With the regular Super Rugby season reaching its penultimate weekend, we look at the best bets from three games which have play-off ramifications.
Hurricanes v Blues
It has been a difficult few weeks for Chris Boyd’s men, who have seen their chances of topping the New Zealand Conference dashed. They have suffered three defeats in succession, which culminated in a particularly disappointing 24-12 loss at the Brumbies.
They have an opportunity to halt that run, however, when the Wellington outfit host intra-country rivals and strugglers Blues at the Westpac Stadium. Fourth position – and a home game in the Qualifiers – is still very much in their hands and this game should, on paper at least, be a comfortable victory for the Hurricanes.
The Blues have endured another frustrating campaign and, despite their pressure-relieving triumph over the Reds, Tana Umaga’s charges have not played well in 2018. The visitors are duly outsiders for this contest at 5/1 with Sky Bet while the home team are 17/100 at bet365 to claim a victory.
With the talent that the Aucklanders have, it should not be a foregone conclusion though. In Rieko Ioane they have the most devastating runner in world rugby and he has shown that form for Umaga’s team this year.
He is playing out of position at 12 on Saturday but, even then, odds of 25/1 (Betfair) for him to be first try-scorer seems far too long.
Bulls v Jaguares
The Argentinians’ record now stands at seven consecutive victories following their triumph over the Stormers and an eighth would take them to the top of the South African Conference. They have been in exceptional form – in stark contrast to that of the national team – and look set to qualify for the play-offs.
A victory in Pretoria would certainly go a long way towards achieving those goals but they are not favourites for this encounter, despite the hosts’ inconsistency in 2018. The bookmakers are struggling to pick a clear winner, with the Bulls 5/6 at bet365 and 888sport, while Marathonbet have the Jaguares down at 61/50 to continue their run.
The visitors are favoured to touch down first, however, with Ramiro Moyano and Bautista Delguy on the list. In particular, the right wing has been excellent recently and was a constant threat to the Stormers’ defence in Round 17, running for 133 metres in the contest. Delguy is therefore a player the Bulls will have to be wary of and 14/1 at bet365 represents decent value.
The South Africans’ best bets to cross the whitewash first are Divan Rossouw and Jamba Ulengo, but further down the list is Jesse Kriel, who is 20/1 (bet365), and he may be a better shout.
Stormers v Sharks
The other crucial match in the South African Conference sees the Sharks head to Cape Town to face the Stormers, looking to move into the play-off places.
Following the Rebels’ defeat to the Reds on Friday, Robert du Preez’s men can overtake the Australians in the table with them just three points in arrears. They have secured four victories in the last six and were impressive in overcoming conference leaders Lions last week.
As a result, it is a difficult one to call according to the bookmakers. They see home advantage as a factor and think the Stormers have the edge, with them 4/5 at a number of companies to claim a victory, while the visitors are 6/5 at BetStars and Betway.
Those odds do not follow the form book with the hosts on a four-match losing run and the Sharks winning seven of their past 10 meetings against Robbie Fleck’s outfit.
We do think it will be close, however. There isn’t usually too much between these sides and the away team are 6/1 with Ladbrokes and Coral to win by 1-5 points.