Best Bet 1: Sharks -5.5 (vs Bulls) @ $1.90 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 2: TBC
HURRICANES ($1.30) VS CHIEFS ($3.50)
Week nine of Super Rugby kicks off with a traditional Friday afternoon classic between the two form teams in the competition, the Hurricanes and the Chiefs at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. The Hurricanes snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with a 38-37 thrilling victory over the Sharks in Napier. The Chiefs were equally challenged by the Blues in Hamilton, but were good enough to escape with a 21-19 win. This corresponding fixture last year saw the Chiefs escape with a narrow 17-14 in the windy city.
The Hurricanes showed last weekend that they are confident in their own abilities and back their systems and structures. Even when they don’t play their best rugby, they are still getting positive results, which is the sign of a good team. This week they come up against a Chiefs outfit that have also rattled off five consecutive victories, some of which have been convincing, despite missing a cohort of some of their best players. Statistically, very little separates these teams which only adds to the intrigue of this contest. The winner of this match will finish the round on top of the New Zealand Conference and I’m going to back the Hurricanes, especially in Wellington and with the Chiefs more than likely missing their chief playmaker in Damien McKenzie.
SUNWOLVES ($6.50) VS BLUES ($1.11)
The Blues return to the scene of one of their worst performances in franchise history in Tokyo this weekend, having been thumped by the Sunwolves 21-48 last season. The Sunwolves suffered their sixth consecutive loss of the season last week to the Waratahs, whereas, the Blues were gallant in their two-point loss to a more confident Chiefs outfit.
The knives must be sharpening in both Tokyo and Auckland with the Sunwolves and the Blues anchoring the Super Rugby standings so far this season.ha Both teams have played good rugby in patches, but their inconsistent nature has seen them manage just one victory collectively. Both teams will see this match as a vehicle to jump-start their campaigns and I think an overseas trip away from Auckland will help galvanise the visitors (much like it did against the Lions earlier this season) en route to a double-digit victory in Tokyo.
Predicted result: Blues to win @ $1.11 – Sportsbet
REBELS ($1.25) VS JAGUARES ($4.00)
The Rebels will welcome the Jaguares to AAMI Park in Melbourne on Saturday afternoon in what should be a high-octane match of running rugby. The Rebels return from the bye having been brought back to earth by the Hurricanes two weeks ago, whereas, the Jaguares suffered a 14-40 loss to the Crusaders last weekend in Buenos Aires. The Rebels will be looking for revenge this week having lost 29-32 to the Jaguares last season at this very venue.
The bye came at the right time for the Rebels and I’m sure Dave Wessels and his troops will be better off for both the match against the Hurricanes and the subsequent rest period. The Rebels lost the ‘one-percenters’ against the Hurricanes and will look to bounce back quickly against another attack-oriented team in the Jaguares. The men from Buenos Aires have been stationed at home for the last six rounds. Turnovers, missed tackles (worst in the competition), a misfiring scrum (worst in the competition) an inconsistent line-out (2nd worst in the competition) continue to plague them and makes things very difficult, despite the quality they have in their back line. The Jaguares have never lost a match in Australia, but I feel that will come to an end this weekend against a more hungry and clinical Rebels outfit.
Predicted result: Rebels to win @ $1.25 – Sportsbet
HIGHLANDERS ($1.13) VS BRUMBIES ($6.00)
The Highlanders return from the bye to face the Brumbies on Saturday night at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. The Highlanders are currently sitting in fourth place in the New Zealand Conference, but they do have a game in hand. Last weekend, the Brumbies produced their best performance of the season with a second-half surge that saw them topple the Reds 45-21 in Canberra. The Highlanders have won the last three matches against the Brumbies, but the visitors have won three of the last five matches played in Highlanders territory.
The Highlanders have played at least one less game than everyone else this season, so their rankings on the log and across stats sheets are more than meets the eye. They have had tough matches against the Crusaders, Hurricanes and Chiefs in recent weeks and won’t have to play one of them again until week 16. They are a well-drilled outfit with a back line that will be looking to assert themselves over their opposition on a dry track. The Brumbies have looked a better side with David Pocock back in the mix and he hasn’t skipped a beat, easily being the Brumbies man-of-the-match in their past two fixtures. He brings solidarity and leadership to a team that is struggling with a bit of an identity crisis, so it will be interesting to see how they go against a decent outfit like their opponents this week. The Highlanders have won their last eight matches against Australian opposition dating back to 2014 and I don’t expect that to change this weekend under the roof in Dunedin.
Predicted result: Highlanders to win @ $1.13 – Sportsbet
WARATAHS ($1.30) VS REDS ($3.50)
The penultimate match of round nine will see the Waratahs host the Reds in a traditional derby at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney. The Reds were comprehensively outplayed by the Brumbies in the second half last weekend, going down 21-45 in Canberra, however, the Waratahs looked good in notching up their fourth win of the season, this time with a comfortable 21-point victory over the Sunwolves in Tokyo. The Waratahs are currently riding a seven match winning streak over the Reds dating back to 2014, including the last three in Sydney.
This is the oldest rivalry in Australian rugby and a match all Waratahs and Reds players circle on their calendar before the start of each season. The Waratahs have been strong over the past few weeks beating the Rebels, Brumbies and Sunwolves and find themselves just one competition point shy of the table-topping Rebels in the Australian Conference. Brad Thorn’s Reds team is a big improvement of Nick Stiles’ outfit last season, but their inexperience and immaturity looks to have caught up with them. Despite the Reds forwards continuing to trouble their opposition at the set-pieces, the team has only managed to score 12 tries (2/game), compared to the Waratahs 26 (4.33/game). Another loss here for the Reds and their 2018 season could be light out and I think that’s what will happen in Sydney.
Predicted result: Waratahs to win @ $1.30 – Sportsbet
SHARKS ($1.50) VS BULLS ($2.60)
The final match of the round will see the Sharks welcome the Bulls to Kings Park in Durban. The Sharks return home from their four match tour with just the one overseas victory to their name, but they came within a whisker of beating the Hurricanes last weekend in what was a thrilling contest. The Bulls return from their bye sitting in fourth place in the South African Conference with just two wins from six outings this season. Interestingly, the Sharks are winless against the Bulls since 2014.
Over the last two weeks, the Sharks have put together some of the best overseas performance by any South African team in recent history. They have played the game at a high tempo, employed rush defence and used their power, skills and speed to run up 100 points. Sure their defence has leaked a few tries, but that is often the case when you play Kiwi teams. The Bulls will head into this fixture with confidence having completely dismantled the Stormers pack in Pretoria two weeks ago. They will be refreshed and will know that a bonus-point victory could see them finish the round in second position in the South African conference. The improvement in the Bulls this season has been astounding, but I’m prepared to back the red-hot Sharks, especially if they can reproduce the form they have shown the last two rounds.
Best Bet 1: Sharks -5.5 (vs Bulls) @ $1.90 – Sportsbet