The following are previews with betting tips for Round 15 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, 24 May
Chiefs vs Reds
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The injury-plagued Chiefs fell 8-23 to the Blues in Auckland last week. The 1 try to 4 defeat now leaves the Chiefs at the foot of the New Zealand conference. They are only 6 points adrift of the 8th overall seed, but with a fixture against the Crusaders coming up, followed by a bye, the Chiefs are now an outside chance of making the playoffs. One positive is that Sam Cane made a successful return to rugby last week after 7 months out with injury. In team news, Angus Ta’avao and Anton Lienert-Brown are being rested this week.
The Reds outscored the Waratahs by 6 tries to 4 last week but Bryce Hegarty’s five missed conversions hurt them dearly as they fell 32-40 to the Waratahs in Brisbane. It was their 4th domestic defeat of the season and their 11th straight loss to the Waratahs. Like every team except the Sunwolves, the Reds remain in playoff contention but they have a tricky run of fixtures to finish the season. In team news, star player Samu Kerevi is being rested this week.
Betting: the Chiefs have won their last 4 straight against the Reds but the hosts have only won 1 of their last 5 fixtures. With Kerevi out the Chiefs have shortened from 1.40 to 1.25 in the head-to-head market, which is now probably a little too short. I will instead back the Reds to keep this close and back the Chiefs 1-12 at 3.00 (Betstar, Bookmaker, Ladbrokes).
Brumbies vs Bulls
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Prior to their bye last week the Brumbies thrashed the Sunwolves 33-0 to move to 6-6 for the season. In contrast to their forwards-dominant win over the Blues the week before, four of their five tries came from backs. After a slow start to the season the Brumbies have won 4 of their last 5 games to roar back into contention for the Australian conference. Most of the turnaround has been due to their home form. The Brumbies have gone 5-1 at home and 1-5 away this season.
The Bulls bounced back from their home mauling by the Crusaders by defeating the Rebels 32-17 in Melbourne last week. They had less than a quarter of territory and possession but defended their try line well and took their opportunities. The win ended a losing streak outside South Africa that dated back to 2016 and a winless streak in Australia that dated back to 2013. It also extended the Bulls’ run of win, loss, win, loss… for the 9th straight week. History is against the Bulls this week, however. You have to go back to 2007 for the last time they won two away games in a row in Australasia.
Betting: over the last decade the Brumbies have gone undefeated at home against the Bulls and the Canberra side has gone 7-1 at home over the last 12 months. I would back the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.53 (Betstar, Bookmaker, Ladbrokes, Sportsbet).
Saturday, 25 May
Sunwolves vs Rebels
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Prior to their bye last week the Sunwolves were held scoreless for the second time in three weeks when they fell 0-33 to the Brumbies in Canberra. They started star fly-half Hayden Parker on the bench and were never able to get into the game as they repeatedly gave the ball away cheaply. The Sunwolves are now 2-10 for the season and have lost their last five straight games. They are ranked dead last in both offence and defence this season. Their defence is particularly bad, with 34 points conceded per game this campaign compared to the league average of 25.
The Rebels blew the chance to take the lead in the Australian conference when they fell 17-32 to the Bulls in Melbourne last week. They had 76% possession and 80% territory but couldn’t breach the Bulls’ defence once they got into their 22. After enjoying a healthy lead in the Australian conference earlier in the season the Rebels have now won just 1 of their last 5 games.
Crusaders vs Blues
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The Crusaders ended their two-game tour of South Africa with a 19-19 draw against the Stormers. It was their second draw in three weeks against a South African side. The Crusaders dominated most of the match and outscored the Stormers by 3 tries to 1 but the hosts pegged back the deficit through penalties. The Crusaders were also arguably unlucky not to have been awarded a try that the TMO had determined involved a forward pass. The Crusaders have had some unwanted distractions during the week with news of indiscretions by some of the players while in Cape Town. In team news, Kieran Read had to pull out of last week’s match after suffering an injury in training. He is in doubt for this week.
The Blues defeated the Chiefs 23-8 last week to end a 15-game winless streak against the Hamilton franchise. Most of the damage was done in the second half after the Blues led 10-8 at halftime. The win continues the Blues’ strong home form, with only the Crusaders and Hurricanes managing to leave Eden Park with wins this season. The bad news is the Blues have gone 0-5 away from Auckland this year. In team news, James Parsons may return this week after being a late withdrawal against the Chiefs. Karl Tu’inukuafe may also return after he was ill last week.
Betting: the Blues haven’t won in Christchurch since 2004 and they have gone 0-7 away from home over the last 12 months. The hosts, meanwhile, have gone 10-1-0 at home. I would back the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.18 (Sportsbet).
Waratahs vs Jaguares
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The Waratahs defeated the Reds 40-32 in Brisbane last week to move to within touching distance of the top of the Australian conference. They were outscored by 6 tries to 4 but Bernard Foley’s accuracy with the boot got them over the line for the 11th straight time against their Queensland rivals. In team news, Tolu Latu is in hot water over failing to inform the club of an alleged drink driving offence. He has been stood down and will be subject to a Rugby Australia code of conduct process following his court appearance on June 6.
The Jaguares upset the Hurricanes 28-20 in Wellington last week to move to 1-1 for their 4-game overseas tour. They took advantage of a sub-par performance from a Hurricanes side that was resting Beauden Barrett. The Jaguares have won 5 of their last 6 games and they now enjoy a 3 point lead at the top of the South African conference.
Betting: the Jaguares have gone 2-0 against the Waratahs since joining Super Rugby and they bring superior form into this fixture. I would back the Jaguares +3.5 at 1.89 (bet365).
Stormers vs Highlanders
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The Stormers started as 12.5 underdogs but managed to draw the Crusaders 19-19 at home last week. They were outscored by three tries to 1 but managed to claw back a 10-point deficit through penalties. The Stormers sit at the foot of the South African conference but are just 3 points adrift of the 8th seed in what is an incredibly congested table.
The Highlanders started their two-game tour of South Africa with a 29-38 loss to the Lions. The result might have been different had Josh Ioane and Daniel Hollinshead been more accurate with the boot or if the Lions hadn’t been awarded a try that involved a forward pass. The Highlanders have lost only once at home this season but have suffered five away defeats this campaign.
Betting: the Stormers were incredibly fired up ahead of the Crusaders game but can they replicate that focus and energy this week? I’m going to side with the Stormers because they are undefeated at home against the Highlanders over the last decade and they have gone 3-1 as the home favourite over the last 12 months while the Highlanders have gone 0-5 as the away underdog. I would back the Stormers in the head-to-head at 1.71 (Unibet). I expect the Highlanders will be competitive so for those looking for more risk I would back the Stormers 1-12 at 2.90 (TopBetta).
Sunday, 26 May
Sharks vs Lions
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Prior to their bye last week the Sharks fell 23-29 to the Chiefs in Hamilton. They had plenty of territory, possession and opportunities, but couldn’t put enough points on the board against a resilient Chiefs’ defence. Nevertheless, the Sharks picked up a respectable 7 points from their three-game Australasian tour which keeps them in the hunt for the South African conference title.
The Lions edged out the Highlanders 38-29 at home last week to move to 7-5 for the season. The win ended a three-game home losing streak to Kiwi franchises. The Lions have won 3 of their last 4 games but they have gone 0-3 against South African teams this season. This included a 5-42 home defeat to the Sharks in Round 8.
Betting: after enduring a seven-game losing streak to the Lions, the Sharks have since won their last two. The only question mark is whether the Sharks can overcome travel fatigue against a side that has been in South Africa for the last three weeks. The Lions have gone 1-3 as the away underdog over the last 12 months so I would back the Sharks in the head-to-head at 1.58 (bet365, Unibet).
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