Super Rugby Round 18 – Preview & Betting Tips

The following are previews with betting tips for Round 18 of the 2018 Super Rugby season.

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Friday, 6 July


Crusaders v Highlanders

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

Prior to the international break and their bye last week, the Crusaders took firm control of the New Zealand conference with wins over the Hurricanes and Chiefs. They did so despite missing a number of key forwards, much to the dismay of their competition. What stands out is their ability to close out tight games and be clinical when it matters the most. The Crusaders have now won 10 matches on the trot and will likely enter the playoffs as the number one seed, which is a sobering thought given they’ve never lost a home playoff game in franchise history. The Crusaders suffered a double injury blow during the break, with Jone Macilai and Billy Harmon ruled out for the season after sustaining injuries against the French Barbarians. In better news, All Blacks captain Kieran returns this week after almost eight months out with a back injury. This will be veteran prop Wyatt Crockett’s 200th game, which will make him the first player to reach a double-century of appearances in Super Rugby.

The Highlanders had a shocker of a first half in their 22-45 defeat to the Chiefs in Fiji last week. They conceded six tries to nil and found themselves down 0-42 at halftime. They found better rhythm in the second half and scored four tries to nil to deny the Chiefs a bonus point, but overall it was an uncharacteristically bad Highlanders performance. They have now slid to 4th in the New Zealand conference and 6th in the overall standings. With everything as tight as it is, the Highlanders could finish as high as 4th or as low as 8th come the playoffs. They will have to hope the Crusaders are as rusty this week as the Highlanders were last week.

Betting: the Crusaders have gone 8-0 at home over the last 12 months while the Highlanders have gone 3-6 away from Dunedin and 0-3 as the away underdog. The Highlanders have also gone 1-8 away from home at the line and 0-3 at the line as the away underdog. The two dangers for the Crusaders here are they could be rusty after an extended break and they will be taking on a Highlanders outfit that is looking to make amends for last week’s performance. The Highlanders have gone 5-1 on the back of a defeat over the last 12 months. Given these circumstances I will shy away from the Crusaders -7.5 at the line and simply take the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.36 (Neds).
Confidence: medium


Reds v Rebels

7:45 PM AEST, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
View a detailed form guide for Reds v Rebels

The Reds are on a five-game losing streak after they were beaten 16-39 by the Blues in Eden Park last week. The Reds dominated the scrum but that was about it as the Blues ran out comfortable winners. Two harsh yellow card decisions didn’t help their cause, however. The Reds can now play the role of the spoiler as they take on the Rebels who are in a tight tussle to make the playoffs and possibly win the Australian conference. With Chris Feauai-Sautia, Izaia Perese and now Samu Kerevi out injured, the 18-year-old Jordan Petaia will start at outside centre for this clash.

The Rebels’ conference aspirations were dealt a hammer blow last week as they lost 26-31 at home to the Waratahs. The defeat was a tough pill to swallow, given the Rebels were up 26-17 with ten minutes to go and were playing a Waratahs outfit that was missing Israel Folou and Michael Hooper. Billy Meakes’ first half yellow card didn’t help matters. Dave Wessels’ side twice came back from seven points down before and after the break, but two intercept tries undid all their good work in the second half. It was the Rebels’ 8th defeat in nine games against the NSW side. They must now bounce back quickly, because their playoff spot is under threat from the Sharks, who sit just 3 points behind with two rounds to play.

Betting: the Rebels arguably should have defeated the Waratahs, which would have given them their 4th consecutive win. They’ve gone undefeated against all other Australian conference teams this season while the Reds haven’t beaten an Australian conference team since Round 2. Given they’ve been playing the better rugby over the last few rounds, I would back the Rebels in the head-to-head at 1.60 (bet365).
Confidence/value: medium

Saturday, 7 July


Chiefs v Brumbies

3:15 PM AEST, FMG Stadium, Waikato
View a detailed form guide for Chiefs v Brumbies

Despite fielding a depleted forward pack, the Chiefs blew the Highlanders away 45-22 in Fiji last week. The damage was done in a rampant first half in which saw the Chiefs lead 42-0 at the break. The only downer was they couldn’t replicate the same tempo in the second half and conceded four tries to nil, which allowed the Highlanders to deny them a bonus point. The win puts the Chiefs up to 5th in the overall standings and within striking distance of the stuttering Hurricanes. The victory extends their consistent record of following each defeat with a win, and vice versa. The Chiefs’ last nine results have gone W-L-W-L-W-L-W-L-W. In teams news, All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick is still likely a week away from returning.

The Brumbies ended a 13-game losing streak to New Zealand teams with a 24-12 win over the Hurricanes last week in Canberra. They had to come from 5-12 down at halftime to do so, which is a testament to the character of the squad. After suffering a five-game losing streak spanning rounds 7-14, the Brumbies have now won their last three. It probably won’t be enough to get the them into the playoffs, but it all helps towards building momentum towards next season.

Betting: the Chiefs have gone 5-1 as home as the favourite over the last 12 months, while the Brumbies have gone 1-4 as the away underdog. Four of the Brumbies’ five away defeats have been by 13+ margins and they have gone 1-4 at the line over the last 12 months on the back of a win. Given the Chiefs have only won two of their five home games by 13+ points, I will shy away from the line and instead back the Chiefs -6.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.31 (William Hill). Every Brumbies away defeat this season has been by 8+ points.
Confidence/value: low


Hurricanes v Blues

5:35 PM AEST, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
View a detailed form guide for Hurricanes v Blues

After a ten-game unbeaten streak that spanned rounds 2 to 14, the Hurricanes’ season is quickly unraveling as they have now lost three in a row. After losing to the Crusaders and Highlanders prior to the June break, the Hurricanes lost 12-24 to the Brumbies in Canberra. It was an ill-disciplined performance that lacked fluency, with a late Brumbies try denying them a bonus point. The Hurricanes’ much vaunted offence has flat-lined, scoring 14 points or fewer in each of their last three games. After competing for top spot in the New Zealand conference with the Crusaders, the Hurricanes now find the Chiefs breathing down their neck as they struggle hold onto the 4th overall seed. In team news, Gareth Evans has escaped sanction for a dangerous tackle against the Brumbies.

The Blues ended a three-game losing streak by cruising to a 39-16 victory over the Reds. The Blues had been motivated for that clash because it was Jerome Kaino’s last ever home fixture for the franchise. They started slowly, but took advantage of their numerical advantage when the Reds conceded two yellow cards. From then on they always looked comfortable. Despite some individual moments of brilliance, notably from No.8 Akira Ioane, it wasn’t a great performance, so the Blues will need to improve if they are to play the spoiler against the out-of-sorts Hurricanes.

Betting: the Hurricanes have lost their way, but all three defeats were away from home. They have won 8 of their last 9 home fixtures against Kiwi opposition, so if they somehow lost this fixture, then it really would be panic stations. The Hurricanes have won their last six against the Blues and are unbeaten at home over the last 12 months, however only 2 of their 8 wins were by 13+ points, while the Blues have gone 3-1 at the line as the away underdog. The Hurricanes’ last two home wins over the Blues were by 7 points and 10 points, so I would back the Blues +13.5 at 1.91 (Ladbrokes).
Confidence/value: low


Waratahs v Sunwolves

7:45 PM AEST, Allianz Stadium, Sydney
View a detailed form guide for Waratahs v Sunwolves

In what was possibly a season-defining game, the Waratahs came back from 17-26 down with ten minutes to play to defeat the Rebels 31-26 in Melbourne last week. The Rebels had actually dominated the second half but were undone by two intercept tries and 16 points from the boot of Bernard Foley. The Waratahs only sit 4 points ahead of the Rebels, but in the overall standings that makes the difference between being the provisional 3rd seed and the 8th seed. The Waratahs play the Sunwolves and Brumbies at home to see off the season, while the Rebels visit the Reds and Highlanders, so the Waratahs will be pleased with how things stand. As an added boost, Israel Folau returns from suspension this week. Injured captain Michael Hooper won’t return until the playoffs at the earliest.

The Sunwolves saw off the Bulls 42-37 in a seesawing contest in Singapore last week to record their third win in five games. Following a 0-9 start to the season the Sunwolves have found some form, with their two defeats since then both coming on tour when they left key players at home due to the upcoming June internationals. When fielding a full-strength side, the Sunwolves have won their last three straight. Never in franchise history have the Sunwolves won an away fixture, however. They did give the Brumbies a scare in Canberra prior to the June break, and that was with a weakened squad, so it will be interesting to see how they fare against the Waratahs. If the Sunwolves can sort out their defence next season and keep hold of their overseas players they will be a force to reckoned with.

Betting: the Waratahs won both previous fixtures against the Sunwolves by 21+ points and both were played in Asia. Three of the Waratahs’ four home wins this season have been by 13+ points, while five of the seven Sunwolves’ away defeats were by 13+ margins, so I would back the Waratahs 13+ at 1.70 (bet365).
Confidence/value: medium


Bulls v Jaguares

11:05 PM AEST, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
View a detailed form guide for Bulls v Jaguares

The Bulls sit bottom of the South African conference, having won just 1 of their last 6 fixtures. Last week they fell 37-42 to the Sunwolves in a seesawing contest in Singapore. It was the sixth game in a row that they have conceded more than 29 points, with the last three fixtures averaging almost 45 points conceded per game. Their ineffective defence makes for entertaining games, but it doesn’t help their win column.

The Jaguares defeated the Stormers 25-14 in Argentina last week to record their 7th consecutive win. They raced out to a 22-7 lead with a sublime performance before the Stormers added some respectability to the scoreboard. It was a mature performance from the Jaguares, who managed the clock well once they had built a lead. Jaguares’ fans will be pleased to see that Argentina’s poor performances in the June break haven’t impacted the side’s momentum. After starting the season with 2 wins from 7 games, the Jaguares now sit just 3 points behind the Lions in the South African conference with two rounds remaining. The Lions have a bye this week so the Jaguares have a golden opportunity to take the lead of the conference. As things stand, they are the 7th seed, but the conference winner will be guaranteed either the 2nd or 3rd seed, so there’s a huge amount at stake.

Betting: the Jaguares thrashed the Bulls 54-24 at home earlier in the season and they now have an excellent opportunity to complete the double. Given the disparate forms between the two sides at the moment, I will have to side with the visitors and back the Jaguares +2.5 at 1.91 (Ladbrokes).
Confidence/value: medium

Sunday, 8 July


Stormers v Sharks

1:15 AM AEST, DHL Newlands, Cape Town
View a detailed form guide for Stormers v Sharks

The Stormers’ remote playoff chances were extinguished last week as they were brushed aside 14-25 by the red-hot Jaguares in Argentina. The Stormers were guilty of conceding too many penalties and they missed far too many tackles. It was their 4th defeat on the trot and the 7th in their last 9 games. The focus now must be to avoid the South African conference wooden spoon, with the Stormers and Bulls both currently sitting bottom on 25 points. In mixed injury news, hooker Scarra Ntubeni and lock JD Schickerling are available for selection, however halfback Justin Phillips is battling a rib injury and will be assessed later in the week. Fullback SP Marais and lock Eben Etzebeth are out injured. The other players on the long-term injury list are Jaco Coetzee, Seabelo Senatla and Dan du Plessis.

The Sharks bounced back from a 10-point halftime deficit to see off the Lions 31-24 last week. Both sides scored 3 tries, but the 16 points from the boot of Robert du Preez proved to be the difference. The win inflicted upon the Lions their first defeat to a South African opponent since 2015. It also kept the Sharks’ playoff hopes alive. They now sit 9th on 32 points, 3 points behind the 8th placed Rebels, with two rounds remaining.

Betting: the Stormers would love to play the spoilers and derail the Sharks’ playoff chances, but they’ve lost the last four straight against the Durban side as well as two of the last three meetings played in Cape Town. I am mindful of the Sharks’ 1-7 away record over the last 12 months, however, so I will back both the Stormers 1-12 at 3.25 (Ladbrokes) and the Sharks 1-12 at 3.50 (Ladbrokes).
Confidence/value: low


Best Bets of the Round

Back the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.36 (Neds)
Back the Rebels in the head-to-head at 1.60 (bet365)
Back the Waratahs 13+ at 1.70 (bet365)
Back the Jaguares +2.5 at 1.91 (Ladbrokes)


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