The following are betting tips for Super Rugby AU Round 3 & Aotearoa Round 2 for the 2021 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, 5 March
Chiefs vs. Highlanders
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The Chiefs get their campaign underway after an unfortunately timed bye in Round 1. They will try to shed memories of their disastrous 2020 Aotearoa campaign in which they finished 0-8, but the Chiefs’ cause hasn’t been helped by the departure of Warren Gatland on sabbatical to coach the British & Irish Lions. They will be managed by interim coach Clayton McMillan this season. The Chiefs were more competitive than their record last year suggested, with a few notorious refereeing calls costing them games, but on paper they do look to be one of New Zealand’s weaker sides. Due to Covid-19 alert level 2 restrictions in the region, this fixture will be played without fans in the stadium.
The Highlanders fell 13-26 at home last week to the reigning champions Crusaders. They struggled against the All Blacks-laden Crusaders pack at the breakdown and set-pieces, with the Crusaders’ errant kicking and two yellow card offences keeping the scoreline closer. The Highlanders did well to contain the Crusaders after falling behind 0-14, however, and remained in the game for much of the contest.
Betting: seven of the last eight meetings between the two were settled by 1-12 points and the last four meetings were settled by 3, 0 (draw), 1 and 2 points. I would back both the Chiefs 1-12 at 2.75 (Unibet) and the Highlanders 1-12 at 3.40 (Unibet).
Waratahs vs. Force
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The Waratahs’ nightmare start continued with a nine-try 10-61 thrashing by the Brumbies in Canberra last week. This was on the back of a 7-41 loss to the Reds in Brisbane the week before. The injury-hit Waratahs scored first in both fixtures before imploding badly. It’s hard to draw positives from the latest performance. They struggled to hold possession and were battered at the scrum.
Prior to their bye last week the Force fell 11-27 at home to the Brumbies to remain without a win in Super Rugby AU. They were in the contest at the beginning but conceded ten penalties in the first half alone to regularly concede field position to the visitors. The Force fielded a lot of new players after a big recruitment drive during the off-season and it showed as they enjoyed less cohesion than the Brumbies. In team news the Force are expected to welcome back centre Kyle Godwin after he missed the Brumbies clash with an ankle injury.
Betting: I can’t back the youthful and injury-hit Waratahs at the moment. I would back the Force in the head-to-head at 1.78 (bet365).
Saturday, 6 March
Brumbies vs. Rebels
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After receiving an unfortunately timed bye in Round 1 the Rebels opened their campaign with a 21-23 away defeat to the Reds. All of their points came from the boot of Matt To’omua as they fed off ill-discipline by the hosts. The Reds enjoyed the majority of possession but the Rebels were clinical at taking points when they did get into opposition territory. They could have stolen the win at the death but To’omua missed a last-gasp 42-metre penalty that narrowly missed the posts. The Rebels defended well at times in a game that most pundits hadn’t expected to be as competitive.
The Brumbies moved to the top of the standings with a record-breaking 61-10 win over the hapless Waratahs last week. They have now won 17 of their last 18 games in Canberra. The Brumbies used their rolling maul to good effect and were the far better side at the scrum. It was a fantastic performance but they can’t get too carried away given the Waratahs had lost 7-41 to the Reds the week before. The Reds then only just beat the Rebels by two points a week later.
Betting: the Brumbies have gone 7-0 in Canberra over the last 12 months while the Rebels have gone 1-4 as the away underdog. I don’t have a strong opinion on the -13.5 line so I will simply back the Brumbies in the head-to-head at 1.19 (Sportsbet).
Sunday, 7 March
Crusaders vs. Hurricanes
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The Crusaders commenced their title defence with a 26-13 win over the Highlanders in Dunedin. They raced out to a 14-0 lead inside 20 minutes but a blowout never eventuated. It wasn’t a perfect performance by the Crusaders. Two players were sin binned and Richie Mo’unga’s errant kicking cost them points. Nevertheless they will be pleased to have commenced their campaign with a tricky away win over their South Island rivals.
The Hurricanes lost 16-31 at home in a scrappy contest to the Blues last week. The scoreline was a bit harsh on the Wellington side. They led at halftime and were right in the contest until the Blues pulled away with a late penalty and converted try. The Wellingtonians weren’t helped by poor discipline, which led to two yellow cards, and for not taking their chances, so they can take positives from the fact that there’s plenty of capacity for them to improve on that performance.
Betting: the Crusaders’ imperious home record was rudely disrupted by a 32-24 home defeat to the Hurricanes last season. It snapped a 36-game unbeaten streak in Christchurch and I don’t see the Crusaders permitting the Hurricanes to win consecutive games at Orangetheory Stadium. Having said that, the Crusaders went 1-3 at the line at home over the last 12 months while the Hurricanes went 3-1 as the away underdog both in the head-to-head and the line. I’m not prepared to back the Crusaders -10.5 and will instead back them in the head-to-head at 1.28 (Sportsbet).
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