The following are betting tips for Super Rugby AU Round 2 & Aotearoa Round 1 for the 2021 season. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa season preview.
To take advantage of odds before they possibly shorten, these previews are often published before the team sheets are announced. Those who are more risk-averse may prefer to wait for the squad lists before wagering.
Friday, 26 February
Highlanders vs. Crusaders
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The Highlanders begin life under new head coach Tony Brown after they chose to part ways with Aaron Mauger. The southern side is a perennial over-achiever and this year looks to be no different with the squad boasting just two players who featured for the All Blacks last season. They do have a lot of quality spread throughout the side, however, and between Aaron Smith and the up and coming Folau Fakatava they boast the best halfback stocks in the competition. The Highlanders had more turnover than the other clubs during the off-season so it will be interesting to see if it takes time for the new players to gel.
The Crusaders had very little turnover during the off season and are once again the side to beat. They won the 2017, 2018 and 2019 Super Rugby titles as well as Super Rugby Aotearoa 2020, so it’s fair to say they are a dynasty. What’s ominous is the fact that their points difference in last season’s Aotearoa competition was 44 points better than the next best team, and that was from just 7 games due to the cancellation of their final fixture. The one negative for the Crusaders this year is injuries. By my count they’ll start the season without seven players with two, possibly three out for the season and another two set to miss half the campaign.
Betting: two of the Highlanders’ three wins last season were over the 0-8 Chiefs and the third came against the Hurricanes at home in the final round when the visitors had little to play for. The Crusaders have won nine of the last ten games against the Highlanders, including the last six. Those six wins were all by 10 or more points and five were won by 20+ points. The Cantabrians won 8 out of their 9 away games over the last 12 months, so travelling has not been an issue. I would back the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.42 (bet365).
Reds vs. Rebels
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The Reds got their campaign off to the best possible start with a record-breaking 41-7 win over the 14-man Waratahs at Suncorp Stadium. The Waratahs scored first before the Reds notched 41 unanswered points. The scoreline could have actually been heavier but the Reds weren’t as clinical in the second half as they showed a lack of patience at times. Nevertheless it was a dream start. Newly appointed captain James O’Connor was perfect from the kicking tee and after conceding the opening try the Reds’ defence easily repelled everything the Waratahs threw at them. Their set pieces went well too. Ominously for the rest of the competition, the Reds were missing regular captain Liam Wright along with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Brandon Paenga-Amosa and headline signing Suliasi Vunivalu last round. Vunivalu will make his debut from the bench this week.
The Rebels get their campaign underway after an unfortunately timed bye in Round 1. The Melbourne side was incredibly inconsistent last season and on paper they look a bit weaker this year. Captain Dane Haylett-Petty is still recovering from a concussion and their forwards stocks have taken a hit with the departures of Matt Philip and Jermaine Ainsley. Much of how their season pans out could come down to the performance of play-maker Matt To’omua, which is actually a criticism. Where would their offensive spark come from if he got injured?
Betting: Suncorp Stadium is a fortress for the Reds. They have won seven consecutive games at this venue. The Reds hosted the Rebels twice last season and won both clashes by 12+ points. The 11.5 line looks accurate so I will simply back the Reds in the head-to-head at 1.24 (Unibet).
Saturday, 27 February
Hurricanes vs. Blues
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The Hurricanes begin life without either of their renowned halves pairing of Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara. Barrett left last year and Perenara is spending this year in Japan. Their halves stocks have been further hit by the long-term injury to halfback Jamie Booth and a season-ending injury to Simon Hickey. Hickey’s injury leaves Jackson Garden-Bachop as the only specialist No. 10 in the squad. They will be hoping that former All Blacks winger Julian Savea can rediscover his old form upon returning to the club. It’s worth noting that the Hurricanes were the only side to defeat both the 1st ranked Crusaders and 2nd ranked Blues last season. Perenara’s absence is a blow, however.
The Blues on paper look to be the biggest challenge to the Crusaders’ title defence. The Auckland side boasts a formidable forward pack that should make for fascinating set-piece clashes with the Cantabrians. The Blues have poached some handy talent from other clubs during the off-season, including Dillon Hunt from the Highlanders and Nepo Laulala from the Chiefs. They will have to make do without Beauden Barrett, however, after he left for Japan. Another concern is the Blues are the most likely of all the franchises to have their season impacted by covid. They had a fixture cancelled last year and their pre-season for this campaign was hit by a snap lock down in Auckland. The Blues will be hoping they don’t have to move any “home” fixtures into enemy territory.
Betting: the bookmakers can’t separate the two sides, with the two effectively offered at line odds in the head-to-head. I’m going to side with the Blues. The Auckland side won 8 out of 10 over the last 12 months and went 5-1 at the line away from home. They boast the stronger forward pack and the reduced stocks in the halfback and fly-half positions for the Hurricanes is a concern. I would back the Blues in the head-to-head at 1.92 (Sportsbet).
Brumbies vs. Waratahs
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The Brumbies commenced their Super Rugby AU title defence with a 27-11 away win over the Force. It was their 10th consecutive win over the WA franchise. The only sour note was they conceded a late try to deny them a bonus point. By the Brumbies’ standards it wasn’t the best performance, with nine penalties conceded in the second half alone, but it’s only the start of the season and the away trip to the newly bolstered Force looked tricky on paper. In team news the Brumbies have made one injury-enforced change to the starting XV, with Connal McInerney starting in place of the injured Folau Fainga’a.
The Waratahs suffered a worse-case scenario start to the season by falling 7-41 to the under-strength Reds. To compound the defeat they picked up injuries to key players to go with a three-week suspension for Izaia Perese for a nasty spear tackle. Having scored the Waratahs’ only try, captain Jake Gordon had to be helped off the field with an ankle injury that is expected to keep him sidelined for two months. Centre Joey Walton also had to withdraw injured with an ankle issue and is expected to miss a few matches. The Waratahs did manage 20 minutes without conceding points whilst down a player, but that was the only positive from a game in which they were completely outclassed. One other piece of good news is Lachie Swinton returns this week after missing Round 1 with suspension.
Betting: the Brumbies have gone 6-0 at home over the last 12 months and they won their last six fixtures against the Waratahs. Three of the Waratahs’ four away defeats over the last 12 months were by 13+ points so I will back the Brumbies 13+ at 1.65 (bet365).
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