The following are previews with betting tips for Round 7 of the 2020 Super Rugby season.
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.
Friday, 13 March
Chiefs vs. Hurricanes
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The Chiefs vindicated their decision to rest Damian McKenzie by thrashing the Waratahs 51-14 in Wollongong last week. The scores were 13-14 at halftime before the visitors ran rampant in the second half with six unanswered tries. This continues the Chiefs’ trend of playing better in the second half. In three of their four wins this season they trailed at halftime.
In one of the shocks of the round, the Hurricanes fell 15-24 at home to the Blues last week. The loss ended their six-year unbeaten streak against the Auckland franchise. Much of the defeat came down to terrible discipline by the Hurricanes, who picked up one red card and two yellow cards to be down to 12 players at one stage. They also conceded a penalty try. In team news, prop Tyrel Lomax has received a three week ban for his red card infringement last week.
Betting: I’m leaning towards the Chiefs in the head-to-head but I’m wary of the fact that they are only 3-2 as the home favourite over the last 12 months. Of the last ten games between the two in Hamilton, only one was won by 13+ points, so I will back both the Chiefs 1-12 at 2.70 (bet365) and the Hurricanes 1-12 at 4.00 (bet365). For those looking for more risk, I like the Hurricanes/Chiefs HT/FT selection at 6.75 (Unibet).
Saturday, 14 March
Blues vs. Lions
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The Blues broke a nine-game losing streak to the Hurricanes by defeating them 24-15 in Wellington last week. Even more notable was the fact that the Blues beat a domestic opponent away from home, which has been an incredibly rare event in recent years. Much of the win came down to the terrible discipline by the Hurricanes, who were down to 12 men at one stage due to red and yellow card infringements. Nevertheless, the win gives the Auckland franchise genuine belief that their dark years at the foot of the New Zealand conference are over. They are now 4-2 for the season and bring a three-game winning streak into this clash.
The Lions slumped to 1-4 for the season with a 17-37 thrashing at the hands of the Rebels. The worrying sign is this extends the Lions’ losing streak to three games, with each defeat coming by a larger margin than the previous one. Also worrying is the fact that the Rebels won by 20 points despite playing 20 minutes with 14 men due to yellow card infringements. The Lions enjoyed the majority of possession but were wasteful with their opportunities.
Betting: the Blues have been installed as -15.5 favourites, which is understandable given the woeful form of the Lions. The visitors have lost their last six straight away games and they have gone 1-7 at the line as the away underdog over the last 12 months. I would back the Blues in the head-to-head at 1.16 (Betfair). Those looking for more risk should consider the Blues 13+ at 1.68 (bet365).
Sunwolves vs. Crusaders
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The Sunwolves slumped to 1-4 for the season with a 17-47 “home” defeat to the Brumbies in Wollongong last week. At least the scoreline was an improvement over the 5-64 and 15-62 results against the Reds and Hurricanes, respectively, but the Sunwolves remain a mile off the pace. Due to the coronavirus this is the second “home” fixture for the Sunwolves to be played in Australia.
The Crusaders started as 23.5 favourites but only squeaked past the Reds with a 24-20 scoreline last week in Christchurch. They were actually outplayed for much of the contest and were outscored by four tries to three, but showed their class and match finishing skills to come away with the win. Richie Mo’unga’s accuracy with the boot was also crucial. The Crusaders are now 4-1 for the season and the win extends their undefeated streak in Christchurch to 34 games. In team news, David Havili and Braydon Ennor will likely return after being rested last week.
Betting: last week’s result will have been a wake up call for the Crusaders, which is bad news for the Sunwolves. The line stands at a whopping 40.5 points, which I’m not prepared to touch, however, given the Crusaders will likely rest players and they don’t need to win by that margin to pick up a bonus point. With no head-to-head odds on the Crusaders being offered, I will sit this game out.
Reds vs. Bulls
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The Reds were installed as 23.5 underdogs but they gave the Crusaders an almighty scare last week before falling 20-24 in Christchurch. They actually outscored the hosts by four tries to three but four failed conversions saw them fail to end a winless drought in New Zealand that dates back to 2013. The Reds are now 1-5 for the season but their record doesn’t reflect their competitiveness, with three of their five defeats coming by 7 points or less.
The Bulls commence their four-week Australasian tour this week. They picked up their first win of the season last round by defeating the struggling Highlanders 38-13 in Pretoria. I’m not yet convinced the Bulls are out of their slump, however, given the Highlanders butchered a number of good chances as their season from hell continues. We’ll learn more about whether the Bulls can turn their season around this week.
Sunday, 15 March
Sharks vs. Stormers
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The Sharks top the overall standings with a 5-1 record after they defeated the Jaguares 33-19 in Durban last week. Their free-flowing offence in particular has been impressive over the last three weeks, averaging 34 points per game. I had previously written that the Sharks’ strong start to the season might be due to the fact that they had played four teams with losing records, but claiming the scalp of the Jaguares, who were runners up last season, suggests the Sharks might be the real deal. We’ll learn more about their title credentials this week when they take on the Stormers, who are currently 2nd in the conference with a 4-1 record.
Prior to their bye last week the Stormers suffered a shock 14-33 home defeat to the Blues in Cape Town to end their unbeaten start to the season. The Stormers’ success has been due to their league-leading defence, but this was found wanting as the visitors racked up 33 points, compared to the 37 points in total the Stormers had conceded in the opening four games. While the Stormers’ defence has been the best in the league, their offence is only the 10th best, which will certainly have been a point they will have addressed during the bye.
Betting: the Sharks have gone 5-2 as the home favourite against the Stormers in recent years and the visitors have gone 1-4 as the away underdog over the last 12 months. I would back the Sharks in the head-to-head at 1.56 (Sportsbet).
Jaguares vs. Highlanders
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The Jaguares fell 19-33 to the high-flying Sharks last week to move to 3-3 for the season. The scoreline actually flattered the visitors, who scored late when the Sharks were down a player and the game was already won. Overall it was an off-colour performance from the Argentinians. It continues their metronomic record of win-loss-win-loss-win-loss, which suggests they must surely win this week!
The Highlanders led at the 48-minute mark but imploded to lose 13-38 to the previously winless Bulls in Pretoria last week. They wasted a number of opportunities to put the Bulls away in the first half and then collapsed badly in the second spell. The defeat sees the Highlanders slump to 1-4 for the season. To add to their uphill struggle this week, Aaron Smith and Liam Coltman will miss this game to comply with the All Blacks’ rest requirements.
Betting: the Jaguares have gone 8-1 as the home favourite over the last 12 months while the Highlanders have gone 1-6 as the away underdog. I would back the Jaguares in the head-to-head at 1.22 (Sportsbet). Given the Highlanders have gone 1-6 at the line as the away underdog over the last 12 months, for those looking for more risk I would recommend the Jaguares -12.5 at 1.93 (bet365).
Brumbies vs. Waratahs
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The Brumbies maintained their strong control of the Australian conference with a 47-14 win over the Sunwolves in Wollongong to move to 4-1 for the season. The only blip for the ACT side so far this season was their shock 22-23 home defeat to the Highlanders.
The Waratahs led 14-13 at the break last week but were pummeled in the second half to lose 14-51 to the Chiefs in Wollongong. Their conference aspirations continue to slip away as the Waratahs now find themselves 1-4 for the season. It continues their poor record against New Zealand franchises. The Waratahs have lost 16 of their previous 19 fixtures against Kiwi opponents, including the last 5. If they are to have any chance of winning the conference then the Waratahs must win this clash. Statistically things are looking ominous for the NSW side, however. Only the Sunwolves have scored fewer points or conceded more points than the Waratahs this season. In contrast the Brumbies are ranked 2nd for offence and 3rd for defence this year.
Betting: the Brumbies have gone 8-1 as the home favourite over the last 12 months while the Waratahs have gone 1-6 as the away underdog. I would back the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.20 (bet365, BlueBet, Unibet).
Best Bets of the Round