Round seven of Super Rugby has come and gone and although it lacked the expected levels of high entertainment rugby that we have become accustomed to over the years, from a betting standpoint things went well having picked 3/5 match bets, including a five-leg multi-bet. The top three conference leaders in the Brumbies, Chiefs and Sharks remain the same, while the Reds, Crusaders and Cheetahs have all cemented top six positions. Just below them there is a deadlock which is exciting to see given that you could only confidently dispel the Force, Kings, and Rebels from making the playoffs later in the year. As the tournament progresses, the derby and cross-conference fixtures are likely to intensify and with the Australians jostling for Wallaby caps against the British & Irish Lions in June, it will no doubt make for some compelling rugby. Let’s have a look at this week’s fixtures and see if we can continue the good run we have had over the past two weekends. Happy 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: Highlanders +6.5 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 2: Crusaders +2.5 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet
Best Bet 3: Stormers -5.5 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet
Multi Bet: PYOL Kings +34.5/Stormers @ $2.01 – Sportsbet
Blues ($1.38) versus Highlanders ($3.10)
Time: Friday 5.35pm
The first match of round eight kicks off on Friday afternoon as the stuttering Blues play host to the current tournament wooden-spooners, the Highlanders in Auckland. Both teams have had less than acceptable starts to the season as the Blues have really gone off the boil in recent weeks, while the Highlanders have disappointed themselves, fans and punters alike.
Having won the first two games of the tournament, the Blues were looking well ahead of schedule given their wholesale spring cleanout and the introduction of a new coach in John Kirwan. Since then, some questionable selections and some better opposition have put the Blues to the sword and really brought them back down to earth. They still possess some extremely talented players with the likes of Rene Ranger, Piri Weepu and Ali Williams and this week sees the return of their inspirational leader Kevin Mealamu off the bench from a sabbatical after a rigorous few seasons of rugby. You can see that the future is bright for the Blues and they were always going to get outplayed by the Chiefs last weekend, but they are more than capable of causing a few upsets this year on the way to position four or five in the New Zealand conference.
Once touted as possible Super Rugby champions this year, the Highlanders have looked far from the polished outfit that they need to be at this stage of the competition. Their moments of brilliance are coupled with poor ball control, ill discipline and inaccuracy at the breakdown and often this is enough to see them on the wrong side of the scoreboard. The loss of Nasi Manu to injury has been huge, however, the Highlanders lack a loose forward that can create turnovers and get their fast paced backs in the game more regularly. The inclusion of Woodcock, Thorn and Nonu have made an effect, however, one might suggest that these players are past their primes and are better off joining the mass exodus of Super Rugby players to Japan. Mose Tuiali’i makes a return to Super Rugby after a few years out and Jamie Mackintosh also takes his place in the front row.
The Highlanders really need to win this weekend to break their tournament duck and out of all of the four bottom teams, they have the stronger squad on paper to make a late run for a possible playoff position. Eden Park is known as the Spiritual home of rugby and they will be hoping that luck and the rugby Gods are on their side this weekend because it is starting to look like do or die. All signs point to a tightly contested match, but the home ground advantage sways it for me and the Blues should win by a small margin.
Predicted result: Blues to edge it in a nail-biter but the odds are too short for a win @ $1.37 – Sportsbet
Best Bet: Highlanders +6.5 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet
Brumbies ($1.02) versus Kings ($14.00)
Time: Friday 7.40pm
The second match of the round sees the tournament front-runners, the Brumbies welcome the battling Eastern Province Kings to Canberra. The Brumbies are playing like they did a decade ago when names like Gregan, Larkham and Finegan were running around and coach Jake White seems to have found the right balance of personnel, structures and game plans to be perennial contenders over the next few years. The Kings on the other hand, playing their first season of Super Rugby have surprised many and in all honesty are doing no worse than the Lions have done in recent years.
The Brumbies escaped last week’s match with a victory having lost the weekend before to the Stormers. After dominating a penalty-ridden match that situated on two strong defences not willing to budge, the Bulls scored a long-range try, before the Brumbies eventually prevailed as the were awarded a controversial penalty which Christian Lealifano slotted with ease. Good teams know how to win when the odds are against them and that was the case last week, and the character they showed to get out of a sticky situation must be applauded. This week, the tough as nails Pat McCabe is reunited with Lealifano in the middle field, which will bolster their team even more, however, it will be interesting to see if McCabe has improved his distribution after a long injury layoff. These games are the ones that can inevitably be the difference between entering the playoffs with a home semi or having to travel half way around the world to compete. The Brumbies will have circled this match as a five-point must and no doubt they will do all they can do obtain a four-try bonus point in front of their home fans.
After a ‘strong’ start to the season at home, the Kings will now understand how Australasian tours are a different beast. Having lost comprehensively to the Crusaders and the Hurricanes, their defence is starting to leak which will be of great concern to their management staff. The Kings play with a never-say-die attitude which should be expected given their newcomers tag, however, they have the ability to score some great tries, often doing so in the dying minutes of matches. A few of their players will become more widely recognised as the season goes on and Demetri Katrakilis’ boot will keep them in reach if they can defend like they did against the Force and the Sharks in the earlier rounds. You get the feeling though that they are starting to feel the pinch and are looking forward to returning home to Port Elizabeth. This is evident given the number of changes that Matt Sexton has made for the clash this weekend.
The odds speak for themselves this week and I can’t see anything else other than a comfortable Brumbies victory. The Kings know how to fight, but it will be pretty clear this week why each team sits at the opposite ends of the tournament ladder and the Brumbies will once again stand proud at the top of the log. The inclement weather in Canberra might subdue things so a pick your own line option could work for the Kings as stated in the multi-bet.
Predicted result: Brumbies to win by 13+ @ $1.20 – Sportsbet
Sharks ($1.65) versus Crusaders ($2.30)
Time: Saturday 4:10am
In what should be the match of round eight, the Shark Tank will host a lively and electric encounter as the Crusaders come to town on the back of an impressive victory against the Stormers. The Crusaders are well into their stride after their traditional slow start, whereas the Sharks still sit comfortably up the top of the South African conference, having only suffered one loss at the hands of the Brumbies.
The Sharks currently sit as South African confidence leaders, but you can’t say that they have been overly convincing so far this season, bar their demolition of the under fire Rebels. They have a strong side on paper, but it is evident they are starting to miss the ‘indestructible’ like Bismarck du Plessis. Frans Steyn has been shifted to fullback for this week’s encounter and he is struggling to find form after recently weighing in at 117kg. They have all the ingredients to go deep into the playoffs, but they will be looking for more consistency before they have to travel overseas. Additionally, they are up against it statistically this week having only beaten the Crusaders three times from seventeen attempts. If they manage to win this week’s game it will go along way to propelling them forward and other teams will start to take more notice.
The Crusaders were up against it last week in Cape Town in what was a game that had all the feelings of test match rugby. In what many rugby fans find hard to believe, there was a portion of Cape-coloureds yet again supporting the Crusaders and making viewing unpleasant for others for some unknown reason. However, they were well and truly drowned out in a packed Newlands stadium of 52,000 passionate fans. The head of Western Province rugby stated that as a result of these individuals, they no longer hosts tests between the Springboks and the All Blacks. Anyway, the All Black’s lock pairing of Luke Romano and Sam Whitelock were instrumental in orchestrating the demise of the once very accurate Stormers lineout. No doubt this week will they envisage to disrupt the Sharks ball and quickly turn defence into attack, which we all know they have been so strong at over the years. The Crusaders are a team you don’t want to often bet against because they can never be counted out and their result last weekend reiterated this belief. Former New Zealand under-20 representative and player of the under 20 Rugby World Cup in 2010 had the unenviable task of filling the irreplaceable boots of one, Dan Carter, however, he played well under pressure and will be a much more confident individual because of it.
Both teams are plagued with injury, but then again both teams have enough depth and class to give this tournament a real shakeup in July. The Sharks are coming fresh off a bye, which can work with or against them and the Crusaders will be buzzing after last week’s impressive performance over the Stormers. This game could go either way, but the Sharks have been grinding out wins whereas the Crusaders look more of a threat so I’ll take them by a small margin.
Predicted result: Crusaders to win @ $2.30 – Sportsbet
Best Bet: Crusaders +2.5 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet
Hurricanes ($1.38 versus Waratahs ($3.10)
Time: Saturday 5.35pm
Windy Wellington will see a wide running Hurricanes outfit matched up against the Waratahs who lost week won their second consecutive match for the first time in almost a year. The home side ran riot when securing their third win in a row, but they were made to work for periods of the match against a brave Kings side who scored a few more points than they probably should’ve.
The Hurricanes seasoned veterans like Smith, Vito and Eaton continue to set an example for the younger brigade with the first two really demonstrating the qualities an established All Black are renowned for. Consistent players like centre Tim Bateman, winger Julian Savea and TJ Perenara continue to thrive on the Super Rugby stage and are no doubt in future All Black plans. Last week, the Hurricanes ran in six tries using a dominant forward platform and their skilful backs led by captain fantastic, Conrad Smith to shred the Kings defence on a number of occasions. They have somewhat of a lock crisis with Jeremy Thrush ruled out, so this is certainly an area that the Waratahs will look to target them. Ardie Savea, brother of All Blacks winger Julian, will make his eagerly anticipated debut for the Hurricanes and is certainly one to watch for the future. As a whole, their attacking game is worth the price of admission alone, but their defence will need to front if they are to start putting teams away.
The Waratahs were involved in an arm-wrestle last weekend against the Western Force at Allianz stadium in Sydney. There is not a lot I can write about it given the bore-fest that it was, but rugby-league and AFL recruit, Israel Folau looks to be maturing as a player and was exceptional under the high ball and added huge amounts of impetus on attack. Two Waratahs players, Benn Robinson and Adam Ashley-Cooper won their 100th caps and both players will have fond memories of the match with the former securing a key turnover late in the match and the latter crossed the chalk courtesy of one of his trademark fends. Michael Cheika was a relieved coach after the match and highlighted that some of the things they have been working on seem to be coming to fruition. The Hurricanes are a team that can quickly turn a match on it’s head and if the Waratahs defence isn’t water tight in structured and open play, they could very well be in for a long night.
Wellington is one of those places that can be perfect one minute and miserable the next and if the rain comes it will go along way to nullify the attacking threats of the home team. The Waratahs can only play better rugby as the season progresses, but the Hurricanes are a difficult prospect, either at home or away and should have enough artillery to reset the Waratahs consecutive win count on Saturday.
Predicted result: Hurricanes to win @ $1.38 – Sportsbet
Force ($1.45) versus Rebels ($2.75)
Time: Saturday 7.40pm
I can tell you now that this match will have as much entertainment value as Paul Walker film, but for rugby’s sake, I wouldn’t mind being proved wrong. Sure there will be the odd firework, but for the most part you have a really bad script, with out-of-form actors in a match that would do poorly at the box office, but could well decide the cellar-dweller of the Australian conference, or in fact the competition.
The Force don’t have the best record at home despite the massive sea of blue that turns up for them week in and week out. Although they don’t play the most exhilarating rugby, they have beaten the Reds and come up just short on a number of other occasions this year. Sias Ebersohn has proved a worthy recruit with his accurate goal kicking and their lanky lock Hugh McMeniman has been spoken about making his return to the gold jersey this year. If they sort out their ball retention and eliminate their lapses of concentration, they will start chalking up a few more wins. For them this is a must win game so I know they will be wanting to give their faithful supporters something to cheer about.
The Rebels will be looking to avoid their six straight defeat this weekend and the coach has made a number changes accordingly. Cooper Vuna returns to action via the bench after a one-match suspension as a result of the altercation he and team captain Gareth Delve had with the bad-boy Kurtley Beale. Delve sits out injured this week and Scott Higginbotham takes over the captaincy. The Rebels really don’t have a bad team on paper and could very well surprise everyone this weekend, but they will need players like O’Connor and Phipps to lead the way and collectively as a team refrain from giving away any unnecessary penalties.
Who would you pick? A team that is inconsistent, but capable of challenging some of the mid table teams or a team with international representatives embroiled in controversy both on and off the field. Round one saw the Rebels snatch a victory against the Force at home, but based on what I have seen in recent weeks, it is hard to pick a demoralised Rebels team that was taught a rugby lesson in South Africa and on their way home, one stop short of Melbourne. It is a game that I will stay away from though.
Predicted result: Force to win @ $1.45 – Sportsbet
Cheetahs ($2.77) versus Stormers ($1.45)
Time: Sunday 2.05am
The Cheetahs really need to beat the Stormers this week if they are to demonstrate they have the ability to win this tournament. I think it is a tall order given they have lost their promising fly half Johan Goosen for the season and as we are only at the halfway stage, there is a long, long way to go. This is a South African derby that will be worth staying up for as the Cheetahs have won four out of six and the Stormers will be smarting after a match they should have won against the Crusaders last week.
The Cheetahs have had success against overseas opposition in recent weeks as they currently are riding a four match win streak, however, their campaign will be judged on their effectiveness when it comes to matches against their South African conference rivals given they only had one success in eight attempts last year. They play four local derbies in the next four weekends so if the Cheetahs can prevail with two or three wins, their tails will be up and they will be fixing their eyes on their first ever playoff birth. Players like Robert Ebersohn, Willie le Roux and Heinrich Brussow have been all class so far and youngster Raymond Rhule doesn’t need an invitation to cross the try line.
The Stormers have been far from the side that clinched the regular season champion status last year, however, things get easier for them from here on in. Having only won two out of five fixtures so far, they need to get a roll on if they are to start striking fear into their opponent’s eyes like they once did. The Stormers suffered an additional three injuries last week in a bruising encounter and despite the good news that Eben Etzebeth and Bryan Habana look set to tour later in the month, the pressure is starting to build on the Western Cape franchise. Duane Vermuelen has been outstanding for the most part and it is good to see Juan de Jong getting a regular start. The versatile Deon Fourie continues to fight above his weight but fly half Elton Jantjies will need to start controlling games if he to make the number ten jersey his own.
Much like the Crusaders, you can’t underestimate this Stormers outfit and despite their mounting injury list, they have come up against some tough opposition to date (Bulls, Sharks, Chiefs, Brumbies and Crusaders). The Cheetahs have been playing well, but I think the Stormers will grind them down and come up trumps in Bloemfontein.
Predicted result: Stormers to win @ $1.45 – Sportsbet
Best Bet: Stormers -5.5 @ $1.92 – Sportsbet
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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