The following are previews with betting tips for Round 8 of the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 15 April
Crusaders v Jaguares
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The Crusaders played their get of of jail free card last week to see off the Force 20-19 in Perth. They remain undefeated since Round 1 and but last week’s sub-par performance showed that their tour of South Africa has taken its toll. There will still be some travel fatigue but the schedule has been kind to them, with fellow travelers the Jaguares their opponents this week. Israel Dagg will make his season debut at fullback after missing six months of rugby with a shoulder injury. The Crusaders rotated the squad for the side’s tour matches against the Sharks, Lions and Force, but coach Todd Blackadder has indicated they will field strong sides leading up to their Round 10 bye.
The Jaguares remain without a win since Round 1 after they fell 22-40 to the Hurricanes last week. The worrying sign is after losing by 5 points or less in Rounds 2-4 they have since lost by wider margins: 8 points to the Blues and 18 points to the Hurricanes. The Jaguares have made nine changes to last week’s side, including five changes to the forwards in the a bid to keep the side fresh. Captain Agustín Creevy and fly-half Juan Martín Hernández are among a number of big names who return to the starting line-up.
Head-to-head pick: Crusaders
Line pick: Jaguares +13.5
Betting: these two team are going in opposite directions. The Crusaders are aiming to win their sixth consecutive game for the first time since 2011, while the Jaguares are aiming to avoid a sixth consecutive defeat. I would back the Crusaders -5.5 at 1.44 (William Hill) in the pick our own line market.
Rebels v Hurricanes
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Prior to their bye last week the Rebels upset the Waratahs 21-17 in Sydney to move level with the Brumbies at the top of the Australian conference. I’m not yet convinced of the Rebels’ playoff credentials despite their 4-2 record. Their wins have all been over struggling teams and they suffered heavy defeats to the two sides who had winning records. The Rebels have no new injury concerns and have named an unchanged line-up this week.
After being dropped from the team against the Kings, Julian Savea rejoined the side and scored a hat-trick against the Jaguares in their 40-22 victory. The bonus-point win propelled them back into a playoff spot and the side is now 4-2 for the season after starting 0-2. Like the Rebels, I’m still not quite convinced of their title chances but we’ll learn a lot more when they take on the Chiefs next week. The Hurricanes have reshuffled their backline this week. Vince Aso and Matt Proctor will form a new midfield combination while Jason Woodward returns at fullback with Cory Jane moving back to the wing.
Head-to-head pick: Hurricanes
Line pick: Hurricanes -3.5
Betting: both teams are 4-2 for the season, however the Hurricanes are arguably in better form, having won their last four straight. I would back the Hurricanes in the head-to-head at 1.62 (Luxbet).
Saturday, 16 April
Cheetahs v Sunwolves
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Prior to their bye last week the Cheetahs lost to the Bulls to slide to 1-5 for the season. It was actually one of their better performances, but they left themselves with too much to do after conceding 3 first half tries. It’s hard to see the Cheetahs making a run for the playoffs, but their immediate focus will be to beat the Sunwolves in their bid to avoid the wooden spoon in the conference. The side has suffered a blow, with loose forward Boom Prinsloo set to miss the rest of the season with a severe hamstring injury.
The Sunwolves were outclassed by the Stormers last week to suffer their second heaviest defeat of the season. It was a tough fixture to play on the back of their close loss to fellow strugglers the Kings. The Sunwolves will start as firm underdogs once again this week but can take heart from the fact that the Cheetahs only managed to beat them by 1 point earlier in the season. They will be without the services of lock Timothy Bond, who has been suspended for four weeks for a stiff arm tackle against the Stormers. Star winger Akihito Yamada and lock Shinya Makabe are out with injury.
Head-to-head pick: Cheetahs
Line pick: Cheetahs -14.5
Betting: it’s always tough to make a pick between two struggling teams, but the Cheetahs have shown stronger form in recent weeks than the Sunwolves. I find the margin hard to predict so I will simply back the Cheetahs in the head-to-head at 1.17 (Luxbet).
Blues v Sharks
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The Blues put up a fierce fight but fell 23-29 to the high-flying Chiefs last week. They sit bottom of the New Zealand conference with a 2-1-3 record but there are definite signs of improvement from last season. They just need to show the same intensity each week as they showed against the Chiefs. There is plenty of individual talent in the squad. Surely it’s only a matter of time before the team clicks to pick up consecutive wins for the first time since 2014. You have to go back to 2011 for the last time they won 3 consecutive games, which is heavily due to their poor away form.
The Sharks remain winless since Round 3 after losing to the Lions at home 6-24 last week. To compound matters, flanker Marcell Coetzee has been ruled out for the season with an ACL injury so Jean Deysel has been called into their tour of New Zealand.
Head-to-head pick: Blues
Line pick: Sharks +7.0
Betting: the Sharks have a 10-game winning streak over the Blues dating back to 2006 but they limp into this fixture with poor form and as I have stated in a previous preview, the Sharks are a streaky side, with a 5-1-0 record on the back of a win and a 1-5 record on the back of a defeat over the last 12 months. Sharks’ wins in Auckland have all been close, so I would back both the Blues 1-12 at 2.75 (bet365) and the Sharks 1-7 at 5.00 (Sportsbet).
Waratahs v Brumbies
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Prior to their bye last week the Waratahs fell 17-21 at home to the Rebels to slump to 2-3 for the season, with both of their wins coming over the Reds. Injuries haven’t helped, but the Waratahs have looked out of sorts all season. In positive news, Kurtley Beale is due to return this week.
Prior to their bye the Brumbies were stunned by a 23-48 home defeat to the Chiefs. Travel fatigue may have been an issue, but the side was well and truly beaten by a Chiefs outfit that has also had a grueling travel schedule. They remain at the top of the Australian conference, however, and still look to be the strongest side in the country, with the other franchises failing to impress. The Brumbies will be without the services of captain David Pocock for the next two weeks after he picked up a suspension for a dangerous tackle against the Chiefs. They have received sad news during the week, with backrower Ita Vaea forced to retire from rugby due to a heart condition.
Head-to-head pick: Brumbies
Line pick: Brumbies -1.5
Betting: the Brumbies broke a long-term losing streak to the Waratahs earlier in the season and despite the absence of David Pocock I would back them to do the double over their NSW rivals this year. I would back the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.80 (Luxbet).
Sunday, 17 April
Bulls v Reds
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The Bulls have maintained pressure on the Stormers in the Africa 1 Conference after they cruised to a 38-6 win over the Kings. With the Sharks’ struggles of late they may not even need to win the conference to secure a playoff birth, with the Bulls holding the 8th playoff spot were the season to end today. The Bulls welcome back winger Bjorn Basson, scrumhalf Rudy Paige and flanker Deon Stegmann from injury this week.
The Reds commence their two-game tour of South Africa on a positive note after upsetting the injury-depleted Highlanders 28-27 in Brisbane to record their first in of the season. The Reds certainly look stronger for having key players back from injury and they have been building momentum for some weeks now. They have yet to lose by more than 2 points since Round 2. Scrumhalf Scott Gale injured his hand against the Highlanders and is not in the touring squad.
Head-to-head pick: Bulls
Line pick: Bulls -8.0
Betting: the Reds have an awful record in South Africa and the Bulls are strengthening each week with the return of players from injury. I would back the Bulls in the head-to-head at 1.34 (William Hill).
Lions v Stormers
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The Lions have made a huge statement in the Africa 2 Conference after they defeated the Sharks 24-9 in Durban. The Sharks haven’t won since Round 3 and are now embarking on a three-game tour of New Zealand so the Lions are now in the driver’s seat to secure the conference and the automatic playoff place that comes with it. Centre Lionel Mapoe has been under an injury cloud during the week so he may not feature. Jaco Kriel, Andries Ferreira and Julian Redelinghuys are also fighting to regain fitness in time for this clash.
The Stormers saw off the Sunwolves comfortably last week despite resting a number of key players. They are 5-1 for the season but they’ve had an easier schedule than most and you have to wonder what whether their injury list, particularly at the fly-half position, will be their undoing at the sharp end of the season. The Stormers will be buoyed by the return of star midfielder Damian de Allende from injury. He has been sidelined for four months but made a positive impact when brought on as a substitute last week.
Head-to-head pick: Stormers
Line pick: Stormers +2.5
Betting: I would actually wait until the Lions’ squad is announced before placing a wager, but for the sake of this article, recent clashes between these two have generally been closely fought affairs so I would back both the Lions 1-12 at 2.91 (Pinnacle Sports) and the Stormers 1-12 at 3.40 (bet365).
Best Bets of the Round
Back the Cheetahs in the head-to-head at 1.17 (Luxbet)
Back the Bulls in the head-to-head at 1.34 (William Hill)