The following are previews with betting tips for Round 11 of the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 6 May
Crusaders v Reds
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The Crusaders enter this clash on a seven-game winning streak, with their solitary loss of the season coming back in Round 1. Prior to their bye last week they put in a superb all round performance to thrash the Brumbies 40-14 in Canberra to maintain pressure on the Chiefs for the first overall seed. Winger Nemani Nadolo will miss the next three weeks after being cited for a dangerous tackle, however the do get back Johnny McNicholl, who has recovered from a toe injury.
The Reds recorded their second win of the season last week, beating the Cheetahs 30-17 in Brisbane having just flown back from South Africa. It wasn’t a convincing performance, however, with poor discipline and numerous unforced errors, particularly in the first half. A much stronger performance is required this week if they are to trouble the Crusaders. They will be without centre Samu Kerevi for around four weeks after he broke his hand.
Head-to-head pick: Crusaders
Line pick: Crusaders -18.0
Betting: like most teams, the Reds have an awful record in Christchurch. Three of their last four defeats at this venue have been by 20 points or more, and based on recent form, I expect this trend to continue. I would back the Crusaders -12.5 at 1.50 (Sportsbet). The reason I’m not taking the Crusaders at the 1.92 line is because they will certainly lose some firepower with Nemani Nadolo out injured.
Brumbies v Bulls
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After a strong start to the season the Brumbies suddenly find themselves in a three-way battle for the Australian conference. They’ve only won two of their last six but the good news is their schedule is pretty soft for the rest of the regular season, with the Blues the only Kiwi franchise left to play. In off the field news, CEO Michael Jones has agreed to part ways with the franchise after a public spat with the board. Both sides have been tight lipped about the agreement. In team news, Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander return this week.
The Bulls controlled the game well to see off the Force 42-20 in Perth last week. They have a reputation for being poor on the road but with a youthful squad, this season provides an opportunity for them to shake off that tag. With the out of sorts Brumbies their next opponent they may sniff the chance for a rare away win in Canberra. They have named an unchanged starting XV this week.
Head-to-head pick: Brumbies
Line pick: Bulls +6.5
Betting: the returns of Moore and Alexander are timely for the Brumbies. This should be a tough game, but I’m going to back the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.53 (Pinnacle Sports). They will be desperate to win this while a bonus point defeat wouldn’t be the end of the world for the Bulls.
Saturday, 7 May
Sunwolves v Force
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The Sunwolves entered last week’s bye on a massive high after upsetting the Jaguares 36-28 in Tokyo. The win will have helped to ease the pain of their humiliating 92-17 defeat by the Cheetahs the week before in what has been a torrid first season of Super Rugby.
The Force remain rooted to the bottom of the Australasian Group standings after they fell 20-42 to the Bulls at home last week to slide to 1-8 for the season. After a surprisingly strong 2014 season the side has gone backwards quickly. In previous years the Force have been frustrated by their inability to convert possession into points, but this season this has been coupled with an inability to contain oppositions. They have conceded 91 points in their last two home fixtures.
Head-to-head pick: Force
Line pick: Sunwolves +4.5
Betting: like the Jaguares the Sunwolves appear to be a Jekyll and Hyde team. On the road they get trounced but at home they put up a strong fight. The Bulls have recently thrashed the Force but they could only manage a 3-point away win over the Sunwolves. The home side will also have much more belief after securing their maiden Super Rugby victory. I would back the Sunwolves +8.5 at 1.53 (Sportsbet).
Chiefs v Highlanders
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The Chiefs suffered a scare but overcame the Sharks 24-22 last week to remain undefeated since Round 2. They have become the masters of winning tight games in recent weeks, with their last three victories coming by a combined nine points. Despite their 9-1 record they still have the Crusaders and Hurricanes breathing down their necks in what is proving to be an extremely strong New Zealand conference.
The Highlanders returned to winning ways with a much needed win over the Brumbies last week. The game was won on the back of their defence, which is the third best in the competition at the moment. In team news, backrowers Shane Christie and Liam Squire are in doubt this week. Winger Jack Wilson has fractured a finger however fellow winger Waisake Naholo is available for selection after recovering from a broken leg. Marty Banks may also return, which is timely given Rob Thompson may not be available pending concussion protocols.
Head-to-head pick: Highlanders
Line pick: Highlanders +6.5
Betting: the Chiefs are due a defeat and they have a four-game losing streak to the Highlanders. Various injuries mean the Highlanders will be fielding quite a few changes to last week, so instead of backing them aggressively, I will back them +10.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.50 (William Hill).
Waratahs v Cheetahs
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The Waratahs are very much back in the race to win the Australian conference after they upset the Stormers in Cape Town last week. The Rebels’ and Brumbies’ defeats saw them move to just two points behind the conference leaders, with the NSW side having a game in hand over their rivals.
The Cheetahs struggled with the heat and humidity last week as they fell 17-30 to the Reds in Brisbane. They are pretty much out of playoffs contention with the South African sides’ form this season suggesting they have one, possibly two too many teams in this competition. In team news, flanker Paul Schoeman is unavailable for selection after being suspended for a dangerous tackle.
Head-to-head pick: Waratahs
Line pick: Waratahs -14.5
Betting: the Cheetahs have won their last two in Sydney and the Waratahs have lost their last three at home, however the Waratahs look to be gaining momentum at the moment while the Cheetahs have been disappointing so far on their Australian tour. I would back the Waratahs -9.5 at 1.50 (Sportsbet).
Sharks v Hurricanes
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The Sharks defended admirably and deservedly picked up a bonus point against the Chiefs last week to take their tally from their three-game tour of New Zealand to six points. They will be delighted with that result because it keeps them within touch of the Lions who at one stage looked like they would run away with the Africa 2 conference. In mixed injury news, Cobus Reinach is out for the season and Inny-Christian Radebe is out for four weeks, while Patrick Lambie is now fully fit having missed the entire season thus far. Francois Kleinhans and Tera Mtembu are also fit and available for selection.
The Hurricanes bounced back well from their unlucky home defeat to the Chiefs by thrashing the Lions 50-17 in Johannesburg last week. They have only lost once since Round 2 and, like many of the Kiwi sides, are stronger than expected given the exodus of All Blacks after the World Cup. The Hurricanes are looking like a well balanced side at the moment. Their scrum is strong and their backline is lethal, especially when it comes to capitalising on opponent errors.
Head-to-head pick: Hurricanes
Line pick: Hurricanes -2.0
Betting: the Hurricanes have a poor recent record in Durban but they bring excellent form into this fixture. I would back the Hurricanes in the head-to-head at 1.74 (William Hill).
Sunday, 8 May
Kings v Blues
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Last week the Kings suffered a humiliating 27-73 defeat to the Jaguares to slide to 1-7 for the season. The eleven tries conceded culminated in them setting a new franchise record for points conceded. Deon Davids had made nine changes, mostly rotational, to the squad for that clash, so the result highlights the lack of depth in the squad. They have since lost loose-head prop Schalk Ferreira for an undetermined period due to a hand injury.
The Blues start their overseas tour on a rare two-game winning streak after they defeated the Sharks and Rebels. They are eight points behind the Highlanders in the race for a playoff berth, however they face an uphill struggle, with the Ioane brothers rejoining the New Zealand sevens team.
Head-to-head pick: Blues
Line pick: Kings +27.5
Betting: the Blues should win this comfortably but they are traditionally a poor road team so I don’t fancy them at the line. The Chiefs are currently a much better side than the Blues and they won this fixture by 34 points. I don’t see the Blues matching that so I would back the Kings +33.5 at 1.50 (Sportsbet).
Best Bets of the Round
Back the Crusaders -12.5 at 1.50 (Sportsbet)
Back the Highlanders +10.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.50 (William Hill)