Where you should put your money in Super Rugby this weekend, according to MARK KEOHANE.
Blues vs Sharks
Odds as high as 20-1 were available during last week's match in which the Sharks trailed the Crusaders, in Christchurch, at half-time – and they had to play the second 40 minutes with 14 men following Jean Deysel's early red card. Those odds should have been closer to 50-1 when the Sharks were down to 13 players, and to look at a scoreboard afterwards, which showed the Sharks winning and becoming the first South African team to beat the Crusaders at home since the Cats did it in 2001, is simply incredible. The belief that will be running through the team will be huge and they will be able to cement their spot at the top of the table with victory in Auckland. The way to go with betflash.co.za is take the 1.35 to 1 (R100 will result in a R235 return) on the Sharks winning by three points or more. I've got them to win by seven.
Rebels vs Waratahs
The Waratahs have blown hot and cold at times this season, as have the Rebels. But the Sydney team put daylight between themselves and the Lions on the scoreboard last week and Israel Folau is worth 10 points to the team in any match he plays. Against the Lions he showed just what he brings to this Tahs squad, hitting the line at pace and being able to break through tackles with power and movement. The Rebels simply don't have the class from 1 to 15 to be able to win this match, even in Melbourne, and the best they can hope for is a losing bonus point. I can't see that happening, though, and have the Waratahs to win by 10. The betflash.co.za exotic in this case is the 1.3 to 1 that the Waratahs win by nine or more. R100 would earn a return of R230.
Bulls vs Brumbies
The teams have met 10 times in Pretoria in Super Rugby and rather surprisingly the Brumbies have won four of those. That's a high percentage for any side going to Loftus and they won't be intimidated by the venue. However, Pretoria on a Friday night seems to always bring out the best in the Bulls. The atmosphere is hostile and the locals are in full TGIF mode. The Brumbies lost the opening match of their South African tour in Bloemfontein last week and it won't get any easier. Expect the Bulls pack to get on top of the Canberra franchise and the scoreboard will tick over. I have the Bulls by 10. I'd take both the 1.2 to 1 (R100 results in a R220 return) on the Bulls winning by seven or more as well as the 0.8 to 1 (R100 would see a R180 return) on the Bulls leading by two or more at half-time.
Highlanders vs Crusaders
The Highlanders are unrecognisable from the sorry lot that sunk to the depths of the table last season and they have a lot going for them this time round. And the fact that the Crusaders couldn't put away a Sharks side that was down to 14 from the first half and played with 13 for 10 minutes of the second half will give those who fancy the Highlanders to pull it off in Dunedin plenty of hope. But surely the Crusaders will bounce back. Their form going into last week's match against the Sharks suggested that they were hitting their straps again after another slow start to their campaign. If we dismiss last week's result as 'one of those things' then there's every reason to imagine they'll get the formula right in this one. I've got them to win by 10 and therefore will be taking the 1.35 to 1 (R235 return for every R100) on them winning by at least seven.
Hurricanes vs Chiefs
The defending champions are favourites to win this one and I don't think they'll disappoint. I have them to win by seven, although if there is one match where punters should study history a bit more it's this one. In their 22 Super Rugby meetings over the years the Canes lead 11-10 (with one draw) and in Wellington they have triumphed in seven of their 11 meetings. The way to bet here is take the 1.35 to 1 (R235 for every R100) on betflash.co.za on the Canes winning by four or more.
Force vs Lions
The Force return to Perth after mixed success in South Africa. They proved too strong for the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein but looked ordinary at Newlands last week where the game was over as a contest by half-time. They will be better on home turf this time round and the travel won't be a major factor as Perth is the shortest trip between the two countries. The Lions have lost all their matches on tour so far – although they could have beaten the Highlanders with the last kick of the game – and will have one eye on the flight home. I can't see them winning but I do reckon we can make some cash by backing them to 'win' on the scoreboard after the Force's handicap has been taken into account. I like the 0.9 to 1 (that's R190 for every R100 wagered) on the Lions to 'win' after nine points have been added to their final tally.
Stormers vs Cheetahs
Throughout the season the Stormers have put in a better first-half performance than they have in the second. They've generally done most of their scoring before half-time and the 0.55 to 1 (R155 for every R100) makes sense for them to be leading at half-time against the visitors from Bloemfontein. In 10 Super Rugby matches between the two at Newlands, the Stormers have a 70% winning record. It will be eight in 11 after this one. The bookies reckon the Stormers will win this one by six or more and I have them to take it by seven. I'll restrict my bet to them leading at half-time and watch the second half while counting my winnings.
Suggested R130 Super Rugby Flash Sale accumulator on betflash.co.za
The Sharks to win, the Waratahs to win by more than four, the Bulls to win by more than four, the Crusaders to win by more than four and the Chiefs to win. That would see a total payout of R1,008 (and 40 cents).
Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images