Super Rugby Round 17 Preview & Betting Tips

The following are previews with betting tips for Round 17 of the 2016 Super Rugby season. This is the final round before the playoffs commence next week.

View and compare bookmaker odds for this round.

View the form guide for this round.

Friday, 15 July


Blues v Waratahs

5:35 PM AEST, Eden Park, Auckland
View a detailed form guide for Blues v Waratahs

I wrote last week that the Blues could be a banana skin for the Brumbies and they duly delivered, but I wasn’t expecting the 40-15 scoreline. Just about every week the Blues show signs of brilliance but this was one of the few times they didn’t also find a way to shoot themselves in the foot. If the Blues could claim another scalp this weekend it would provide them with a huge boost leading into next season. The Blues have no new injury concerns and have named an unchanged starting line-up for third straight week. Charlie Faumuina and George Moala are both close to overcoming their respective injuries and have been bracketed on the bench.

The Waratahs would have watched in delight as the Brumbies failed to pick up a point against the unfancied Blues last Friday, only to suffer an 11-point defeat to the Hurricanes the following day. The Waratahs’ destiny is no longer in their hands, with even a bonus point win possibly not enough if the Brumbies can pick up maximum points against the Force on Saturday. The Waratahs’ cause isn’t helped by the fact that they’ve only won 1 out of 9 meetings in Auckland. They will be without the services of winger Taqele Naiyaravoro this week after he picked up a one-week suspension.

Head-to-head pick: Blues
Line pick: Blues -1.5

Betting: the Blues opened as high as 1.90 earlier in the week but have shortened to as low as 1.70 at the time of writing. The tight line makes this one difficult to predict. When installed as the favourite, the Blues are 5-1-1 in the head-to-head over the last 12 months, but 1-6 at the line. It’s also worth noting that over the last few years the best time to back the Waratahs is on the back of a loss, while the worst time to back the Blues is on the back of a win. While my 1-12 wagers didn’t pay off last week, the Blues’ 13+ win over the Brumbies was their only home win by this margin over the last 12 months. Meanwhile, the Waratahs’ solitary win in Auckland was by just 5 points. I’m going to back both the Blues 1-12 at 3.20 (bet365) and the Brumbies 1-12 at 3.50 (bet365).


Reds v Rebels

7:40 PM AEST, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
View a detailed form guide for Reds v Rebels

The Reds have been using this season to build for the future, but it was hard to draw positives from their 5-50 thrashing at the hands of the Chiefs last week. By a quick count the Australian franchises have a 3-1-20 record against New Zealand sides this year, which bodes ominously for the Rugby Championship. In team news, veteran prop Greg Holmes returns from injury for his swansong for the Reds. James Slipper and Jack Tuttle are both injured and have been replaced by Sef Fa’agase and Tom Banks, respectively.

The Rebels have won just one of their five fixtures, but the worrying sign has been the worsening score margins in recent weeks, with the Stormers and Crusaders racking up 57 and 85 points against them. The Rebels now have the opportunity to arrest their slide in form with a fixture against the equally battered Reds. The Rebels welcome back Luke Jones, Sean McMahon and Mitch Inman this week from injury, while Lopeti Timani and Mike Harris remain sidelined.

Head-to-head pick: Reds
Line pick: Reds -1.5

Betting: having both teams in poor form makes this difficult to predict. I’m going to tentatively side with the Reds. They have a 4-1 home record against the Rebels and only lost by 2 points to them in Melbourne earlier this season. The Rebels have a habit of following the form guide, with a 4-0 record as the favourite and a 2-8 record as the underdog over the last 12 months. I will timidly back the Reds in the head-to-head at 1.77 (Luxbet).

Saturday, 16 July


Sharks v Sunwolves

3:00 AM AEST, Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
View a detailed form guide for Sharks v Sunwolves

After an up and down season the Sharks have virtually secured a playoff spot, with just the Sunwolves standing between them and 8th seed. They put in an error-ridden performance last week against the Cheetahs, so based on current form I don’t see them progressing beyond the quarter-finals. The Sharks are resting a number of players this week, with six changes to last week’s squad. Pat Lambie has been bracketed to make a return via the bench while Willie le Roux remains out with injury.

After showing occasional glimpses of promise, the Sunwolves’ season has unraveled badly in recent weeks, suffering 5-66, 12-57 and 3-50 drubbings. They now face a Sharks side that very much needs this win so another hammering could be on the cards.

Head-to-head pick: Sharks
Line pick: Sharks -35.5

Betting: the Sunwolves’ season has fallen apart badly. Their inability to make tackles against the Bulls last week was astonishing. I would be inclined to back the Sharks -35.5 at 1.90 (William Hill).


Crusaders v Hurricanes

3:15 PM AEST, AMI Stadium, Christchurch
View a detailed form guide for Crusaders v Hurricanes

The Rebels had been a bogey team for the Crusaders, but that was emphatically put to rest last week with a 85-26 thrashing of the Melbourne side. This will have helped erase memories of the Crusaders’ 10-20 home defeat to the Melbourne side last year – a defeat that cost the Crusaders a playoff spot. The Crusaders sit one point behind the Chiefs in the New Zealand conference, with that point making the difference between 2nd and 5th seed in the playoffs. In team news, prop Joe Moody is likely to miss this clash.

The Hurricanes enter this round on a four-game winning streak after they upset the in-form Waratahs in Sydney last week. Like the other four Kiwi teams around them, the Hurricanes could finish anywhere from 1st to 4th in the New Zealand conference, so this result will have major implications for their playoffs travel schedule.

Head-to-head pick: Crusaders
Line pick: Hurricanes +5.5

Betting: this is an intriguing clash. At home the Crusaders are 5-2 at the line over the last 12 months while the Hurricanes are 5-2 at the line on the road. The Hurricanes are also 4-1 at the line as the underdog and they’ve won five of their last seven against the Crusaders. I’m struggling to pick a winner here but 7 of the last 9 fixtures between the two have been settled by 12 points or less, so I will back both the Crusaders 1-12 at 2.70 (Sportsbet) and the Hurricanes 1-12 at 4.33 (bet365). The only caveat is the squads hadn’t been announced at the time of writing. With many teams resting players this week you might want to wait for the team sheets before committing to anything.


Highlanders v Chiefs

5:35 PM AEST, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
View a detailed form guide for Highlanders v Chiefs

The Highlanders have qualified for the playoffs following an impressive 34-8 win over the Jaguares in Argentina last week. They could theoretically finish anywhere between 1st and 4th in the New Zealand conference, but given they have just returned home from a tour of South Africa and Argentina, it would take a big achievement to defeat the in-form Chiefs this weekend.

The Chiefs continue to maintain a one-point lead over the Crusaders after they embarrassed the young Reds 50-5 in Brisbane last week. While the Hurricanes lamented the timing of the international break, it appears to have played into the hands of the Chiefs, who had lost 2 out of 3 leading up to it, but have looked superb since their win over Wales. All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick returns to the side after being rested last week.

Head-to-head pick: Chiefs
Line pick: Chiefs +3.0

Betting: this is another great clash. The Highlanders are 5-1 at home over the last 12 months while the Chiefs are 6-1 on the road. The Highlanders have won their last 5 straight against the Chiefs, but I’m going to back that the streak comes to an end. Historically home advantage has counted for little when these two sides meet and the Chiefs will be the fresher of the two sides. I would back the Chiefs +3.0 at 1.90 (Palmerbet).


Brumbies v Force

7:40 PM AEST, GIO Stadium, Canberra
View a detailed form guide for Brumbies v Force

The Brumbies knew the Blues would be dangerous, but they seemed to be caught off guard by the fast starting hosts, who went on to win 40-15. Fortunately for the Brumbies, the Waratahs failed to pick up a point against the Hurricanes the following day, so their destiny remains in their own hands. By kick off the Blues vs. Waratahs result will be known, so the Brumbies will know exactly what’s required of them to make the knockout stage. Following prolonged uncertainty over when or whether he will return, winger Joe Tomane has been formally ruled out for the rest of the season.

The Force continue to be generous hosts, giving the Stormers a bonus point win in Perth last week to extend their losing streak at home to 10 games. This streak is the last thing a financially struggling franchise needs. In team news, last weekend the ARU fined Pek Cowan and Dane Haylett-Petty and relieved them of their leadership roles for the rest of the season following discipline problems in South Africa. The Force could have extra fans this weekend, with Waratahs supporters hoping they can deliver an upset win should the Waratahs pick up at least a bonus point against the Blues.

Head-to-head pick: Brumbies
Line pick: Brumbies -20.5

Betting: historically the best time to back the Brumbies is on the back of a defeat, but they are painfully short in the head-to-head market. All five home wins over the last 12 months have been by 13 points or more, so I will instead back the Brumbies 13+ at 1.38 (Pinnacle).

Sunday, 17 July


Stormers v Kings

1:05 AM AEST, DHL Newlands, Cape Town
View a detailed form guide for Stormers v Kings

The Stormers have secured 3rd overall seed in the playoffs courtesy of a 22-3 win over the Force last week to secure the Africa 1 Conference. With 3rd seed virtually locked in and the Kings as visitors, the Stormers have chosen to rest locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit this week. Centre Daniel du Plessis picked up a concussion last week and will also miss this clash.

The Kings gave it all they could but were outclassed 21-57 by the Lions last week. Once again they were competitive in the first half only for the score to blow out in the second spell. It will be another case of how many points will they lose by, however the visiting Stormers have virtually nothing to play for, so the Kings may sniff the chance of a decent quality scalp.

Head-to-head pick: Stormers
Line pick: Kings +33.5

Betting: after a terrible run of form the Kings haven’t looked quite as bad over the last three rounds. Against the Highlanders and Lions they were competitive in the first half but fell away late in the game. I would back the Kings +16.0 in the first half handicap market at 1.90 (Luxbet).


Cheetahs v Bulls

3:10 AM AEST, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
View a detailed form guide for Cheetahs v Bulls

The Cheetahs finish off a forgettable season with a clash against the Bulls, however by the time they kick off, the Bulls fate will likely have already been sealed by the Sharks fixture, so this will likely be a dead rubber. The main aim for the Cheetahs now will be to stem the continued loss of talent during the off-season to rival franchises.

It will likely have been for nothing, but the Bulls finished off their home fixtures in style by thrashing the Sunwolves 50-3 last week, having previously beaten the Japanese side by just 3 points in Singapore. The Bulls’ two results against the Sunwolves highlights why they haven’t made the playoffs since 2013: their overseas away form. The Bulls have only won 2 of their last 16 matches outside South Africa. In team news, the Bulls have opted for Tian Schoeman at fly-half this week after he started from the bench last round.

Head-to-head pick: Bulls
Line pick: Bulls -4.5

Betting: the Bulls have won five of their last six in Bloemfontein, which isn’t surprising given they’re used to playing at virtually the same altitude. I would back the Bulls in the head-to-head at 1.52 (bet365).


Jaguares v Lions

7:40 AM AEST, Vélez Sarsfield, Buenos Aires
View a detailed form guide for Jaguares v Lions

After claiming the biggest scalp in their short history by defeating the Bulls, the Jaguares were brought back to Earth with a thud, losing 8-34 at home to the Highlanders in an ill-tempered clash. The Jaguares have been the strongest of the three new teams this season, but it is clear the pre-season hype around their title chances was way off the mark.

The Lions picked up a much expected bonus point win over the Kings last week to extend their winning streak to five games. While the Lions’ playoff berth is secure, they still have much to play for, with the result of this fixture having big implications for seedings. If the Lions hold onto the first overall seed they would host the Sharks in the quarter-finals – a side they have comfortably beaten twice this season. If the Lions fail to hold onto top spot they would face a Kiwi team in the quarters and all three of the Lions’ defeats this season have been to New Zealand sides. With this in mind it’s interesting to see that they’ve chosen to leave 15 players behind for their trip to Argentina, with their star players all rested. In good news for the Lions, captain Warren Whiteley’s recovery from injury has progressed faster than expected so he could feature during the playoffs.

Head-to-head pick: Jaguares
Line pick: Lions +13.0

Betting: the Jaguares opened as 3.50 underdogs but shortened to 1.23 when the Lions’ travel squad was announced. Until they were thrashed by the Highlanders last week, the Jaguares home defeats this season had been by 4, 5 and 3 points. With the Lions leaving 15 players at home, I fancy the Jaguares will win, but the 1.23 odds in the head-to-head are too short for me. The Lions are a well coached side so even without their stars they should be able to prevent a blowout loss. I would back the Lions +16.5 at 1.48 (William Hill).


Best Bets of the Round

Back the Bulls in the head-to-head at 1.52 (bet365)


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