Super Rugby Round 17 – 2017 Preview

Best Bet 1: Jaguares -6.5 @ $1.87 – Tab.co.nz

Best Bet 2: Chiefs -16.5 @ $1.87 – Tab.co.nz

Best Bet 3: Hurricanes -2.5 @ $1.82 – Tab.co.nz

Best Bet 4: Lions -8.5 @ $1.91 – Sportsbet

HIGHLANDERS ($1.05) VS REDS ($10.00)

The final round of the Super Rugby regular season kicks off on Friday afternoon with a match between the Highlanders and the Reds at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin. The Reds landed their first win in a month over the Australian conference-leading Brumbies last Friday, which will give them a lot of confidence heading into this match. The Reds also stunned the Highlanders in 2016, winning 27-26 at Suncorp Stadium, but they have only ever won one of the nine matches played against the Highlanders in the Otago region.

Highlanders: LLWLWWWBWWWWWWL
Reds: WLLLLLLLWBLLWBLLW

Prediction:

The Reds are well and truly out of contention, whereas the Highlanders have locked up the final playoff position from Australasia already. They will either play the Crusaders in Christchurch or the Lions in Johannesburg next weekend. As a result, coach Tony Brown has opted to rest both halfback Aaron Smith and Ben Smith from this clash, but has still called upon All Blacks Liam Coltman (hooker), Malakai Fekitoa (outside centre) and winger Waisake Naholo.
The Reds will be looking to finish their 4-10 season on a high, with this the last time many players get the opportunity to impress Wallabies coach Michael Cheika before next month’s Rugby Championship. Nick Stiles is looking to the future with his selections this week and they are going to find the going tough in New Zealand’s south island.
In what will be club legend Marty Banks’ final home game, along with the fact that their confidence will be riding high after a recent win over the British & Irish Lions, the Highlanders should have this one covered quite easily.

Predicted result: Highlanders to win @ $1.05 – Sportsbet

REBELS ($3.35) VS JAGUARES ($1.33)

The Rebels will host the Jaguares at AAMI Park in Melbourne on Friday evening in what will both be their last fixtures of the 2017 season. The Jaguares continued the Waratahs embarrassing season with a 40-27 victory in Sydney, whereas, the Rebels fell short (22-31) against the Force in Perth in a match that was being deemed ‘the battle of the axe’. This will be the first match and potentially the last, between the Rebels and the Jaguares in Super Rugby.

Rebels: LLBLLLBWDLLLLLLL
Jaguares: WLWWWBLLLLWLBLBLW

Prediction:

The Rebels have been woeful this season and a few recent signings suggest that they may be the team that maintains their Super Rugby status next season. Players like Colby Fainga’a, Lopeti Timani, Amanaki Mafi and Reece Hodge have been strong this season and Marika Koroibete is starting to show signs that he will be a good rugby union winger.  However, that’s not enough at this level and the departure of coach Tony McGahan speaks volumes of where the franchise currently is at.
The Jaguares will be satisfied with their win over the Waratahs in Sydney having felt the wrath of a more hungry Kings outfit the week before in Buenos Aires. Talent has never been an issue for the visitors, but more motivation, discipline, and consistency. Against the ‘Tahs, they were forced to play a period of the match with 13 men, but the pack led by Agustin Creevy and the backline marshalled by Nicholas Sanchez played extremely well as a unit. Statistically, they were probably the worse off of the two teams, however, they were clinical when it counted and made the most of their opportunities.
The Rebels have won one of their seven matches in Melbourne this season and the Jaguares play a high-paced game that should catch them short on pace and fitness. If the Jaguares turn up with last week’s attitude, they should win this match quite comfortably, even though their might be some fight from the Rebels early on, with Sean McMahon back in the line-up.

Predicted result: Jaguares to win @ $1.33 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 1: Jaguares -6.5 @ $1.87 – Tab.co.nz

KINGS ($1.53) VS CHEETAHS ($2.50)

The late night match on Friday will see the Kings host the Cheetahs at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth in what will be their final match in Super Rugby. The Kings will be ecstatic having beaten the Bulls for the first time in their short tenure, 31-30 on their sacred ground in Pretoria last weekend. The Cheetahs will be refreshed after their bye, but some of the rustiness they showed against the Stormers a couple of weeks ago, might still be there. The Kings and the Cheetahs have faced off on three occasions, with the men from Bloemfontein victorious in all three by an average margin of more than 13 points.

Kings: LWLLLBLLWWBWLLWW
Cheetahs: LWWLLLBLLLLLLWBL 

Prediction:

It’s pretty hard to bet against the Kings at the moment. They are playing with such courage, confidence and conviction despite failing to have the household names that other Super Rugby franchises possess. The Cheetahs are a team that has entertained many viewers over the past few years with their shining moment in this competition being a playoff run in 2013, which eventually ended with a loss to the Brumbies in Canberra. Both teams love to throw the ball around and can score tries from anywhere on the field, however, the Kings have proved this season that they have the more staunch defence, conceding 82 fewer points than the Cheetahs. I’ve backed against the Kings many times this season to no avail, so with the way they have constructed their season, I am going to back them to win in a high-scoring fixture. The overs would be my primary play here.

Predicted result: Kings to win @ $1.53 – Sportsbet

SUNWOLVES ($16.00) VS BLUES ($1.01)

The first of five Super Rugby matches on Saturday takes place at the Prince Chichibu Stadium in Tokyo, where the Sunwolves welcome the Blues. The Sunwolves return home for their last fixture of the season after suffering another big defeat, this time at the hands of the Stormers (15-52). This will be the Blues first game in six weeks and the first time they have traveled to Tokyo as a squad.

Sunwolves: LLLLLBWLLLLBLLLL
Blues: WLLLWWLLWWWLD 

Prediction:

This match has no implications on the playoff picture next week with both teams already out of contention. The Sunwolves have had a shocking season and have conceded 113 more points than the Rebels who are the second worst defensive team in the competition. The Blues are unlucky in the fact that they are in the New Zealand conference, as their 37 competition points would have them playoff bound and topping the Australian conference and assured of a wild card spot in South Africa. Despite the fact that there is little to play for, it will be Charlie Faumauina and Steven Luatua’s final game for the visitors and I expect them to run the Sunwolves off their feet in what is predicted to be stifling conditions.

Predicted result: Blues to win in a landslide @ $1.01 – Sportsbet

CHIEFS ($1.08) VS BRUMBIES ($8.00)

The Chiefs and the Brumbies will play their final regular season game on Saturday evening at the FMG Stadium in Hamilton. The Chiefs will be looking for maximum points this week as they look at finish as high up the ladder as possible and they will be well rested. The Brumbies have secured top spot in the Australia Conference, but they suffered a costly 15-16 loss to the Reds last week, which saw both Kyle Godwin (centre) and Aidan Toua (fullback) ruled out for the rest of the season through injury. The Chiefs have won their last two matches against the Brumbies and the last four played in Hamilton, dating back to 2004.

Chiefs: WWWWBWLWWWWBLDWW
Brumbies: LLWWLBWLLLBLWWWL 

Prediction:

As expected, Dave Rennie has rested All Blacks Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane and Anton Lienert-Brown, but has still managed to name a strong side for their final regular season match. Hooker Nathan Harris, halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow, the departing Aaron Cruden and Damian McKenzie are all starting having had little involvement in the British & Irish Lions series. Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has rung the changes for this week’s clash, with only three survivors (Scott Fardy, Wharenui Hawera, Henry Speight) from the loss to the Reds in Brisbane. He has also loaded the bench with six forwards, which implies he is expecting a physical, set-piece dominated battle.

I have a feeling this is going to get ugly for the Brumbies and the Chiefs are going to coast to a confidence-boosting victory. Last year, the Hamilton-based outfit scored their biggest win over the Brumbies with a 25-point victory and I believe they are going to better that on Saturday.

Predicted result: Chiefs to win comfortably @ $1.08 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 2: Chiefs -16.5 @ $1.87 – Tab.co.nz

HURRICANES ($1.62) VS CRUSADERS ($2.30)

The match of the round sees the reigning champion Hurricanes host the table-topping Crusaders at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. The Hurricanes will be looking to avenge their eight point (12-20) loss the Crusaders just a couple months ago and they will know that they have won the last three played in Wellington.

Hurricanes: WWLWBWWWWBWLWWL
Crusaders: WWWWWWBWWWWWLWW

Prediction:

The Hurricanes are aware that a win will see them lock down second position in the New Zealand competition and setup an ideal quarterfinal in Canberra against the Brumbies. If they lose, they open the door for the Chiefs to pass them on the competition ladder, which would see the ‘Canes off to Cape Town to play the Stormers. The Crusaders are out to keep their unbeaten season alive and a victory would see them secure the opportunity of a home final and a match against the Sharks next week in Christchurch.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has named his strongest line-up barring their hooker Dane Coles, who still remains on the sidelines. The pack needs to gain parity in the set piece as this is the area that they were outplayed earlier on in the season. If they can get some ascendancy up front and find a way to nullify Matt Todd and Kieran Read at the breakdown, their back line should be able to do the job. They all have Test match experience, barring Vince Aso, but he has shown this season that he wouldn’t look out of place with a bit more experience under his belt. Aso and Ngani Laumape have scored14 tries each this season, one shy of the 15-try season record set by Joe Roff (Brumbies in 1997) and Rico Gear (Crusaders 2005).

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has named a strong team, but definitely not their best for this match. The usual suspects in the front row, Joe Moody, Codie Taylor and Owen Franks have all been given the week off and Sam Whitelock has been selected on the bench. Kieran Read, fresh off leading the All Blacks to an enthralling draw against the British & Irish Lions will pack down at number eight, with Matt Todd named as the skipper. Richie Mo’unga has had a fantastic season in the ten jersey, alongside youngsters George Bridge (wing), David Havili (inside centre) and Jack Goodhue (outside centre), Israel Dagg will provide stability and impetus from fullback.

What a treat we are in for with a match that could easily disguise itself as an ‘extension’ of the Test match window with the amount of quality on show. The Hurricanes are fit and raring to go and the Crusaders are out to preserve what has been an excellent season. When it is all said and done, I expect the Hurricanes to balance the series ledger with a win over a Crusaders at a damp Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

Predicted result: Hurricanes to win @ $1.62 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 3: Hurricanes -2.5 @ $1.82 – Tab.co.nz

FORCE ($2.00) VS WARATAHS ($1.80)

The Force and the Waratahs will play their final match of the season at the nib Stadium in Perth. The Force secured a 31-22 win over the Rebels last weekend in the ‘battle of the axe’, whereas, the Waratahs season sunk to a new low with with their third consecutive loss, this time, a 27-40 shocker to the inconsistent Jaguares in Sydney.

Force: LWLBLLWBLLLWLWLW
Waratahs: WLLLLWLLBLWLBWLLL

Prediction:

The Waratahs have won the last two matches against the Force and the last seven of the nine matches played in Perth, but can you really trust the drive and desire of this team at the moment? The Force continue to fight above their weight and make it difficult for their opposition, despite not necessarily having the cattle that other teams have. In contrast, the Waratahs have household names like Michael Hooper, Bernard Foley and Israel Folau, but have leaked more points than any other team in ‘Tahs history and they are on track to equal their second-worst season on record since their inception in 1996.

Despite their developed rugby pathways and the popularity of the sport in the west, there are whispers that the Force is going to be the team that is evicted from the competition at the culmination of this season. It will be a shame, but maybe they can end things with a win over what should be the nation’s top franchise. I’ll certainly be cheering for them in a match that will be a serious deflation from the Hurricanes vs Crusaders humdinger before it.

Predicted result: Force to win @ $2.00 – Sportsbet

BULLS (2.40) VS STORMERS ($1.57)

The penultimate match of the regular season has pitted the Bulls against the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. The Stormers beat the Bulls 37-24 earlier this season in a nine-try bonanza in Cape Town.

Bulls: LLBWLLLWWBLLLLWL
Stormers: WWWBWWWLLLLBWLBWW

Prediction:

The Bulls have been disappointing this season and that was reiterated last week with their home loss to the Kings . Their coach (Nollis Marais) apologised to the fans after the match saying that no-one should be subjected to that kind of performance and the arrival of new coach John Mithcell next week can’t come soon enough. The Stormers were awful against the Sunwolves last week and we were very lucky to cover the handicap. I don’t have a lot of faith in them heading towards the pointy end of the season, but I am impressed with some of the youngsters coming through the ranks, including flyhallf Damien Willemse. Plucked straight out of the South African under 20’s team, he has shown maturity well beyond his years and a quarterfinal match will be great for his overall progress.

The Bulls will be looking to defend their land in the last game of what has been a tumultuous season, but the Stormers need to find some form and I think their dangerous back three of Seabelo Senate, Cheslin Kolbe and Dillyn Leads will be too much for the big boys from Pretoria.

Predicted result: Stormers to win @ $1.57 – Sportsbet

SHARKS (3.60) VS LIONS ($1.30)

The final match of the regular season sees the Sharks up against the Lions at Kings Park in Durban. The Lions are currently riding a four-game winning streak over the Sharks, including last year’s win in Durban that saw the visitors break a nine-game losing streak to their southern rivals at Kings Park.

Sharks: LWWWWLWBDWWLWWL
Lions: WWLWWBWWWWWWBW

Prediction:

The Sharks have locked up the eighth and final spot in the playoff structure and they will either be playing the Lions next weekend in Johannesburg, or the less attractive proposition of tackling the Crusaders in Christchurch. Most coaches will take a 9-4-1 record at the start of any season, but the Sharks haven’t always been at their best this season. They have a dogged forward pack and an accurate goal kicker in youngster Curwin Bosch, who is currently sitting in second place in the point scorer category with 140 (second the Elton Jantjies). He finds himself on the bench this week with Garth April selected at flyhallf and Lwazi Mvovo at fullback.

After falling at the final hurdle last season to the Hurricanes, the Lions have gone from strength-to-strength this season under the leadership of departing coach, Johan Ackermann. The have dropped just the one match after sending a ‘B’ team to Argentina, which was the same mistake that cost them a home final last year. They enter the business end of the tournament without their inspirational skipper and number eight Warren Whiteley, but they have shown that they have developed depth and a great sense of belief in themselves over the past three seasons. Former Sevens ace Kwagga Smith (flanker) has been a revelation in the 15-man code with his speed and fitness adding another dimension to Lions attacking play.

The Lions are roaring at the moment and even though the Sharks will provide some resistance, the Johannesburg-outfit are on another level at the moment and they will show that away from home again this weekend with a double-digit victory.

Predicted result: Lions to win @ $1.30 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 4: Lions -8.5 @ $1.91 – Sportsbet

Author

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Glenn

Glenn has followed rugby union for 19 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.

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