The following are previews with betting tips for Round 5 of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
Friday, 15 March
Chiefs vs Hurricanes
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The Chiefs scored two late tries to add some respectability to the scoreline, but they were undoubtedly thrashed in their 57-28 loss to the Crusaders last week. This was on the back of a home 15-30 loss to the Sunwolves and a 54-17 hammering by the Brumbies in Canberra. The departures of so many key players during the off-season and the injury absence of their captain has left the side reeling. The biggest issue for the Chiefs is defence. Their 43 points conceded per game is the worst in the competition by 13 points more than the next worst team.
The Hurricanes extended their winning streak at home to 12 games after they scraped past the Highlanders 25-22 thanks to a converted 81st minute penalty. The visitors dominated large parts of the game and bested the Hurricanes’ set piece, but the Wellington side found a way to grind out a win to move to 3-1 for the season. The Hurricanes’ normally lethal offence hasn’t fired consistently this season, with the side almost trying too hard at times when in possession, but they will have an opportunity to find some rhythm this week against the struggling Chiefs. In team news Wes Goosen will start on the wing with Ben Lam rested.
Betting: spanning this season and the last, the Chiefs bring a 5-game losing streak into this clash. They’ve gone 7-1-1 in their last nine home clashes with the Hurricanes, but I’m going to have to side with the visitors given the Chiefs’ porous defence. I expect the Chiefs to put up a fight for pride’s sake, which is why I will steer clear of the Hurricanes at the line. I would back the Hurricanes in the head-to-head at 1.33 (bet365, Unibet).
Brumbies vs Waratahs
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The Brumbies blew a 16-point halftime lead to lose 26-29 to the Rebels last week. They are now 1-3 for the season. The Brumbies forwards dominated the first half proceedings and used the driving maul to great effect, but they had few answers to the Rebels fightback in the second half, led by Will Genia and Quade Cooper. David Pocock coming off in the 64th minute with a tight calf didn’t help either, with the Brumbies failing to score after his departure.
The Waratahs edged out the Reds 28-17 last week in a poor-quality game completely lacking atmosphere at the over-sized SCG. Both sides scored three tries but they were separated on the scoreboard by the boot of Bernard Foley, who kicked three penalties and an extra conversion. The Waratahs were starved of possession, particularly in the second half, but their defence held up to the task, which will please their fans given the Waratahs’ poor defensive stats in 2017 and 2018. The Waratahs only suffered one loss to an Australian team last season, and that was at home in the final round to the Brumbies, so this week provides a chance for them to avenge that defeat.
Betting: most bookmakers currently have the two sides at even odds, which is interesting given the Waratahs have gone 5-0 as the away favourite over the last 12 months and 0-3 as the away underdog. Conversely, the Brumbies have gone 1-4 at the line as the home favourite and 4-1 at the line as the home underdog. I’m leaning towards the Brumbies given they were involved in a better quality game last week, but am wary of whether they can put in an 80-minute performance. I will back the Brumbies +0.5 at the halftime line at 1.90 (BetEasy).
Saturday, 16 March
Stormers vs Jaguares
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Prior to their bye last week the Stormers secured a rare away win by defeating the Sharks 16-11 in a dour contest in Durban. This was on the back of an upset 19-17 win over the Lions in Week 2. Both matches were poor in quality and the Stormers’ only try against the Sharks came from an intercepted pass, but they have done well to start the season 2-1 after their off-field distractions in pre-season.
The Jaguares fought back well in the second half but fell 39-47 to the Lions in Johannesburg last week. They are now one of three teams with a 2-2 record in the congested South African conference. The defeat last week extended the Jaguares’ losing streak in South Africa to ten games. If they are to push for the South African conference title they must improve on their away form against fellow conference opponents.
Betting: the Stormers have gone 6-2 at home over the last 12 months and 4-0 as the home favourite. With the Jaguares’ poor record in South Africa in mind, I will back the Stormers in the head-to-head at 1.40 (bet365, Unibet, Sportsbet). The Jaguares have been competitive in Cape Town in recent meetings, losing by 7 and 8 points, so for those looking for more risk I would back the Stormers 1-12 at 2.88 (Sportsbet).
Sunwolves vs Reds
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The Sunwolves put in another competitive performance last week in their 20-28 defeat to the Blues in North Harbour. This was on the back of a one-point home defeat to the Waratahs and a 15-point away win over the Chiefs. They now find themselves in the novel position of being installed as the bookmakers’ favourite. The Sunwolves will want to tidy up their discipline this week after conceding two yellow cards against the Blues.
The Reds continue to work hard without getting results after they fell 17-28 to the Waratahs in a poor quality game in Sydney last week. It was their tenth straight defeat to the Sydney franchise. The Reds enjoyed 71% of possession but were unable to make it count as the mistakes mounted. They were also hurt by a yellow card infringement and an errant kicking performance by Bryce Hegarty. The Reds have had a tough schedule to start the season. They may start as underdogs this week but no doubt Reds’ fans will have penciled this match in as the first likely chance to win. The Reds, however, will have to overcome the fact that they’ve lost their last eight straight away fixtures.
Betting: the Sunwolves are at their best when in Tokyo while the Reds are a poor road team. The Sunwolves won this fixture 63-28 last year and while I don’t expect a scoreline anything like that, I would back the Sunwolves in the head-to-head at 1.74 (Unibet).
Highlanders vs Crusaders
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The Highlanders slumped to 2-2 for the season after they lost 22-25 to the Hurricanes in Wellington last week. They dominated large parts of the game and bested the Hurricanes’ set piece, but came undone by mistakes and late penalties, including one in the 81st minute. Apart from the notable departure of Lima Sopoaga, the Highlanders are almost the same team as last season, but they haven’t been able to find their rhythm this season. The Highlanders bring a 13-game winning streak at Forsyth Barr Stadium into this clash. Their only “home” defeat last season was to the Chiefs in Fiji.
The Crusaders put on another classy performance as they thrashed the woeful Chiefs 57-28 last week. They were ruthless on the counter attack as they ran in nine tries. Their winning streak now stands at 19 games. We’ve only had four rounds, but things are already looking ominous, with the Crusaders leading the competition in points scored, with their 35 points per game a full five points better than the next best team. For good measure they also have the 3rd best defensive record. This has been achieved despite starting without All Blacks forwards Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock for the first five weeks.
Betting: either the Highlanders’ 13-game winning streak in Dunedin or the Crusaders’ 19-game winning streak will have to come to an end this week. Interestingly, the last side to beat the Highlanders at home were the Crusaders (in Week 2 of 2017), while the last team to beat the Crusaders were the Highlanders (in Week 5 of 2018). Based on the Highlanders’ relatively poor form at the start of the season, I will back the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.32 (Unibet). The visitors only beat the Blues by 2 points and the Reds by 10 points in their two away games so far this season, so I expect this will be close. For those looking for more risk I would back the Crusaders 1-12 at 2.90 (bet365).
Sunday, 17 March
Lions vs Rebels
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The Lions moved to 2-2 for the season after they saw off the Jaguares 47-39 at home last week. So far both of their wins this campaign have been over the Argentinian side. Defensively they have been disappointing in recent weeks, with two late tries conceded against the Jaguares costing them a bonus point. They conceded six tries in that match, just a week after conceding 30 points in their home defeat to the Bulls.
The Rebels remain undefeated after they came from behind to see off the Brumbies 29-26 in Melbourne last week. They were down 3-19 at halftime after the Brumbies forward pack completely dominated them through the use of driving mauls, but roared back in the second spell to secure victory. Much of that comeback was down to Will Genia, but you could also interpret it as the Rebels having a stronger bench than the Brumbies, who failed to score after David Pocock left the field.
Betting: the Lions have a perfect 4-0 record over the Rebels and the hosts have gone 7-1 as the home favourite over the last 12 months. Given the forwards are the Rebels’ strength and they will be coming up against Malcolm Marx & Co., I would back the Lions in the head-to-head at 1.40 (Sportsbet, Palmerbet).
Best Bet of the Round