Five of the six home teams start as favourites to win in Super Rugby this weekend, writes GARY LEMKE.
While there's another round of Super Rugby fixtures featuring South African and New Zealand franchises, the big one is the series decider in Sydney. The Lions start with an effective 2-0 lead and that might just be enough to get them over the line. In the first Test the Lions won by two points and in the second Test they lost by one point. So, a one-point aggregate difference after two Tests shows just how evenly matched these teams are. I'm going for the Lions though. R50 would result in a R100 return.
SUGGESTED SUPER RUGBY BETS
Crusaders vs Chiefs
Handicap spread gives the Chiefs an effective 5-0 lead
The stand-out tie of the weekend and one full of possibilities in Christchurch. It puts defending champions and table-toppers the Chiefs against the seven-time champions, the Crusaders. The Chiefs, after 14 games, have been the best side in the competition and they lead the New Zealand conference by 10 points. This will be a blood-and-thunder affair and Kieran Read returns to start for the home side, with one of the Whitelock brothers dropping to the bench. The Chiefs have also included their biggest guns and this match should be, in terms of quality, an advert for Super Rugby that can be packaged and used as a template. Let's see if it lives up to the hype. R50 on the Crusaders would result in a R100 return.
Hurricanes vs Highlanders
Handicap spread gives the Highlanders an effective 8-0 lead
Two teams who have no chance of reaching the play-offs, but you'd expect the Hurricanes to have too much for the bottom-feeders of the table. There have been times when the Highlanders put a few phases of play together that make you wonder why they are last, but the table doesn't lie. Two wins from 14 is even worse than the much-maligned Lions from Gauteng managed before they were ejected from Super Rugby. In a match in which the players realise there's nothing apart from honour at stake, it could see the game get a bit messy. However, in these type of encounters the scoreboard normally ticks along quite merrily. Second half to be higher scoring than the first. R50 would result in a R100 return. Also, back the Hurricanes on the handicap, R50 would result in a R100 return.
Cheetahs vs Blues
Handicap spread gives the Blues an effective 6-0 lead
During the week the Cheetahs reckoned they'd be approaching this game as if it was the final itself, given their position on the table where they're on the very cusp of the play-offs. Last week the Blues will have considered themselves unlucky to lose late to the Sharks in Durban in a match in which I thought the Sharks would be better by more than six points. Ultimately they scraped home by two, so credit to the Blues, as goes the clichéd line by every Super Rugby captain when it comes to the post-match interview. I believe the 'cup final' atmosphere in Bloemfontein, coupled with the fact this is the Blues' second match on tour after their trip from New Zealand will work in favour of the Cheetahs. But, whether they're more than six points better is debatable. A tricky betting match to call. Go with the Cheetahs, R50 would result in a R100 return.
Kings vs Stormers
Handicap spread gives the Kings an effective 19-0 lead
Before the season started the Stormers would have looked at the list of fixtures and marked 'five points' around their visit to Port Elizabeth to take on the Kings. However, the landscape has changed a bit this season and while the Kings are two points off the bottom of the table after 14 rounds and the Stormers are only in 10th place, this game will be much more of a challenge than it looked earlier this year. There are those who feel the Stormers can still qualify for the play-offs and mathematically they can, but it's not going to happen. Still, they should carry too many guns for the Kings, who have been a notoriously difficult side to 'peg' when it has come to the points handicap. Last week I thought they'd be able to keep the Bulls to within 21 points at Loftus after the three-week break, but they couldn't. At home, though, they come up against a Stormers team that has struggled to cross the whitewash four times in a match. But last week they scored three against the Cheetahs at Newlands, and will be looking to build on that. Given that the Stormers will be looking for the five-pointer, back them to win by 20 points or more. R50 would result in a R100 return.
Bulls vs Sharks
Handicap spread gives the Sharks an effective 6-0 lead
Back in May these two met at Kings Park and the Bulls scraped in 18-16. There is rarely much between these sides and with the Bulls having wrapped up top spot on the South African conference, the danger is of them mentally switching off at stages of the game. And the Sharks, who got out of jail last week against the Blues, will be looking to finish their season on a high. Like the Stormers, they can mathematically reach the play-offs but it's also not going to happen. Yet, they will arrive in Pretoria ready to give it everything. This is likely to be another typical South African derby, full of grunt and collisions. Like the game in Bloemfontein, the handicap makes it tricky. Go for the Sharks (i.e., for them to 'win' based on a 6-0 start). R50 would result in a R100 return.
R50 Rolling accumulator
Wins (no handicap) for the Crusaders, Hurricanes, Cheetahs, Stormers and Bulls would result in a R241.28 profit.
Wins on the handicap for the Lions, the Crusaders and the Hurricanes would result in a R250 profit.
Amount spent: R400
Season so far: R2,127 (profit)
What we’ve learned
Five lessons from the past weekend's Vodacom Super Rugby matches, according to SIMON BORCHARDT.
Brain must complement brawn
Poor decision-making was at the heart of a disappointing weekend for South African rugby, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Sharks will rack up another win
MARK KEOHANE, in his weekly predictions, is picking the Sharks to entrench their position at the top of the combined Super Rugby log.