It's back to Super Rugby after a three-week break, which doesn't make betting easier, writes GARY LEMKE
There is something of a lottery feel to this week's round of Super Rugby matches, considering the break for the June internationals, and it might take a week or so of competition for teams to spring back to their best.
With that in mind, it might be worth taking a sideways glance at last year's results, also coming after a 27-day break from competition. There were six matches, of which four were won by the away sides, including the Hurricanes upsetting the Crusaders in Christchurch.
The Stormers were enjoying their own strong run of form, which eventually saw them top the overall standings, in what seems like a million years ago. How the landscape has changed.
Now the Stormers host a dangerous Cheetahs side and last year's corresponding fixture threw up a 16-14 result for the hosts at Fortress Newlands.
Although the Stormers are languishing in 11th position on the log, some eight points behind the fifth-placed Cheetahs, one needs to have a look at their results at Newlands. And yes, it remains something of a fortress for them.
This season has seen them beat the Chiefs (36-34), the Brumbies (35-22), the Sharks (22-15), the Reds (20-15) and the Kings (19-11). Their only setback was a 19-14 reverse to the Crusaders, which is an imposing home record. It's been their away form that has let them down, with only one win (against the Hurricanes) coming on the road.
Chiefs vs Hurricanes
Bookies give Hurricanes an effective 8-0 lead
The Chiefs went into the three-week break on top of the New Zealand conference and they'll be expecting to stay there after this week's visit. The Hurricanes, wait for it, tend to blow hot and cold, but they have lost more matches than they've won this season and one can't see them upsetting the well-drilled defending champions. Back the Chiefs to overcome their eight-point deficit on the handicap. R50 would result in a R100 return.
Highlanders vs Crusaders
Bookies give Highlanders an effective 7-0 lead
The Highlanders, bottom-feeders for the entire season, will have rued the international break. They'd just come off only their second win of the campaign, a 38-28 victory against the Blues, and the previous week they came within a point of upsetting the Force away. Very few will back them to defeat the Crusaders, but stranger things have happened. Even so, go with the Crusaders to overcome the seven-point deficit. R50 would result in a R100 return.
Sharks vs Blues
Bookies give Blues an effective 6-0 lead
There's been weeks of turmoil in the Sharks camp and they now go into their match against a physical New Zealand side with the assistant coaches in charge after John Plumtree left the union during the week. Logic would say that the Sharks are at their most vulnerable, but I'm going to go on three 'intangibles' and predict a flattering victory for the Durban side. Firstly, there is the 'Madiba effect'. Secondly, there's a point to prove after the administrative turmoil. Thirdly, no rugby teams do backs-against-the-wall performances like South African sides. Back the Sharks to overcome the deficit. R100 would result in a R200 return.
Stormers vs Cheetahs
Bookies give Cheetahs an effective 5-0 lead
Back in April the Stormers lost 26-24 to the Cheetahs for yet another two-pointer between these domestic rivals. Back the Cheetahs at the 5-0 start, where R75 would result in a R150 return.
Bulls vs Kings
Bookies give Kings an effective 20-0 lead
In their only Super Rugby encounter to date the Bulls went to Port Elizabeth and won 34-0 in a game where the Kings were considered lucky to get nil. On the night they were owned by Pierre Spies and his men. Even without the injured Spies – some would argue the Bulls are stronger without him – the Bulls will be too strong, but the Kings won't lie down in a 34-point manner this time round. They will have benefited from the break and didn't lose players to the Springboks. The bookies have set the handicap at 20 points, but I think the Bulls could struggle putting more than 20 points between themselves and the visitors. It's just a hunch. Put R50 on a Kings 'victory' based on the handicap, which means that if the Bulls don't won by 21 points or more, you'll net R100 in return.
Go for wins (no handicap) for the Chiefs, Crusaders, Bulls and the Sharks (-6). R50 would result in a R162.24 profit. Go for wins on the handicap for the Cheetahs and the Sharks. R50 would result in a R200 return.
Amount spent: R250
Season so far: R2 327 (profit, 465%)
Duane Vermeulen continues to impress as a player and leader, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Bismarck back to brilliant best
Bismarck du Plessis provided the good-news story for South African rugby this past weekend, writes MARK KEOHANE in Business Day.
Bulls fullback Jesse Kriel always backs himself to have a go, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.