The Super Rugby regular season ends this weekend and we take a look at the fixtures from a betting angle.
Punters have 7 games to look forward to this weekend, some of which are more important than others in terms of who makes the playoffs and in what positions.
To start off with though let’s have a look at the latest outright betting where the Crusaders have firmed from 8/10 to 6/10 favourites after yet another convincing display. Fellow New Zealand side, the Hurricanes, are 9/2 second favourites with the Chiefs 8/1, the Waratahs 10/1 and the Lions 12/1. The Jaguares and Highlanders are both trading at 20/1 and if you fancy the Sharks can somehow win this tournament you can get 100/1 about their chances – click here for outright betting.
The Chiefs and the Hurricanes get the weekend going with a New Zealand derby which should provide plenty of excitement. Both sides are guaranteed of qualification and will finish in their current log positions of 4th and 5th. The Chiefs beat the Brumbies 24-19 last week in a game where they started -14.5 favourites but the week before they were very impressive in beating the Highlanders 45-22 in Fiji. They now face a Hurricanes side which bounced back to form last week with a 42-24 win over the Blues at home, a victory that broke a run of 3 successive defeats, all of which came on the road. The Chiefs have generally had the better of the Hurricanes when hosting them and have won 4 of the last 5. This should be a close game and with neither side having to win I will side with the home team.
The Reds host the Sunwolves in Friday’s second game and this really doesn’t mean anything with both sides guaranteed to be ending their season when the final whistle goes. The Reds did put in one of their better performances of the season beating the Rebels 37-23 at home last week and they face a Sunwolves side which were given a 52 point beating by the Waratahs in Sydney, a game in which they played most of the second half with 14 men. The Sunwolves only win over an Australian team this season came against the Reds in Tokyo where they stunned the visitors 63-28. If conditions are good this should be a high scoring game but I am leaning towards a home win on the handicap which is -11.5 points.
The Highlanders and Rebels are first game up on Saturday morning South African time and if the Rebels can win this game they will ensure they progress to the last 8 and the Sharks will be out of the tournament. The Highlanders have lost their last 2 games against New Zealand opposition and in their only home game against an Australian side they beat the Brumbies 43-17. The Rebels are coming off successive losses to Australian sides and while they did beat the Blues in Auckland this season they were given big hidings by both the Crusaders and the Hurricanes in Melbourne. The Highlanders can beat the handicap of 12.5 points.
The Crusaders have wrapped up top spot on the New Zealand Conference as well as on the log thanks to 11 successive victories. They were too good for the Highlanders last weekend winning 45-22 in Christchurch where they have a 100% record this season. 2 of their 3 matches against New Zealand sides at home have been won by over 20 points. They also beat the Hurricanes by 11 points. The Blues have had a poor season despite competing for long periods with the Hurricanes they were blown away and lost by 18 points in Wellington. This was their 3rd loss in 3 away derbies this season although the other two were by closer margins going down by 2 to the Chiefs and 7 to the Highlanders. The Crusaders have won their last 10 home matches against the Blues and 4 of the last 6 have been by margins of 13 points or more. The Crusaders may step off the gas a bit and I think the Blues can stay within 16 points.
The Waratahs need to beat the Brumbies in Sydney to guarantee they finish above the top South African side in the conference and in so doing ensure they get a higher seeding if they make the semi-finals. The Waratahs have won their last 3 games which have all been in the Australian Conference but they have lost their last 2 matches at home that they played against the Brumbies. The Brumbies saw their playoff hopes extinguished when they lost to the Chiefs by 5 points in Hamilton last week and they had previously caused one of the upsets of the season betting the Hurricanes at home, their 3rd successive victory. While the Brumbies may have a decent recent record in Sydney I cannot see their motivational levels being anything close to what the Waratahs will be and for that reason I am betting on a comfortable home win.
The Lions v Bulls, this game will be covered in a separate preview.
The Sharks and the Jaguares bring the curtain down on the regular season when they meet in Durban on Saturday evening and previous results on the weekend will go a long way to determining the teams mind sets. If the Highlanders beat the Rebels earlier in the day then the Sharks will know that victory will see them through to the quarter-finals and while the Jaguares are ensured of qualification they will hope that the Bulls will have beaten the Lions which would give them the opportunity to top the South African Conference and get a playoff in Argentina. The Sharks were disappointing in going down to the Stormers in Cape Town last week having previously seen off the Lions at home and it is their home form that is impressive and they have won 4 on the trot since a big defeat to the Bulls earlier in the season. The Jaguares saw their 7 match unbeaten run ended by the Bulls in Pretoria last week and having raced to a 19-0 lead they will certainly feel that they may have blown their chances in the South African Conference. This will be their 3rd trip to Durban and they have lost the previous 2 by 4 and 5 point margins respectively with both encounters being low scoring with under 35 points total. I expect the Sharks to win this one by 5 points or more.
Chiefs v Hurricanes – click here to bet
Chiefs +3.5 at 9/10
Reds v Sunwolves – click here to bet
Reds -11.5 at 9/10
Highlanders v Rebels – click here to bet
Highlanders -12.5 at 9/10
Crusaders v Blues – click here to bet
Blues +15.5 at 9/10
Waratahs v Brumbies – click here to bet
Waratahs -6.5 at 9/10
Sharks v Jaguares – click here to bet
Sharks -4.5 at 9/10
Note: Prices correct at the time of posting but are subject to change