The following are previews with betting tips for Round 11 of the 2017 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 5 May
Hurricanes v Stormers
View a detailed form guide for Hurricanes v Stormers
Prior to their bye last week the Hurricanes thrashed the Brumbies 56-21 to move to 7-1 for the season. They were down 14-21 at the break but scored 42 unanswered points in the second half as they applied constant pressure with fluid ball recycling. As with most Kiwi teams, the skill level in the squad is exceptional. Beauden Barrett continues to be in sublime form and younger brother Jordie is proving to be pretty handy too. The Hurricanes dominate the competition offensive stats as you would expect but they’re actually tied 1st for fewest points conceded this season, which is my number one benchmark for a team’s title credentials.
The Stormers’ tour of hell concludes this week. So far they’ve lost 24-57 to the Crusaders and 14-57 to the Highlanders. They started the season 6-0 but have lost their last 3. Apart from giving the Bulls a sniff of catching up with them in the Africa 1 Conference, the results have also taken their toll on the squad, with prop JC Janse van Rensburg, locks Eben Etzebeth & Pieter-Steph du Toit and flyhalf Kurt Coleman all flying back to Cape Town after their defeat to the Highlanders. Frans Malherbe also won’t feature due to the Springbok management plan. In some positive news Caylib Oostuizen returns via the bench after recovering from a concussion.
Betting: the early line for the Hurricanes was -18.5 but it has since blown out to -23.5. In recent years the Stormers have been highly competitive in Wellington, winning by 2 points in 2013 and losing by 5 in 2015. The Stormers’ recent showings and injury list scare me away from backing them, however. The Hurricanes are 6-3 at the line as the home favourite over the last 12 months while the Stormers are 0-2 at the line as the away underdog. Unfortunately, every man and his dog has been backing the Hurricanes this week so at the time of writing the value has fallen away. I’m instead going to venture into the “Anytime Scorer” market and back Ngani Laumape at 1.83 (Sportsbet). Laumape has scored in 6 of the Hurricanes 8 games this season, including all 4 home games. If the Stormers suffer another thrashing he will be a great chance. At the time of writing Ladbrokes are only offering 1.44 for him!
Cheetahs v Highlanders
View a detailed form guide for Cheetahs v Highlanders
The Cheetahs were mauled 21-48 at home by the Crusaders last week as they had no answers to the pace and power of the Canterbury side. The Cheetahs have struggled defensively this season but particularly against foreign opposition. The Jaguares, Chiefs and Hurricanes have all put more than 40 on the board against them and even the Sunwolves scored 31. A similar defensive performance against the potent Highlanders backline will make for an ugly scoreboard again this weekend.
After a 1-3 start to the season the Highlanders have won now five straight. Last week they thrashed the Stormers 57-14 with a sublime attacking and defensive display. Backup fly-half Marty Banks continues to be a revelation with the boot, converting a number of tries from the sideline. The last three foreign visitors to Otago / Southland have all been put to the sword but the Highlanders face a stern test now with a three-game tour of South Africa and Australia. In mixed injury news, All Blacks fullback Ben Smith is not part of the touring squad due to an ankle complaint, while co-captain Ash Dixon returns from injury to play his first game of the year via the bench. Elliot Dixon and Richard Buckman have also been named on the bench after a few weeks out.
Betting: the Highlanders have won their last three visits to Bloemfontein, with a 21-point margin of victory in 2015. They also have a 4-1 line record as the away favourite over the last 12 months. I would back the Highlanders -13.5 at 1.91 (Ladbrokes).
Saturday, 6 May
Rebels v Lions
View a detailed form guide for Rebels v Lions
After pulling off a surprise draw against the Sharks two weeks ago the Rebels were humiliated 44-3 by the unfancied Kings in Port Elizabeth last week. It was the second game in succession that the Rebels were unable to score a try, but the difference was their defence fell to pieces in the second half following two strong defensive performances. The Rebels have been hot and cold on defence this season. They held the Chiefs to 27 points, the Brumbies to 17 points and the Sharks to 9 points, but the Kings, Highlanders, Blues and Hurricanes have scored 44, 51, 56 and 71 points, respectively. When it goes wrong for the Rebels, it tends to go very wrong.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Lions ground out a 24-15 win over the Force last week to move to 8-1 for the season to maintain their stranglehold on the second overall seed. The win was pleasing given the Force have been a bogey team for the Lions, who they had not defeated since 2007. The Lions haven’t been at their best in recent weeks but the fact that they’re still winning bodes well.
Betting: it seems like every time the Rebels get thrashed by an embarrassing scoreline they respond the following week with a much better defensive performance. I’m not particularly keen on the 15.5 line market because the Rebels are 2-5 at the line at home over the last 12 months while but Lions are 0-3 at the line as the away favourite. Over the last 12 months four of the Rebels’ five home defeats have been by 8+ points while four of the Lions’ five away wins have been by 8+ points. I’m going to back the Lions -7.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.33 (Sportsbet).
Confidence: medium-low – wish I could get better odds
Chiefs v Reds
View a detailed form guide for Chiefs v Reds
For the third consecutive week the Chiefs put in a poor performance by their standards but got away with a win. Last week they saw off the Sunwolves 27-20 after staring as 33 1/2 point favourites. The Chiefs have been error-prone in recent weeks but their defensive efforts always keep them in the game. They led 20-3 at halftime last week and were perhaps guilty of taking their foot off the gas. The Chiefs’ travels may have caught up with them too following their three-game tour of South Africa and Australia. What will concern them, however, is the fact that their scrum was dominated by the Sunwolves, which led to several penalties. The Chiefs now face the Reds ahead of a well-earned bye next week.
The Reds outscored the Waratahs 4 tries to 2 last week but were undone by a 16-4 penalty count that enabled Bernard Foley to kick the Waratahs to a 29-26 victory. The Reds have now lost 10 domestic games in a row and 7 in a row to the Waratahs. Despite their abysmal 2-7 record the Reds season is still very much alive due to the fact that the conference leading Brumbies are only 3-6 themselves!
Betting: the Reds have won their last 3 straight away games against the Chiefs, but given the Chiefs thrashed them by 45 points in Brisbane last season, that streak is likely going to come to an end. Despite their 8-1 record the Chiefs haven’t been blowing sides away this season. Their biggest winning margin is just 16 points and their average winning margin is 11.5. The Chiefs are playing at Yarrow Stadium, so I expect them to lift this week, however. You often get great atmospheres at the smaller stadiums and the Kiwi franchises are out to impress given it’s their only chance to do so in front of that particular crowd. Given 5 of the Reds’ last 6 away defeats were by 13+ points, I expect the Chiefs will win by more than their average of 11.5 points this week, so I will back the Chiefs -11.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.33 (Sportsbet).
Waratahs v Blues
View a detailed form guide for Waratahs v Blues
The Waratahs saw off the Reds 29-26 in Brisbane last week to move to 3-6 for the season. They’ve now won seven straight against the Queenslanders and the Brumbies’ three-game losing streak means the Waratahs are now just five points behind the Australian conference leaders. Bernard Foley’s return from injury has certainly given them a boost. If they can beat the Blues this week it would mark their first back-to-back wins of the season. The last two Waratahs’ victories were followed by three consecutive defeats.
The Blues extended New Zealand’s winning streak over Australian teams to 15 games after they saw off the Brumbies 18-12 in Canberra. The most pleasing aspect of the win was their defence, which kept the hosts tryless while they took their opportunities at key moments. The Blues’ lopsided run continues, with a 11-1-1 record against foreign opponents and 0-10 run against their compatriots.
Betting: it’s been many years since the Blues last won in Sydney, however it’s hard to overlook the Blues dominant run against foreign opponents. This could be close so I will back both the Waratahs 1-12 at 4.50 (bet365) and the Blues 1-12 at 2.88 (Sportsbet).
Sharks v Force
View a detailed form guide for Sharks v Force
The Sharks bounced back from their limp draw against the Rebels by upsetting the Jaguares in Argentina 33-25. Both sides scored 3 tries but the 18 points from the boot of Curwin Bosch proved to be the difference. The win was crucial because the Sharks now hold an 8 point lead over the Jaguares in the race for the third playoff spot in the African Group.
The Force put in another competitive performance against a strong team last week but fell short in the end with execution letting them down. Over the last two weeks they’ve lost 7-16 to the Chiefs and 15-24 to the Lions. While the defeats see them slide to 2-6 for the season, the Force can take positives from their defensive efforts, which have largely contained dangerous sides. The downside is all of the Forces’ 15 points last week came from penalties. Their last two fixtures have been dull affairs, littered with penalties and handling errors.
Betting: the Force seem to have an ability to draw errors out of their opponents. It doesn’t make for entertaining affairs, but it does mean the Force have only been blown away once on the scoreboard this season. Given 5 of the Force’s 6 defeats have been by 1-12 margins and the fact that they’re 6-2 at the line away from home over the last 12 months, I would back the Force +15.5 at 1.925 (Pinnacle).
Sunday, 7 May
Bulls v Crusaders
View a detailed form guide for Bulls v Crusaders
Prior to their bye last week the Bulls fought back to beat the Cheetahs 20-14 in Pretoria to keep their playoff chances very much alive. The Bulls are now 3-0 at home and 0-5 on the road this season. The game against the Cheetahs was pretty dire, with the Bulls continuing to be a one-dimensional team. Their unbeaten run at home will be sternly tested this week. They put in too many errors against the Cheetahs and a similar performance against the Crusaders will see them torched.
The Crusaders started their two-game South African tour with a convincing 48-21 win over the Cheetahs. The side remains undefeated with a 9-0 record. The blemish on the night was the needless poor discipline in the second half, with Sam Whitelock and Mitchell Hunt yellow carded. The win came at a cost, with Kieran Read breaking his thumb and having to undergo surgery. He had only recently made his comeback from a broken wrist. Captain Sam Whitelock has been suspended for two weeks for last week’s yellow card infringement.
Betting: reaching back to 2009, all eight clashes between the two sides were won by the home team. The Crusaders beat the Waratahs by 19 points in Sydney and given the Bulls are fresh off a bye and have only lost at home once over the last 12 months, I can see them doing better than that. I would back the Bulls +18.5 at 1.50 (Sportsbet).
Jaguares v Sunwolves
View a detailed form guide for Jaguares v Sunwolves
The Jaguares remain winless against the Sharks after they fell 25-33 to the Durban side at home last week. The defeat was a hammer blow to their playoff aspirations because the Sharks now hold an 8-point lead in the race for the third playoff spot in the African Group. That defeat was on the back of a three-game tour of South Africa so perhaps the extensive travel caught up with the Jaguares. They’ve had a full week in Argentina now and should be stronger this week.
The Sunwolves started as 33 1/2 point underdogs against the Chiefs last week and were down 3-20 at the break but fought back well to lose 20-27 and pick up a deserved bonus point. The competitive second half performance will buoy the Japanese side following their comprehensive defeats to the Crusaders and Highlanders. They will be especially pleased by their dominant scrummaging performance in the second half, which led to several penalties. In team news, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi has been suspended for five weeks for a shoulder charge.
Betting: the hard-working Sunwolves are 6-3 at the line over the last 12 months and the Highlanders only beat them by 25 points, so I would back the Sunwolves +30.5 at 1.43 (William Hill).
Best Bets of the Round
Highlanders v Stormers – back Ngani Laumape in the “Anytime Scorer” market at 1.83 (Sportsbet)