The following are previews with betting tips for Round 3 of the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 2 March
Blues v Chiefs
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The Blues fell 34-41 to the Highlanders in an entertaining game in Dunedin last week. The lead changed seven times but the yellow card to Antonio Kirikiri was the Blues’ undoing. They can take many positives from their attacking play and Bryn Gatland had an excellent game, so the mood in the Blues camp is good despite the loss. In team news, Sonny Bill Williams is out, while Patrick Tuipulotu and Jimmy Tupou return to the starting line-up and Jerome Kaino returns via the bench.
The Chiefs pushed the Crusaders hard for 70 minutes in Christchurch last week, but with the Hamilton side trailing 23-26 at the 70-minute mark, Lachlan Boshier received a yellow card to go with a penalty try, which unleashed a late flurry of Crusaders’ points to see the hosts run out 45-23 winners. Last week’s defeat came at a heavy cost, with Tim Nanai-Williams ruled out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, co-captain Charlie Ngatai ruled out for at least two weeks with a knee injury, Dominic Bird ruled out for two weeks with a shoulder injury, plus Mitchell Brown and Marty McKenzie doubtful for this week after picking up concussions. Kane Hames remains sidelined with illness.
Betting: the Chiefs have won 5 and drawn 1 of their last 6 visits to the Blues, but those winning margins were 4, 7, 10, 3, and 5 points. I would back ‘Either Team Under 12.5 Points’ in the Tri-Bets 12.5 market at 1.50 (CrownBet). Given the Chiefs injury list and the fact that they barely escaped Eden Park with a draw last year, for those looking to take on more risk, I would back the Blues 1-12 at 2.88 (Sportsbet).
Reds v Brumbies
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The Reds never recovered from captain Scott Higginbotham’s red card in the 10th minute as they went on to lose 19-45 to the Rebels last week. Lukhan Tui was also yellow carded at one stage, and it’s always difficult to be competitive with 13 men on the field. Both Tui and Higginbotham have received 3-week bans for their indiscretions.
The Brumbies were expected to make short work of the Sunwolves last week but had to work hard for their 32-25 win after trailing at halftime. It wasn’t a great Brumbies performance but they can take positives from the fact that they maintained their composure when down on the scoreboard against a vastly improved Sunwolves outfit.
Betting: the Reds won this fixture 16-15 last season but the Brumbies won the 5 previous encounters, with 4 of those 5 wins coming by 19+ margins. I would back the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.54 (bet365).
Saturday, 3 March
Sunwolves v Rebels
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The Sunwolves gave the Brumbies a massive scare last week after leading 19-15 at halftime. They faded in the second half, however to fall 25-32, but they thoroughly deserved their consolation bonus point. The squad looks far stronger this season with the high number of South African and Kiwi imports. Willie Britz and Lomano Lava Lemeki in particular were immense last week.
The Rebels got their 2018 campaign off to a strong start by dismantling the 14-man Reds 45-19 in Melbourne. The result saw the Melbourne side score their most points and tries in a Super Rugby fixture, with Will Genia terrorising his former team. It wasn’t the highest quality of games, but the win is what counts and the Rebels have great upside potential as all of the recruited Force players and coach continue to build cohesion within the squad.
Betting: due to the huge influx of players and new coaching with both teams, you can throw the form book from last season out the window. One fixture doesn’t provide much insight to go on, but if I were to bet on this fixture I would back ‘Either Team Under 12.5 Points’ in the Tri-Bets 12.5 market at 1.63 (CrownBet).
Crusaders v Stormers
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The Crusaders got their title defence off to the perfect start with a bonus point 45-23 win over the Chiefs in Christchurch. Most of the damage was done in the final 10 minutes, with the scores 26-23 in the 70th minute. The win was all the sweeter given the Crusaders were missing numerous personnel. They also managed the 22-point winning margin despite Richie Mo’unga and Michael Alaalatoa receiving yellow cards, so the signs are ominous for the rest of the competition.
The Stormers let a draw slip through their fingers last week after they failed to secure their own line-out with the scores tied at 27-all past the 80th minute. The win snapped their four-game winning streak over Australian sides. The Stormers now commence a two-game tour of New Zealand which could really put them on the back foot in their South African conference aspirations, with the Lions firing well at the moment. The Stormers might be without flyhalf Damian Willemse this week after he sustained a haematoma on his quad.
Betting: the Stormers’ tour of New Zealand was a disaster last year. They lost 57-24 to the Crusaders, 57-14 to the Highlanders and 41-22 to the Hurricanes. The line at the time of writing is +17.5 and the Crusaders went 8-1 at the line at home over the last 12 months while the Stormers went 1-4 at the line as the away underdog. The Stormers also continue their tour without a number of players due to injury. I would back the Crusaders -9.5 at 1.40 (Sportsbet).
Sunday, 4 March
Sharks v Waratahs
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Prior to their bye last week the Sharks fell 19-26 to the Lions in Johannesburg. The two sides were evenly matched in most departments except for the scrum, which the Lions dominated, and that proved to be the difference.
The Waratahs opened their account with a last-gasp win over the Stormers in Sydney last week. Up until the dying minute the were scores locked at 27-all until the Stormers failed to secure their own line out just outside their own 22. The Waratahs then scored a winning try after being gifted possession. The win was massive for the franchise who went 4-11 last season and now commence a tricky tour of South Africa and Argentina.
Betting: the last six meetings between the two were won by the home team. The Waratahs’ last two visits to Durban resulted in 32-10 and 37-14 defeats. The Sharks went 5-1-1 as the home favourite over the last 12 months while the Waratahs went 1-4 as the away underdog. I would back the Sharks in the head-to-head at 1.50 (William Hill, Ladbrokes).
Bulls v Lions
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It wasn’t pretty, but under after a poorly-timed bye in Round 1 the Bulls got their campaign off to a positive start with a 21-19 home win over the Hurricanes. Under new head coach John Mitchell they held onto possession well and forced the visitors to defend for long periods of time. The second half was scrappy, but that’s to be expected this early in the season. I wrote last week that they need to turn Loftus Versfeld back into a fortress, and this week provides another great opportunity to do that.
Last week the Lions overcame an early 10-point deficit to cruise to a comfortable 47-27 win over the Jaguares, who shot themselves in the foot repeatedly through poor discipline. The Lions top the standings with two wins from two but this will be their first away fixture.
Betting: the Bulls have won 5 of their last 6 at home against the Lions, however their sole defeat was last season, by a 20-56 scoreline. In Johannesburg the Bulls were then thrashed 51-14, so it’s safe to say there was a huge gulf in quality between the two teams last year. The Bulls went 1-4 as the home underdog over the last 12 months while the Lions went 5-0 as the away favourite, so I would back the Lions in the head-to-head at 1.25 (CrownBet, Unibet).
Jaguares v Hurricanes
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Discipline continues to be an issue for the Jaguares as they conceded two yellow cards in their 27-47 defeat to the Lions. They lead by ten points early on but some poor handling errors prevented them from building on their lead before the Lions got into the match. The Jaguares return to Argentina with no points to show from their two fixtures in South Africa. Like the Bulls, if the Jaguares are to have a productive season, their home form will be key. Can they sort out their discipline, though?
The Hurricanes struggled with the heat and altitude in Pretoria last week as they fell 19-21 to the Bulls. They had a number of opportunities to win the match but execution let them down as the game became ever more scruffy in the second half. They might be ruing their decision to start Beauden Barrett from the bench.
Betting: the two sides have only met once before, which the Hurricanes won 40-22 in Wellington. If the Jaguares lost by 18 points in New Zealand during the Hurricanes’ title-winning season, then I’m prepared to back them to match that on home soil. I would back the Jaguares +18.5 at 1.53 (Sportsbet).
Best Bets of the Round
In the Blues vs. Chiefs fixture, back ‘Either Team Under 12.5 Points’ in the Tri-Bets 12.5 market at 1.50 (CrownBet)
Back the Crusaders -9.5 against the Stormers at 1.40 (Sportsbet)