Super Rugby Week 16 Preview

Super Rugby 2017 Preview | Rugby Union | The Profits

A steady betting round has come and gone and this week we have another cluster of matches that will most likely see the higher ranked teams consolidate their positions at the top of the table. There are a number of short priced favourites this week, and it just goes to show that as the end of the season beckons, it is becoming increasingly difficult to pick winners. Teams across the southern hemisphere are now well aware what systems and structures are in place and will have their analysts working around the clock to highlight weaknesses in their opponents game plans and skillsets. Last weekend, the Chiefs made a huge statement by claiming victory over a well-drilled Crusaders outfit, denying them a losing bonus point in the process. The Chiefs will remain at the top of log this week heading into a relaxing weekend off, but the Brumbies and Bulls below them will want to turn the pressure gauge up by recording wins. The British and Irish invasion is less than a week away, but before then another six intriguing battles await us, so good luck with your 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: Waratahs +18.5 (PYOL)/Brumbies @ $1.91 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 2: Blues -3.5 @ $1.90 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 3: Rebels +18.5 (PYOL)/Kings +25.5(PYOL) @ $1.90 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 4: British & Irish Lions -12.5 (vs Barbarians) @ $1.90 – Sportsbet

Crusaders ($1.19) versus Waratahs ($4.75)

Round 16 kicks off this weekend in Christchurch, where two provinces who prior to last week losses, were considered to be the form teams of the competition, face off. Last week in a war of attrition in Hamilton, the Crusaders fell short and failed to achieve a losing point to the Chiefs, despite hammering the home side’s try line for large portions of the second half when the match was in the balance. The Waratahs on the other hand, could quite possibly have suffered a tournament-ending blow handing the Rebels their second victory in a row and their maiden triumph against the Sydneysiders.

As aforementioned, the Crusaders missed out on an ideal opportunity last week to move up the ladder. The Crusaders suffered a late setback before last week’s match when their All Black prop Owen Franks pulled out with an injury, handing Nepo Laulala with what would be a luckless Super Rugby debut. This disruption, coupled with the earlier withdrawal of hooker Corey Flynn was influential to the outcome of the match, as it allowed the Chiefs to dominate at scrum time and rattle a platform that is generally almost impossible to unsettle. Consequently, Dan Carter had one of his quieter games in recent memory as the Crusaders kicking game was undermined by the Chiefs. Some have described Aaron Cruden’s performance against one of the finest rugby players to ever live (Carter), as one where the student became the master.  It is no surprise that a front row forward has been guilty of conceding the most penalties given the lottery of the modern day scrum. In saying that, Wyatt Crockett will need to clean up this aspect of his game if he wishes to play more games for the technically-sound All Blacks after conceding 26 penalties to date. Matt Todd, the Crusaders top tackler this year, stocks continue to rise, however, I feel he has been hard done by not being an All Blacks squad inclusion.

After a number of weeks climbing the Super Rugby ladder, the Waratahs momentum was halted in Melbourne last week. Their away record has been catastrophic having only achieved one victory out of a possible six, adding to the challenge that the Crusaders will throw at them this week. Israel Folau and the other Waratah’s backs continue to thrive on the work done by fly half Bernard Foley, who currently leads the competition outright in terms of try assists with 11. He is a joy to watch and is a case in point that the IRB Sevens circuit is an exceptional breeding ground and development platforms that allows players to prosper in the 15-man game. It really is do or die for the Waratahs this week, despite coach Michael Cheika conceding they were out of the playoffs weeks ago before their brilliant change in form. It is a dangerous game from a betting standpoint, given the Waratahs prevalent inconsistencies.

Barring a few omissions, when you look at the team sheets, it looks more like an international test match as opposed to a provincial fixture. Both teams will be smarting after unexpected losses and if the wheels fall off in this one for either team, season 2013 could well be over. The Crusaders are the perennial superpowers of provincial rugby and the Waratahs are a year or two off playing with the consistency that is required at this level and on that basis, the Crusaders should win to keep their hopes alive.

Predicted resultCrusaders to win @ $1.19 – Sportsbet

Brumbies ($1.30) versus Hurricanes ($3.50)

The Brumbies return home to Canberra this weekend and are coming off a clinical performance in atrocious conditions in Auckland, to face a Hurricanes outfit that will be rejuvenated to make one final push for a long overdue playoff birth. A late onslaught by the Blues wasn’t enough to eclipse the Brumbies after a dominant first half display from the away team in trying conditions. In their last outing, the Hurricanes were neck and neck with the Chiefs for the majority of the match, before having a kick charged down to leak the only try of the match.

Driving rain and miserable conditions in Auckland confronted the Brumbies last week and if you haven’t watched the game, you can consider yourself lucky. Understandably, error rates were high and tries were scarce, with scrum half Nick White, unlucky not to be named in the Wallabies squad for their upcoming series against the Lions, pounced on a loose ball and skidded six metres to score the only try of the match. The front row unions from around the world would’ve been in rugby heaven as the match contained an astounding twenty minutes of scrummaging. In future, I see referees stopping the clock for collapsed scrums, which will ensure viewers are not put off by this necessary art of the game and to allow more time with the ball in play. The signing of Jake White and his associated support staff of Laurie Fisher, Stephen Larkham and company, has been a masterstroke and one of the best decisions Brumbies management have ever made. Through the advice and guidance of both a world cup coaching and world cup winning players, a new era in Canberra has dawned and one that looks like becoming very fruitful.

The Hurricanes will be well rested for this encounter, but much like the Waratahs, their away record has been a black mark on their season report card. When they get it right, they are an excellent team to watch and much of their spark is created by Beauden Barrett, who is someone that would’ve played more internationals by now if he wasn’t born in the land of the long white cloud. Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen, a promising young prop for Wellington has had an exceptional season and was rewarded by a call up to the All Blacks training squad recently, but both teams will be without his services for eight weeks after suffering a knee injury against the Chiefs. Young sensation Ardie Savea and brother of superstar Julian, will also miss this fixture, as he is involved with the New Zealand under-20 world cup side. On a brighter note, the New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) has granted the evergreen Conrad Smith a sabbatical at the end of the season to help prolong his career both for the Hurricanes and the All Blacks. He returns this week and will be joined by fellow All Black Dane Coles. These inclusions will be vital if the Hurricanes want to remain in touch with the tournament pacesetters and their fate still remains in their hands, just.

For varying reasons, this is a danger game for both teams. If the Brumbies lose, they will present the Reds with a glimmer of hope to overtake them after the international test window. If the Hurricanes lose, their season will be over and they will be able to begin their ITM Cup preparations a few weeks earlier than they would’ve liked. Both teams have star power across the field, but the Brumbies systems and poise in big matches will hold them in good stead and ensure that they finish on top of the Australian conference for a few more weeks.

Predicted resultBrumbies to win @ $1.30 – Sportsbet

Highlanders ($2.35) versus Blues ($1.59)

The frustrated and disheartened Highlanders return home to Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin this weekend to face a Blues team that would’ve received an absolute barrage in the change rooms after the match following their loss to the Brumbies. The Force managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat last weekend in front of their Perth faithful to the dismay of the Highlanders. Conversely, the Blues were down and out at home before managing to steal a losing bonus point, courtesy of a try through the impressive Rene Ranger and a late penalty goal.

In a match dominated by the boot, the Highlanders were made to pay after a number of costly errors late in the match, which has been a synonymous trait of theirs all season. At this stage of the competition, teams are battling with injuries and squad depth is paramount, but the Highlanders can’t use this excuse given a relatively full-strength squad. All Black Ben Smith has contributed significantly to a palpitating heartbeat of the Highlanders campaign this year, utilising remarkable positional play and incisive running to cut holes in opposition defences and leads the competition with 10 clean line breaks. Last week, Colin Slade came off the bench and upped the ante, so a start this week would be more than justified (at the time of writing – their team hasn’t been released). The Highlanders won both of these fixtures last year, so they will take some confidence out of that, but prior to that they were on the losing end since 2006.

After a dream start to the year, the Blues more so than others, have realised the arduous challenge that is Super Rugby. The momentum they worked so hard to accumulate has now perished and they can ill-afford to add to their two losses on the trot. Captain and recently retired All Black, Ali Williams stated that the Blues team lacked passion and desire and “should’ve given themselves an uppercut after their first half performance”. Retrospectively, the Blues have blown all expectations out of the water this season, and this result was a product of having a young squad that didn’t have the experience to combat a well-coached Brumbies outfit. Rene Ranger’s case for All Black (and fantasy rugby) selection continues to strengthen with every game he plays, as he features in the top ten for run metres (856m), line-breaks  (5), line break assists (5), try assists (5), offloads (21) and defensively for the second most pilfers (8) behind Reds ace Liam Gill (9). The Blues are a proud union and defeat to the Highlanders this weekend, is simply not an option.

I mentioned last week that I wouldn’t be backing the Highlanders again if they failed me, like they have done on so many occasions this year. For that reason, and the fact the Blues have more to play for, the men from Auckland should pick up some much needed credits from this match with the Super Rugby break looming.

Predicted result Blues to win @ $1.59 – Sportsbet

Reds ($1.27) versus Rebels ($3.70)

The stumbling Reds return to their fortress of Suncorp Stadium on Saturday evening to play a Rebels outfit running high on confidence after two successive victories. The Reds return home after a devastating and potentially season destroying tour of South Africa where they failed to taste victories against both the Cheetahs and the Stormers, last weekend. The Rebels on the other hand, playing without a handful of their stars, managed to topple one of the tournament high flyers, the Waratahs, in an impressive display.

The Reds will be looking to return to the winner’s circle this week after a lacklustre last few weeks. Alarmingly with the Reds sitting in fifth position, they have also played more matches than any of their ‘superiors’ above them. Last week, the controversial Quade Cooper had an opportunity to not only silence his critics, but to make his selection for the Wallabies a certainty, by putting in a dominant performance against the Stormers. It was hardly that, as the men from Cape Town frustrated him and in the process Quade cemented his number one position in tournament turnovers with 37 in total. Although, his goal kicking must be commended as he knocked them over from all angles. With 16 Wallabies in their match day 22, more was expected of the Reds and you have to expect a backlash from them in Brisbane this weekend. The loss of Digby Ioane for a few weeks was extremely evident against the Stormers as their backs looked ineffective to say the least and his absence could very well be detrimental to their campaign. The Reds unsuccessful tour of South Africa deteriorated even more when they were forced to spend an additional 24 hours in Cape Town as a result of an aircraft malfunction. This will impact their preparations against the Rebels as they will miss a key training session and could certainly still be feeling the effects of jetlag come kick-off. To combat this, Reds coach Ewen McKenzie has made five changes to the team that will run out this week.

The Rebels have impressed in recent weeks after a number of narrow losses in recent memory. Records continued to tumble this week as they managed to topple the Waratahs for the first time since their inception into the competition. A lot of their success can be attributed to players like Ged Robinson, Mitch Inman, and Scott Higginbotham, who is arguably in the best form of his life. The back half of the season has seen this Rebels outfit grow in leaps and bounds and there are reports that only a handful of additional wins will keep coach Damian Hill in charge next season. The Rebels forwards have improved exponentially over the course of the season, but they will meet their match against the Reds engine room in Brisbane. There has been some good news coming out of the Rebels camp today with James O’Connor named in the starting 15 after recovering from a sternum injury dealt to him by Rene Ranger of the Blues.

A few weeks ago, the Reds looked like their team of old when they strung together a number of impressive performances against some top quality opposition. Since then, the wheels have fallen off and they have looked rudderless at times, despite boasting some of the most level heads in the business. Conversely, the Rebels have gelled nicely in recent weeks and are finally turning their narrow losses into much needed victories. In saying that, the Reds very rarely stumble at home and they will know another defeat here would inflict some serious doubt into their campaign this year. Therefore, I am picking the Reds to bounce back this week.

Predicted result: Reds to win @ $1.27 – Sportsbet

Stormers ($1.07) versus Kings ($8.50)

Newlands Stadium in Cape Town, one of the most picturesque stadiums in world rugby will once again play host to an all South-African encounter between the blue and whites and the Kings from Port Elizabeth. Against the odds and in the face of adversity, the Stormers stood proud last week after achieving a morale boosting victory over the Reds. The tournament newcomers on the other hand, produced a strong first half performance, before letting the Cheetahs run riot in the second half.

Apart from the Waratahs unsatisfactory loss to the Rebels, the Stormers victory over the Reds was one of the biggest upsets of the round after flummoxing the Queensland franchise with an injury-depleted squad. In the post match interview, captain and warrior Jean de Villiers was elated and spoke of his team’s casualty ward comprising of 16 injuries. Three players made their debuts in front of a somewhat disappointing crowd at Newlands, but one thing is for certain is that they will never forget their giant-killing effort. Eben Etzebeth was mountainous in both defence and attack and highly influential in the lineouts and remaining injury free, looks likely to court the respect that Bakkies and Matfield once demanded. Jean de Villiers managed to overtake Corne Krige’s Stormers captaincy record and continues to grow, but I think he needs some time off to preserve himself for the showpiece attraction in the UK in two years time. Rain is forecast for this match on Saturday placing more emphasis on the forward battle and the Stormers look to have the edge here.

The Kings began the 2013 season with one of stingiest defences in the competition, but as the season wears on, the floodgates have well and truly opened. This can be attributed directly to tiring players and the high-level analysis that is customary of the opposition at this level. Demetri Catrakilis, an initial Springbok training squad call up, continued his accurate goal kicking and is a much better player than when he was considered the fourth choice fly half at the Stormers last season. Argentina’s Nicolas Vergallo, who hasn’t received as much game time as one would’ve expected as a result of Shaun Venter’s form, scored a late consolation try for the Kings last week, which illuminates their willingness to fight to the death. The Kings are yet to face the Stormers in this competition, but it won’t be the last time they play them this year, with a round 19 fixture built into the schedule.

The Stormers are a proud union in South Africa and regularly feature up the top of the table, both in international and domestic competitions. This season has been catastrophic, but with a number of home games remaining, they have the opportunity to restore some pride. The Kings have been more than inspiring in their inaugural season, despite sitting third last on the ladder. In this long and gruelling competition, the team with the best depth and experience generally prevails, which means this match should culminate with a Stormers victory.

Predicted resultStormers to win @ $1.07 – Sportsbet

Cheetahs ($2.20) versus Bulls ($1.67)

The match of the round sees a top of the South African conference clash as the Cheetahs host a red hot Bulls unit in Bloemfontein. As a result of their lacklustre performances since their arrival into Super Rugby, the Cheetahs have never really had doubters to silence. Things have changed this year as they have recorded nine wins from thirteen attempts, including a bonus point victory over the Kings last week. Similarly, the Bulls were victorious against the Sharks last weekend in Durban in a typically bruising and defensively dominant South African affair.

The Cheetahs have overcome a number of obstacles this year and have made a lot of teams and fans stand up and notice them. After a seesaw start to the match in Port Elizabeth last week, the Cheetahs managed to cross the chalk on three occasions in the second half to run out comfortable winners. Willie Le Roux has been a standout performer for the Cheetahs this year and his elevation into the Bok setup is much deserved. Although he doesn’t have the pace or size of some of the other outside backs going around, he reads the game exceptionally well and can spark something out of nothing at a moments notice. Lappies Labushcagne continues to top the tackler count for the season (214), despite giving a number of kilos away to the brute strength and size of a traditional South African back rower. There aren’t a lot of negatives to write about the Cheetahs this year, however, after analysing some seasonal statistics, worryingly backs Robert Ebersohn (31) and Raymond Rhule (32), sit in position two and three for most tackles missed. This is an area that they will certainly need to tidy up this week if they are to pose any serious threat to the Bulls.

The Cheetahs will pose a different threat to the Bulls than what they have been confronted with in recent weeks. The Bulls will need too improve on their scrumming performance after being smashed off the ball against the Sharks in Durban. This is certainly an area that their future opponents will look to target them, which is a far cry from the Bulls scrum of yesteryear. Morne Steyn has had his critics over the years and last season was dropped by the Springboks after tiring domestic and international campaigns. The extra time away from the game has paid dividends and his kicking game is second to none when compared to anyone else in the competition. He has kicked the ball 6000 metres this year, a lengthy two kilometres more than his nearest chaser. This statistic reiterates the Bulls game plan that has worked so well for them for so long, combining a dominant forward pack with pinpoint kicking to keep the team going forwards. Things won’t change this weekend with both teams evenly matched across the park, and you get the feeling that a piece of brilliance could well be the difference on the scoreboard.

This is an extremely difficult match to predict as both teams collectively have recorded more wins (18) than the bottom five ranked teams combined. The Bulls are riding a seven-match win streak and have never been defeated by the Cheetahs since their inception into Super Rugby in 1996 (the average defeat margin has been 15 points). Both clubs are exciting to watch, but at the end of the day, it is hard to ignore the form of the Bulls and this local derby is one not to be missed.

Predicted resultBulls to win @ $1.67 – Sportsbet

Author

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

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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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