Where you should put your money in Super Rugby this weekend, according to MARK KEOHANE.
Hurricanes vs Highlanders
Two New Zealand sides with attacking ambitions. While the Crusaders vs Sharks match is the game of the round, in terms of pure entertainment, this should be the one to watch. Expect a high-scoring game but that doesn't mean there will be much between them. Both teams have 30 points and both have won six matches, although the Highlanders have played one game less. They looked a million dollars in the first half against the Lions last week but were hanging on at the end and ultimately were lucky to come away with the points. Both these teams have six bonus points this season, which is joint second only to the Chiefs' seven. Go with the Canes to edge a thriller, and have a good bet at even-money (double your stake) on the Highlanders to 'win' on the scoreboard once you've added six points to their final tally.
Crusaders vs Sharks
Jake White's team will have to concentrate for the full 80 minutes to stop this dangerous Crusaders side – how different are they when Richie McCaw runs out with them? – from hitting their straps. The Sharks lost in Canberra last week but claimed the bonus point. The bookies are offering 1.1 to 1 on the Crusaders to come back from an effective 12-0 deficit and win. I think the Sharks will be able to keep them within 12 and you can back the Sharks to get within those 12 at 0.65 to 1. It's a confident bet. If you feel that the Sharks can lead at half-time – and why not? – there is 2.5 to 1 on that. R100 would result in a R350 return based on them leading at half-time.
Reds vs Rebels
Brisbane sees 12th play 13th on the log. Both teams have three wins this season and 17 points. The match is the Cheetahs vs Stormers of the Australian conference. The Reds have lost their way and the Rebels have also endured another mediocre season. I expected them to be better against the Hurricanes in Melbourne last week but they never looked like winning that match. Expect an arm-wrestle in Brisbane but don't expect a match of any high quality. The Reds will win and you can get even money in the region of three to five points on the different online sites. Perhaps a wildcard could be the 4.75 to 1 that is offered about the Rebels leading at half-time with the Reds winning at full-time.
Stormers vs Force
The Stormers prop up the table after their defeat to the Bulls last weekend. In the match they led 12-0 before failing to score another point. It has comparison with the game in Bloemfontein where they went 10-0 up and then leaked 20 points without reply. In the Stormers' favour this weekend is the factor the game is at Newlands. Fortress Newlands. All three of their matches that they've won this season have been at home, and they've knocked over the Hurricanes and Highlanders there, which is no mean feat. I can understand why the Stormers have been installed as 6-10 favourites to beat the Force – and if you feel they will win, why not go for the Stormers/Stormers half-time, full-time double (R195 return for every R100 on betflash.co.za). But, I think the Force, with a strong South African influence, will win this match, Back them to 'win' on the scoreboard after two points has been added to the Stormers end tally. The Force are 1.45 to 1 in this regard (R245 return for every R100 bet).
Cheetahs vs Brumbies
The Brumbies can follow in the Force's tracks by making the trip from Australia to Bloemfontein and winning. But, to factor in that the Force had to fly from Perth, which is a considerably shorter trip than from Canberra. The Force won by seven points, but it's at a venue where the Chiefs could only get a high-scoring draw, so be wary of that. I've got the Brumbies to win by nine because they're a better side than the Force are. In fact, they will win the Australian conference and I can't see them slipping up here. Defensively, they don't have the holes that other teams do. I think they'll squeeze the penalties out of the hosts and win comfortably. There is 1.25 to 1 on offer for the Brumbies to win by seven or more. Take that bet (R100 would net a R225 return).
Waratahs vs Lions
It was the cliched game of two halves last week when the Highlanders led the Lions 23-0 at half-time only to leak 22 points in the second half and hold on for a 23-22 win. The victory flattered the Highlanders and the Lions should have won, had the referee applied the laws better and the TMO wiped the dirt from his eyes. The Lions were brave last week but then again they've been brave all season. The bookies have made the Waratahs strong favourites but take the points spread on betflash.co.za that offers 1.2 to 1 on the Lions 'winning' after 12 points has been added to their final score.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images