The following are previews with betting tips for Round 10 of the 2017 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 28 April
Highlanders v Stormers
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Last week the Highlanders saw off the Sunwolves 40-15 to put some breathing space between themselves and the Blues in the race for the final playoff spot in the Australasian Group. Marty Banks is human after all. He went 5/6 with the boot last week to mark his first missed place kick in the five games. After a 1-3 start to their injury-hit campaign the Highlanders have now won four on the trot. They will be without loose forwards Elliot Dixon and Luke Whitelock this week due to injury, while fellow loose forward Shane Christie remains sidelined.
The Stormers started their three-game tour of New Zealand with a 24-57 defeat to the red hot Crusaders. The scoreline was slightly harsh on the Stormers, who showed good endeavour but coughed up two intercept tries. The defeat was their second on the trot following a 6-0 start to the season. Given how weak the Africa 1 Conference is the Stormers look set to make the playoffs but they will need to return to winning ways quickly if they are to push for a top 2 seed. Skipper Siya Kolisi returns after being rested last week.
Betting: the Stormers have won five of their last six against the Highlanders. Visiting South African teams often fare better in their second tour game because they don’t have the travel and jet lag to contend with. The patchwork loose-forward trio of the Highlanders is a concern. In their title-winning season the Highlanders beat the Stormers by 18 points, but I don’t see them replicating that feat on Friday. I would back the Stormers +17.5 at 1.50 (Sportsbet).
Confidence: medium-low – I’d be crazy to rate a bet against a Kiwi team any higher!
Saturday, 29 April
Chiefs v Sunwolves
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The tour of South Africa looked to have caught up with the Chiefs last week. They put in a poor performance by their standards but still managed to grind out a 16-7 win over the Force in Perth. They are now 7-1 for the season and have their African tour over with, so the Chiefs are well placed in their push for a high seed in the playoffs. Reserve halfback Finlay Christie is out with a three week suspension for a stamping incident. Coach David Rennie has indicated he will rotate the squad to inject some fresh legs for this clash.
The Sunwolves fell 15-40 to the Highlanders in Invercargill last week to move to 1-7 for the season. Two late tries for the Japanese added some respectability to the scoreline, but the Sunwolves were never in the same league as their hosts. They now play their final game in New Zealand before heading to Argentina to complete their torturous tour.
Betting: if I had to guess a winning margin it would be the Chiefs by 40 points, but I can’t say that with enough confidence to recommend a bet. I will sit this one out.
Reds v Waratahs
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Prior to their bye last week the Reds defeated the Kings 47-34 to end a six-game losing streak. The Reds led by 30 points at one stage but let their defence slip which enabled the Kings to score 17 unanswered points to deny them a bonus point. The Reds may actually feel that the bye came at a bad time, because the likes of Quade Cooper will be fresh following his return from suspension. They now face a critical clash against the Waratahs in a battle to chase down the conference-leading Brumbies.
The Waratahs suffered their fourth consecutive defeat on the back of a bye last week, losing 24-26 to the unfancied Kings in Sydney despite leading 17-0 early on and 17-7 at halftime. The Waratahs had failed to lead at halftime all season until now, so things were looking rosy at the break. It was an outright embarrassing Waratahs performance from then on, however, as they conceded 26 unanswered points before scoring a late consolation try once the result was beyond question. Their set-pieces were terrible in a particularly poor display by the forwards, with a penalty try conceded from a pushover scrum summing up their night. The Waratahs also put themselves under pressure with far too many handling errors and silly turnovers. They are lacking confidence at the moment, with mental issues impacting on their performances. Perhaps Israel Folau should drop to the bench until he can lift his performances.
Betting: the Waratahs have won their last six straight against the Reds. Their most recent win was by 2 points – the narrowest of their winning six margins. Like the bookmakers I’m having a hard time separating the two sides so I would back the Reds 1-12 at 3.60 (Ladbrokes) and the Waratahs 1-12 at 3.75 (Ladbrokes).
Force v Lions
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The Force fell 7-16 in a low quality affair to the Chiefs last week to slide to 2-5 for the campaign. A late try in the first half leveled the scores at 7-7 but the Force were slowly strangled out of the game in the second half as the Chiefs accrued penalties. The upside was the strong 14,089 attendance and evident fighting spirit within the side despite the off-field issues regarding their future. The latest casualty is fullback Dane Haylett-Petty, who injured his hamstring last week. His return date is uncertain.
The Lions won their tenth consecutive home game last week when they saw off the Jaguares 24-21, courtesy of a late Elton Jantjies penalty. The Lions are now 7-1 for the season and are well placed in their push for top overall seed due to the disruption the British & Irish Lions tour will have on the New Zealand teams. The Lions now embark on a three-week Australian tour before returning to South Africa where they will play all of their remaining regular season matches.
Betting: the Force are 5-0 against the Lions but much has changed since their last clash in 2014. The Lions are unbeaten as the away favourite over the last 12 months so I would back the Lions in the head-to-head at 1.31 (Mad Bookie).
Sunday, 30 April
Cheetahs v Crusaders
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The Cheetahs fell 14-20 to the Bulls in a low quality game last week to slip to 2-6 for the season. The 20 points conceded was their best defensive result of the season, but the Cheetahs made too many errors to give themselves a chance of winning. They have lost 5 on the trot and a performance of a similar level would see them put to the sword by the Crusaders.
The Crusaders beat the Stormers 57-24 last round to move to 8-0 for the season. I had written last week that the caveat to their unbeaten start was they had only played one team with a winning record, but the 33-point win over a 6-1 side has certainly put the rest of the competition on notice.
Betting: the line line market doesn’t appeal so I’m happy to just take the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.16 (Unibet).
Confidence: low – I wish I could get better odds
Kings v Rebels
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The Kings finished their Australian tour with a deserved upset win over the Waratahs last week. They were down 17-0 down at one stage but fought back with 26 unanswered points to win 26-24. The Kings have shown great character in lieu of the fact that they will be axed from the competition next season. They have often found themselves down by large scorelines but have fought back well and have an 8-2 line record as the away underdog.
The Rebels forced a 9-all draw against the Sharks in Durban last week to pick up 2 valuable competition points. It was a low quality game, but the Rebels can take heart from the fact that defensively they have limited the Brumbies to 17 points and the Sharks to 9 points since their bye. Prior to that bye the Rebels had conceded 51 points to the Highlanders in an atrocious showing, so perhaps, like the Force, the Rebels have been galvanized by the uncertainty over their future.
Betting: I can see the Rebels winning this but I expect the Kings will make a game of it. I would back the Rebels 1-12 at 3.60 (Ladbrokes).
Jaguares v Sharks
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The Jaguares put up a strong fight but fell just short against the Lions in Johannesburg last week, falling 21-24 after conceding a late penalty. Given the Lions’ record at home it was a respectable result. The Jaguares will play their next five games at home before finishing the regular season with a two-game tour of Australia. They have won 5 of their last 6 at home with a perfect 3-0 home record this season. Given the strong form of the Sharks the Jaguares will possibly need to win all of their remaining home games if they are to make the playoffs. Given both sides are fighting for the final African Group playoff spot this fixture is crucial.
The Sharks missed the opportunity to put more breathing space between themselves and the Jaguares when they drew the Rebels 9-all in Durban last week. In a forgettable game the Sharks took a 9-6 lead in the 78th minute but conceded a late penalty to hand the Rebels a draw. Curwin Bosch wasn’t his usual reliable self, missing two kickable penalties. It was a poor quality game, which doesn’t bode well for the Sharks visit to Argentina given the Jaguares are coming off a competitive showing against the high-flying Lions. The Sharks will be without centre Andre Esterhuizen for the next six weeks due to suspension. Garth April, Inny Radebe, Keegan Daniel, Kobus van Wyk and Pat Lambie are also not in the touring squad.
Betting: the Jaguares are 5-1 as the home favourite over the last 12 months. They always seem to find a higher gear on home soil and with the Sharks missing a number of personnel for this visit I would back the Jaguares in the head-to-head at 1.46 (Mad Bookie).
Brumbies v Blues
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The Brumbies remain winless against Kiwi teams this season after they were thrashed by the Hurricanes 21-56 in Napier last week. They had conceded just 13 tries all season, but yielded 8 against the Hurricanes as the Brumbies seemed to inevitably run out of defenders as the Hurricanes shifted the ball around. The Brumbies actually led 21-14 at the break but for the second week running they flat-lined offensively in the second half as the Hurricanes built continuity on offence. The Brumbies were asked to make a lot of tackles and it all caught up with them in the final 30 minutes as they ran out of petrol. The result sees them slide to 3-5 for the season, but they still top the Australian conference.
Prior to their bye last week the Blues were once again competitive against a Kiwi opponent but once again fell short, losing 24-28 to the Hurricanes in Auckland. The Blues led late in the game but fell victim to a moment of brilliance from Beauden Barrett that led to a match-winning Mark Abbott try. The Blues were also guilty of too many errors. They are now 10-1-1 against foreign opponents but 0-10 against their compatriots. The Blues will be without Jerome Kaino for the next six weeks after he picked up a knee injury. Patrick Tuipulotu and Rene Ranger
remain sidelined with their injuries.
Betting: the Brumbies will need to come out of their shells like they did against the Reds if they are to win this, but recent results suggest they won’t do that. The Brumbies are 0-2 as the home underdog over the last 12 months while the Blues are 3-0 as the away favourite. I would back the Blues 1-12 at 3.20 (Ladbrokes).
Best Bets of the Round
Back the Jaguares in the head-to-head at 1.46 (Mad Bookie)