Round five of Super Rugby was the most entertaining of the season so far with 429 points scored at an average of 61 points per match! Player skill levels are high, but although there would’ve been a huge emphasis on defense in preseason, offensive play has been far superior. The fifth round kicked off in Hamilton where the Chiefs thrashed the Stormers and the Crusaders secured their second win of the season with a victory over the Rebels in Melbourne. On Saturday, the Hurricanes beat the Cheetahs in a high scoring encounter, the Force kept their streak over the Highlanders alive in Dunedin, the Brumbies held off a fast finishing Waratahs outfit in Canberra, the Lions dubiously beat the Blues and the Sharks treated their home fans with a victory over the Reds. This weekend, the top three (Sharks, Chiefs and Brumbies) are all in action, with the odds across most games suggesting that there should be some one-sided fixtures. Just five competition points separate the sixth placed Bulls and the current ‘woodspooners’, Cheetahs, reiterating the importance of each fixture and highlighting the bridging gap between all teams in the competition. Below I will analyse each match and provide some plays that I believe are favouring us, the punters. Make sure you follow me on Twitter (@S15_TheProfits) for last minute tips, game coverage, expert insight or just for a chat. Good luck!
Best Bet 1: Total Match Points Over 53.5 @ $1.87 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 2: Waratahs/Chiefs/Reds @ $2.38 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 3: Reds -3.5 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 4: Sharks -2.0 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet (early Twitter play)
Highlanders ($1.72) vs Hurricanes ($2.16)
Round six of Super Rugby kicks off this weekend when the struggling Highlanders face the entertaining, but stumbling Hurricanes at Forsyth-Barr Stadium in Dunedin. The Highlanders went into last week’s match against the Western Force as pretty strong favourites, however, they failed to win and fell short of the four-try bonus point in the process. In Wellington, the Hurricanes elevated themselves off the bottom of the ladder with a convincing win over the Cheetahs in front of their home fans, but their defense still leaves a lot to be desired. Traditionally, these teams have been involved in very close matches, with the last ten finishing margins being seven points or less. Therefore, the tri margin must be considered here.
The Highlanders had a disastrous season in 2013, but after a strong win over the Blues and pushing the Chiefs to the brink of their first defeat (19 – 21), things came unstuck in Dunedin last weekend. In the first half, while the Highlanders were kicking penalties, the Force were scoring tries. The men from the south eventually kicked into gear, but a few hapless moments throughout the match put the victory out of reach. Coach Jamie Joseph has decided to make five changes to his team this week with three in the forwards and two in the backs. The evergreen Brad Thorn returns from a rib cartilage injury in place of the workhorse Jarrad Hoeata, Ma’afu Fia pushes veteran Chris King to the bench and Elliot Dixon comes into the starting team replacing John Hardie. In the backs, Phil Burleigh will get his first start of the season after a straight swap with Shaun Treeby and Fijian winger Patrick Osborne has recovered from injury to take his place on the right wing. The Highlanders have a lot of experience on the bench, which could be crucial in a match that could really swing either way.
The Hurricanes achieved their first victory of the season last week in a twelve-try match against the Cheetahs. Once again, the Hurricanes proved why they are one of the most entertaining teams in the competition. Flyhalf Beauden Barrett rediscovered the form that saw him rewarded with a number of All Black caps last season, scoring two tries and setting up a number of others, and he finished with a 23-point tally. Hooker Dane Coles has also alleviated the hooker dilemma that many in New Zealand are concerned about after some strong performances to start the season. Coach Mark Hammett has been forced to make three changes with James Marshall (toe), Blade Thompson (neck) and Jeremy Thrush (personal reasons) all unavailable. Tasman star, Marty Banks will don the 15 jersey, Samoan International Jack Lam returns to the openside flanker jersey and James Broadhurst will start at lock. It is widely known that attack is the Hurricanes forte (5th best), however, their defense will need to tighten up, as they simply won’t be able to break down some of the better defences in the competition like they did with ease against the Cheetahs.
In what appears to be a pretty tough match to predict, we are more than likely to witness a high-scoring encounter. Both teams have a number of X-factor players across the park, so I will stay away from any head to head or margin betting and suggest it will be a cracker in terms of entertainment value.
Predicted result: Hurricanes to win @ $2.16 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 1: Total Match Points Over 53.5 @ $1.87 – Sportsbet
Waratahs ($1.55) vs Rebels ($5.65)
The Waratahs return home to Allianz Stadium in Sydney this weekend for an all-Australian blockbuster against the Melbourne Rebels. Likewise, the Waratahs will look to return to winning ways having been outplayed by the Brumbies in Canberra and the Rebels will also be after a win having lost narrowly to the Crusaders in Melbourne. The Waratahs and the Rebels have clashed on six occasions throughout their Super Rugby history, but it was only last year that the Rebels managed to secure their maiden victory over the ‘Tahs, when Scott Higginbotham and Jason Woodward led the charge.
The Waratahs experienced their first loss of the season in round five and relinquished their stranglehold on the Australian conference. The Waratahs were outmuscled last weekend in Canberra and as a result, coach Michael Cheika has opted to make four changes in a reshuffled pack. Wallabies prop Sekope Kepu gives Benn Robinson a rest at prop, Will Skelton, the giant youngster comes back into the second row, shifting South African Jacques Potgieter to the side of the scrum. Michael Hooper is in line to play his 50th Super Rugby game in the number seven jersey and Dave Dennis will lock the scrum at number eight. These changes signify that Cheika has put his forwards on notice and by picking his biggest pack of the year, they will look to rattle an unheralded Rebels forward unit. The backline remains the same, but the way the Brumbies contained the Waratahs high numbers last week, will certainly be used a blueprint for their upcoming opponents this season.
Last weekend, the Rebels were gunning for a fifth consecutive victory at home, however, the men from Christchurch laboured to a 25 – 19 victory. Coach Tony McGahan reinstated the same starting fifteen that tackled the Cheetahs in their first match, after making too many defensive blunders against the Force the following week. Their ‘D’ was solid against the Crusaders, however, they were guilty of rewarding the Crusaders with too many kickable penalties, which Tom Taylor duly nudged over. This is a huge match for the Rebels because it could propel their season to new heights, although another loss would cement themselves down in familiar territory at the bottom of the log. McGahan has been forced to make two changes this week as both prop Laurie Weeks (concussion) and fullback Jason Woodward (knee) have been ruled out. Youngster Paul Alo-Emile comes into the front row and Angus Roberts is a straight swap for Woodward at the back. It is interesting to note that the Rebels will become the second club (Highlanders were the first) in Super Rugby history to potentially field two Japanese players in their line-up, should both Shota Horie (hooker) and Male Sau (centre) get some game time.
The Waratahs will be smarting after their first defeat of the season last weekend and they will know that a loss to the Rebels would be detrimental to their title chances. The Rebels have improved exponentially under new coach Tony McGahan, however, the ‘Tahs should have too much firepower and class and pick the Rebels apart en route to a comfortable win.
Predicted result: Waratahs to win @ $1.55 – Sportsbet
Blues ($1.26) vs Cheetahs ($3.90)
The Blues will be itching to return home to the sacred home of rugby this weekend, Eden Park, where the Cheetahs will be lying in wait. The Blues South African sojourn was ordinary after suffering a big defeat to the Bulls and a narrow three-point loss to the Lions last weekend. The Cheetahs aren’t fairing much better, having failed to win a match on tour against the Rebels, Reds and Hurricanes, although they will take some confidence out of their 34 – 13 victory in the corresponding fixture last year.
Super Rugby fans know that the Blues are only a few lucky breaks away from clicking and returning to the top echelon of the competition like they once were. However, heading into this season under the coaching of the Sirs, John Kirwan and Graham Henry, many thought they may have progressed further than what they have shown so far. Their backs are full of pace and X Factor and players like Frank Halai and Charles Piutau have shown why they have All Black jerseys in their wardrobes, however, despite having some Test Internationals in their forward pack, they seem to be getting belted up front. Their scrum was demolished by an unheralded Lions pack last weekend and this makes it hard when you are challenged on your own ball. Kirwan has installed Simon Hickey back into the flyhalf jersey to marshal his troops around the sacred turf. Other than that, the team remains the same and upbeat to secure their second win of the season. The Blues have also bolstered their bench with the return of the Rugby World Cup winning duo of Jerome Kaino and Ma’a Nonu who are both expected to get amount 30 minutes of game time. Their impact will be huge, but given that both players have been out of the game for a while, I wouldn’t expect fireworks just yet.
After making the playoff picture last year, 2014 has been a far cry from where the Cheetahs would like to be, as they currently occupy position 15 on the log. From an attacking point of view, the men from Bloemfontein have scored the fourth highest number of points, but like the Hurricanes, their defense has been almost non-existent. Inspirational skipper Adriaan Strauss is in line to play his 50th Super Rugby match when he runs out onto Eden Park. He is a livewire around the field, solid at scrum time and his lineout throwing is top notch and it speaks volumes that he has been occasionally selected ahead of Bismarck du Plessis for the Springboks. Coach Naka Drotske has taken a gamble and named a few players out of position this weekend. In the forwards, Jean Cook comes in for Lappies Labushcagne, but regular winger Ryno Benjamin will don the inside centre jersey in place of the injured Vice-Captain Francois Venter. Hennie Daniller, an astute fullback, also replaces Raymond Rhule on the wing, as Willie le Roux, the top metre runner in the competition, will control things from fullback.
In another difficult match to call, both teams will be desperate for a win. Another loss here could well and truly make it very hard for one of these teams to progress to the playoff rounds later in the season. I expect it to be another high-scoring match, as both defense have been found wanting on many occasions this season, but with the class sitting on the Blues bench, I can see them edging the Cheetahs in a good game of running rugby.
Predicted result: Blues to win @ $1.26 – Sportingbet
Brumbies ($1.35) vs Stormers ($3.25)
The Brumbies will play their second match in succession at Canberra Stadium on Saturday evening, when the Stormers play their first of two matches on Australian soil this season. In round five, the Brumbies proved that they are still the team to beat in the Australian conference when they held off a fast-finishing Waratahs outfit. The Stormers were less fortunate after they suffered their third loss of the year to the reigning champions, the Chiefs in Hamilton. Last year, the Stormers managed to eek out a 16 – 3 victory in Cape Town, on the back of their once-sturdy blue defensive wall.
The Brumbies will have a spring in their step this weekend after knocking over the ‘Tahs at home in round five. Their front row of Scott Sio, Stephen Moore and Ben Alexander was immense and recent Wallaby Scott Fardy showed his versatility as a blindside flanker. Nic White and Matt Toomua outshone their northern counterparts and Pat McCabe was a warrior under duress yet again. Robbie Coleman has done well since taking over from Joe Tomane, but one of the more impressive performances came from Jesse Mogg, who certainly made himself look at home in this high-level contest. The Brumbies will be looking to extend their winning streak to four games this weekend, however, they have been forced to field four Super Rugby debutants in their 22. With eight Brumbies out of action this week (namely Sio, Speight and Kuridrani), JP Smith (prop), Jordan Smiler (flanker), Jack Whetton (lock) and Stephen van der Walt (outside back) are all fresh at this level and the Stormers should look at really pressuring these players to achieve their first win on tour.
If the Stormers want to make a name for themselves this weekend, they need to start here with a solid performance against the Brumbies in Canberra. After six rounds, few pundits (if any) would’ve had the Stormers as potential wooden spoon candidates, but their skill level and game plans just simply don’t match the heart that they have been playing with. Coach Alastair Coetzee has opted for five changes this week in a bid to rejuvenate his dwindling team. London Irish import Sailosi Tagicakibau has been handed his first start of the season after strong showings off the bench in recent weeks, shifting Gio Aplon to fullback in place of the injured Jaco Taute. Not surprisingly, Peter Grant will replace Demetri Catrakilis in an attempt to generate some points from a backline that has been uninspiring this season. In the forwards, Frans Malherbe and Michael Rhodes return in place of Brok Harris and De Kock Steenkamp (injured) respectively. Springbok Centre Juan de Jong has also made his way over from South Africa during the week having sufficiently recovered from injury and he should get his first taste of rugby for this season in chilly Canberra.
Although the Stormers have won three of the last five fixtures against the Brumbies, it is clear that the Brumbies still remain in the top echelon, whereas, the same can’t be said about the Stormers. On the back of last week’s performance against the Waratahs, it would take a brave man to bet against them and they should have too much for a Stormers team that only seems to click at Newlands.
Predicted result: Brumbies to win @ $1.35 – Sportsbet
Force ($3.85) vs Chiefs ($1.27)
The Force will be buzzing with confidence when they head home to play the New Zealand Conference leading Chiefs at the nib Stadium in Perth on Saturday. Last weekend, the Force made it six wins in a row over the Highlanders in a result that not many would’ve predicted (31 – 29). The Chiefs also ran riot in Hamilton scoring five tries to two against a Stormers defense that is known to be almost unbreakable. Looking over the past few seasons, the Chiefs have had the upper hand over the Force with four wins in succession.
The Force went to Dunedin last weekend and achieved their second four-try bonus point in franchise history, having done it for the first time the week before against the Rebels. Something has clicked in Force country and their traditionally strong defense has stood up and provided them with a platform to start winning games. Ben McCalman, who has really been an inspiration over the last two seasons and definitely one of the form forwards in Australian rugby, will sit out this match as a result of a two-match suspension. He is one player that provides his team with good go forward ball, so it will be interesting to keep an eye on their gain line success this weekend. Similarly, to the Sharks, Michael Foley has opted for consistency again this weekend, but why would you change a winning formula (e.g. Tony McGahan). The 22 Test Wallaby Hugh McMeniman finds himself playing at blindside flanker, pushing Angus Cottrell, who really is beginning to make a name for himself, to number eight. Two weeks ago, there was talk of Michael Foley not making it out of this season alive, however, another strong performance by his troops here may just help him sleep easier at night for the next few weeks.
The Chiefs simply demolished the Stormers last week in Hamilton and the scoreboard wasn’t really a true reflection of the state of play. The Chiefs have the ability to put you under enormous amounts of pressure and they are extremely efficient at converting that pressure into points. Coach Dave Rennie has already used 30 players in three matches, signifying the quality of the depth he has built within the Chiefs squad. Last weekend, centres Charlie Ngatai (calf) and Robbie Fruean (heart) were causalities, putting even more stress on what is already a depleted backline. Coach Dave Rennie has made two changes in the forwards, bringing Mike Fitzgerald back into the tight five and All Black Sam Cane will make his first start of the season after recovering from a knee injury. In the backs, Asaeli Tikoirotuma returns to the wing, the lively Tim Nanai-Williams marks up at outside centre and Mils Muliaina will play on the right wing to accommodate Gareth Anscombe at fullback. The Chiefs are very wary of a number of New Zealand teams that have been defeated in Perth either en route to or from South Africa, so it is unrealistic for them to drop their guard this weekend.
With their victory over the Highlanders, the Western Force secured their first set of back-to-back victories since April of 2011. However, this weekend will be a much tougher task as the unbeaten Chiefs look to kick start their tour with a solid performance. Although the Force have the ability to keep things tight using their defense as their biggest weapon, the Chiefs attacking mentality and ability to breakdown other teams, physically and mentally, should see them head to South Africa undefeated.
Predicted result: Chiefs to win @ $1.27 – Sportsbet
Lions ($2.30) vs Reds ($1.63)
Ellis Park, widely regarded as the home of South African rugby, will be the venue for the clash between the Lions and the Queensland Reds in Johannesburg this weekend. The Lions will be roaring after picking up yet another win in round five, this time against the Blues, whereas, the Reds will need to pick up a full bag of points this weekend, if they are to deem their South African Safari worthwhile. Historically, the Lions have a very poor record against the men from Brisbane, having only achieved success on three occasions from 17 tests.
Before the season started, the Lions were virtually shoe-ins to clinch the wooden spoon this year and if anyone said they would be in fourth spot after five rounds, they simply would’ve been slapped. However, to their credit, the unity amongst their squad has propelled them to some inspiring performances. Lions fans in South Africa will proudly be unearthing their jerseys and their forwards and flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff have been largely responsible for their resurgence. After watching what their pack did to the Blues at scrum time last weekend, the Lions eight simply cannot be underestimated. Their performance set the tone for the majority of the match and Marnitz Boshoff had a personal match tally of 24 points, extending his lead at the top of the Super Rugby pile with 94. To put it in perspective, the next closest is Johan Goosen of the Cheetahs with 54. At the time of writing, coach Johan Ackermann hasn’t released his team, but unless there is injury enforced changes, I believe he will opt for consistency with their opposition this week having a similar game plan to the Blues.
The Reds will be disappointed after their loss to the Sharks last weekend having missed a number of opportunities to score five pointers in Durban. Both Aiden Toua and Mike Harris were guilty of knocking the ball over the line and had they actually scored, they could’ve been in with a sniff at the Shark Tank. It was a seriously humid evening with reports coming in during the week that the Reds players collectively lost around 60kg of weight. This is a reason why the Sharks like playing at home early on in the season because if the Reds from Brisbane can’t cope with that humidity, no one can. Looking at this weekend’s team to face the Lions, both Ben Daley (replacement) and the Reds top try scorer this season, Chris Feauai-Sautia are notable omissions and have been sent home to recover from their respective injuries, with Ben Tapuai returning to the starting fifteen at outside centre. Otherwise, the forward pack and the backline remain the same and the Reds will be looking for a strong performance this week to kick start this next phase of their season.
I, and many others have learned the hard way so far this season that the Lions are simply not the ‘easy-beats’ of this competition. They continue to surprise many with their young and experienced squad, however, the former Champions are a different beast and I expect players like Will Genia and Quade Cooper to come into their own and secure a bonus-point victory in Johannesburg.
Predicted result: Reds to win @ $1.63 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 3: Reds -3.5 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet
Bulls ($2.22) vs Sharks ($1.67)
The final match of round six will be a blockbuster local derby and a repeat of the 2007 Super Rugby final when the Bulls face the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. The Bulls have had to deal with yet another exodus of experienced players, however, they will be fresh coming off the bye and will look forward to backing up after a strong victory over the Blues two weeks ago. On the other hand, the Sharks have started the 2014 with a bang and last weeks 37 – 24 victory over the Lions, reiterated why they are one of the favourites to win this year’s competition.
The Bulls are one of the best provincial teams on the planet at paying ten-man rugby. They love using their big forwards to get over the gain line and using their kickers to pin the opposition back in their own half. At this point, they pressure the opposing team on defense and try to overpower them at the breakdown to win penalties and kick the goals. Although these tactics may be seen by many as ‘boring’, watching two South African teams fight fire with fire is sometimes worth the price of admission alone. The bye round has allowed a number of the niggling injuries within the Bulls team to settle and coach Frans Ludeke has only been made to make two changes. Former Captain Dewald Potgieter has returned from a stint in Japan and he will be immediately thrust into the spotlight at number eight. The blonde haired back rower is as tough as nails, but it will be interesting to see how he copes with the intensity and the speed of Super Rugby. Talking about speed, Akona Ndungane is still on compassionate leave after the passing of his father last week, so South African Sevens player Sampie Mastriet gets an opportunity on the right wing.
The Sharks continued to circulate in the winner’s pool last weekend with a solid victory over the Reds in stinkingly humid conditions in Durban. A strong first half performance (25 – 6) paved the way for a victory for the Sharks and Patrick Lambie and Frans Steyn were faultless off the kicking tee. Luck was certainly on their side, as well as the Reds managing on occasion to exploit some gaping holes in their defense before failing to finish them off. For the fourth time in five games this season, coach Jake White has named the same starting 15, although there are some changes on the bench. The Springbok front three have been formidable and Anton Bresler and Stephen Lewis have done well to combat the injury of Peter Steph du Toit. The back row is powerful and the halves for the most part, have been clinical. Frans Steyn and S’bura Sithole will once again form the centre partnership and Lwazi Mvovo, SP Marais will join the latest Super Rugby centurion, JP Pietersen in the outside backs.
The Sharks will head to Pretoria this weekend happy with their current positioning, but aware that the Bulls always pose a huge challenge in Pretoria. The Bulls won both corresponding fixtures last year in extremely tight matches, however, it is clearly obvious that the Bulls and the Sharks are heading in different directions. The Sharks pack has laid the platform all season and despite a few injuries creeping into their squad, they have the depth and class to silence what is normally a very boisterous Loftus crowd.
Predicted result: Sharks to win in a brutal local derby @ $1.67 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 4: Sharks -2.0 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet (early Twitter play)
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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