We are in the final month of the Super Rugby Pacific regular season and the battle for positioning is starting to heat up.
It is the Chiefs tournament to lose as they sit eight points clear of the chasing pack, with the Brumbies, Hurricanes, Blues and Crusaders separated by less than a game.
Behind them, the Reds, Waratahs, Highlanders, Rebels, Force and the Drua are engaged in a six way race for the final three spots in the Super Rugby playoffs.
There’s another full round of action coming up so we’ve got you covered with our Super Rugby match previews and best bets below.
Friday 5 May, 5:05pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium
After starting their season going a perfect nine for nine, it’s no surprise to see the Chiefs so heavily favoured over the three-win Highlanders.
When they met in March, the Chiefs comfortably accounted for their southern rivals by 21 points and with the trajectory of these sides, we could be looking at a similar margin.
There is not a lot of optimism surrounding the Highlanders on the back of three straight defeats, including a pair of losses in Australia suggests they are heading in the wrong direction.
In their last four games the Chiefs have managed to cover the line and have managed to do that in their last three games against the Highlanders as well so that is where our weekend betting will open up.
Chiefs to Cover -13.5 @ $1.91
Saturday 6 May, 12:05pm, HFC Bank Stadium
It is becoming a bit repetitive to say, but a trip to Fiji can act as the great equaliser between the Drua and their much more fancied opponents.
However the deeper we get into the 2023 season, the shock value of playing there is going to be lessened with sides having a better idea of what to expect.
Add in the fact the Hurricanes have gone a perfect four for four on the road this season and you have to like their chances to not only win, but close out what is bound to be a motivated and driven opponent.
It looks like the market is expecting the Drua to give the Canes a real test however this line is a little bit low for my liking and I’ll back the visitors to continue their strong road form.
Hurricanes to Cover -11.5 @ $1.91
Saturday 6 May, 2:35pm, Orangetheory Stadium
It’s fair to say that this is not the Crusaders team of old, but they are still a damn good side that should have no problems dispatching the Western Force on Saturday evening.
To be fair to the Force, they are making progress in 2023 but there is a pretty big gulf between these sides.
In Brisbane last Saturday night they had their moments and still wound up losing by 14 points.
At some stage the Crusaders are going to start to kick it up in preparation for the finals and this might be the time for them to lay down a marker.
Crusaders to Cover -24.5 @ $1.83
Saturday 6 May, 5:05pm, Eden Park
It’s another $1.02 favourite in what is unlikely to be an overly competitive game here.
The Blues have been locking teams down with the second best defensive record in Super Rugby Pacific, conceding just over 20 points per game.
On the other side, Moana Pasifika have been the least successful attack with an average of just 24 points per game.
It just boils down to how much the Blues want to get on with it in the second half and it would be a big surprise if this one is decided by less than 30.
Blues to Cover -24.5 @ $1.83
Saturday 6 May, 7:35pm, Queensland Country Bank Stadium
While neither team is going to be competing for the title this year, it’s always a must-watch encounter when the Reds take on the Waratahs.
This latest edition of the rivalry is going to have a different setting than what we are used to with the game being taken to Townsville as Suncorp is booked for the NRL this weekend.
On paper both teams have fallen short of where many expected them to be as they head into the weekend with losing records and occupying sixth and seventh on the table.
However should Queensland find a way to win, they could open up a healthy gap between themselves and the chasing pack in the battle to fill out the finals.
Coming off a strong win over the Force, the Reds look revitalised and if they can win the battle of the breakdown against the likes of Michael Hooper, their dangerous backline could fire in the tropical north.
Reds to Cover -2.5 @ $1.80
Sunday 7 May, 2:35pm, AAMI Park
Backing all the favourites is not the most creative of tipping strategies but some weeks you just have to roll with the simple choices.
Even though the Rebels took care of business against Moana Pasifika last week, it was far from a complete showing and it’s hard to see them matching up well with the Brumbies.
With the pressure of chasing a top two finish starting to pick up a notch, the Brumbies have to keep earning maximum points to keep the likes of the Hurricanes at bay.
In this instance, they should, they are a damn good team this year.
Brumbies to Cover -9.5 @ $1.91