The following are betting tips for Round 1 of the 2021 Trans-Tasman 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, 14 May
Highlanders vs. Reds
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The Highlanders finished 4th in Super Rugby Aotearoa with a 3-5 record. In both the 2020 and 2021 Aotearoa seasons they failed to win consecutive games and the Highlanders managed only one home win in each campaign. They show moments of excellence in each game but have been notoriously inconsistent. This is the team that both beat the Crusaders by 21 points and lost by 19 points to the wooden spoon-winning Hurricanes.
After finishing the regular season 7-1, the Reds won the Super Rugby AU title after a come-from-behind home victory over the Brumbies in the final. The Queensland side will be high on confidence and they have proven to be excellent finishers of tight games. Four of their wins this season were by 3 points or fewer.
Betting: the Reds have covered the line in 6 of their last 7 games against the Highlanders and the hosts have gone 0-2 both at the line and in the head-to-head as the home favourite over the last 12 months. I would back the Reds +9.5 at 1.93 (bet365).
Waratahs vs. Hurricanes
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The Waratahs endured a season from hell in Super Rugby AU. For the second straight year they lost a huge amount of experience during the off-season and the youthful side looked out of its league at the start of the campaign. They finished 0-8, which is well documented, however their 17 points scored per game was less than half of the 34 points conceded per game, with both stats being the worst across both Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa. No other team conceded more than 24 points per game in Super Rugby AU. The good news is the Waratahs’ competitiveness picked up in the second half of the campaign after they got captain Jake Gordon back from injury. Their final three defeats were by 2, 1 and 11 points, in contrast to their 34 and 51-point defeats in Rounds 1 & 2.
The Hurricanes finished at the bottom of the Super Rugby Aotearoa standings with a 2-6 record. Both of their wins were over the Highlanders. The good news is that after poor results in the opening two rounds, the Hurricanes were competitive in all of their remaining matches, with their subsequent four defeats coming by 6, 10, 3 (in overtime) and 2 point margins. Their 41-22 thrashing of the Highlanders in the final round will give them hope they can enjoy the clean slate in the Trans-Tasman competition.
Betting: previous head-to-head data is hard to extrapolate from given how much weaker the two sides are this season. The Waratahs have lost an eye-watering amount of talent while the Hurricanes haven’t looked themselves since the departure of the Beauden Barrett / TJ Perenara halves pairing. There’s also the uncertainty of how the Australian teams will go against the New Zealanders. I will sit this game out.
Saturday, 15 May
Crusaders vs. Brumbies
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The Crusaders won their 5th straight Super Rugby title by winning the Aotearoa tournament. They started the season with 13, 17 and 22 point wins before suffering a three-game slump in form. The Cantabrians then found their stride again with a 23-point win in the final round before defeating the in-form Chiefs 24-13 in the final. The Crusaders will be fancied to go 5-0 in the Trans-Tasman competition, but as we’ve seen a few times this season, they aren’t unbeatable.
The Brumbies fell agonizingly short in their Super Rugby AU title defence, losing 16-19 to the Reds after conceding a try after the final hooter. All three Brumbies defeats this season were to the Reds and all three were by 2 or 3 points.
Betting: the Crusaders have won nine straight against the Brumbies but they have lost three straight at the line against the Canberra side. I’m confident the Crusaders will win this, but the Brumbies have gone 2-0 at the line as the away underdog over the last 12 months. Four of the Crusaders’ last five home wins over the Brumbies were by 13+, so I will back both the Crusaders 13+ at 1.40 (bet365, Sportsbet, Unibet) and the Brumbies +20.5 at 1.89 (bet365).
Rebels vs. Blues
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The Rebels finished 4th in Super Rugby AU with a 3-5 record. The Melbourne side were left to ponder what could have been after they missed out on the playoffs by just 2 points and three of their five defeats were by 3 points or fewer. With an average of 23 points conceded per game, the Rebels weren’t too bad defensively, but their impotent offence cost them, with their 22 points scored per game relying too heavily on the accumulation of penalties. In team news, forwards Isi Naisarani and Pone Fa’amausili picked up three-game suspensions at the end of Super Rugby AU, so the duo won’t be available again until Round 4.
The Blues finished 3rd in the Super Rugby Aotearoa standings with a 4-4 record. Due to their strong forward pack many had predicted they would challenge the Crusaders for the title but the lack of quality in the 9/10 positions continues to hold them back. The Blues have a tendency to run hot and cold. Two of their four defeats were by 16+ points while three of their four wins were by 15+ points.
Betting: the Rebels are on a three-game losing streak at home while the Blues are on a three-game losing streak away from home. The same can be said the the Rebels at the line at home and the Blues at the line away from home. The Rebels have only suffered one 13+ defeat this season but three of the Blues’ four wins were by 13+. We’ll know a lot more by the end of the weekend but for now I’m going to sit this one out.
Force vs. Chiefs
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The Force bounced back well from their 0-8 campaign in 2020. They had a full off-season to prepare this time and they recruited overseas talent to bolster the quality and depth of the squad. The Force finished a very respectable 3rd in the 2021 standings with a 4-4 record and were rewarded with their first ever playoff rugby. Home form will be important for the Perth side in the Trans-Tasman competition because they represent the longest travel distance and timezone change for the visiting Kiwi sides. The Force will start the campaign without Tevita Kuridrani, who still has two weeks left to serve in his suspension for a dangerous tackle.
The Chiefs also bounced back well from a torrid 0-8 campaign in 2020. Including the end of the regular Super Rugby season in 2020 and the beginning of the 2021 campaign, the Chiefs endured an 11-game losing streak before turning things around with a 5-game winning streak to finish 2nd in the standings. Much of this turnaround had to do with the return to form of talisman Damian McKenzie. They fell short in the final against the Crusaders (who boast a 25-0 home knockout record!) but should enter the Trans-Tasman competition full of confidence.
Betting: the Chiefs have yet to win by more than 6 points this season while the Force haven’t lost by more than 7 points at home since Round 1. I will go for value and back the Chiefs 1-12 at 3.75 (Sportsbet).
Best Bet of the Round
Reds +9.5 at 1.93 (bet365)