The following are previews with betting tips for Super Rugby Round 16.
Friday, 29 May
Crusaders v Hurricanes
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The Crusaders’ playoff hopes have almost expired after they fell 22-32 to the Waratahs last week. It was the worst possible result for the Canterbury side, who failed to pick up a bonus point whilst conceding a four-try bonus point to the Waratahs. To make matters worse, the loss inflicted a heavy injury toll, with the Crusaders forced to make seven changes to the starting XV and four changes to the bench for this clash. Most of those changes are injury enforced, with Colin Slade, Israel Dagg, Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read, Ryan Crotty and Joe Moody all ruled out. In one piece of good news, centre Robbie Fruean returns from injury.
The Hurricanes have almost sewn up top seed in the playoffs with a clinical win over the Blues last week in Auckland. The 29-5 scoreline was made all the more impressive by the fact that Eden Park has been a graveyard for visiting teams in recent years. The Hurricanes welcome back Reggie Goodes, James Broadhurst, Ben Franks, Conrad Smith and Matt Proctor for this clash.
Head-to-head pick: Hurricanes
Line pick: Hurricanes -2.5
Conservative betting: the Hurricanes have won five of their last six against the Crusaders and with the Crusaders’ injury toll as bad as it is, I would back the visitors in the head-to-head at 1.72 (bet365).
Aggressive betting: the last six clashes between the two were settled by 8 points or less so I would back the Hurricanes 1-12 at 2.83 (Pinnacle Sports).
Brumbies v Bulls
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Prior to their bye last week the Brumbies saw off the Lions 30-20 in Johannesburg to maintain their push for second overall seed. Injuries continue to disrupt their season, however, with Matt Toomua ruled out this week.
The Bulls started well last week but were overrun by the Chiefs in the second half to record their ninth consecutive overseas defeat. Once again they paid the price for making too many mistakes. Victor Matfield is being rested this week while Jan Serfontein is out injured. Adriaan Strauss returns after being rested against the Chiefs.
Head-to-head pick: Brumbies
Line pick: Brumbies -6.5
Conservative betting: this fixture has been dominated by the home side in recent years so I would take the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.43 (Marathonbet).
Aggressive betting: the Bulls are making too many mistakes at the moment so given the Blues were able to beat them by 5 two weeks ago, I expect the Brumbies can cover the -6.5 line. I would back the Brumbies -6.5 at 1.80 (Ladbrokes).
Saturday, 30 May
Sharks v Rebels
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The Sharks snapped a six-game losing streak by seeing off the Reds 21-14 in Brisbane. They are now 5-9 for the season and with a bye to come next week, the playoff hopes of the reigning South African conference champions have expired remarkably early.
The Rebels’ dreadful record in South Africa continued with a 15-31 loss to the Stormers last week. It was the 5th consecutive game in South Africa that the Melbourne side had lost by 16 points or more. The Rebels’ playoff hopes remain hanging by a thread but they do have a run of winnable fixtures to finish off the season. They will need other results to go their way, however.
Head-to-head pick: Sharks
Line pick: Sharks -7.0
Conservative betting: the Rebels have an awful record in South Africa so I would back the Sharks in the head-to-head at 1.37 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: the Rebels have a poor line record in South Africa too so I would back the Sharks -7.0 at 1.91 (William Hill).
Highlanders v Chiefs
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The Highlanders’ impressive campaign continued with a 23-3 win over the Force in Perth. They picked up 10 points from their three-game overseas tour, which has kept them well in contention for a repeated playoff berth.
The Chiefs put one foot on a playoff spot with a come-from-behind win over the Bulls last week. The Chiefs currently occupy the 4th seed in the playoffs, which would provide a coveted home fixture in the first round of the playoffs. Their primary rival for the 4th seed are the Highlanders, who sit just a point behind, so this fixture will have huge implications for playoff seedings. Last week’s victory came at a cost, with the Chiefs’ depleted second row stocks suffering a further blow with Johan Bardoul ruled out for the season with a ruptured MCL.
Head-to-head pick: Highlanders
Line pick: Highlanders -1.5
Conservative betting: I can see this going either way. Six of the last seven clashes between the two were settled by 8 points or less so I would back both the Highlanders 1-12 at 2.83 (Pinnacle Sports) and the Chiefs 1-12 at 3.20 (Pinnacle Sports).
Aggressive betting: the Highlanders haven’t lost by more than 7 at home this season while the Chiefs haven’t loss by more than 7 on the road. With this in mind I would back the ‘Any Other Result’ selection at in the Triple Margin market at 2.15 (William Hill). This selection wins if the winning margin is 7 or less of if there is a draw.
Force v Reds
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The Force fell 3-23 at home to the Highlanders last week to maintain their perfect record of beating the Waratahs and losing to everyone else. It continues to be the same old story for the Force, who persistently struggle to turn territory and possession into points. The Force have had the worst offensive record in the competition for two of the last three years and with just 16 points on average this year, they again sit at the foot of the points scoring standings.
The Reds slumped back to losing ways with a 14-21 home defeat to the struggling Sharks. The Reds’ 2015 season was summed up by James O’Connor’s clearing kick late in the game which went straight into the grateful arms of Sharks halfback Stefan Ungerer, who was just metres from the try-line. The Reds now take on the Force in the battle to avoid the competition wooden spoon.
Head-to-head pick: Force
Line pick: Force -2.5
Conservative betting: the Reds have only won one of their last six against the Force, but it’s always hard to pick a winner between two out-of-form teams. If I had to bet I would back the Force in the head-to-head at 1.67 (Palmerbet).
Aggressive betting: given the Force’s strong record against the Reds I would tentatively back the Force -2.5 at 1.82 (bet365).
Sunday, 31 May
Stormers v Cheetahs
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The Stormers are in the lead in the South African conference thanks to their win over the Rebels last week and the Bulls’ miserable tour. The Lions and Bulls have a tougher run of fixtures to see off the season so the Stormers are in the box seat to win the conference. They will have to hope their run of three bruising domestic fixtures doesn’t take too much out of them physically ahead of the playoffs.
The Cheetahs lost to the Lions for the fourth consecutive time last week as their miserable season continues. Their defence continues to be their undoing, with almost 31 points conceded per game this year. The Cheetahs welcome back fly-half Joe Pietersen and flanker Tienie Burger for this clash. This will be the final game that the Cheetahs will be coached by Naka Drotske, who is retiring from rugby.
Head-to-head pick: Stormers
Line pick: Stormers -15.5
Conservative betting: the Stormers stated their disappointment at not picking up a four-try bonus point last week, so I expect they’ll be looking to make amends against the team with the weakest defence in the competition. The Cheetahs defence has just been awful this season so I would back the Stormers -10.5 at 1.48 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: the last two times the Cheetahs visited Cape Town they lost 33-0 and 28-3. With that in mind I would back the Stormers -13.5 at 1.95 (Marathonbet).
Lions v Waratahs
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The Lions picked up a critical bonus-point win over the Cheetahs last week to maintain their playoff chances. Like the Highlanders the Lions have exceeded expectations this year, but they face an uphill battle to make the playoffs with tough fixtures against the Waratahs and Stormers to come followed by a final round bye. Hooker Robbie Coetzee has received a three-match ban for a dangerous tackle last week.
The Waratahs will be on a high after recording a critical win over the Crusaders. With the high number of points accumulated by New Zealand sides and the struggles of the South African conference, the Waratahs could finish the season 2nd if they stay above the Brumbies or 6th if they slip up in the Australian conference. The Waratahs will be without hooker Silatolu Latu and lock Will Skelton, who were suspended for four weeks and two weeks, respectively, for a lifting tackle last week.
Head-to-head pick: Waratahs
Line pick: Waratahs -1.5
Conservative betting: if the Waratahs bring their A-game they should be too strong this weekend. I would back the Waratahs in the head-to-head at 1.94 (Marathonbet).
Aggressive betting: I would back the Waratahs -1.5 at 1.95 (Marathonbet).