Super Rugby is back in full swing and although tipping hasn’t gone according to plan so far, the majority of matches have been competitive and the entertainment value has been high (for the most part). The Brumbies look like the team to beat at present, but there is a long way to go and there is a bit of a pack building behind them. The Highlanders are yet to fire and pressure is mounting in Dunedin, so sit back and enjoy another seven enthralling fixtures this weekend. There a number of results this week that could go either way with the playing field on slightly more level ground than in recent seasons, but hopefully I can pick you a winner. Happy tipping, punting or predicting and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@S15_TheProfits) for game coverage, expert insight or just for a chat.
Best Bet 1: Highlanders +9.5 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 2: Cheetahs +3 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 3: Stormers to win @ $1.70 – Sportsbet
Chiefs ($1.22) versus Highlanders ($4.25)
The reigning champion Chiefs host the winless Highlanders in the first and only Friday match of round six in Hamilton. These teams collided in round two where the Chiefs prevailed at Forsyth Barr Stadium. The long journey home for the Chiefs from South Africa would have been made easier as they picked up seven points out of a possible ten to keep them perched atop the New Zealand conference. The Highlanders on the other hand are yet to register a victory during this year’s competition, despite some high profile acquisitions and the ability to name a solid squad on paper.
Even though the Chiefs were only ahead on the scoreboard by five at halftime last week, they never looked like losing in Port Elizabeth. Courtesy of a hat trick of tries by the deceptively strong winger Lelia Masaga, and some deadly accurate kicking by off-season recruit Gareth Anscombe, the Chiefs managed to silence the crowd and come away with a 35 – 24 victory. The high-level skillsets, power and raw pace that the Chiefs possess make them a handful for any team either home or away. The fighting and winning spirit that embodies the team is evident each week and they are very rarely reliant on one or two players. Collectively, they are an impressive team to watch and it is unfortunate that we won’t be able to see a matchup between the Chiefs and the Brumbies in the regular season.
The Highlanders currently hold the wooden spoon in the competition, which is far from where most pundits would expect them to be. In recent years, they have been perennial fast starters, however, things couldn’t be more different for them at the moment. Other than a poor performance against the Cheetahs who had never beaten them, the Highlanders have been competitive in matches against the Chiefs (round 2) and the Hurricanes (round 4) who are extremely tough opposition on any given day. This week, the Highlanders have the chance to avenge their earlier loss to the Chiefs but Hamilton is slowly becoming one of the hardest places to travel to in Super Rugby.
Based on how the tournament has panned out so far, no one will be giving the Highlanders a chance in this one. Sooner or later the Highlanders will click and this would be the perfect game for them to win to silence their critics. Whether that happens this week is yet to be seen, but even a jet lagged Chiefs outfit should be too much for the Highlanders on current form.
Predicted result: Chiefs to win @ $1.22 – Sportsbet
Best Bet: Highlanders +9.5 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet
Crusaders ($1.01) versus Kings ($16.00)
The first of Saturday’s matches see the Crusaders of Christchurch host the brave, but battling Eastern Province Kings. It took a few weeks for the Crusaders to build up a head of steam and record a win, however, they did so in fine style last week by thumping the undefeated Bulls and scoring six tries in the process. The Kings on the other hand managed to stay in touch of the Chiefs at home, but never looked like coming away with the game, as we all expected. To add to matters, the Kings are currently embroiled in a saga with SARU as they are deemed to have breached their Super Rugby participation agreement by naming too many international players in their squad.
As aforementioned, the Crusaders were involved in a clash last weekend with fellow modern Super Rugby super powers, the Bulls. The Crusaders adopted game plan of running the Bulls forwards ragged worked a treat as they began to pick holes in the Bulls defence after an arm wrestle in the opening twenty minutes. The Crusaders were extremely patient with the ball in hand and often built up the phases until the Bulls cracked. Robbie Freuan managed to score the first try after a disastrous opening twenty minutes which saw him do just about everything wrong. Although he is a player that would make most international starting fifteens, he will need to play with more consistency if he wants to be an All Black in the years to come. Kieran Read and Daniel Carter were extremely effective and the ‘Saders back line looked sharp.
The Kings had the undesirable task of hosting a Chiefs team that is firing on all cylinders last weekend, and to their credit they were brave and gutsy and didn’t let the score blow out. It is evident that they are a team who plays well under pressure and even better when no one gives them a chance. The Kings have a number of players who aren’t necessarily household names or names not known outside of South Africa, but Super Rugby is renowned for turning youngsters into stars and good players into superstars, so it will be interesting to see how they fair on this overseas leg. Young sensation, Sergeal Petersen managed to score his third try in Kings colours and showed that there is no substitute for genuine pace as he coasted down the field against the run of play.
The giants of Super Rugby have finally awoken and the Kings are in their firing line. Despite the bravery and resilience of the Kings to date, I don’t know if they will be able to carry over their home form into New Zealand and Australia, but to their credit they have proved many wrong on a few occasions this year already. I am going to have to stick to the big guns as Daniel Carter and Kieran Read will continue to be a class above and should stroll away with this one comfortably in front of some expectant fans.
Predicted result: Crusaders to win by 13+ @ $1.20 – Sportsbet
Reds ($1.40) versus Bulls ($2.90)
The fluctuating Queensland Reds welcome the Blue Bulls of Pretoria to their fortress of Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night in a very important match for both teams, given their disappointing losses last week. The Reds were ordinary to say the least against the Force and were the victims of the biggest defeats in terms of odds in recent memory. On the other hand, the Bulls were completely outclassed by a resurging Crusaders outfit and two losses on the trot starts to heap pressure on players and coaches like.
Complacency, taking your foot off the pedal, call it what you will, but the Reds experienced first hand on Saturday night that you can’t take your opposition lightly in this competition. The Force have lost a number of stars in recent years and there hasn’t been a lot of optimism unearthed from their camp so far year, but to their credit they came to Brisbane and toppled one of the more consistent Australian teams. Pretty much any team in this competition can win on their day and Will Genia and Ewen Mckenzie were the first to put their hands up to say that the performance was simply just not good enough. The Force had a mountain load of possession and played a smart tactical kicking game and the Reds just looked out of options. Will Genia survived the opening forty minutes after his return from knee surgery, but Quade Cooper was nowhere to be found. This week, the talismanic James Horwill returns after a lengthy period of time on the sidelines and I expect his leadership to come to the fore and the Reds will be a much better unit.
The Bulls started the season in fine form recording three consecutive victories including an away win over the Blues for their first victory ever at Eden Park. The Bulls are a notoriously strong travelling team as they have had to option of calling upon experienced heads in the past like Matfield, Habana, du Preez etc. The changing of the guard has already occurred so playing a Crusaders team at home that resembles an All Blacks team sheet was always going to be a challenge. The Bulls have adopted the same game plan for years and teams don’t usually stand a chance when they play bash ‘em up rugby. However, the Crusaders had them figured out last week and they looked passive. Consequently, coach Frans Ludeke has made nine changes to help cater for some injuries and form worries last week.
The Reds don’t lose often at Suncorp (23/27), so the chances of another negative result doesn’t look likely. Records are there to be broken, but with the casualty ward at the Bulls filling up and the fact that the Bulls don’t have a great record at Suncorp, says to me the Reds should come away with the victory, albeit by a small margin.
Predicted result: Reds to win by less than 12 @ $2.70 – Sportsbet
Force ($1.58) versus Cheetahs ($2.35)
The Western Force are riding high after beating the Reds in Brisbane last week, but it won’t get any easier when they face the Cheetahs in Perth. The Cheetahs tails are up and they are starting to get into their stride having defeated the Highlanders and the Waratahs over the past two weekends. The Force don’t play the most attractive brand of rugby, whereas the Cheetahs do, so it will be an interesting clash of styles and one the could prove crucial when it comes to final positions in the bottom half of the ladder.
As mentioned above and against all odds, the Force were victorious in an ugly, but deserved result against the Reds. Subsequently, the Force now sit above the Waratahs and the Rebels in the Australian conference. You could put the win down to the hungry nature of the Force defence. South African recruit, Sias Ebersohn is also showing how important a good goal kicker is at this level. In a match that was riddled with errors, the Force scored the only try after New Zealanders Alby Mathewson made an incisive break and setup Alfi Mafi to go over in the corner. Judging on the Western Force results this season, it must be a difficult task being a Perth supporter given their rollercoaster ride to date. Although the Force are lacking a few game breaking superstars, they are playing cohesively and know how to wear teams down and although it may not look pretty, it has worked alright so far.
The Cheetahs on the other hand are riding an impressive wave at the moment having beaten the Highlanders and the Waratahs away and narrowly missed out on the points against the Sharks in late February. They did get thumped by the Chiefs in Hamilton, but the Cheetahs were right in that game for a large portion of it. The Cheetahs along with the Hurricanes play one of the most exciting brands of rugby in the competition, with either of these two franchises often being talked about in circles as “my second favourite team”. They began the match strongly against a Wallaby-laden ‘Tahs outfit, and scored within the first ninety seconds off some great counter-attacking play. Sarel Pretorious, the Cheetahs halfback played for the Waratahs last year, so he was always going to try and one-up his ‘mates’. Momentum shifted on a few occasions, before Pretorious was the catalyst the Cheetahs needed to put rising start Raymond Rhule into a gap for his second try with ten minutes to go. The Cheetahs ended up holding on for a one-point victory and no doubt the braai’s would have gone long into the night in Bloemfontein.
It is never easy for South African teams to cross the Indian Ocean and play consistent rugby for four or five weeks. The Cheetahs were set for a disastrous tour after being completely pummelled by the Chiefs, but since then their big wins have excited Cheetahs and rugby fans alike and I think they can dig down to put in one more performance and take advantage of the Force’s inconsistency issues and defensive frailties out wide.
Predicted result: Cheetahs to win @ $2.35 – Sportsbet
Best Bet: Cheetahs +3 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet
Sharks ($1.13) versus Rebels ($5.75)
An injury plagued and emotionally depleted Sharks team host the travelling Rebels in Durban on Saturday and what better way to get back on the horse. Rugby is a religion in South Africa and no home crowd enjoys being outplayed like they were against the Brumbies last week. The Rebels resume from their bye on the back of three consecutive losses and have a big challenge in front of them at the Shark Tank.
The Sharks were brought back down to earth last week after an undefeated start to the season when they came up against a very clinical and impressive Brumbies outfit. They were completely outplayed in the first half as the Brumbies notched up their third four-try bonus point in the 34th minute. Just after half time, the heavens opened and put a dampener on the match as both sides struggled to maintain possession of the ball. The Sharks have to be somewhat optimistic of their second half performance as they ended up winning the last forty, but they now sit one point behind the Bulls in the national conference. Coach John Plumtree has rung the changes with seven in total, with both Ryan Kankowski and Francois Steyn being dropped to the bench as a result of some less than impressive performances.
The Rebels had some time off last week, which is always handy when having to travel across multiple time zones. Like the Force, the Rebels aren’t a very exciting team to watch at present and since their win in the opening fixture of round one, they have managed to lose three consecutive matches. Any rugby game starts in the forwards and although the Rebels have some outstanding individual players, their set piece hasn’t been effective. In the backline, names like Beale and O’Connor would excite any team, however, rugby is a fifteen-man game that requires multiple channels of input. Ex-Welsh international Gareth Delve returns from injury to captain the side and Cooper Vuna takes his place on the wing in his first start of the year. Unfortunately for the Rebels, Kurtley Beale still remains on the injury list.
Despite the Sharks ordinary performance last week and the mountain of injuries they incurred, I can’t see them losing at home two weeks in a row. The Rebels are not an easy team to put away as their superstars stand up week-in and week-out. If the Rebels play to their potential they are in with a real chance, but the Sharks are littered with class across the park and should be able to pick the Melbourne based franchise apart, especially in the forwards.
Predicted result: Sharks to win @ $1.13 – Sportsbet
Stormers ($1.70) versus Brumbies ($2.15)
In what will be the clash of the weekend, the Stormers, fresh off a bye will entertain the log-leading Brumbies at Newlands in Cape Town. The Brumbies are coming off an emphatic win over the Sharks last week, while the Stormers have only managed to secure one victory, although they have only lost by small margins in their defeats. Once again this will be another clash of styles, as the Stormers are very forward oriented, despite the class of the backs that they possess. Creativity just hasn’t been their strong suit in recent seasons but they have achieved success on the back of their impenetrable defence. This year the Brumbies have both the best defence and the second best attack according to points for and against. This should be an absolute belter!
The Stormers head into this fixture fresh off a bye and coming off a good win against the reigning champion Chiefs. It was a match with a significant amount of pre-match hype given it was the best attacking team of last year versus the best defence. The Stormers have struggled in recent seasons with their attacking game, however, it hasn’t been a major concern given how well their defence has been performing. Against the Chiefs, they managed to give the ball some air and scored three tries in the process, which was encouraging to see. Andries Bekker, the tallest man in Super Rugby had a storming game in both the tight and the loose and Siya Kolisi continues to impress in the back row and should achieve higher honours in the next few years. The Stormers did suffer an injury blow with Bryan Habana being ruled out for ten weeks, so their outside backs depth will be tested, but the return of Juan de Jong and Jaco Taute will offset that somewhat.
The Brumbies have been without doubt the most impressive team in the competition this year having won all their matches and picking up several bonus points in the process. There was no jetlag evident as the Brumbies hit the ground running wrapping up the bonus point for scoring four tries in the 34th minute. The managed to hold on in the second half in some torrential rain and finished up victors 29 – 10. Led by super coach Jake White and a host of talented and upcoming stars, the Brumbies completely outclassed the Sharks. All four tries were scored by the Brumbies backs with Jesse Mogg crossing again, proving he is hard to stop when he gets a sniff of the try line. Now that the Brumbies have worked off their jetlag, they will be an even tougher opponent come Saturday.
The Brumbies are yet to concede a single point in the second half of their first three matches which is an extremely impressive statistic given the quality of the opposition they have come up against. I think this trend will be bucked this week as the Stormers have some big match temperament. This is one of the harder matches to pick, but I am going to have to go with the home team, as a result of a stronger backline, and the Brumbies may have been lured into a false sense of security after last week’s match
Predicted result: Stormers to win @ $1.70 – Sportsbet
Best Bet: Stormers to win @ $1.70 – Sportsbet
Waratahs ($2.25) versus Blues ($1.64)
An out of sorts Waratahs have another chance to turn things around this weekend after an ordinary start to the season. The prospect of beating a Blues team that has surprised many so far this year will be a daunting one, but the Waratahs have the depth and talent to make amends. Last week they came up short against the expansive Cheetahs, where the Blues had the week off after a tough but successful few weeks.
The Blues have been one of the surprise packets of the tournament so far edging out the Crusaders and Hurricanes and scoring bonus points in each of those games. Last outing, experienced coach John Kirwan made several changes that evidently disrupted the cohesion and flow that the Blues had played with and as a result, they came up short against a powerful Bulls unit. John Kirwan did accept partial responsibility for the match outcome, however, Super Rugby is a long an arduous competition and players need to be given a break from time to time. They are currently sitting second on the New Zealand ladder and this week the welcome back former All Black Anthony Boric. The stalwart, Kevin Mealamu is a week away after taking an extended break from rugby at the end of last season.
The Waratahs on the other hand have had an extremely poor start to the year having only manufactured one victory from four attempts. I feel like I just write the same things over and over about the Waratahs, however, they just aren’t offering a lot on the field at the moment. Their coaching panel is of a high standard, their squad features some experienced internationals and traditionally the Waratahs have been in the upper echelon in terms of results, but things just aren’t working for them. Michael Cheika has been quoted saying that the ‘Tahs are still working through some anxiety issues developed in recent years, but you have to expect them to turn a corner soon. Let’s hope so for their fans and for Australian rugby in general. They let the Cheetahs get out to a lead before chasing them down and ended up falling short just in the end. From time to time they look quite promising but they just haven’t been able to put a solid performance together.
The Waratahs need to start games quicker and the Blues aren’t a team you want to give a lead to. Although Berrick Barnes won’t be there to steer the ship, the Waratahs will be encouraged to take it to the Blues and avoid aimless kicking. The Blues have made it quite clear that they intend to run wherever possible which is exactly what we want to see. Without seeing the team sheets as the game is played on Sunday, based on form and the strength of the Blues backline, I am leaning towards them.
Predicted result: Blues to win @ $1.64 – Sportsbet
Glenn Paton has followed rugby union for 15 years and has expert knowledge on the game freely committing to over 500 viewing hours a year. Having played with and against some current Super Rugby players and International superstars, he understands the game, the players and the laws inside out. Having been born in South Africa, spent time in New Zealand and currently living in Australia, Glenn lives and breathes rugby. With so many different tournaments happening around the world simultaneously and the addition of Rugby Sevens to the Olympic program, there are always plenty of healthy betting options available. An obsession, a passion, call it what you will, Glenn enjoys sharing his insight, opinions and predictions with anyone who wants to listen.
Specialities: Super Rugby, 6 Nations, Rugby Championship, International Tests, Currie Cup, ITM Cup, Rugby Sevens
All of the above are the opinions of the author and are not recommendations or advice. The author may not be taking every bet listed above. Bet at your own risk.
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