Where you should put your money in Super Rugby this weekend, according to MARK KEOHANE.
The online bookies have made the Crusaders favourites to beat the Cheetahs by four points (on the double-your-money spread) in Bloemfontein, but I reckon it would be an upset if they won.
Elsewhere, I agree with the bookies, including betflash.co.za, who have the Chiefs favourites to berate the Rebels, the Waratahs to beat the Force, the Highlanders to overcome the Bulls and the Sharks to tame the Lions at Ellis Park. But where I differ is where they've got the Brumbies to beat the Reds in Brisbane. I'm going for the Reds to win and a standout double, at 3-1 – put R100 on and you get a R400 return – is for backing the Cheetahs and the Reds to 'win'. And, even if the Crusaders win by less than four and the Brumbies win by one or it's a draw, you'll cash in.
Here's my weekend's breakdown.
Cheetahs vs Crusaders
I've got the Cheetahs to beat the Crusaders by seven at home. This is based on three simple factors. Firstly, the Cheetahs have beaten the New Zealanders in their last two encounters in Bloemfontein. Secondly, the Crusaders generally win one of their two games in South Africa – and they won in Joburg last week. And thirdly, this is a Crusaders team that falls far short of the fine sides that have worn the jersey in the past. Those backing them to win musn't be blinded or spooked by the reputation of the franchise. Go with the 1.45 to 1 that says the Cheetahs can overcome an effective 1-0 deficit and win. (R100 would net you R245).
Chiefs vs Rebels
This is a potential banana skin. The Chiefs start with an effective 11-0 deficit according to the bookies (on the double-your-money principle) and while I believe they will win, I've got them to win by 10. They are also carrying injuries and return from a bizarre trip to South Africa where they came from behind to draw both their matches, against the Bulls and the Cheetahs, 34-34 and 43-43 and therefore have a 77-77 accumulated result. They should win, but be careful of the points spread. It might even be wise to back the Rebels to 'win', and they would at the bookies if they lost by 10 or less.
Force vs Waratahs
The Force are on the best run of results in their history. The bookies make the Waratahs favourites and the Force start with an effective 5-0 lead. That actually might be enough to 'win', even if they lose by four or less. The Waratahs are buoyed from beating the Stormers last week, but they've had to travel back to Australia and Perth won't be an easy place to win. I think they will, but not by five.
Highlanders vs Bulls
Here the bookies and I seem to have been reading from the same script. I have got the Highlanders to inflict another defeat on the Bulls on their travels, but like last week I've got them to pick up a losing bonus point. I had the margin at five points in favour of the New Zealand franchise, but that's what the bookies have set the points spread at as well. So I'll watch this game with my feet up, although as a Bulls supporter I'll be hoping they can do something! But I won't have my money on them.
Lions vs Sharks
The Lions were spooked by the history of the Crusaders jersey last week and froze at Ellis Park. This week they will be a much more resilient team and being a South African derby there shouldn't be too much between them. The bookies have made the Sharks favourites to win by seven and I have a similar feeling. It might be closer than people would thing at first glance.
Reds vs Brumbies
The Brumbies top the Australian conference and the Reds have been disappointing. I thought they'd be a better outfit this year than they have been. Much will depend on the halfbacks Will Genia and Quade Cooper. If they get quality ball from their forwards they will make things difficult for the Brumbies, who are favourites to win by one point. I believe the Reds pack will come to the party in Brisbane and lay the platform for the halfbacks to work their magic. I'll be backing them to win by seven, and they have the advantage of starting with a one-point lead as well. In fact, take the 1.25 to 1 on betflash.co.za that sees them effectively start 2-0 down and go on to 'win' from there.
The bookies favourites in the Flash Pots, at 6-1, are wins for the Highlanders, Brumbies, Waratahs, Crusaders and Sharks. I couldn't disagree more and see both the Brumbies and the Crusaders losing.
The bookies outsiders on the Flash Pots, at 30-1, are wins for the Bulls, Reds, Waratahs, Crusaders and Lions. Don't go for that option either!
Photo: Charle Lombard/Gallo Images