The following are previews with betting tips for Round 18 of the 2019 Super Rugby season. This is the final regular season round. The playoffs commence next weekend.
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, 14 June
Highlanders vs Waratahs
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The Highlanders drew the Bulls 24-24 last week. While it does preserve their solid form of having lost only once at home this season, the 2 points dropped have probably cost the Highlanders a playoff berth unless other results go their way. The Highlanders have been notably weaker this season following the off-season departure of fly-half Lima Sopoaga. A number of key players will be following him out the door next year so the Highlanders may regress further in 2020. In team news, the Highlanders welcome back All Blacks fullback Ben Smith from injury.
The Waratahs fell 24-35 at home to the Brumbies last week, which will most likely see them miss out on the playoffs. Most of the damage was done in the first half, with a late try for the Waratahs adding some respectability to the scoreline. The defeat was all the more disappointing given it was the final home game for Curtis Rona, Nick Phipps and Sekope Kepu, who are all heading overseas next season. Kurtley Beale, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Bernard Foley might depart at the end of the season also.
Betting: instead of the indoor environment of Forsyth Barr Stadium, this fixture will be played at Rugby Park in Invercargill, which will provide a cold shock for the Waratahs. I expect the Highlanders will win but the 20.5 line looks too big. While the Highlanders haven’t lost at home to the Waratahs in over a decade, none of those wins were by more than 16 points and the Waratahs’ biggest losing margin this season is 14. The Highlanders have gone 1-7 at the line at home over the last 12 months while the Waratahs have gone 4-1 at the line as the away underdog. I would back the Waratahs +20.5 at 1.85 (BetEasy).
Rebels vs Chiefs
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The Rebels had the misfortune on taking on the Crusaders in Christchurch following a shock defeat for the Cantabrians. The home side thrashed the Rebels 66-0, but as well as the Crusaders did play, the Rebels made far too many unforced handling errors and they fell off a whopping 36 per cent of their tackles. It was their third defeat in a row and while the Rebels still hold onto the 8th and final seed, they now have a major battle on their hands to hold onto that spot.
Prior to their bye last week the Chiefs fought back from a 20-point deficit to shock the Crusaders 40-27 in Fiji. Captain Sam Cane was instrumental in the win. The Chiefs have had a bad run with injuries to key players and Cane’s return has given them a massive lift. In a further boost, All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick is set to return this week. To make the playoffs the Chiefs will need to win this clash and hope that other results go their way. This fixture will be the first time that Jack Debreczeni faces his old team.
Betting: after making a 5-2 start to the campaign the Rebels have since gone 2-6. The Rebels have an indifferent 4-4 home record over the last 12 months and they have a 1-5 historical record against the Chiefs. I would back the Chiefs in the head-to-head at 2.08 (TopBetta).
Saturday, 15 June
Jaguares vs Sunwolves
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The Jaguares have secured the South African conference title with a Round to spare after they thrashed the Sharks 34-7 last week. They dominated the visitors in every aspect of the game, including the set piece. After a 2-4 start to the season the Jaguares have gone 8-1, making them the most in-form team in the competition. They enjoy a 3-point lead over the Brumbies in the battle for the second seed, so a bonus point win is not required to hold onto that spot.
The Sunwolves finished strongly but ultimately fell 18-31 to the Stormers in Cape Town last week to extend their losing streak to eight games. The Japanese side has gone 2-13 for the season and failed to win a single home game, which is sad to see. News of their axing from the tournament after the 2020 season hasn’t helped morale.
Betting: the Jaguares have a 1-1 record against the Sunwolves and they only won by 7 points the previous time they hosted them. There isn’t much value in the 21.5 line given the Jaguares don’t require a bonus point win, so I will sit this one out rather than take a punt at 1.06 head-to-head odds.
Hurricanes vs Blues
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Despite the late withdrawal of Beauden Barrett due to a stomach bug, the Hurricanes defeated the Lions 37-17 last week to finish their South African tour 2-0. The scores were 10-10 at halftime before the Hurricanes found another gear in the second spell. All Blacks hooker Dane Coles’ form after returning from injury bodes well. He scored two tries after coming on at halftime. It will be interesting to see what squad the Hurricanes pick this week. They are locked in for the 4th overall seed so from a standings perspective they have nothing to play for. In team news, All Black Ngani Laumape is serving his second All Blacks rest, so the Hurricanes’ midfield stocks will be tested given Matt Proctor is out for the season.
The Blues extended their losing streak away from home to 9 games when they fell 28-29 to the Reds last week. The Blues led late in the game but Dalton Papalii’s yellow card proved costly as the Reds mounted a late comeback. After a promising 4-0 run mid-season the Blues have since gone 1-1-6. They would love to finish the season with an upset win to provide at least some cheer leading into next season.
Betting: the Hurricanes have won their last 8 games against the Blues but this is a strange game given the Hurricanes have a strong incentive to rest players. Given the Blues’ horrific away form I will simply back the Hurricanes in the head-to-head at 1.33 (Sportsbet).
Brumbies vs Reds
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The Brumbies secured top spot in the Australian conference with a 35-24 win over the Waratahs last week. The only sour note was they let the Waratahs get back into the match after leading 28-3 at halftime. The Brumbies sit 3 points behind the Jaguares in the overall standings. With the Argentinian side playing the out of form Sunwolves this week, the Brumbies will most likely head to the playoffs as the 3rd overall seed.
The Reds edged the Blues 29-28 last week to end a 4-game losing streak and a 15-game losing streak against Kiwi teams. They are out of mathematical contention to make the playoffs but a win could see them pip the Waratahs in the fight to avoid being the worst team in Australia.
Betting: the Brumbies have won their last five games while the Reds have won just one of their last five. The Brumbies have won their last six home games as well as the last four times they hosted the Reds. My only fear is the Brumbies will rotate the squad knowing that they will most likely be the 3rd seed regardless of this result. If I had to bet on this game I would place a small bet on the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.40 (Sportsbet).
Stormers vs Sharks
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It wasn’t a commanding performance but the Stormers did enough to see off the Sunwolves 31-18 last week. The win continues the strong 5-1-1 home record for the Cape Town side, but they left a number of tries on the field and conceded two late tries which denied them a crucial bonus point. The Stormers sit 7th in the standings so their destiny remains in their own hands. A win of any margin would guarantee them playoff rugby. In team news, halfback Herschel Jantjies is in doubt for this clash.
The Sharks put in a dreadful performance last week and were thrashed 7-34 by the Jaguares in Argentina. The scoreline would have been more lopsided had the Jaguares been more accurate with their place kicking. This was on the back of the Sharks’ poor home defeat to the Hurricanes. They now sit 9th in the standings, one point behind the Rebels, so their destiny is no longer in their own hands. The Sharks have only won one of their last five games, which doesn’t bode well with the playoffs commencing next week.
Betting: the Stormers have gone 6-1-1 at home over the last 12 months while the Sharks have gone 2-1-5 as the away underdog. I would back the Stormers in the head-to-head at 1.62 (Ladbrokes).
Sunday, 16 June
Bulls vs Lions
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The Bulls fought well to draw the Highlanders 24-24 in Dunedin last week to keep their playoff destiny in their own hands. They picked up 2 draws and a win on their four-game Australasian tour, which is a great result for a Bulls franchise that has been notoriously bad overseas in recent years. With one round to play the Bulls sit 5th in the overall standings and while they can’t catch the 4th placed Hurricanes, they will be keen to win this clash to avoid a lower seeding.
The Lions were mauled 17-37 by the Hurricanes at home last week. They were dominated the breakdown and outclassed in the second half just a week after they put in a strong performance against the Stormers. To add insult to injury, loose forward Kwagga Smith, lock Stephan Lewies and prop Sti Sithole all picked up injuries and will miss this clash. They join Warren Whiteley, Jacobie Adriaanse, Lourens Erasmus and Gianni Lombard on the sidelines. The Lions still sit 6th in the overall standings but could miss out on the playoffs if they lose and other results go against them.
Betting: the Bulls have gone 5-2 as the home favourite over the last 12 months while the Lions have gone 1-4 as the away underdog. the Lions went 4-0 against the Bulls between 2016 and 2018, but the Bulls won their most recent clash by 18 points in Johannesburg earlier this season. With the Lions limping into this fixture with a lengthy injury list, I would back the Bulls in the head-to-head at 1.71 (Sportsbet).
Best Bets of the Round
Back the Chiefs in the head-to-head at 2.08 (TopBetta)