Super Rugby Qualifiers – Previews and Betting Tips

The following are previews with betting tips for the qualifiers (quarter-finals) of the 2017 Super Rugby season.

View and compare Super Rugby odds.
View the Super Rugby form guide.

The playoffs format has been tweaked slightly this year. The quarter-finals are labeled as follows:

Qualifier 1: Lions v Sharks
Qualifier 2: Crusaders v Highlanders
Qualifier 3: Stormers v Chiefs
Qualifier 4: Brumbies v Hurricanes

The semi-finals will be as follows:

Higher-ranked winner from QF 1 and 4 v Lower-ranked winner from QF 1 and 4
Higher-ranked winner from QF 2 and 3 v Lower-ranked winner from QF 2 and 3

Friday, 21 July


Brumbies v Hurricanes

7:45 PM AEST, GIO Stadium, Canberra
View a detailed form guide for Brumbies v Hurricanes

For the second year running the Brumbies will host a quarter-final against a side with more competition points than themselves. Last year they lost 9-15 to Highlanders who had 9 more points. This year they host the Hurricanes who have a whopping 24 more points. The Brumbies limp into the playoffs on the back of defeats to the Reds (15-16) and Chiefs (10-28), however the Brumbies rested ten players for the Chiefs game. Prior to last week the Brumbies lost Kyle Godwin and Aidan Toua to season-ending injuries so their build up to the playoffs has been less than ideal. The upside is the Brumbies have shown plenty of defensive steel this season, which is the reason why they’re the only Australian team left in the competition. They will have to gain more fluency and spark on attack, though, if they are to trouble the Hurricanes. The Brumbies have received a boost ahead of this clash, with Christian Lealiifano named on the bench after overcoming a hamstring issue that delayed his comeback from leukemia.

The Hurricanes came from behind to beat the previously undefeated Crusaders 31-22 in Wellington last week. Impressively, they were able to do so despite Beauden Barrett pulling out before the game. The victory secured the crucial 5th seed and the visit to the Brumbies that came with it rather than the Stormers. More importantly it proved that the Hurricanes can beat the best in the competition. Leading up to that match they had lost to the Crusaders once and the Chiefs twice, suggesting they could dominate weaker opponents but not the top quality sides. The Hurricanes have received a boost this week, with All Blacks hooker Dane Coles returning via the bench after having missed the last four months with a concussion.

The Brumbies are on a ten-game losing streak to New Zealand sides. Their last win was actually at home over the Hurricanes (52-10) in Round 1 of the 2016 season. A lot has changed since then and I can see the Hurricanes strangling the Brumbies out of this game. In fact, the Hurricanes are probably the last team the Brumbies wanted to face. Their Round 9 clash against the Hurricanes was by far the Brumbies’ worse defeat of the season. They lost 21-56 and to put that scoreline into perspective, no other side has scored more than 28 points against the Brumbies in 2017.

Betting: how you bet on this game depends on whether you treat the Brumbies’ Round 9 defeat in Wellington as an off-night or a sign of things to come. Ignoring the Brumbies’ defeat to the Chiefs when they fielded an under-strength team, no other side has beaten the Brumbies by more than 7 points this season. Excluding the Hurricanes and Chiefs results, the Brumbies’ losing margins have been 4, 5, 5, 2, 6, 7 and 1. This includes matches against the Crusaders, Lions and Highlanders. I’m going to back the Brumbies’ defence to prevent an embarrassing scoreline. I will back the Brumbies +20.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.40 (Sportsbet).
Confidence: low

Saturday, 22 July


Crusaders v Highlanders

5:35 PM AEST, AMI Stadium, Christchurch
View a detailed form guide for Crusaders v Highlanders

The Crusaders’ 14-game winning streak and the chance of a perfect season came to an end with a 22-31 defeat to the Hurricanes in Hamilton last week. They led up to the 65th minute but couldn’t hold out the Hurricanes in the final 15 minutes as ill-discipline cost them. This is technically their third defeat in a row because the Crusaders also lost to the British and Irish Lions and a friendly to the Highlanders.

The Highlanders rested a few key players but managed to see off their bogey team the Reds 40-17 in Dunedin last week, despite a less than clinical performance. The win came on the back of a one-point win over the British and Irish Lions and a 33-12 win in a friendly over the Crusaders, so the Highlanders are carrying good momentum into the playoffs. With a number of key players and management staff either confirmed or rumoured to be leaving at the end of the season, this year’s playoffs are crucial for the Highlanders, who will likely go backwards next season. The Highlanders welcome back captain Ben Smith this week. They have named six forwards on the bench in anticipation of a physical clash.

Betting: the Crusaders are 6-point favourites but I think the Highlanders are a real chance of causing an upset. The last five clashes between the two (excluding friendlies) were all settled by 8 points or less and their two clashes this season were both settled by 3 points so I will back both the Crusaders 1-12 at 3.00 (Ladbrokes) and the Highlanders 1-12 at 4.33 (Ladbrokes).
Confidence: medium


Lions v Sharks

10:20 PM AEST, Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
View a detailed form guide for Lions v Sharks

The Lions beat the Sharks 27-10 in Durban last week to lock in the coveted first overall seed. They were up by just 3 points at the break but held the Sharks scoreless in the second spell to pull away as comfortable winners. The implications of their last-minute rise to the top of the standings can’t be understated given the strong history of Super Rugby champions winning on home soil. The Lions take on the Sharks again this weekend but on home turf.

The Sharks’ loss to the Lions last week has arguably made their title chances easier. With 8th seed locked in for the Sharks, the defeat handed top seed to the Lions, so the Sharks only have to travel from Durban to Johannesburg for their first playoff match instead of to Christchurch, which has been a graveyard for South African teams. The Sharks only lost by 5 points to the Lions in Johannesburg in Round 6 so they will feel an upset win isn’t out of the question.

Betting: the Lions should be too strong. They bring a 12-game winning streak into this clash and they have won their last 5 against the Sharks. I was initially on the fence regarding the line market because while the Lions are 7-2 at the line at home this year, the Sharks are 6-2 at the line away from home and 4-1 at the line as the away underdog. However, looking at the Lions’ recent home form (94-7 over the Sunwolves, 54-10 over the Kings, 51-14 over the Bulls), I’m going to lean towards the home side and back the Lions -14.5 at l.91 (Sportsbet).
Confidence: medium-low

Sunday, 23 July


Stormers v Chiefs

1:00 AM AEST, DHL Newlands, Cape Town
View a detailed form guide for Stormers v Chiefs

The Stormers held off the Bulls 41-33 in Pretoria last week to bring strong momentum into the playoffs. The Stormers have been hit hard by injuries this season but securing finals rugby early on has given them the luxury of not rushing players back from injury. For this reason they are due to receive a number of reinforcements this week. Like the Brumbies the Stormers are hosting a team with more competition points than themselves, with the Chiefs ending the season on 57 points to the Stormers’ 43. The Stormers will be immensely relieved to be playing this fixture at home given they went 2-0 against Kiwi sides in Cape Town this season while suffering three heavy defeats on New Zealand soil. In the quarter-finals last year the Stormers were mauled 21-60 at home by the Chiefs – a result they put down to the lack of preparation against the intensity of Kiwi rugby. This year their conference played the New Zealand conference so they should be in a much better place to avoid yet another home quarter-final defeat – something the Stormers have a long history of doing.

The Chiefs saw off the under-strength Brumbies 28-10 last week but the 4 competition points were in vain as the Hurricanes defeated the Crusaders later in the day to consign the Chiefs to a trip to Cape Town to play the Stormers, a side who have already beaten them this season. That defeat was the Chiefs’ only loss to an overseas opponent this season. I don’t think to Chiefs will feel too downhearted by that defeat, however. It was a high scoring game that could have gone either way. The Chiefs will be without Charlie Ngatai this week due to an ankle injury.

Betting: the Stormers are 5-2 at the line at home this season and 2-0 at the line as the home underdog. The Chiefs meanwhile are 2-6 at the line away from home and 0-5 as the away favourite. I would back the Stormers +9.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.41 (William Hill).
Confidence: medium-low


Best Bets of the Round

Back both the Crusaders 1-12 at 3.00 (Ladbrokes) and the Highlanders 1-12 at 4.33 (Ladbrokes)


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