The following are previews with betting tips for Round 9 of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
Please note that to take advantage of odds before they possibly shorten, these previews are published before the team sheets are announced. Those who are more risk averse may prefer to wait for the squad lists before wagering, especially given the enforced resting of international players this season.
Friday, 12 April
Crusaders vs Highlanders
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The Crusaders enjoy a six-point lead at the top of the overall standings after they thrashed the Brumbies 36-14 in Christchurch. They actually trailed 0-7 at halftime but powered to victory with a much improved second half offensive performance. The Crusaders’ defence was solid throughout the game and they currently boast the second best defensive record in the competition – a stat that is highly correlated with title chances. For good measure the Crusaders also boast the best offensive record in Super Rugby.
The Highlanders succumbed to a 4th consecutive defeat after they fell 29-32 to the Hurricanes in an entertaining but error-ridden game in Dunedin last week. The loss ended the Highlanders’ 13-game winning streak at Forsyth Barr Stadium. The absences of winger Waisake Naholo and particularly halfback Aaron Smith isn’t helping matters, but to be fair the side hasn’t looked itself all season. The Highlanders have now lost 5 of their last 6 fixtures against Kiwi opposition.
Betting: the Crusaders have gone 18-1 over the last 12 months and are on a 21-game winning streak at home. They’ve won 7 of their last 9 at home against the Highlanders, with 6 of those wins coming by 13+ points. Over the last 12 months the Crusaders have gone 8-3 at the line at home while the Highlanders have gone 3-8 at the line away from Dunedin. I would back the Crusaders -12.5 at 1.95 (Neds).
Rebels vs Stormers
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The Rebels eased to a 42-15 win over the Sunwolves last week to move to 5-2 for the season. They dominated the breakdown and right from the start it was clear the result was never in doubt. The Rebels now boast the 2nd best offensive record in the competition. The Waratahs’ consecutive defeats mean that the Rebels now enjoy a 7-point lead at the top of the Australian conference. They are clearly the form team in Australia at the moment.
The Stormers made a promising start to their Australasian tour when they almost upset the Hurricanes in Round 6, but they have looked progressively weaker as the tour has gone on, losing 9-24 to the Blues and 12-24 to the Reds. In both fixtures the Stormers made too many errors that undid promising attacking moves. They have now lost their last eleven games on foreign soil and 9 of their last 10 fixtures away from Cape Town. The Stormers’ tour hasn’t been helped by Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Dan du Plessis, SP Marais, Chris van Zyl and captain Siya Kolisi returning home for a combination of reasons. Prop Wilco Louw has an ankle injury and is also in doubt for this clash.
Betting: I can’t touch the Stormers given their terrible away record and the fact that so many players have returned to South Africa early. I would back the Rebels in the head-to-head at 1.31 (Sportsbet).
Saturday, 13 April
Chiefs vs Blues
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Prior to their bye last week the Chiefs scored a 78th-minute try to snatch a 30-27 victory over the Jaguares in Argentina. This was on the back of their thumping win over the Bulls in Pretoria so what was supposed to be a tough tour turned out to be a resounding success. After starting the season 0-4, the Chiefs drew the Hurricanes before winning their two tour games, so they are certainly getting their season back on track. Much of their turnaround has been due to the strong form of Damian McKenzie, who has flourished since being moved back to fullback after starting at fly-half.
The Blues’ promising season continued last week with a 32-29 win over the Waratahs in Auckland. They raced out to a 17-0 lead but had to fend off a Waratahs fightback in a game that could have gone either way. Blues fans will be pleased by their side’s ability to win the close matches that they had previously lost with regularity in previous seasons. It was their 4th consecutive win after a 0-3 start to the campaign. The caveat, however, is all four of those wins were at home. Spanning this season and the last the Blues are on a four-game losing streak away from home and they won’t return to Auckland until Round 13.
Betting: the Chiefs have won their last seven home fixtures against the Blues. The Blues have gone 1-4 both in the head-to-head and at the line as the away underdog over the last 12 months so I would back the Chiefs in the head-to-head at 1.60 (Sportsbet).
Brumbies vs Lions
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The Brumbies took advantage of a yellow card to the hosts to lead the Crusaders 7-0 at halftime last week, but paid the price for ill-discipline of their own in the second half, with two yellow cards contributing to their 14-36 defeat in Christchurch. The Brumbies are now 2-5 for the season with their 11-point tally well behind the conference-leading Rebels on 23 points. A playoff spot isn’t out of reach, but they’re going to have to improve on their 11th ranked offensive record and 13th ranked defensive record. The Brumbies welcome back Scott Sio, Folau Fainga’a and Rory Arnold after they were rested last week.
The Lions limp over to Australia after a shock 5-42 home thrashing at the hands of the Sharks last week. From virtually start to finish they put in a dreadful performance, conceding numerous turnovers and making countless unforced errors. Their only points came from a consolation try late in the game. It was the worst possible result for the Lions, who now embark on a three-game tour of Australia and New Zealand. They have slipped from 1st to 3rd in the South African conference and are at risk of slipping further over the next few weeks.
Betting: the Lions have won 2 of their last 3 visits to Canberra but I haven’t been convinced by their form this season following the departures of Franco Mostert and Jaco Kriel in the off-season. The Brumbies haven’t looked convincing either and they’ve gone 1-3 as the home favourite over the last 12 months so I’m going to sit this one out.
Sharks vs Jaguares
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The Sharks have a three-point lead in the South African conference after they thrashed the Lions 42-5 in Johannesburg last week. They jumped out to a 25-0 lead at halftime and the result was never in doubt after that. The only points the home side did manage were courtesy of a consolation try late in the game. The result continues the Sharks’ mercurial season. When they win the Sharks look amazing, as evident by their 26.25 average winning margin. The Durban side is also equally capable of putting poor performances, as highlighted by their mediocre 4-3 record, so it’s hard to get a read on their form from week to week.
The Jaguares scored two late tries to shock the Bulls 22-20 last week. The win ended an 11-game losing streak in South Africa and it has brought the Jaguares back into contention in the tight South African conference. The conference leading Sharks have a 7-point lead on the Jaguares so this game could make or break their conference title chances.
Betting: the Bulls’ conservative tactics backfired against the Jaguares last week and I expect the Sharks will have learned from that. The Jaguares have a poor record on South African soil so I would back the Sharks in the head-to-head at 1.36 (bet365).
Sunday, 14 April
Bulls vs Reds
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The Bulls succumbed to a 20-22 home defeat to the Jaguares last week. It was a game the hosts arguably should have won, but their tight approach backfired after a number defensive lapses saw the Jaguares score two late tries to secure an unlikely victory. In one of the few moves where the Bulls did spread the ball wide it paid dividends with a try, so much of that defeat came down to tactics. The result means that just 4 points separate the 2nd placed Bulls from the 5th placed Stormers in the tight South African conference. The Bulls have gone 4-0 against South African sides this season but 0-3 against foreign opponents.
The Reds defeated the Stormers 24-12 last week to move to 3-4 for the season. The win was their 3rd in 4 games, however it was a poor quality game against an under-strength Stormers outfit. Nevertheless, the Reds have moved to within 2 points of the Waratahs and the final playoff spot, so their destiny remains in their own hands.
Betting: since 2010 all seven meetings between the two sides were won by the home team. In Pretoria the Bulls prevailed by 13+ points in all three of their wins. The Reds have gone 1-5 away from home over the last 12 months so I would back the Bulls in the head-to-head at 1.25 (bet365).
Best Bet of the Round
Back the Rebels in the head-to-head at 1.31 (Sportsbet)