As a result of the British & Irish Lions tour of Australia, a shortened round of Super Rugby awaits us this weekend with only two matches involving four Australian teams. However, this weekend will also see the commencement of the international test matches signalling a feast of rugby on this long weekend in Australia. The previews for these particular matches will be published on Saturday. Notwithstanding the game in hand the Brumbies currently have, they have the opportunity to head into the break on top of the league ladder. The Rebels, Waratahs and the Western Force have little left to play for in this competition, so we can only hope that the teams throw the ball around to spice up what are usually quite dour affairs. 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: Force to win @ $1.93 – Betfair
Brumbies ($1.18) versus Rebels ($4.75)
Round 17 kicks off this weekend in Canberra, where two provinces at opposite ends of the competition spectrum face off in what will be chilly conditions. Both teams are without their Wallabies who are in camp, which will most likely level the playing field given the Brumbies success to date. The Brumbies were victors last week against the Hurricanes in a high-scoring match at home, whilst the Rebels left Brisbane with their tails between their legs with no points, despite leading at halftime and seemingly having the Reds rattled.
In 2013, the Brumbies were the frontrunners of this year’s competition for a number of weeks, however recently, inconsistency and matches against tougher opposition have stifled their momentum. The Brumbies will have one thing on their mind and that is to win the Australian conference because if they do that, they will avoid the qualifying ramifications and potentially secure home field advantage. It is important to note that their record in Canberra yields a 6-1 record, which any team to settle for, but I have no doubt that the Rebels will think the Brumbies are ripe for the picking in this match. Young scrum half Nic White is in line to become the youngest Brumbies skipper in franchise history, which speaks volumes about what rugby world cup winning coach Jake White thinks about him. He will lead a team with a surprising amount of Super Rugby experience including the return of Pat McCabe, which will no doubt instigate a lot of interest from Robbie Deans and company.
The Rebels can throw a spanner in the works in the Australian conference this week if they were to down the Brumbies in Canberra. They are a much-improved outfit when comparing their recent results to those achieved in the first half of the season. However, the Brumbies simply have more to play for and the culture, both on and off the field, that Jake White has helped manufacture in Canberra should propel them to a third consecutive victory. Given the inclement weather, I don’t feel confident offering a suggestion for this match.
Predicted result: Brumbies to win @ $1.19 – Sportsbet
Force ($2.20) versus Waratahs ($1.67)
The Force and the Waratahs don’t have a lot left to play for in this year’s Super Rugby competition and they will face off on Sunday afternoon at NIB stadium in Perth. It was evident that the Force placed more importance on this match than they did with British & Irish Lions thrashing on Wednesday night by resting a number of first choice players. They are also coming off the bye, so some of their key players will be refreshed, but they will be up against a shorthanded Waratahs team who had the opportunity to beat the Crusaders at the death last week in Christchurch, but failed.
Unsurprisingly, coach Michael Cheika has named a weakened starting fifteen by recalling a number of players who have been on the fringe and received very little game time this season. The backline still boasts a number of quality players including Sevens ace Bernard Foley, rising sensation Cam Crawford and Drew Mitchell. Uncharacteristically, their forwards appear to be light on and the set piece battles will certainly be the areas in which the Force will look to dictate. In rather unfortunate news coming out of Sydney, rookie sensation Israel Folau appears likely to return to rugby league next season. He will be a huge loss to the game if the rumours appear to be true, much like it was when he left the thirteen-man game a few years ago.
The Force are coming off a 52 point thumping against the Lions, but they did manage to cross the chalk on two occasions and defended satisfactorily in patches against world class opposition. Coach Michael Foley has been scrutinized heavily by the media this week after refusing to let a number of regulars play in a game that was billed as a once in lifetime event. I believe some disharmony would’ve created from this decision, but at the end of the day rugby is a business and sometimes the tough decisions need to be made. At the time of writing this article, the Force are yet to name their team, which isn’t really a surprise as they are often the last team to do so, week-in and week-out. I will be interested to see who backs up from Wednesday night’s game, but the backs will most likely include Mathewson, Ebersohn, Godwin and Dellit. I would also assume that the forwards that played in the match will also back up. Therefore, the Force will have an almost complete starting fifteen when they match up against what is basically the Waratahs second fifteen.
The final match of Super Rugby for three weeks, most likely won’t be the spectacle that we all would hope for. For the Force’s sake, I hope they repay the faith shown in them by their sea of blue who turn up every week because if they can’t beat a severely depleted Waratahs outfit, there isn’t a lot of hope for the future of Western Force rugby.
Predicted result: Force to win @ $1.93 – Betfair
Best Bet: Force to win @ $1.93 – Betfair