It’s the final round of the 2019 Super Rugby season and we have four finals spots locked up.
In the least shocking development of the whole season the Crusaders finished on top of the table and are on a bye this weekend.
Eight teams still have a chance to make the finals and even the fifth placed Bulls could still drop out of contention, although to work out exactly how requires some solid mental gymnastics.
Anyway there’s still a lot for most of these teams to play for this weekend so let’s take a look at the Super Rugby matches and find some winning plays.
Highlanders Vs Waratahs
Friday 14 June, 5:35pm, Forsyth Barr Stadium
This match may as well be called the “blind optimism” derby because that’s what both sides need to rely on to make the finals here.
For the Waratahs nothing less than a bonus point win will do, while the Highlanders could also do with a bonus point win but just four points from this one might get them over the line.
We try to steer clear of absolutes in these previews as there are no certainties in life… but the Waratahs will not win this game.
Their last win over a non-Australian opponent came back in March, this one could get ugly, so much so I’m going to take the Highlanders with a line at almost three converted tries.
Back the Highlanders to Cover -19.5 @ $1.90
Rebels Vs Chiefs
Friday 14 June, 7:45pm, AAMI Park
The Rebels have quite literally put all their eggs into winning this game to reach the finals for the first time in team history.
Will Genia was rested completely and Quade Cooper only played garbage time in their 66-0 drubbing from the Crusaders last weekend, perhaps with one eye on this game.
The simplest explanation is this: if the Rebels win they get to keep playing for another week, if they lose they get to scoreboard watch for the following 36 hours for the chance to take a trip to Christchurch (again).
The Chiefs have won their last two to give themselves an outside chance at a finals berth and have had the chance to rest up following last weekends bye.
After starting the season so strong, the Rebels have really been limping home and it looks like their season might come to an end here at the hands of the Chiefs.
Back the Chiefs to Win @ $2.00
Jaguares Vs Sunwolves
Saturday 15 June, 8:10am, Estadio Jose Amalftiani
The Jaguares are South African Conference Champions and now need a win to lock up the second seed for the finals.
Unless they opt to rest players with an eye on that first final, they should easily account for the Sunwolves who are assured of a wooden spoon finish again.
Any line that is less than 27.5 is going to have me backing the Jaguares as they look to extend their winning streak to five.
Back the Jaguares to Cover -21.5 @ $1.90
Hurricanes Vs Blues
Saturday 15 June, 5:35pm, Westpac Stadium
Last weekend’s loss in Brisbane ended the Blues slim finals hopes while the Hurricanes just need to get through this game healthy with the fourth seed locked up.
It’s one last chance to back against the Blues away from Eden Park where their bad side really comes through.
They had their chances to get the monkey off their back in Brisbane but errors and ill discipline cost them and the Hurricanes are a better side.
Back the Hurricanes to Cover -9.5 @ $1.90
Brumbies Vs Reds
Saturday 15 June, 7:45pm, GIO Stadium
This approach to this game will be determined by the outcome of the Jaguares game early on Saturday morning.
I do think the Brumbies will win this game, the Reds had their grand finale last week sending off Samu Kerevi with a win over the Blues.
What I can’t rule out though is the Brumbies opting to protect some of their big name stars with one eye on a home final if they can’t catch the Jaguares for the second seed in the finals.
Stormers Vs Sharks
Saturday 15 June, 11:05pm, Newlands
Another “win and you’re in” fixture as the Stormers and Sharks face off in what will likely be the final game of the season for the loser.
On form you have to like the Stormers especially when you look back at how they stifled the Sharks attack back in March.
This should be another low scoring, physical affair but in crunch time the Stormers have the players to really break things open.
I’ll back them to cover a small line, but if it gets out past five as the week goes on, then I might have to look elsewhere for a play.
Back the Stormers to Cover -2.5 @ $1.90
Bulls Vs Lions
Sunday 16 June, 1:15am, Loftus Versfeld
One of these sides will definitely make the finals and there is a chance that by kickoff, both will have their position locked up.
However, even if both are guaranteed a berth in the top eight, seeding will still be up for grabs so you can still bank on this one being competitive.
It’s been a real hit and miss season for the Lions, failing to show the flashes of brilliance which brought them to the final so many times.
The Bulls on the other hand might be a bit fatigued after back to back draws in New Zealand but they are at home and the Lions aren’t a great team away from home, going 3-6 in their last nine.
With such a small spread I’m happy to take the Bulls here as they (if my maths is correct) book a trip to Canberra for next week.
Back the Bulls to Cover -4.5 @ $1.90
There are now only two weeks left in the Super Rugby regular season and there is still plenty to play for in all three conferences.
The Crusaders have sewn up the New Zealand Conference, but the Waratahs and the Rebels are still locked in a battle in the Australian Conference and the Lions hold only a slender lead over the Jaguares in the South African Conference.
There are seven interesting games set to take place this weekend and our complete 2018 Super Rugby Round 18 tips can be found below.
Crusaders Vs Highlanders
Friday 6 July, 5:35pm, AMI Stadium
This is a huge game for the Highlanders as they need to win to keep their unlikely finals hopes alive.
It is the Crusaders that will still go into this clash as favourites and they have not lost a game since they were beaten by the Highlanders way back in March.
They are just about unbeatable as home favourites, but they are only 4-4 against the line in this scenario.
The Highlanders finals hopes took a bit hit when they lost to the Chiefs last week and this is now a must win.
Winning away from home has been a problem for the Highlanders and they have failed to cover the line in their past three games as away underdogs.
The Crusaders will be tough to beat in this clash, but there is no real value at their current price and I am happy to stay out from a betting perspective.
Reds Vs Rebels
Friday 6 July, 7:45pm, Suncorp Stadium
The Rebels are another side that are in a must-win scenario as they need full points from this clash in order to keep pace with the Waratahs at the top of the Australian Conference.
Their loss at the hands of their rivals cost them dearly last weekend, but they will still start this clash as clear favourites.
The Rebels have won five of their past six games as favourites and they have covered the line in each of these wins, while they recorded a comfortable win over the Reds earlier this season.
The Reds have now lost five games on the trot and their defence has been extremely poor in the second half of the season.
They have won three of their past six games as home underdogs for a clear profit and they are 4-2 against the line in this scenario, but it is tough to back them off their recent form.
This is a big occasion for the Rebels and I expect them to be up to the task.
Back Rebels To Cover The Line (-4.5 Points)
Chiefs Vs Brumbies
Saturday 7 July, 3:15pm, FMG Stadium Waikato
The Brumbies ended a lengthy losing streak against New Zealand opposition with their win over the Hurricanes last weekend, but they will still go into this clash as clear underdogs.
The Chiefs have struggled for consistency in recent weeks, but they scored a vital win over the Highlanders last weekend and they have won five of their past six games as home favourites.
There has been plenty to like about the way that the Brumbies have played in recent weeks and they will take plenty of confidence from their upset victory.
The Brumbies may have lost their past five games against the Chiefs, but they have covered the line in their past three games against their rivals and there isn’t as much between these two teams as the current betting market suggests.
Back Brumbies To Cover The Line (+13.5 Points)
Hurricanes Vs Blues
Saturday 7 July, 5:35pm, Westpac Stadium
The Hurricanes have lost three games on the trot, but they will still go into this clash with the Blues as clear favourites.
It is fair to say that the Hurricanes were most disappointing last weekend, but a return to Westpac Stadium suits and they are extremely tough to beat in front of their home fans – they have won their past eight games as home favourites.
The Blues ended their own losing streak with a win over the Reds, but their recent record against the Hurricanes is very poor.
They haven’t beaten their rivals since 2015 and they have lost their past six encounters.
In saying that, the Blues have won two of their past four games as away underdogs and they are 3-1 against the line in this scenario.
This is another game where there isn’t as much between the two teams as the current market suggests and the Blues are capable of covering the line.
Back Blues To Cover The Line (+13.5 Points)
Waratahs Vs Sunwolves
Saturday 7 July, 7:45pm, Allianz Stadium
The Waratahs now have their faith in their own hands and a win over the Sunwolves will move them one step closer to a place in the Super Rugby Finals.
The Waratahs have recorded comfortable wins in their two previous fixtures against the Sunwolves, but their record as home favourites is not great and they have won only three of their past six games in this scenario.
A win over the Bulls means that the Sunwolves have now won three of their past five games and this has clearly been their most successful Super Rugby season to date.
They have not won a game away from home this season, but they are 4-3 against the line as away underdogs and backing them against the line as underdogs in any game has been a winning betting play.
Back Sunwolves To Cover The Line (+16.5 Points)
Bulls Vs Jaguares
Saturday 7 July, 11:05pm, Loftus Versfeld
A maiden Super Rugby finals appearance remains a strong chance for the Jaguares, but they will still go into this clash with the Bulls as underdogs.
The Jaguares have been nothing short of a revelation in the second half of the season and they have won their past seven games in impressive fashion.
They have now won five of their past seven games as away underdogs and no side in the competition has been better from a betting perspective.
The Bulls have lost three games on the trot and they were particularly poor against the Sunwolves last weekend.
They have won only two of their past four games as home favourites and they are well and truly under the odds at their current price.
Back Jaguares To Win @ $2.10
Stormers Vs Sharks
Sunday 8 July, 1:15am, DHL Newlands
The Stormers may sit at the bottom of the South African Conference, but they will go into this clash as narrow favourites.
They have now lost their past four games, but they haven’t been disgraced and they have been fairly unlucky in a number of their defeats.
Their form at home has been strong and they have won their past four games as home favourites.
The Sharks returned from the international break with an upset win over the Lions, but consistency has been an issue for them this season.
They have won only one of their past seven games as away underdogs and they have recorded back-to-back wins only once this season.
Back Stormers To Win @ $1.80