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.