The following is a preview with betting tips for the 2023 Super Rugby final between the Chiefs and Crusaders. The game will be played at FMG Stadium in Hamilton. Kick-off is at 5:05 PM AEST on Saturday, the 24th of June.
To take advantage of the odds before they possibly shorten, this preview has been published before the team sheets are announced. Those who are more risk-averse should wait for the squad lists before wagering.
Totals were elevated under the new rules that were designed to speed up play this season. There were over eight tries per game this year, compared to six in 2022. Having said that, the scores gradually came down as the season progressed. The average total score across the last 43 games was 55.9, compared to 61.3 for the first 47 games. Nationality has played a key role. New Zealand domestic games averaged 50.1 points, while Australian domestic games averaged 61.1 and trans-Tasman games averaged 57.7 total points.
Chiefs (1) vs. (2) Crusaders
The Chiefs topped the standings with a 13-1 record. Their only defeat came when they rotated out their All Blacks and suffered a shock defeat to the Reds in New Plymouth. The Chiefs have made hard work of the knockout stage. Their defence has been solid but they have struggled to break down their opponents. The Chiefs beat the Reds 29-20 in the quarter-finals and the Brumbies 19-6 in the semi-finals.
The Crusaders made a 1-2 start to the season after they were thrashed 31-10 at home by the Chiefs in Round 1 and fell by a 1 point margin to the Fijian Drua in Lautoka in Round 3. Despite battling a long injury list, the Canterbury side then went 9-2 to complete the regular season with a 10-4 record. The additional two defeats were a 10-point loss to the Chiefs in Round 10 and a 1-point loss to the Hurricanes in Round 15. In typical Crusaders fashion, they appear to have peaked during the playoffs. They thrashed the Drua 49-8 in the quarter-finals and then, despite having eleven first choice players unavailable, smashed the Blues 52-15 in the semi-finals. Those wins extended the Crusaders’ home playoffs record to 29-0. On the injury front, they might get All Blacks lock Sam Whitelock back for this clash.
Home advantage has been important in Super Rugby finals. The home side has won 22 of the 29 finals for a 76% win record. The Crusaders can take heart, however, from the fact that the home side has only won 58% of the finals contested by two teams from the same country. Out of the seven finals where the away side won, five were by the Crusaders. This includes last year’s final, which they won 21-7 over the Blues in Auckland.
It can’t be overlooked, however, that the Chiefs have beaten the Crusaders by double-digit margins twice this season. The Crusaders’ injury toll has been immense this season and in some positions they are only one injury away from having it really catch up with them. The Chiefs can also take heart from their 8-0 record at FMG Stadium this season:
Chiefs 28–7 Highlanders
Chiefs 44–25 Rebels
Chiefs 20–13 Blues
Chiefs 50–17 Drua
Chiefs 34–24 Crusaders
Chiefs 23–12 Hurricanes
Chiefs 29-20 Reds
Chiefs 19-6 Brumbies
What stands out is their defence. The Chiefs conceded just 15.5 points per game at home this season. At the same they scored 30.9 points per game a this venue.
My concern for the Chiefs, however, is the fact that the Crusaders annihilated their quarter-final and semi-final opponents while the Chiefs laboured to wins over the Reds and Brumbies.
My expectation is that this will be a close contest. This game features the two best defensive teams in the competition and the Chiefs’ last two playoff games saw 39 and 25 total points. In the history of Super Rugby there have been eight finals contested by two New Zealand teams and the average total score was 35.4. No Kiwi final has seen more than 43 points and none of the six finals in the 21st century went above 38. The new laws this season might boost this year’s figure, but based on the way the Chiefs are playing, there’s still a good case to make for a low total. The Chiefs’ last four home games have gone under the total, while the Crusaders’ last two away games went under the total.
I would back under 50.5 at 1.88 (PlayUp).
Out of the eight all-Kiwi finals, seven were settled by 1-12 points, so those looking for an alternative or additional bet should consider the pairing of:
Chiefs 1-12 at 3.00 (Dabble)
Crusaders 1-12 at 3.20 (Dabble)