The following are previews with betting tips for Super Rugby Round 18, which is final week of the regular season. The Hurricanes and Stormers have secured their respective conferences, however the 2nd – 6th seeds have yet to be determined. History strongly favours sides that secure byes during the qualifiers so there’s still plenty at stake this week.
Friday, 12 June
Blues v Highlanders
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The Blues’ season has gone out with a whimper after a horror injury run. With twelve players injured they were unable to trouble the Hurricanes or Crusaders in recent weeks so it will be interesting to see how big a turnout they get for the final game. Prop Keven Mealamu will get the start and the captaincy in what will be his final Super Rugby appearance.
The Highlanders were without the All Blacks trio of Aaron Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and Ben Smith last week and were beaten heavily by the Hurricanes. The Highlanders have only lost two fixtures by more than seven points this season and both occurred when they were missing those three players. This underpins how reliant the Highlanders are on them, but also how good the trio are. Aaron Smith and Ben Smith return for this clash, however Malakai Fekitoa is out with a groin injury. Only points difference separates the Highlanders from the 4th placed Chiefs at the moment so a bonus-point win could see them take fourth spot and home advantage in the qualifiers.
Head-to-head pick: Highlanders
Line pick: Highlanders -10.5
Conservative betting: the Blues will look to send Mealamu off on a high but with 12 players injured and another 3 playing in the U20 Championship, I fancy the Highlanders’ chances. I would back the Highlanders -4.5 at 1.43 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: the Highlanders look notably weaker when they’re missing Malakai Fekitoa in midfield, but their injury concerns pale in comparison to the 15 players the Blues are unable to select. I would tentatively back the Highlanders -10.5 at 1.95 (bet365).
Rebels v Force
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The Rebels came from behind to beat the Bulls for the first time last week. They have a respectable 7-8 record for the season, so this year has been a massive improvement on the 2014 campaign that saw them receive the wooden spoon with a 4-12 record. The Rebels will be without centre Tamati Ellison this week after he picked up a groin injury.
Two late tries gave some respectability to the scoreline, but the Force were comprehensively beaten at home by the Brumbies last week. They sit at the foot of the competition standings with a 2-13 record, so suffice to say this has been a miserable season for the Perth franchise. The Force will be without Ben McCalman for this clash after he fractured his cheekbone last week.
Head-to-head pick: Rebels
Line pick: Force +9.5
Conservative betting: there isn’t too much value in this fixture. If I had to bet I would take the Rebels -3.5 at 1.43 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: Rebels vs Force fixtures tend to be close. I would tentatively back the Rebels 1-12 at 2.75 (Sportsbet).
Saturday, 13 June
Brumbies v Crusaders
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The Brumbies remain locked in a tight battle with the Waratahs for top seed in the Australian conference. As things stand, both sides are on 47 points, with the Waratahs’ superior win-loss record placing them ahead of the Brumbies. This difference has huge ramifications, with the Waratahs sitting 2nd on the table and the Brumbies 6th. The Brumbies are expected to have Matt Toomua back for this clash.
The Crusaders have won back-to-back bonus-point wins over the past two weeks but it has been too little to late, with the Canterbury franchise set to miss out on the playoffs for the first time since 2001. With Dan Carter back in the fly-half position they’ve played some of their best rugby this season, so the Brumbies will have their work cut out for them on Saturday.
Head-to-head pick: Crusaders
Line pick: Crusaders +4.0
Conservative betting: the Crusaders have won their last four straight against the Brumbies and have been playing excellent rugby over the last few weeks. I would back the Cursaders +7.5 at 1.55 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: I expect this to be a close game. I would back the Crusaders 1-12 at 3.60 (bet365).
Chiefs v Hurricanes
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The Chiefs won on Australian soil for the first time since 2013 last week when they saw off the Reds 24-3. It was an excellent response from the side that fell 9-36 to the Highlanders the week before, with the returns of Brodie Retallick and Liam Messam having a tangible impact on the performance. By kick-off the Chiefs will know what is needed to secure the 4th seed and a home qualifier. They are helped by the fact that the Hurricanes have nothing to play for this round. The Chiefs welcome back Sonny Bill Williams, James Lowe and Ben Tameifuna for this clash. Sam Cane is being rested.
The Hurricanes thrashed the under-strength Highlanders 56-20 last week to win the New Zealand conference for the first time in franchise history. The Hurricanes have also secured first overall seed in the playoffs so they can look forward to a bye next week. With Beauden Barrett’s knee still not 100%, it will be interesting to see if the Hurricanes rest him along with other key players this week.
Head-to-head pick: Chiefs
Line pick: Hurricanes +5.5
Conservative betting: the Chiefs have an imposing 7-1 record at home over the last 12 months and they have much more to play for this week. I would back the Chiefs in the head-to-head at 1.54 (bet365).
Aggressive betting: the Chiefs haven’t been entirely convincing in recent weeks and 5 of their last 7 home wins were by 1-12 points so I would back the Chiefs 1-12 at 2.75 (Sportsbet).
Waratahs v Reds
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The Waratahs bounced back from their defeat to the Lions by enjoying a bonus-point win over the hapless Cheetahs last week. The result leaves them in charge of their own destiny, with their superior win tally placing them ahead of the Brumbies in the standings. Will Skelton returns to the side after serving a two-week suspension.
The Reds enjoyed plenty of possession last week but were shut out by the Chiefs defence, who limited them to just 3 points. This is the first time in many years that the Reds have failed to achieve back-to-back victories all season. With Wallabies selection on the horizon, the likes of Will Genia, Quade Cooper and James O ‘Connor still have plenty to play for. The side will also relish the opportunity to derail the Waratahs’ season.
Head-to-head pick: Waratahs
Line pick: Waratahs -12.5
Conservative betting: the Waratahs have comfortably had the measure of the Reds in recent years so I would back the Waratahs -6.5 at 1.43 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: after a couple of promising results the Reds looked toothless last week. Their previous visit to Sydney saw them lose by 27 points so I would back the Waratahs -12.5 at 1.94 (TopBetta).
Sunday, 14 June
Bulls v Cheetahs
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The Bulls’ overseas losing streak extended to eleven games after they fell 20-21 to the Rebels last week. The disastrous overseas tour saw them fall from 1st to 3rd in the South African conference, with their playoff hopes now expired.
Under new head coach Franco Smith the Cheetahs continue to leak tries by the dozen, but at least they managed to score five of their own in a high scoring affair against the Waratahs last week. The 33-58 defeat leaves them at the foot of the South African conference, with the side averaging 33.5 points conceded per game this season.
Head-to-head pick: Bulls
Line pick: Cheetahs +17.5
Conservative betting: the Cheetahs can’t stop leaking tries so I would back the Bulls -10.5 at 1.44 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: at the time of writing no totals markets have been made available, but with neither team having much to play for plus dry conditions forecasted, I expect an open game of rugby. I would take the over in the over/under market if the total is 52.5 or below.
Sharks v Stormers
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Prior to their bye last week the Sharks saw off the 14-man Rebels 25-21. It was their second win in a row after a demoralising six-game losing streak during the middle of the season. The Sharks have looked a shadow of the side that won the South African conference under Jake White last year, with discipline being a recurring issue. This fixture will be the last Super Rugby game for Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis and Willem Alberts.
The Stormers drew the Lions 19-all last week to secure the South African conference. They currently occupy the 3rd seed, sitting two points behind the Waratahs and Brumbies. If both slip up earlier in the Round, the Stormers will have everything to play for due to the strong record of competition winners coming from the top two seeds. The squad hasn’t been announced at the time of writing, but there is talk of the Stormers resting a few players this week. Utility back Jaco Taute may feature after recovering from injury.
Head-to-head pick: Stormers
Line pick: Stormers +5.5
Conservative betting: the Stormers have won three of their last four against the Sharks so I expect them to be competitive this weekend. It’s also worth noting that the Sharks are 1-7 at the line at home over the last twelve months. I would back the Stormers +8.5 at 1.54 (William Hill).
Aggressive betting: only once in the last twelve months has the Stormers won away from home by more than 12 points. I would back the Stormers 1-12 at 3.80 (Luxbet).