117 days after South Africa successfully defended their Rugby World Cup crown, the third iteration of Super Rugby Pacific will kick off featuring some of the Southern Hemisphere’s best talent.
Granted, a looming cloud hovers over the competition with an uncertain future and an uneasy truce between the governing bodies for the time being, but there promises to be plenty of drama once the on-field action kicks off.
In a surprise to absolutely nobody, this is expected to be a very New Zealand centric competition (again) as the balance of power remains on the “other side” of the Tasman.
That will not prevent the Aussie teams such as the Brumbies, Waratahs and Reds from trying to spring a few upsets.
Not to mention for the keen rugby punters there is value to be found in the Super Rugby betting markets and we’re looking to start the new season off on a winning note.
Friday 23 February, 5:05pm, FMG Stadium
Chiefs 33 – Crusaders 29
The executives did not want to waste any time scheduling this blockbuster between the two competition favourites to kick start the 2024 season.
It was the Crusaders emerging victorious in a tense final last season where the Chiefs suffered from ill discipline at the worst possible time, receiving three yellow cards including a crucial one eight minutes from time that allowed the Crusaders to score 10 points and win 25-20.
However the reigning champions have suffered a major blow in the lead up to this game with star fullback Will Jordan being ruled out for the season.
While that is a massive loss, such is the Crusaders production line, chances are they have a ready-made replacement that will wind up scoring 15 tries this season.
However it will not be an instant solution, especially with the late revelation about Jordan that might have them on their heels a bit this week.
Not to mention in the opening match of last season, the Chiefs stunned an out of sorts Crusaders side 31-10 in Christchurch and they will have revenge on their minds.
They did lose a couple of key players this offseason including Brodie Retallick, Sam Cane and Pita-Gus Sowakula, all of whom started in that final but they have the depth to overcome those departures.
It might be same old, same old when these two meet later in the season but for now I’ll jump on the Chiefs to win and cover.
Chiefs to Cover -5.5 @ $1.88
Friday 23 February, 7:35pm, AAMI Park
Rebels 3 – Brumbies 30
As they prepare to kick off their 14th season of existence, the lingering question over the Rebels future is something that cannot be ignored.
With the club operating under the purview of the administrators and the remaining club figures only contracted to the end of the current season, you have to wonder about where the Rebels mindset will be as they prepare to take on the heavily fancied Brumbies.
In all fairness, were it not for the off field woes you’d have to think the Rebels might be slightly more competitive this season with a couple of big signings in the forward pack, with Taniela Tupou and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.
Conversely the Brumbies have been relatively quiet in their recruitment but the results this team has produced of late speaks for themselves.
Over the last three years this has been a pretty one-sided affair with the Brumbies winning the last six and I’ll be backing a big victory for the visitors here.
Brumbies to Cover -7.5 @ $1.88
Friday 23 February, 10:00pm, HBF Park
Force 14 – Hurricanes 44
To make some noise in 2024, the Force will need a couple of things to go right for them starting with some injury luck and playing well on their home turf.
Trips to Perth are never easy, no matter what the sport and plenty of teams have found themselves brought undone at HBF Park.
Last season the Force stunned the Hurricanes 27-22 with a late converted try and they will be desperate to repeat that scenario here.
There has been plenty of turnover in their squad over the offseason with a number of notable departures but the experience they have brought in speaks for itself.
Santiago Medrano and Harry Hoopert will shore up the front row, Nic White and Ben Donaldson will add some guile in the key scrumhalf-flyhalf duo and English winger Harry Potter will at least be good for a couple of magic-pun related one-liners in commentary.
I have no doubt the Hurricanes are the better team, but taking a long trip like this first up, combinged with the departures of players like Dane Coles, Owen Franks plus Ardie and Julian Savea leaves some big holes to fill.
The Canes should still win this game but it might not be the automatic training run some are expecting.
Western Force to Cover +12.5 @ $1.88
Saturday 24 February, 2:35pm, Semenoff Stadium (Whangarei)
Blues 34 – Drua 10
After an impressive 2023 campaign resulted in the Drua’s maiden finals appearance, we are eagerly awaiting what the competition’s most enjoyable team has in store for a sequel in 2024.
On the back of Fiji’s run to the Quarter Finals in the World Cup, the expectations for their local team have now been raised and they have an interesting first up assignment.
The Blues have lost one of their main stars for the season with Beauden Barrett off playing in Japan, while a couple other key squad members have departed, but they should still be well placed for another top four challenge in 2024.
As the home team, the Blues are taking this game away from Eden Park, a few hours north to Whangarei where the Semenoff Stadium will welcome the two teams.
It is no surprise that the Blues are favoured by over two converted tries, but the -16.5 line at publish looks to be about right with the two meetings between these teams finishing with 16 and 17 point margins.
Not to mention the Drua’s free flowing style leaning into the potential for a back door cover in second half added time even if the win is out of the question.
What I am expecting here is plenty of points, a whole lot of tries and this game to come close to a point per minute affair.
Over 61.5 Points @ $1.88
Saturday 24 February, 5:05pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium
Highlanders 35 – Moana Pasifika 21
It is going to be an interesting season for the Highlanders, coming off a very disappointing ninth placed finish last season that yielded just five wins and saw them miss the finals on points difference.
With club icon Aaron Smith departing for Toyota Verblitz in Japan, someone is going to have to step up and fill the leadership void in the team.
There is a long way for them to go to catch up on their local rivals but on the plus side, Moana Pasifika should be an automatic bonus point win to start the season.
Especially getting them first up at Forsyth Barr Stadium, a venue the Highlanders closed out last season with a couple of desperation wins.
It will be a common theme throughout the season, but I’ll be backing against Moana Pasifika at the line as they just don’t offer a whole lot of hope, even against the stragglers of the New Zealand based teams.
Highlanders to Cover -10.5 @ $1.88
Saturday 24 February, 8:05pm, Suncorp Stadium
Reds 40 – Waratahs 22
How important is a new voice at Ballymore?
We’ll get our first chance at a proper evaluation when the Reds host their main rivals the Waratahs in their season opener.
New coach Les Kiss replaces Brad Thorn, whose impact at revitalising the Reds had to be lauded but there was no question his influence was waning and the Reds brought in the experienced coach to replace the two-code World Cup winner.
The Reds have sought to add some bulk to their forward pack with props Jeffery Toomaga-Alllen and Alex Hodgman replacing the departed Harry Hoopert and Taniela Toupou, although Toupou missed all of last season rehabbing from an Achilles injury.
All is not well with the Tahs, with coach Darren Coleman under a surprising amount of pressure to deliver some early season results despite the squad being notably weaker compared to 2023.
Former Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is off playing Sevens, while Ben Donaldson has gone to the Force and veteran winger Nemani Nadolo has opted to retire.
They still have some good players in their team but they just seem to be a side riddled with dysfunction and might be in for a rough start to the season.
Reds to Cover -6.5 @ $1.88
The World Cup year in the Southern Hemisphere officially gets underway this weekend with the opening round of Super Rugby Pacific.
Every game will mean just a little bit more for the players as they eye off a spot in their respective national squads that will be travelling to France in September.
It all gets underway on Friday evening with the tournament favourites the Crusaders taking on third favourites the Chiefs in what could very well be a preview of June’s final.
For the Aussies, the 2022 Semi Finalists the Brumbies will be tasked with leading the way once more, however the Waratahs and Reds will be eyeing off a return to the finals as well.
We’ve got you covered all season starting with our Round 1 previews and best bets below.
Friday 24 February, 5:05pm, Orangetheory Stadium
Crusaders 10 – Chiefs 31
It’s the tried and true theory with Super Rugby, don’t back against the Crusaders.
In last year’s Semi Final, the boys from Canterbury took care of their local rivals 20-7 and they are returning essentially the same squad, minus winger George Bridge.
As for the Chiefs they welcome back playmaker Damian McKenzie from Tokyo Sungoliath as he looks to press his case for All Blacks selection.
It might not be an easy win for the home side but they should find a way to get the job done to start the season.
The Crusaders tend to start off a little slowly, and even on their day a blowout seems unlikely so I’ll start the year off backing them to win a close one.
Back the Crusaders to Win by 1-12 Points @ $3.00
Friday 24 February, 7:35pm, Allianz Stadium
Waratahs 25 – Brumbies 31
It’s tough to really class this as a rivalry considering the Brumbies carry a nine game winning streak against the Waratahs into this season opener.
The Brumbies have lost a trio of key players in Scott Sio, Folau Fainga’a and Tom Banks, as well as coach Dan McKellar who has taken up an assistant role on Eddie Jones’ staff.
Stephen Larkham steps into the void and with a couple of notable backline changes they should be able to keep rolling.
As for the Waratahs, there is no question they have strengthened their team with the additions of Tom Lambert, Tolu Latu and Fijian flyer Nemani Nadolo but it’s tough to say they have definitively closed the gap on the Brumbies.
The Tahs may force me to eat my words on Friday night but for the time being I’ll continue to give the benefit of the doubt to the Brumbies.
Back the Brumbies to Cover -1.5 @ $1.91
Saturday 25 February, 2:35pm, Mt Smart Stadium
Moana Pasifika 34 – Drua 36
A battle between the competition’s newest sides kicks off a busy Saturday afternoon of action.
The Drua claimed the lone meeting between the sides last season 34-19 in Sydney and will start as favourites for this game as well.
As expected they have bolstered their squad with a number of players from the local Fijian competition while also adding some top level experience with the likes of Emosi Tuqiri and Mesake Doge.
Aaron Mauger will have a big task ahead of him steering the Pasifika side off the bottom of the standings with their two win campaign in 2022 an expected beginning to their life in Super Rugby.
The Drua look like the much stronger side and they should find a way to hit the ground running and take care of business in this game.
Back Fiji to Cover -2.5 @ $1.91
Saturday 25 February, 5:05pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium
Highlanders 20 – Blues 60
It’s a repeat of the 1-8 Quarter Final from last season with the minor premiers Blues travelling south to take on the Highlanders in the always raucous Forsyth Barr Stadium.
For the Auckland based side, they had no reason to mess with what was a largely successful formula and have returned most of their squad as they chase silverware once again.
The Highlanders have taken over the mantle as the liability of the New Zealand conference, although the rest of the group sets such a high bar, that is not the insult some may think.
They will be competitive with plenty of teams throughout the season but this is a less than ideal starting point for them with a very strong Blues team coming to town.
Taking any side on the road that is favoured by more than a converted try is always a dicey proposition but the Blues are a good side and they love to attack, it’s tough to see the Highlanders being able to keep pace.
Back the Blues to Cover -7.5 @ $1.91
Saturday 25 February, 7:35pm, QLD Country Bank Stadium
Reds 13 – Hurricanes 47
The season has not kicked off for the Reds and Brad Thorn is already dealing with an injury crisis amongst his squad with a number of pivotal players set to miss this trip to Townsville.
Queensland will need every miniscule advantage if they are to spring an upset in this game with locks Angus Blyth and Ryan Smith both in significant doubt to play due to injury (at the time of publish).
But the biggest absence will be flyhalf James O’Connor who has been the Reds most critical player in attack since his re-signing, and there are deserved high hopes for young Tom Lynagh to step in and fill the void, it’s asking a lot for him in his first game.
Especially when taking on a Hurricanes side they have not beaten since 2013 that is returning plenty of top line players with an eye on France.
The Reds have won one of ten games against New Zealand opponents in the last two years and as competitive as they have been in some of those games, it’s enough of a trend to follow here.
Back the Hurricanes to Cover -3.5 @ $1.91
Saturday 25 February, 10:00pm, HBF Park
Force 34 – Rebels 27
It all wraps up out west as the Force christen the rebuilt HBF Park with this all-Australian clash.
There has been plenty of change at both clubs in the offseason with players chasing vital minutes and it’s hard not to be impressed with what the Force are building.
As for the Rebels their additions should also strengthen the team but they still appear to be a step behind the Force.
If the Perth based side are going to make the leap and play finals this season, they have to make the most of their home games, starting with a win against a side they are expected to beat.
The trips to Perth can trip up even the best sides so the Force have to find a way to get off to a winning start here.
Back the Force to Cover -3.5 @ $1.80
A new age of Super Rugby will kick off this weekend with the 12 team, Pacific focused 2022 competition commencing.
Two new sides have been admitted to join the five Australian and New Zealand franchises with the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika added.
The Drua will play in the Australian conference and help kick off the season on Friday while we’ll have to wait another week for the Pasifika squad after a Covid outbreak postponed their first match against the Blues.
That means we’ve got five Super Rugby fixtures to preview below so read on and find our best bets.
Friday 18 February, 5:05pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium
Friday 18 February, 7:45pm, CommBank Stadium
Waratahs 40 – Drua 10
After what can only be described as a nightmare 2021, the Waratahs will be hoping to turn the page on their winless campaign with a first up victory over the new side from Fiji.
While there is no doubt the Drua will be a competitive team as the season goes on, it’s tough to expect much of them first up.
I’ll back the Waratahs to cover the line and break a winless run that dates back to August 2020.
Back the Waratahs to Cover -9.5 @ $1.90
Saturday 19 February, 2:35pm, Wakatipu Rugby Club
Chiefs 26 – Highlanders 16
The Chiefs will open their season against the Highlanders and all signs are pointing towards this game going down to the wire.
While some are predicting the Highlanders to struggle this season, the fact they’re bringing back many players from injury this year suggests they will be competitive every week, even if the results aren’t always there.
Conversely, the Chiefs might be in for a bit of a slow start with Damian McKenzie and Lachlan Boshier both departing the side and Sam Cane is working his way back from injury.
With the line hovering around a converted try, I’ll back the Highlanders to at least get a bonus point here.
Back the Highlanders to Cover +6.5 @ $2.00
Saturday 19 February, 5:05pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium
Crusaders 42 – Hurricanes 32
There is rarely a good time to take on the Crusaders but the early rounds of Super Rugby at least give some sides hope of an upset.
However it is a slim hope most of the time, especially when they have retained the bulk of last season’s side that won Super Rugby Aotearoa and added Argentine flanker Pablo Matera just to bolster the few miniscule holes in that team.
Politely, the Hurricanes are a side in development and might play themselves into form, but early on it could be a rough start, especially with the Crusaders up first.
Back the Crusaders to Cover -8.5 @ $1.90
Saturday 19 February, 7:45pm, Suncorp Stadium
Reds 23 – Rebels 5
The Brad Thorn way is well and truly entrenched at Ballymore and expectations are high for the Reds this season.
Despite last season’s domestic success, they have only lost role players from that 2021 squad and the pipeline of players coming through the local development systems should help offset those absences.
They also have one of the most damaging props in world rugby in Taniela Tupou and they will be in the race with the Brumbies to be the best Australian side in the competition.
Meanwhile the Rebels are a side with far more question marks than proven commodities and they could be in for a very long season, starting with this weekend at Suncorp Stadium
Back the Reds to Cover -12.5 @ $1.90
Sunday 20 February, 2:05pm, GIO Stadium
Brumbies 29 – Force 23
The surprise packets of Super Rugby AU last year have seen a number of key figures from that team move on, but they have recruited some solid replacements and they look well over the odds here.
Going into this game as a double digit underdog does not seem like a great spot however I’m expecting them to come out of the gates firing this season, with the potential promise of a Round 3 homecoming on the cards.
I’ll back them to keep this game close and find a way to have a chance at the end.
Back the Force to Cover +11.5 @ $1.90
SUPER RUGBY AU
A new era of rugby union begins this weekend with the return of Super Rugby Australia.
This will be the first of a two part Super Rugby season with the Australian and New Zealand based sides playing an internal home and away tournament before a Trans-Tasman conclusion to the club season.
We’ve got a pair of intriguing games to get the season underway with, so read on and find our Super Rugby best bets below.
Friday 19 February, 7:50pm, Suncorp Stadium
Reds 41 – Waratahs 7
Runners up last season, the Queensland Reds will have their eyes on lifting the Super Rugby AU trophy in 2021.
Their season begins at home against traditional rivals the Waratahs, who they ended a seven year losing streak against in Round 1 last year.
It did not count for a whole lot when the Tahs demolished the Reds 45-12 in the return fixture but that was an aberration rather than the norm for the Reds in 2020.
New South Wales has talked up the “home grown talent” that will make up the bulk of their squad which is usually code for “we’re not expecting much so we’ll give the kids a run” however that unknown factor could play into their favour here.
I like the Reds to get the job done here but the -9.5 point line has me hesitant considering the Reds have a habit of playing to the level of their opponents and occasionally making things harder than they need to be.
Not to mention the interstate rivalry between these sides always seems to bring out the competitiveness in the underdog.
Back the Reds by 1-12 @ $2.60
Friday 19 February, 9:55pm, HBF Park
Force 11 – Brumbies 27
Facing off for the first time in three years, the Brumbies crushed the Force in both meetings by an aggregate score of 55-14.
With a little bit more notice heading into the 2021 campaign they have put together a much stronger squad with a good mix of familiar names and young talent.
They have added plenty of Wallabies caps with the likes of Greg Holmes and Tevita Kuridrani plus a handful of Argentine players.
It’s a tough first up assignment taking on the defending Super Rugby AU champions and the Brumbies are returning a very strong squad of their own.
A slow start for the Brumbies is not out of the question but they should still have the continuity left over from last year to get them by a still gelling Force side.
Back the Brumbies to Cover -6.5 @ $1.91
The 2020 Super Rugby season is here!
Super Rugby betting continues to grow in popularity every single year and our Super Rugby tips ensured our followers made plenty of cash last season.
We have analysed the Super Rugby odds for every game this weekend and our complete 2020 Super Rugby round 1 tips can be found below.
Friday 31 January, 5:05pm, Eden Park
Blues 29 – Chiefs 37
There is a fair bit of hype surrounding both the Blues and the Chiefs heading into the 2020 Super Rugby season.
It has been a tough few seasons for the Blues, but they have recruited well in the off-season and they are expected to be one of the big improvers in the competition.
The Blues beat the Chiefs when they met in May last year, but the Chiefs had won their 11 previous meetings before that and they are a side that you can trust from a betting perspective.
The Chiefs won two of their three games as away favourites last season and they face a Blues outfit that won only one of their nine matches as underdogs.
The Chiefs are a safe bet to start their season with a win.
Back Chiefs To Win @ $1.57
Friday 31 January, 7:15pm, GIO Stadium
Brumbies 27 – Reds 24
It is expected to be another tough season for the Reds and the Brumbies will start this clash as clear favourites.
The home side has won the past seven meetings between these two sides and the Brumbies are always tough to beat in front of their home fans.
They have won six of their past seven matches as home favourites and they have covered the line in each of these victories.
The Reds were lacklustre for the majority of 2019 and I’m not sure that they will be much better in 2020.
They finished their season with five losses from their last six games and they won only two of their eight games away from home.
The Brumbies should win this game comfortably and the line of 6.5 points does not look like enough.
Back Brumbies To Cover The Line (-6.5 Points) @ $1.90
Saturday 1 February, 2:10am, Kings Park
Sharks 23 – Bulls 15
Not a huge amount is expected of either the Sharks or the Bulls this season and they will both fancy their chances of starting their campaigns with a win.
The Bulls have won the past five meetings between these two sides, but it is the Sharks that will start this game as favourites.
The Sharks struggled at home last season and they won only three of their eight matches in front of their home fans, while they were a losing betting proposition as favourites.
Winning on the road was not an issue for the Bulls last season and they were one of the best sides in Super Rugby from a betting perspective.
They won three of their seven games as away underdogs for a clear profit and they were a most impressive 7-1 against the line in this scenario.
There isn’t as much between these two sides as the current market suggests and the Bulls are one of the best bets of the weekend.
Back Bulls To Win @ $2.30
Saturday 1 February, 12:45pm, Level Five Stadium
Sunwolves 36 – Rebels 27
This will be the last season in Super Rugby for the Sunwolves and, as per usual, they are expected to struggle.
After showing some promising signs at the start of the season, the Sunwolves fell apart in the second half of the year and suffered a string of heavy defeats.
Their off-season recruiting doesn’t suggest that 2020 will be any different.
The Rebels, once again, threw away a finals berth in 2019 and they are always a tricky side to analyse from a betting perspective.
They did win and cover the line in both their games as away favourites though and they recorded two very big wins against the Sunwolves.
It should be a long season for the Sunwolves and the Rebels are strong flat-track bullies.
Back Rebels To Cover The Line (-17.5 Points)
Saturday 1 February, 3:05pm, Trafalgar Park
Crusaders 43 – Waratahs 25
The Crusaders have been nothing short of outstanding in Super Rugby over the past three seasons and they are overwhelming favourites to secure an unprecedented fourth straight Super Rugby title.
It is no surprise that they will start this clash as clear favourites and it would take a brave man to bet against them.
The Crusaders have won ten of their past 11 matches as home favourites and they are 7-4 against the line in that scenario.
It was a disappointing season for the Waratahs in 2019 and they really should improve in 2020, especially with the level of talent on their roster.
One of their biggest wins of 2019 did come against the Crusaders and they have given their rivals plenty of trouble in recent years.
This is a game that the market does look to have just about right and I am happy to stay out from a betting perspective.
Sunday 2 February, 12:05am, Newlands Stadium
Stormers 27 – Hurricanes 0
The market can’t separate the Stormers and the Hurricanes and this is one of the most interesting games of the weekend.
The home side has won seven of the past eight games played between these two sides and the Hurricanes have not won at Newlands Stadium since 2006.
I am confident that the Hurricanes will end up as the superior team in 2020, but they have been slow out of the blocks in recent seasons and it would not surprise if they went into this clash slightly underdone.
The Newlands Stadium factor gives the Stormers a narrow edge.
Back Stormers To Win @ $1.83
Sunday 2 February, 8:40am, Estadio Jose Amalftiani
Jaguares 38 – Lions 8
The Jaguares finally lived up to their potential to qualify for their maiden Super Rugby Grand Final and it will be interesting to see how they back-up that effort.
Their form in the second half of the season was nothing short of outstanding and there is no reason to suggest that they will go backwards in 2020.
They won all seven of their games as home favourites last season and they were a most impressive 6-1 against the line in this scenario.
The Lions are a side that have given the Jaguares issues throughout their history and the Lions have won five of the past six games played between the two sides.
Winning away from home was an issue last season and they won only one of their five games as away underdogs, while their record against the line was no better.
The Jaguares should win this game comfortably and are a safe bet to cover the line.
Back Jaguares To Cover The Line (-7.5 Points) @ $1.83
Here we go again, another season of Super Rugby action kicks off this Friday when the Chiefs host the Highlanders in the first game of the season.
As is the case with pretty much anything rugby union related, the big question for this season is, can anyone knock off the New Zealand sides?
Our Super Rugby 2019 title market has four of the top five favourites as New Zealand teams, headed up by the Crusaders who will be looking for their third straight title.
With every side having one eye on the World Cup at the end of the year look for a lot of players to put forward their best possible performances to get noticed by the national team coaches.
Read on for our previews and predictions for every Super Rugby Round 1 clash.
Friday 15 February, 5:35pm, FMG Stadium
Chiefs 27 – Highlanders 30
The 2019 Super Rugby season gets off with a great clash between two New Zealand teams that will have their eyes on claiming the big prize in July.
The Chiefs won both encounters between the sides last season including a tight five point victory in Round Seven when a late Sean Wainui try and Damian McKenzie conversion was the difference between the teams.
Realistically this game probably won’t reach the heights many hope it will, this is going to be a good barometer about where each team sits early on in the season.
Traditionally these New Zealand sides start off slowly in a World Cup year as they know they can afford to drop a couple of Super Rugby points to help the All Blacks out later in the year.
Take the home side to win a close one here with the margin never reaching double digits.
Back the Chiefs by 1-12 @ $2.50
Friday 15 February, 7:45pm, GIO Stadium
Brumbies 27 – Rebels 30
We don’t have to wait too long for the first Aussie derby of 2019 with the Brumbies hosting the Rebels in Canberra.
The big question surrounding the visitors is how quickly can Quade Cooper and Will Genia get back on the same page after several seasons apart.
If their combination picks up from where it left off then the Brumbies will be in for a tough task trying to keep out a rampant Rebels backline.
The thing is, after so long away from one another it is highly unlikely the Rebels will be flowing like a well oiled machine from the get go and a disjointed start seems much more likely here.
Last season the Rebels won the both meetings including a 27-24 win in Canberra in May but this Brumbies team looks like it will be much more composed this time and they should withstand the Rebels onslaught.
With such a small line why not take a bit of extra value as long as it stays below three points.
Back the Brumbies to Win -1.5 @ $1.80
Saturday 16 February, 5:35pm, Eden Park
Blues 22 – Crusaders 24
As the Crusaders begin the early part of their schedule without a handful of All Blacks players, it’s fair to ask what level the two-time defending champions will be at to start the season.
The Crusaders last lost a Super Rugby match in Round 5 last season, going down to the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Having a conference game early on might leave them vulnerable this week but they are taking on a Blues team that looks like it might be in for another rough season.
In this fixture last year, the Blues went down 32-24 in Auckland and the Crusaders cruised to a 54-17 win in the final round.
The last eight games have gone the way of the Crusaders and there is no reason to think they shouldn’t be able to win this one, even missing players such as Kieran Reid.
Unfortunately as is the case with just about every Crusaders game, backing them to win head to head just doesn’t offer a lot of value.
15 of the Crusaders last 17 wins have come by eight or more points and as luck would have it, the line for this game is sitting at 7.5 points.
Back the Crusaders to Cover the Line (-7.5) @ $1.91
Saturday 16 February, 7:45pm, Brookvale Oval
Waratahs 19 – Hurricanes 20
There’s plenty of optimism about the Waratahs and their fortunes ahead of their opening Super Rugby match as the favourites for the Australian Conference get set to try and defend that title.
They take on their fellow semi finalists from 2018 in the Hurricanes who finished the 2018 season with seven more points and two more wins than the Sydney-siders.
A few new and returning faces will fill out the Waratahs squad with ever-reliable Adam Ashley-Cooper and Karmichael Hunt both set to feature in this clash.
Against a side with such strong attacking prowess as the Hurricanes, the Waratahs know they need to be defensively stout from the get-go or risk getting blown out.
Last season, the Tahs won both games as home underdogs and went 4-2 against the line last season so if you feel brave, take them outright but taking a close game offers plenty of value as well.
Back the Waratahs +8.5 @ $1.83
Saturday 16 February, 9:55pm, Singapore National Stadium
Sunwolves 10 – Sharks 45
Despite their wooden spoon finish last season, the Sunwolves actually closed the season with three wins from their last seven.
Maybe not the most impressive run but when you consider the struggles of the side as it establishes itself as a Super Rugby side that is a sign of progress.
Unfortunately they get to start off the season playing a Sharks side with eyes on the South African Conference that has had the wood over them in every meeting so far.
Over the past three years the Sharks winning margin has just gotten bigger and bigger in this clash, starting off with 11 points in 2016, growing to 21 in 2017 and last year’s 28 point win suggesting a trend in the wrong direction (or right direction if you’re a Sharks fan).
With all due respect to the Sunwolves, this game looks like it is going to end as a massive Sharks win and the alternative line is certainly worth a look in if you want to push the margin out past three tries.
Back the Sharks to Win by 13+ @ $2.10
Sunday 17 February, 2:15am, Loftus Versfeld
Bulls 40 – Stormers 3
An all South African clash might just be the closest contest of the round as the Bulls and Stormers both go into this game feeling like they could win it.
Over the last few seasons this fixture has been weighted towards the Stormers winning eight of the last 12 but the Bulls have been able to pull things back in recent years, winning two of the last three at Loftus Versfeld.
Of those last five meetings, all of them have been decided by less than 14 points so don’t be surprised if this one is in doubt during the final ten or so minutes.
These two sides were nearly identical last year both notching six wins but reaching that point with very difference storylines.
The Bulls couldn’t defend, giving up over 500 points last season, putting them fourth last in that statistic, while the Stormers couldn’t score with their 390 being the third lowest total in the competition last year.
In a game between two teams as close as this, it’s worth taking the home team early on in the season as combinations continue to gel.
Back the Bulls by 1-12 @ $2.50
Sunday 17 February, 8:40am, Estadio Jose Amalftiani
Jaguares 16 – Lions 25
We are off to Argentina for the final match of the opening round and we get to see the two top sides from the South African Conference last season facing off.
The Lions ended the Jaguares season in the quarter final last year with a 40-23 win but the Jaguares have had the advantage in South America.
Every match between these sides has been won by the home team but there has been one common factor in all of those games: points.
The winning side has scored 34 or more points in six of the seven matches and the losing side has always been able to score over 20.
While the over looks like a worthwhile bet, you can’t ignore the value on hand for the Jaguares to pick up a win as a home underdog.
Back the Jaguares to Win @ $2.25
The new-look Super Rugby competition gets underway this weekend!
SANZAR have made some questionable decision in recent years and including only two games in the opening round of the season is right up there – only the Stormers, Jaguares, Lions and Sharks will be in action this weekend.
There is no doubt that Super Rugby has lost some of its lustre in recent seasons, but it is still an excellent competition from a betting perspective and there is plenty of money to be made.
We have analysed both games set to take place this weekend and our complete 2018 Super Rugby Round 1 tips can be found below.
Sunday 18th February, 12:05pm, Newlands Stadium
Stormers 28 - Jaguares 20
This is an interesting start to the season between two sides that have hopes of qualifying for the Super Rugby finals.
The Stormers may have finished on top of the Africa 1 Conference last season, but they never really looked like genuine contenders and they were eliminated in the first week of the Super Rugby finals.
They will go into this clash with the Jaguares as clear favourites and they are generally a side that is tough to beat in front of their home fans.
The Stormers won four of their five games as home favourites last season and they were a profitable 3-2 against the line in this scenario.
It is fair to say that the Jaguares haven’t made as successful a start to their time in Super Rugby as they would have liked and the pressure is on them to improve this season.
The Jaguares won only one of their five games as away underdogs last season, but they were 4-1 against the line in this scenario and they did lose a number of close games.
It would not surprise if this is the season that the Jaguares did take a big leap forward and they can cover the line with a start of 8.5 points.
Back Jaguares To Beat The Line (+8.5 Points)
Sunday 18th February, 7:45pm, AAMI Park
Lions 26 – Sharks 19
The Lions have been the benchmark South African side in Super Rugby over the past two seasons and they are the team to beat once again in 2018.
The Lions were not disgraced against the Crusaders in the Super Rugby Grand Final and they were fairly dominant against their South African rivals all season long.
They have impressively won their past 14 games as favourites and they are 8-6 against the line when giving away a start.
The Sharks snuck into the Super Rugby Finals last season and gave the Lions a genuine scare in the Quarter-Finals, but they did struggle for consistency for the majority of the season.
They were able to win two of their five games as away underdogs and they were unbeaten against the line in this scenario.
The Lions have won the past six games between these two sides and it is tough to bet against them, but there is not as much between the two outfits as the current betting market suggests.
Back The Sharks To Beat The Line (+8.5 Points)
The 2017 Super Rugby season is finally here!
It is fair to say that 2016 was generally a year to forget for Australian Rugby Union and the ARU are desperate to see the five Australian Super Rugby franchises bounce back this season.
The Rebels, Brumbies and Reds all have very difficult starts to the season, while the Waratahs will be confident they can start their season with a win over the Western Force.
There are a number of exciting games set to take place right across the weekend and you can find our thoughts on every single game below.
Thursday 23 February, 7:45pm, AAMI Park
Rebels 18 - Blues 56
The Rebels and Blues both had seasons to forget last year and will be looking to improve significantly in 2017.
The Blues actually finished 2016 with a wet sail and it is no surprise that they will go into this clash with the Rebels as clear favourites.
Winning away from home was somewhat of an issue for the Blues last season, but they were able to win two of their game games as home favourites for a profit.
There was plenty expected of the Rebels in 2016 and they really didn’t perform.
It is fair to say that they haven’t really strengthened their side too much heading into this season – outside of former Melbourne Storm winger Marika Koroibete – and it could be another long season for the Melbourne-based franchise.
The Rebels did not win a single game as home underdogs last season and even more concerning is the fact that they failed to beat the line in that scenario.
The Blues should prove too good for the Rebels and the line of 3.5 points will not be enough.
Back The Blues To Beat The Line (-3.5 Points)
Friday 24 February , 5:35pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium
Highlanders 15 - Chiefs 24
The Highlanders and Chiefs are two of the favourites for the Super Rugby title and this will be a fascinating early-season clash between the pair.
It is the Highlanders that will go into this fixture as favourites and they have proven very tough to beat at Forsyth Barr Stadium in recent seasons.
The Highlanders won six of their seven games as home favourites last season and they were 4-3 against the line in this scenario.
The Chiefs struggled for consistency in 2016, but they are still capable of brilliance on their day.
The Waikato-based side actually won four of their six games as away underdogs last season for a clear profit and they had an identical record against the line.
This is one of the most interesting games of the weekend, but it is one that the market looks to have got just about right.
Friday 24 February, 8:00pm, Suncorp Stadium
Reds 28 - Sharks 26
It has been several years of pain for Reds supporters, but there is some reason for optimism ahead of this season.
The Reds will go into this clash as favourites, but they have been tough to trust in this scenario in recent years.
They won just two of their four games in this situation last year and their record against the line was a very poor 1-3.
The Sharks were their usual consistent selves during the 2016 Super Rugby season and they look like excellent value at their current price.
They won three of their seven games as away underdogs last season for a clear profit and they were 5-2 against the line in this scenario.
The Reds are far too short at their current price and the Sharks are one of the best value plays of the weekend.
Back The Sharks To Win @ $2.30
Saturday 25 February, 3:15pm, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
Sunwolves - Hurricanes 83
The Hurricanes finally claimed their maiden Super Rugby title last season and they will start this clash with the Sunwolves as dominant favourites.
The Hurricanes were the best team throughout the Super Rugby season and if they bring that form back in 2017 they will be extremely tough to beat.
Their record away from home last season was excellent and they were able to beat the line in six of their eight games on the road.
Things were tough for the Sunwolves in their maiden Super Rugby season and it won’t be any easier for them in 2017.
They won just the one game away from home last season, but they were 5-3 against the line and were far from disgraced in front of their home fans.
The Hurricanes should prove far too good for their rivals, but the line of 27.5 points is excessive for the opening round of the season.
Saturday 25 February, 5:35pm, AMI Stadium
Crusaders 17 - Brumbies 13
The Brumbies finished ahead of the Crusaders on the Super Rugby ladder last season, but it is the Crusaders that will start this clash as dominant favourites.
The Brumbies have lost key play-makers Matt Toomua and Christian Lealiifano for 2017 and Stephen Larkham has turned to Kiwi five-eighth Wharenui Hawera.
Winning away from home was not a problem for the Brumbies last season, but they did lost their only game as underdogs in this scenario and their record against the Brumbies is very poor.
The Crusaders are always tough to beat at AMI Stadium and they did win six of their eight games at home last year, but they were still not a profitable betting play in this scenario.
This really should be a fairly low-scoring game and the line of 15.5 points does seem excessive, but it is tough to back this Brumbies team with any confidence as there are plenty of unknowns.
I am keen to see how both these teams perform, but this is another game that I will be staying out of from a betting perspective.
Saturday 25 February, 7:45pm, Allianz Stadium
Waratahs 19 - Western Force 13
The first Australian Derby of the season will be played by the Waratahs and the Western Force on Saturday night.
The Waratahs will start this clash as favourites, but they did struggle as the punter’s elect last season.
Daryl Gibson’s men finished the season with a 3-3 record as home favourites and they were beaten by the Force in Sydney in 2015.
The Western Force finished the most recent Super Rugby season with seven wins from their past eight games and they continue to be arguably the most disappointing franchise in the entire competition.
They won only one of their seven games as away underdogs last season, but they were 5-2 against the line in that scenario and they at least defended strongly in the majority of their games.
This will be a closer match than the current betting market suggests and the Force are a good bet to cover the line with a start of 13.5 points.
Back The Force To Beat The Line (+13.5 Points)
Sunday 26 February, 12:05am, Toyota Stadium
Cheetahs 25 - Lions 28
The Lions were the story of the 2016 Super Rugby season and they made their first-ever Super Rugby final.
They will start this clash with the Cheetahs as clear favourites and they were the best betting team in Super Rugby this season.
The Lions won both their game as away favourites last season and they were a profitable betting team against the line all season long.
It was another season for mediocrity for the Cheetahs in 2016, but one positive factor was the fake that they were a predictable betting outfit.
The Cheetahs lost all three of their games as home underdogs and they covered the line in just one of those games.
The Lions should be able to make a winning start to the season and the line of 9.5 points will not be enough.
Back The Lions To Beat The Line (-9.5 Points)
Sunday 26 February, 2:15pm, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Kings 26 - Jaguares 39
2016 was a very tough season for both the Kings and the Jaguares and it will be interesting to see how they both fare this season.
It is the Jaguares that will start this clash as clear favourites, but they were an incredibly tough team to trust from a betting perspective last year.
The Jaguares are yet to win a game away from home in their existence and they were a lost betting proposition across just every single metric.
The Southern Kings won just the two games last season, but one of those victories did come against the Jaguares at Nelson Mandela Bay.
This is a gamble, but there is no way that the Jaguares should be as short as their current price and the Kings are worth a small bet at the juicy odds.
Back The Kings To Win @ $5.25
Sunday 26 February, 4:30pm, DHL Newlands
Stormers 37 - Bulls 24
The rivalry between the Stormers and Bulls is one of the fiercest in all of Super Rugby and the two sides will do battle again this weekend.
The Stormers have the home ground advantage and they will start this clash as favourites, but they look a touch under the odds at their current quote.
They did win five of their seven games as home favourites this season, but they did not make a profit in this scenario and they were 2-5 against the line.
The Bulls were a very safe bet as favourites last season, but they failed to win a single game as away underdogs and their record against the line as just as poor.
It is tough to trust either of these teams from a betting perspective and this is another game that I am happy to stay out of.
Week 1 of the 2016 Super Rugby competition gets underway in the best way possible when reigning champions the Highlanders meet the Blues in Auckland.
The Super Rugby competition has experienced plenty of changes in the offseason and will boast 18 teams in 2016; the Southern Kings returning as a sixth South African franchise while two new countries will enter the frame in the form of the Jaguares (Argentina) and Sunwolves (Japan).
All eighteen franchises are in action in Week 1 of the 2016 Super Rugby competition.
Friday 26 February, 16:35, Eden Park
Blues 33 - Highlanders 31
The Super Rugby season officially gets underway when the Blues and Highlanders meet at Eden Park on Friday, February 26th. The Highlanders will carry plenty of confidence into the season after winning last year’s competition while the Blues will look to atone for their forgettable season.
Friday 26 February, 16:40, GIO Stadium
Brumbies 52 - Hurricanes 10
One of the best matches of Week 1 will likely be played out when the Brumbies host the Hurricanes in Canberra. Two of the formed teams of the 2015 season, the Brumbies face a big task in overcoming last year’s runners-up who have retained the majority of their talent-rich roster.
Saturday 27 February, 03:00, Free State Stadium
Cheetahs 33 - Jaguares 34
The Cheetahs posted a number of good performances between lacklustre weeks in 2015 but are offered a great opportunity to open their account in Week 1 against new boys the Jaguares. The Argentinian outfit will play with excitement but probably face too great a task first-up.
Saturday 27 February, 14:15, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium
Sunwolves 13 - Lions 26
Tokyo will be the scene for the Sunwolves Super Rugby debut when the host the Lions on February 27th. The Lions were unlucky not to the make the finals last season and look likely to begin this season with a strong win.
Saturday 27 February, 16:35, AMI Stadium
Crusaders 21 - Chiefs 27
Old foes lock horns when the Crusaders host the Chiefs in Christchurch. The Chiefs well and truly had the edge over the south island franchise in 2015 but will have to control possession from the outset of they are to win at one of the competition’s toughest road trips.
Saturday 27 February, 18:40, Allianz Stadium
Waratahs 30 - Reds 10
The New South Wales vs Queensland rivalry kicks into gear immediately when the Waratahs and Reds meet in Sydney. Winners in 2014, the Tahs fought gallantly into the final four last season and will probably be too good for the lowly Reds.
Saturday 27 February, 20:50, NIB Stadium
Force 19 - Rebels 25
Australia’s two newest franchises meet in Perth in the first week of the 2016 Super Rugby season. Neither team managed to make much of an impact in 2015 but both have recruited well in the offseason and will view this match as an ideal opportunity to post early points.
Saturday 27 February, 23:00, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Kings 8 - Sharks 43
The Kings will have something to prove in their return to the Super Rugby fold in Week 1 but will realistically face too great a task in the ever-dangerous Sharks, even at home.
Sunday 28 February, 01:05, Newlands
Stormers 33 - Bulls 9
Two of South Africa’s better franchises of the last ten years meet in the final fixture of Week 1 of the Super Rugby season. The Stormers were the only South African franchise to make the finals last season and will be tough to beat at home first-up.