The following are previews with betting tips for Round 13 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, 10 May
Blues vs Hurricanes
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The Blues shot out to a 12-0 lead but lost 21-26 to the Brumbies in Canberra last week. It was their 7th away defeat in a row. The Brumbies’ dominant set-piece was the Blues’ undoing as they conceded a flurry of scrum penalties and three tries from driving mauls. Props Alex Hodgman and Ofa Tu’ungafasi were both yellow-carded as the Blues’ forwards had a shocker. The poor kicking performance of Otere Black was also a contributor to the loss. The good news, however, is they are now back at home. The Blues have gone 4-1 in Auckland this season, with their only home defeat coming by 2 points to the Crusaders in Round 1. In team news, Rieko Ioane (rest) and Tanielu Tele’a (suspension) return to the side this week.
The Hurricanes fought off a second-half comeback to defeat the Rebels 29-19 last week to move to 6 points behind the Crusaders at the top of the overall standings. In a game of two halves the Hurricanes raced out to a 26-0 lead before being held scoreless for 35 minutes of the second half. Perhaps complacency set in, but the Hurricanes will have to improve on their second half discipline if they are to mount a challenge for the first overall seed. In team news, TJ Perenara (rested) and Ben Lam (calf strain) return this week.
Betting: the Blues have won their last four home games but the Hurricanes have won their last seven straight matches against the Auckland side. None of the Blues’ four wins were over sides as strong as the Hurricanes, so I will back the Hurricanes in the head-to-head at 1.43 (Sportsbet, Unibet). The Hurricanes have yet to win by more than 6 points away from home this season, so for those looking for more risk I would back the Hurricanes 1-12 at 3.10 (Sportsbet).
Rebels vs Reds
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The Rebels’ second half comeback fell short as they lost 19-29 to the Hurricanes last week. Coming back from 26-0 down can be commended but some of their first half defending left a lot to be desired and the Hurricanes appeared to take the foot off the break in the second spell. So often this season the Rebels have been let down by not putting in 80-minute performances. After a 3-0 start to the campaign they since have gone 2-5 and the Rebels bring a three-game losing streak into this clash. At one stage the Melbourne franchise looked like they were going to run away with the Australian conference but the Brumbies, Reds and Waratahs are now all within 3 points. In team news, Tom English is out this week with a minor calf injury.
The Reds came back from a five-point halftime deficit to see off the Sunwolves 32-26 in Brisbane last week. Much of the win came down to the ill-discipline of the visitors, who conceded five cards during the match and ended with 12 men on the field. After starting the season 0-3 the young Reds side has gone 5-2 to put them right in the playoff mix. They now sit just two points behind the conference-leading Rebels.
Betting: the Rebels have gone 4-1 as the home favourite over the last 12 months while the Reds have gone 2-6 away from home. The two sides last clashed in Round 7 and the Rebels won that 32-13 in Brisbane. The last time they hosted the Reds they won 45-19. I would back the Rebels in the head-to-head at 1.31 (Sportsbet).
Saturday, 11 May
Bulls vs Crusaders
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The Bulls defeated the Waratahs 28-21 last week to move to the top of the tight South African conference. They have now won 22 of their last 24 home fixtures against Australian opposition. The Bulls had to fight off a second half comeback by the Waratahs but the result would have been more comfortable had Handré Pollard been more accurate with the boot. They had the better of the set-piece but will have to improve their ball security against the Crusaders after conceding too many chances to the Waratahs. In team news, the Bulls welcome back Schalk Brits and Jason Jenkins this week.
The Crusaders started as 20.5 favourites but had to score a try after the hooter to draw the Sharks 21-all at home last week. Their 25-game winning streak in Christchurch has now become a 26-game unbeaten streak. The visitors arguably had the better of the contest and the Crusaders’ poor discipline, which I have mentioned in previous weeks, came back to haunt them as Curwin Bosch kicked seven penalties for the visitors. One point worth noting is that in both last week’s draw and the Crusaders’ shock loss to the Waratahs in Round 6, first-choice fly-half Richie Mo’unga was rested. The Cantabrians are undefeated this season when he has played. Sam Whitelock and Ryan Crotty were also rested last week. The Crusaders still hold a 6-point lead at the top of the overall standings, however the slip will have given the Hurricanes extra impetus to keep harrying them.
Betting: the Bulls have won 5 of their last 6 home clashes against the Crusaders however the last meeting in Pretoria was won 62-24 by the Cantabrians. I’m expecting a strong reaction from the visitors after their last performance so I would back the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.34 (Palmerbet).
Highlanders vs Jaguares
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The Highlanders conceded a late try to succumb to a 31-all draw with the Chiefs last week to end a two-game winning streak. They led 28-12 at one stage and had the better of both territory and possession so the Highlanders will be bitterly disappointed to not have defeated an under-strength Chiefs side that was without arguably their best two players in Damian McKenzie and Brodie Retallick. To add insult to injury, All Blacks fullback Ben Smith has been ruled out for the rest of the regular season with a hamstring injury. In better news, Liam Squire and Waisake Naholo could both return as soon as this week.
The Jaguares have moved to within one point of the South African conference-leading Bulls after they defeated the Stormers 20-15 in a scrappy affair in Argentina. The match was similar to their 20-15 win over the Brumbies the week before. In both games their defence won the day where their offence failed to fire due to ill-discipline and unforced errors. The Jaguares will nevertheless be pleased to have won their fourth straight match despite not playing their best rugby. They now commence a four-game tour of New Zealand and Australia. The Jaguares went 4-0 on this trip last season so they won’t be daunted by the schedule. If they are to repeat their unbeaten tour of last season they will have to improve on their recent scrum and discipline, however.
Betting: the Highlanders have gone 4-1-1 as the home favourite over the last 12 months while the Jaguares have gone 2-5 as the away underdog. The 1.29 odds on the Highlanders look a little stingy so given 4 of the Highlanders’ last 5 home wins were by 1-12 points, I would back the Jaguares +12.5 at 1.62 (Sportsbet). For those looking for more risk I would back the Highlanders 1-12 at 3.10 (Sportsbet).
Chiefs vs Sharks
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The Chiefs scored a late converted try to draw the Highlanders 31-all in Dunedin last week to end a two-game losing streak. The hosts had the better of the territory and possession but the Chiefs managed to outscore the Highlanders 5 tries to 4. The Highlanders led 28-12 at the 55th minute so the draw would have felt more like a win for the under-strength Chiefs. They remain at the foot of the New Zealand conference, however, and with Damian McKenzie out for the season and Brodie Retallick out for another two weeks, I’m not optimistic about the Chiefs’ playoff chances at this stage.
The Sharks drew an under-strength Crusaders side 21-all in Christchurch last week. Despite starting as the heavy underdog the Sharks will be the more disappointed with the result given they dominated much of the game only to come unstuck by a Crusaders try after the final siren. With that being said, the Sharks failed to score a try in that match, with all of their points coming from the boot of Curwin Bosch. With their final bye coming up next week the Sharks would love to get more points on the board given only 4 points separate the top four teams in the South African conference.
Betting: Sharks games are difficult to bet on given how mercurial the team is. The Chiefs have gone 4-0 at home against the Sharks over the last eight years but they are winless in three games as injuries to key players have taken their toll. The home side has failed to win in any of the Sharks’ last six games, so if I were to bet on this fixture I would take the Sharks +12.5 at 1.30 (Sportsbet). The Chiefs have not beaten a team at home by more than 12 points over the last 12 months.
Saturday, 4 May
Lions vs Waratahs
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Prior to their bye last week the Lions wrapped up their Australasian tour with a 10-36 defeat against the Crusaders. They defended valiantly in the first half but the superior quality of the home side showed through in the end. In team news, the Lions welcome back Malcolm Marx this week after he was rested against the Crusaders. Warren Whiteley has been ruled out for at least another two weeks as he battles to overcome his knee injury. The Lions in the head-to-head was going to be my best bet of the week, but the news that Whiteley’s return has been delayed is a big blow.
The Waratahs stretched their losing streak to South African conference opponents to five games when they fell 21-28 to the Bulls in Pretoria last week. They fought back well after making a slow start but couldn’t make enough of their opportunities. It was a more competitive performance than I had expected given the Waratahs were without the trio of Tolu Latu, Rory O’Connor and Jack Dempsey, although the missed kicks by Handré Pollard kept the Waratahs in the game. As I wrote last week, Israel Folou’s absence is hurting the side’s offence. The Waratahs have only the 12th best offence this season.
Betting: the Lions have won their last four matches against the Waratahs and with the visitors going 0-5 as the away underdog over the last 12 months, I would back the Lions in the head-to-head at 1.40 (Sportsbet, TopBetta).
Sunday, 12 May
Brumbies vs Sunwolves
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Hooker Folau Fainga’a scored a hat-trick courtesy of three driving mauls as the Brumbies overcame a slow start to see off the Blues 26-21 last week. They are now equal on points with the Rebels at the top of the Australian conference. Their set-piece dominance won them the game in a match where their backline lacked penetration. The Brumbies have now won 3 of their last 4 games following a 2-5 start to the season.
After being mauled 52-0 by the Highlanders the Sunwolves made a promising start against the Reds, leading 13-8 at the break, before terrible ill-discipline undid their cause as they lost 26-32 in Brisbane. The Japanese side conceded a whopping 5 cards during that match. With a 2-9 record for the season the Sunwolves sit alone at the foot of the overall standings. No other team has lost more than six games this season.
Betting: the Brumbies have won 6 of their last 7 in Canberra and have covered the line in their last 5 games. The Sunwolves struggled badly against the forward pack of the Highlanders a fortnight ago so I expect they will have similar struggles against the Brumbies’ forwards. I would back the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.20 (Sportsbet).
Best Bet of the Round
Back the Rebels in the head-to-head at 1.31 (Sportsbet)