With the northern hemisphere season now over following the June internationals, attention switches to Super Rugby and we look at one game from each of the three conferences.
Rebels v Waratahs
It has been a much-improved season for the Melbourne-based outfit so far and a victory here would make them favourites to finish top of the Australian Conference.
That would give them a home game in the play-offs but they will have to overcome the side that resides in first position in the group, with the Waratahs one point ahead of Dave Wessels’ men.
This encounter is therefore important for both teams but it is imperative for the hosts, who have a harder run-in. While the ‘Tahs have two home games to finish, against very winnable opposition in the Sunwolves and Brumbies, Wessels’ charges have to visit the Reds and Highlanders.
The pressure is duly on for the Rebels to secure a positive result and they are 6/4 outsiders with William Hill to claim the victory, but we think that is a decent bet.
Although the reverse fixture was easily won by the Waratahs after scoring over 50 points in a 51-27 triumph, the Melbourne team have been on good form while the visitors have not. Despite that, Daryl Gibson’s charges are 8/13 with various bookmakers to defeat the Rebels at AAMI Park.
Highlanders v Chiefs
New Zealand derbies tend to make for the best games in Super Rugby and we expect a thriller in Suva on Saturday. Although top spot in the conference is effectively out of the question, with defending champions Crusaders once again showing their class this season, the teams could still put pressure on the Hurricanes for the final slot in the top-four.
The Highlanders appear the most likely to do that, however, with them coming into the game following successive victories and just five points behind the Wellington outfit. There would have been concerns after going down to the Waratahs but wins over the Reds and ‘Canes have got them back on track.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs were struggling for results before the break, losing three of their previous five matches, and are hoping to revitalise their campaign.
With the match taking place in Fiji, Aaron Mauger’s men have forgone home advantage but they are still seen as the most likely to take the victory at 4/7 with various bookmakers.
The Chiefs do have talent, particularly behind the scrum in All Blacks Damian McKenzie and Anton Lienert-Brown, but they are 7/4 with Marathonbet to claim the win.
Jaguares v Stormers
It has been an interesting year for Argentinian rugby, with the Jaguares performing so well and the national team struggling so badly. Daniel Hourcade’s men were abysmal in the June series after being comfortably beaten by both Scotland and Wales.
The players lacked intensity and it duly led to the end of Hourcade’s tenure, but how will the past three weeks affect the franchise? They are currently on a six-match winning run but the international defeats would have hurt those individuals.
On the other hand, playing back in Super Rugby under the highly regarded Mario Ledesma may give them a release. They are seen as clear favourites against a Stormers outfit that have struggled this season and are 37/100 with bet365 to clam a win.
Although the South Africans have a number of talented youngsters, they have been far too inconsistent and are pretty much out of the race for the play-offs. It is difficult to see them overcoming the Jaguares on Argentinian soil but, should the hosts mental scars linger from the June series, then 13/5 at BetStars is worth a shout.