The following are previews with betting tips for Round 17 of the 2019 Super Rugby season. This is the penultimate round of the regular 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, 7 June
Highlanders vs Bulls
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Prior to their bye last week the Highlanders fell 22-34 to the Stormers in Cape Town. This left them with no points from their two-game tour of South Africa. They currently sit outside the playoffs but the good news is their remaining two fixtures are at home. The Highlanders have suffered six away defeats but have only lost once at home this season.
The Bulls drew the Blues 22-22 in an entertaining encounter in wet conditions last week in Auckland. The two competition points see the Bulls hold onto a playoff spot, however their are four teams outside the playoffs within striking distance. The Bulls have gone 1-1-1 on tour thus far, which isn’t a disaster given how poor they have gone in Australasia in prior seasons. In team news, Duane Vermeulen could return after it emerged the injury he sustained against the Brumbies isn’t serious. The Bulls have gambled on fly-half Handré Pollard recovering from his calf injury in time by flying him back onto the tour from South Africa. Rosko Specman and Paul Schoeman have been ruled out of this clash due to injury, while there is also concern over Warrick Gelant’s fitness.
Betting: the Highlanders have a good home head-to-head record but they’ve gone 1-6 at the line at home over the last 12 months. The Bulls meanwhile have improved on the road this season and have gone 5-2 at the line as the road underdog. You have to go back to 2009 for the last time the Highlanders beat the Bulls by 13+ so I would back the Bulls +12.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.62 (Sportsbet).
Reds vs Blues
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The Reds’ playoff aspirations are over after they fell 23-34 to the in-form Jaguares in Brisbane. It was their fourth defeat in a row following a promising 5-2 run mid-season. The Reds fought hard against the Jaguares, but as has been the case on a number of occasions this season, some poor handling, kicking and decision making undid their cause. This is the Reds’ final home game of the season so they will be looking to finish at on a high at Suncorp Stadium.
The Blues drew the Bulls 22-22 in Eden Park last week, which has probably ended their playoff hopes. Harry Plummer missed a last minute penalty which would have secured the win. After a promising 4-0 run mid-season the Blues have since gone 1-1-5, so it is again back to the drawing board this off-season. Away form has been a major issue for the Auckland franchise. The Blues have gone 0-6 away from home this season to extend their away losing streak to 8 games.
Betting: the Blues haven’t won in Brisbane since 2010 and they haven’t won an away game this season. The Reds meanwhile haven’t exactly set the tournament alight themselves.
Either way I expect this will be close. The last two meetings at Suncorp stadium were won by 1 point and drawn. I would back both the Reds 1-12 at 3.75 (bet365) and the Blues 1-12 at 2.88 (Sportsbet).
Saturday, 8 June
Crusaders vs Rebels
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In the shock of the round the Crusaders blew a 20-point lead to fall 27-40 to the Chiefs in Fiji last week. They have now broken the record for the most tries scored in a 15-team Super Rugby season, but they will be left to rue a defensive performance that saw them concede three tries in eight minutes. The hot, humid conditions played a role, but the result will have served as a wake-up call for the side that had only lost once previously this year. The Crusaders will likely throw the kitchen sink at the Rebels given they have a bye for the final round of the regular season.
The Rebels dominated the second half but couldn’t land the killer blow as they fell 15-20 at home to the Waratahs last week. The defeat was a hammer blow to their playoff chances given their tough fixture this round followed by a tricky game next week against the Chiefs. If the Rebels kick the ball away as poorly as they did last week they will be in big trouble against the Crusaders.
Betting: the Crusaders have gone 11-1-0 at home over the last 12 months while the Rebels have gone 1-5 as the away underdog. Ten of the Crusaders’ 11 wins were by 13+ points but they haven’t looked themselves in recent weeks. They drew the Sharks at home and only beat the Blues by 8 points in their next home fixture. I’m also mindful that the Rebels have gone 4-2 at the line as the away underdog over the last 12 months. I will back the Crusaders instead in the head-to-head at 1.17 (Betstar, Bookmaker, Ladbrokes).
Waratahs vs Brumbies
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The Waratahs overcame the Rebels 20-15 in Melbourne last week to keep their playoff hopes alive. It was their 6th straight win over the Melbourne franchise. Like so many Super Rugby games this season, defence won the day as the Waratahs’ repelled the Rebels’ onslaught in the final quarter to secure the win. The Waratahs sit 3 points outside 8th place so will require other results to go their way if they are to make the playoffs.
The Brumbies thrashed the Sunwolves 42-19 in Tokyo last week to firm their grip on the Australian conference. After making more use of their backs in recent weeks the Brumbies made heavy use of the rolling maul again, scoring three tries from mauls in the second half. They now sit 3rd in the overall standings, two points adrift of the Jaguares in the battle for the second overall seed.
Betting: the Brumbies have looked the more convincing of the two teams in recent weeks. It’s refreshing to see them score tries in different ways each round. The Brumbies have won their last three visits to Sydney and they have gone 7-2 at the line away from home over the last 12 months. I would back the Brumbies +2.5 (Betstar, Bookmaker, Ladbrokes).
Lions vs Hurricanes
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The Lions picked up a bonus point (41-22) win over the Stormers at home last week. The win was their first this season against domestic opposition. The Lions now sit 2nd in the South African conference and 5th in the overall standings, but playoff rugby is far from assured given their tough run in (Hurricanes then Bulls away). In team news, captain Warren Whiteley’s recovery from injury has been slower than expected so he has been ruled out for the rest of the Super Rugby season. Elton Jantjies is available this week after being stood down for the Stormers match for breaching team protocol.
Beauden Barrett returned from a week’s rest and put in a fine display as the Hurricanes started their two-game tour of South Africa with a 30-17 win over the Sharks. With a massive gulf in points between them and both the 1st placed Crusaders and 5th placed Lions, the Hurricanes are a virtual lock for the 4th overall seed. In team news, Matt Proctor’s season is over due to a torn pec. Ngani Laumape was originally scheduled to be rested, but due to Proctor’s injury he will play this week and serve his required rest period next round instead. Vaea Fifita has been suspended for three weeks for his red card offence against the Sharks.
Betting: the Hurricanes have won 4 of their last 5 visits to Johannesburg however their sole defeat was their most recent visit. The Lions have gone 8-2 at home over the last 12 months so I expect they will be competitive, however the Hurricanes have only lost once away from home this season. I anticipate a close match so will back both the Lions 1-12 at 3.75 (bet365) and the Hurricanes 1-12 at 3.00 (Sportsbet).
Sunday, 9 June
Stormers vs Sunwolves
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The Stormers were thrashed 22-41 by the Lions in Johannesburg last week. The scores were still tight at half time before the Lions pulled away in the second spell. The Stormers sit at the foot of the South African conference and three points adrift of the 8th and final playoff spot, but they have a winnable schedule to finish the season, so they aren’t out of playoff contention just yet. A bonus point win this week will be firmly on their minds.
The Sunwolves were swatted aside 19-42 by the Brumbies in Tokyo last week. It was their 7th straight defeat and it continues a worrying trend of losing by large margins. Five of their seven defeats during this horror run have been by 23+ points. This season can’t come to a close fast enough for the Japanese franchise.
Betting: the Stormers have struggled against the Sunwolves away from home but it’s been a different story in Cape Town, where the Stormers have won both meetings comfortably. The 22.5 line accurately reflects the Sunwolves’ poor form but I’m not prepared to take the Stormers in that market given they have the 3rd lowest scoring offence this season. The Stormers have won only once by 13+ at home over the last 12 months so I will instead back the Stormers in the head-to-head at 1.06 (Unibet).
Jaguares vs Sharks
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The Jaguares tightened their hold on the South African conference after they saw off the Reds 34-23 in Brisbane to finish their Australasian tour with a 3-1 record. Impressively the Jaguares have won 5 of their last 6 away fixtures. They have also won 7 of their last 8 games, which makes them the form side in the competition. The Jaguares sit just 2 points ahead of the Brumbies in the battle for the crucial second seed, so they still have much to play for.
The Sharks’ playoff hopes were dealt a hammer blow when they lost 17-30 at home to the Hurricanes last week in an ill-tempered affair. They occupy the 8th and final playoff spot but face two tricky away fixtures to finish the regular season, so the Sharks’ playoff hopes now hang by a thread.
Betting: the Jaguares beat the Sharks 51-17 in Durban earlier in the season and they won this fixture by 16 points last year. The Jaguares have gone 4-0 as the home favourite over the last 12 months and they have covered the line in each of the last five games. Given the home team’s impressive form coming into this clash I would back the Jaguares in the head-to-head at 1.47 (Sportsbet).
Best Bets of the Round
Back the Jaguares in the head-to-head at 1.47 (Sportsbet)