The following are previews with betting tips for Round 15 (South African conferences only) of the 2017 Super Rugby season. The Australian franchises will rejoin the competition next week and the New Zealand sides will rejoin for the final round in a fortnight.
Saturday, 1 July
Sharks v Bulls
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Prior to the June break the Sharks saw off the Stormers 22-10 to move to 9-1-3 for the season. Much of the win came on the back of their defence, which withstood 75% possession to the Stormers in the second half. The Jaguares defeat means the Sharks now enjoy an 18-point lead in the race for the final African playoff spot. The focus now is to push for a higher seeding. The Sharks currently sit 8th, which would put them on a likely collision course with the Crusaders in the opening round. If they can finish 7th this would give them a domestic fixture against the Lions instead.
Prior to the June break the Bulls put in another poor performance in their 20-34 defeat to the Hurricanes. The scoreline flattered the Bulls, who were outscored five tries to two and only scored 7 consolation points near the end after the Hurricanes had taken their foot off the gas. They have lost their last four straight, albeit against high quality opponents, but the Bulls will need a big rethink in the off-season, with the 3-9 record putting them 16th on the table, miles adrift of the playoffs.
Betting: the Sharks have only won one of their last seven clashes against the Bulls, but they bring much better form than the visitors into this clash. The Sharks are undefeated at home over the last 12 months while the Bulls are 1-7 on the road and 0-5 as the road underdog. Five of those seven losses for the Bulls were by 13+ points. Given the Bulls’ strong recent record against the Sharks and the uncertainty created by the international break, I’m not quite prepared to take the Sharks at the -10.5 line and will instead back the Sharks -7.5 in the Pick Your Own Line market at 1.67 (Sportsbet).
Jaguares v Kings
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Prior to the June break the Jaguares’ slump continued with a 15-39 home defeat to the Brumbies. It was another terrible performance on the back of their shock loss to the Force, so the wheels had well and truly fallen off in May. Up until recently the Jaguares had been a Jekyll and Hyde team, with strong home results and a poor away record, but their recent home performances have been abysmal. They’ve lost three out of their last four home games, two of which were against sides with losing records. After a 4-1 start to the season the Jaguares have since gone 1-6 to be well and truly out of playoff contention. This week is their final home game of the campaign and their last chance to impress their home fans. Julian Montoya gets his first start of the season with captain Agustín Creevy left out of the squad. Martin Landajo will captain the side in Creevy’s absence.
Prior to the June break the Kings were thrashed 10-54 by the Lions to leave them rooted to the bottom of the competitive Africa 2 Conference. The gulf in class between the sides was on display as the Kings were outscored 6 tries to 1, despite the fact that the Lions played 50 minutes with 14 men. There aren’t too many Springboks in the Kings squad so they should have a fresh and fit squad following the June rugby internationals, but the issue is they might be rusty. The Kings welcome back prop Schalk Ferreira, hooker Michael Willemse and utility back Masixole Banda from injury this week.
Betting: the Jaguares beat the Kings by 13 points in Port Elizabeth in Round 1, but the Kings have improved markedly since then. If there hadn’t been a June break I would be keen to take the Kings at the +14.0 line but I wonder whether the international break has enabled the Jaguares to regroup. Given the Kings are 7-1 at the line away from home over the last 12 months I still think the Kings +14.0 is worth a look, but at the time of writing Ladbrokes are offering 1.25 head-to-head odds on the Jaguares, with other bookmakers offering only 1.10-1.17. Given this anomaly I recommend backing the Jaguares in the-head-to-head at 1.25 (Ladbrokes).
Cheetahs v Stormers
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Prior to the June break the Cheetahs bounced back from their 7-61 home trashing to the Hurricanes by beating the Sunwolves 47-7 in Tokyo. It was a dominant display, with the Cheetahs enjoying 68% of possession and 77% of territory in the first half before putting the hammer down in the second spell. The Cheetahs are now 3-10 for the season.
Prior to the June break the Stormers paid the price for a poor first half after they lost 10-22 to the Sharks in wet conditions, having trailed 0-15 at the break. The result continues the Stormers run of seeing off weaker sides but being unable to beat the top teams. The Stormers are 6-0 against sides ranked 9th or below but 1-5 against sides in the top 8. The Stormers finish the season with three games against sides ranked 15th or below so they look destined for the 3rd overall seed.
Betting: the Stormers have won their last four straight against the Cheetahs. Both sides have performed to expectations this season. Over the last 12 months the Cheetahs have gone 3-0 as the favourite and 1-12 as the underdog, while the Stormers have gone 8-1 as the favourite (4-0 as the away favourite) and 2-5 as the underdog. I’m going to back this trend to continue and take the Stormers in the head-to-head at 1.40 (William Hill).
Sunday, 2 July
Lions v Sunwolves
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Prior to the June break the Lions thrashed the Kings 54-10 despite playing 50 minutes of the match with 14 men. They are now 12-1 and it was the third game out of four that the Lions won by 37+ points, so they will be hoping the month off doesn’t impact their form. This week offers another opportunity for a bonus point win before the Lions have a bye in Round 16 and a tricky visit to the Sharks in the final round. The Crusaders have a tough final round fixture away against the Hurricanes so the coveted first overall seed is still up for grabs if the Lions can win out from here.
Prior to the June break the Sunwolves were thrashed 7-47 at home by the Cheetahs to slump to 1-11 for the season. It’s hard to draw positives from the result, with the visitors dominating possession, territory and the scoreline. The Sunwolves now face a string of tough fixtures to finish off the season so a likely 1-14 record beckons.
Betting: with the first overall seed still attainable, the Lions will be looking for a bonus point victory to put pressure on the Crusaders leading into the final round. The Lions should be far too strong and given they’ve won three of their last four games by 37+ points, the -31.5 line looks attractive. My concerns, however, are the fact that the Sunwolves are 6-2 at the line away from home over the last 12 months and the international break might have cooled down the Lions’ hot form. Nevertheless if I were to bet on this game I would take the Lions -31.5 at 1.90 (Sportsbet).
Best Bets of the Round
Back the Stormers in the head-to-head at 1.40 (William Hill)