43 (Pinnacle Sports).
Aggressive betting: five the last six Chiefs home wins have been by 1-12 points while four of the last five Bulls away losses have been by the same margin. I would back the Chiefs 1-12 at 2.80 (William Hill).
Reds v Sharks
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After trailing at halftime last week the Reds burst into life, scoring five tries to beat the Rebels 46-29. It was just the Reds’ third win of the season and it ended a five-game losing streak at home. The win came just days after Wallabies coach John Connolly joined the Reds as a coaching consultant. In the only change to the squad from last week, Chris Kuridrani comes in for Lachie Turner, who picked up a concussion.
The Sharks lost their sixth fixture in a row last week, making this their worst losing streak in fifteen years. Jake White’s departure as head coach has certainly been to the detriment of the side, with the Springbok-laden team having just four wins for the season. This is in contrast to their 2014 campaign when they went 11-5 to dominate the South African conference.
Head-to-head pick: Reds
Line pick: Reds -1.5
Conservative betting: this is a tough one to pick. The Sharks can’t catch a break at the moment but their recent losing margins have flattered their opponents. The Reds looked much stronger last week but can they be consistent? If I had to bet I would back both the Reds 1-12 at 2.88 (Sportsbet) and the Sharks 1-12 at 3.30 (bet365).
Aggressive betting: of the above two wagers I’m leaning slightly more towards Reds 1-12 at 2.88 (Sportsbet), however in reality I will be sitting this one out.
Saturday, 23 May
Blues v Hurricanes
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The Blues continue their asymmetric form of being strong at Eden Park and hopeless everywhere else. Last week they defeated the Bulls at home despite missing eight players due to injury. Their injury list has since lengthened, with Steven Luatua picking up a severe arm injury last week. In addition, Tony Woodcock picked up a shoulder injury and Charlie Faumuina is on All Blacks leave. James Parsons will take over the captaincy in absence of Luatua and Kaino.
Last week the Hurricanes clinched a critical win over the Chiefs to open up a ten-point lead in the New Zealand conference. With a nine-week unbroken run of fixtures leading up to the playoffs, the Hurricanes continue to rotate players, with Conrad Smith sitting out this week. Prop Ben Franks is out with an Achilles injury and prop Reggie Goodes is suspended this week.
Head-to-head pick: Hurricanes
Line pick: Blues +7.5
Conservative betting: the Blues continue to get results at Eden Park but they were the beneficiaries of numerous Bulls mistakes last week. The Hurricanes are unbeaten on the road this year so I will take the visitors in the head-to-head at 1.38 (Luxbet).
Aggressive betting: the Blues always manage to find a higher gear at home so I expect they will make the Hurricanes work for their win. I would back the Hurricanes 1-12 at 2.74 (Pinnacle Sports).
Waratahs v Crusaders
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Last week the Waratahs bounced back from their loss to the Force by beating the Sharks 33-18 in Sydney. The scoreline flattered the hosts, however, with the Waratahs putting in a sub-par performance, marred by 12 handling errors and 18 conceded turnovers. The Waratahs currently occupy the final playoff spot, with the Crusaders five points behind, so the outcome of this fixture will have a major bearing on the playoff chances of each team.
Prior to their bye last week the Crusaders thrashed the Reds 58-17 to remain in the playoff hunt. This was on the back of a strong performance against the Hurricanes so once again the Crusaders show signs of peaking at the business end of the season. The Crusaders remain 4th in the New Zealand conference, however, and they have a tough run of fixtures to end the season so they remain a good chance of missing out on the playoffs for the first time since 2001.
Head-to-head pick: Crusaders
Line pick: Crusaders +3.5
Conservative betting: the Crusaders played their best rugby of the season over the past two weeks while the Waratahs continue to struggle for consistency. I would back the Crusaders +3.5 at 1.94 (Marathonbet).
Aggressive betting: the previous two Crusaders wins over the Waratahs in Sydney were both by 4 points, so I will take the Crusaders 1-12 at 3.80 (bet365).
Force v Highlanders
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Prior to their bye last week the Force notched their second win of the season by beating the Waratahs for the third consecutive time. The win ended a ten-game losing streak with the Force’ only other 2015 win coming back in Round 1, which was also over the Waratahs. The victory was based around a superb defensive performance, but the Force are ranked 2nd from bottom in points per game, which is a large reason why they’re 2-10 for the season.
The Highlanders maintained their playoff bid with a bonus point win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week. They gave Rugby League convert Ryan Tongia his Super Rugby debut and the winger scored two of the Highlanders’ seven tries. The Highlanders continue to exceed my expectations this season. Their 39-point haul is good enough to put them top of the Australian and South African conferences, but it’s only good enough for third in the highly competitive New Zealand conference.
Head-to-head pick: Highlanders
Line pick: Force +5.5
Conservative betting: the Force have a remarkably good record over the Highlanders, having won all five fixtures against them. Both of the previous fixtures in Perth were competitive affairs so I would back both the Highlanders 1-12 at 2.70 (Sportsbet) and the Force 1-12 at 4.00 (bet365).
Aggressive betting: the bookmakers all favour the Highlanders, but I reckon the Force are a good chance of winning this. Nevertheless, the Highlanders are 8-4 this season while the Force are 2-10. I will side the the team that’s being playing more consistently and back the Highlanders 1-12 at 2.70 (Sportsbet).
Sunday, 24 May
Cheetahs v Lions
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The Cheetahs were unable to back up their win over the Stormers last week as they were shredded at home by the Highlanders. They trailed 3-38 at one stage as the potent Highlanders attack cut them to pieces. The defeat sees them regain top spot in the points conceded column, with their 30.2 average far worse than the competition average of 23.3.
In what turned out to be a disastrous round for South African sides, the Lions fell 20-30 at home to the Brumbies last week to severely dent their playoff hopes. They have exceeded everyone’s expectations this year but with a tough run of fixtures to end the season I expect the Johannesburg side will miss out on the playoffs.
Head-to-head pick: Lions
Line pick: Lions -2.5
Conservative betting: the Cheetahs’ defensive woes continue and the Lions have won two of their last three visits to Bloemfontein. With so much more to play for I would back the Lions in the head-to-head at 1.73 (Ladbrokes).
Aggressive betting: four of the last five Lions wins over the Cheetahs were by 5 points or less so I would back the Lions 1-12 at 2.88 (Ladbrokes).
Stormers v Rebels
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Prior to their bye last week the Stormers bounced back from their upset loss to the Cheetahs by defeating the Brumbies 25-24. They were awarded 18 penalties in all and benefited from Christian Lealiifano’s late penalty attempt miss, nevertheless the win was crucial in the three-way battle for the South African conference.
The Rebels’ playoff aspirations were dealt a hammer blow last week by the struggling Reds. The Rebels led by 11 points at one stage but the Reds scored 35 unanswered points to put the contest to rest. The Rebels’ pack was dominated by their opposite numbers, which bodes ominously with fixtures against the Stormers and Sharks to come.
Head-to-head pick: Stormers
Line pick: Stormers -10.5
Conservative betting: the Stormers have a strong home record while the Rebels have a miserable record in South Africa so I would back the Stormers -5.5 at 1.48 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: the last four Rebels fixtures in South Africa all were lost by 17 points or more. I would back the Stormers -10.5 at 1.92 (Marathonbet).