The following are previews with betting tips for Round 14 of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
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Please note that to take advantage of odds before they possibly shorten, these previews are published before the team sheets are announced. Those who are more risk averse may prefer to wait for the squad lists before wagering, especially given the enforced resting of international players this season.
Friday, 17 May
Hurricanes vs Jaguares
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The Hurricanes took their opportunities and defended well to defeat the Blues 22-12 in Auckland last week. They did so with just one-third of the territory and possession. The Hurricanes are now 9-1-2 for the season, with both defeats coming against the Crusaders. They are virtually assured a playoff place but will be keen to poach the first overall seed from the Crusaders given the Cantabrians’ flawless playoff record in Christchurch. In team news, All Blacks fly-half Beauden Barrett is being rested this week.
Jaguares started their four-game Australasian tour with a 27-32 defeat to the Highlanders. After falling behind on the scoreboard they kept the hosts tryless in the second half, but ill-discipline proved to be their undoing (not for the first time) as they conceded six penalties in the final seven minutes to allow the Highlanders to control the closing stages.
Betting: the Hurricanes have won both previous meetings comfortably and they have gone 8-0 as the home favourite over the last 12 months while the Jaguares have gone 2-8 away from home. I’m not willing to take the hosts at the line, however, given they only beat the Sunwolves by 6 points the last time Barrett was rested. I would back the Jaguares +20.5 at 1.40 (Sportsbet).
Rebels vs Bulls
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The Rebels picked up a crucial 30-24 home win over the Reds last week to end a three-game losing streak. They took advantage of the Reds’ ill-discipline by scoring 17 points during the two stints where the visitors had a player in the sin bin. The Rebels now sit just one point behind the conference-leading Brumbies who have a bye this week. Fly-half Quade Cooper picked up a concussion against the Reds but has since passed concussion protocols and has been named in the starting XV. Fellow fly-half Matt Toomua has joined this week from English club Leicester and will start on the bench.
The Bulls’ run of win, loss, win, loss… continued for the 8th straight week as they were swatted aside 13-45 by the Crusaders at home last week. They were crushed 20-56 at home by the Chiefs earlier in the season so Kiwi opponents have been a source of pain this campaign. Their decision to kick possession away aimlessly is not a good strategy against the Kiwi teams. The Bulls now embark on a four-game tour of Australia and New Zealand. They haven’t won a game outside South Africa since 2016, so these next four rounds could derail their playoff chances.
Betting: the Rebels have gone 5-1 as the home favourite over the last 12 months. Given the Bulls’ recent struggles away from South Africa I will back the Rebels in the head-to-head at 1.40 (Ladbrokes, Unibet).
Saturday, 18 May
Blues vs Chiefs
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The Blues dominated virtually every facet of the game except the scoreboard last week as they fell 12-22 to the Hurricanes. Ultimately the 18 turnovers conceded undid their cause. It was just the Blues’ second home defeat since their 2-point loss to the Crusaders in Round 1. They should take the positives from that competitive performance, particularly at the scrum, as they battle the Chiefs to avoid the wooden spoon in the New Zealand conference.
The Chiefs have kept their slender playoff hopes alive by defeating the Sharks 29-23 last week. Defence won the day as they repelled wave after wave of Sharks attacks as the visitors dominated territory and possession. The Chiefs remain five points adrift of the 8th playoff spot and still have a bye to serve as well as a Crusaders fixture, so they can ill afford to drop points this week. In team news, Sam Cane may return as early as this week after recovering from a long-term injury.
Betting: the Chiefs have gone 11-1-0 in their last 12 meetings against the Blues, but the Blues at home this season are a tough prospect. Of the last 17 meetings between the two, 14 were settled by 12 points or less so I would back both the Blues 1-12 at 2.80 (Sportsbet) and the Chiefs 1-12 at 3.65 (TopBetta).
Reds vs Waratahs
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The Reds fought valiantly but ultimately fell 24-30 to the Rebels in Melbourne last week to extend their unwanted run of winning just 1 of their last 12 Australian derbies away from Brisbane. They were their own worse enemies at times as the Reds picked up two yellow cards during the match, with 17 points scored during those two sin bin periods. With some tough fixtures coming up this is arguably a must-win match for the Queenslanders. In their favour is the fact that they’re stronger at Suncorp Stadium. Four of their six defeats this season have been away from Brisbane.
The Waratahs will be left to rue some questionable refereeing decisions as they were edged 28-29 by the Lions on Johannesburg last week. They return from South Africa without a win but can take solace from the fact that they picked up 2 valuable bonus points. Nevertheless the Waratahs have won only 1 of their last 6 fixtures. This week provides a key opportunity to bite into the Brumbies lead in the Australian conference as the Canberra side has its second bye week.
Betting: the Waratahs have won their last ten straight against the Reds but they have also lost their last four straight away fixtures. The last three meetings in Queensland were settled by an average of 5 points so if I were to bet on this fixture I would back both the Reds 1-12 at 3.40 (bet365 and the Waratahs 1-12 at 3.00 (Sportsbet).
Lions vs Highlanders
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The Lions edged the Waratahs 29-28 last week to move to within 3 points of the South African conference leading Sharks. They never actually looked in control of the match and were helped by some controversial late refereeing decisions. They still have fixtures against the Sharks, Stormers and Bulls to come, so the Lions’ goal of reaching a 4th consecutive final remains in their own hands.
The Highlanders continued their recovery from a bad early season slump by defeating the dangerous Jaguares 32-27 in Dunedin. The visitors were on a 4-game winning streak themselves but the Highlanders were the more composed team late in the game as the Jaguares coughed up costly penalties. The Highlanders have now gone 3-1-0 following their 0-1-5 run. One aspect of improvement has been the stability in the fly-half position, with Josh Ioane looking better by the week in his debut season. In team news, Liam Squire’s comeback from injury has been delayed by a few weeks due to personal issues.
Betting: the Highlanders are one of those teams who are much happier at home. Ignoring their null-result with the Crusaders, they have gone 3-1-1 at home and 2-4 away from Dunedin this season. The last five meetings between the two were won by the home team so I would back the Lions in the head-to-head at 1.90 (Ladbrokes). I expect the Highlanders will be competitive so for those looking for more risk I would back the Lions 1-12 at 3.10 (bet365, Sportsbet).
Sunday, 19 May
Stormers vs Crusaders
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Prior to their bye last week the Stormers fell 15-20 to the Jaguares in Argentina to slide to 5-6 for the season. It was a scrappy affair littered with mistakes and poor discipline by both sides. They only managed one try, with most of the Stormers’ points stemming from ill-discipline by the hosts. In team news, Siya Kolisi and Frans Malherbe will most likely return this week after being rested against the Jaguares.
The Crusaders bounced back from their shock home draw against the Sharks by thrashing the Bulls 45-13 in Pretoria last week. Fly-half Richie Mo’unga proved his worth by scoring two tries to steer the side to victory. Mo’unga was rested for both shock results against the Sharks and the Waratahs. The Crusaders are undefeated this season when he has played. As has been the case in many games this season, one major dampener on their form has been the number of penalties conceded. If they can improve on their discipline the Crusaders would become a terrifying prospect.
Betting: the Crusaders have won their last seven straight against the Stormers and have gone 5-1 away from home over the last 12 months. I would back the Crusaders in the head-to-head at 1.20 (bet365, Unibet).
Best Bets of the Round
Back the Rebels in the head-to-head at 1.40 (Ladbrokes, Unibet)
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