Where you should put your money in Super Rugby this weekend, according to MARK KEOHANE.
The bookies have set the odds at victories for all six home teams this weekend, and I have to agree with them. I've gone for wins for the Hurricanes, Rebels, Chiefs, Waratahs and Stormers by five and think the Sharks will beat the Cheetahs by 10.
Here's my breakdown of each match:
Hurricanes vs Blues
Both teams have identical records this season, having won three and lost four of their seven matches, with a total of 16 points. That in itself suggests there is little to choose between the pair and the fact it's a New Zealand derby makes it even tighter to call. I'm going for the Hurricanes to win it, and home advantage will play a factor. I've got the Canes to win by five, whereas the online bookies have got the Canes to win by three. It gets tricky to take a bet under these circumstances.
Head to head: Hurricanes 5 Blues 5
Matches played in Wellington: Hurricanes 3 Blues 2
Rebels vs Force
Back in March the Force blew away the Rebels 32-7 in Perth and they have gone on an impressive winning streak. They are now up to a dizzying fourth spot on the combined log on 22 points with the Rebels languishing in 13th spot, 10 points behind them. But the bookies have installed the Rebels as favourites to win by one point in Melbourne. I tend to agree with them and see the Force's winning streak come to an end and have the hosts to win by five.
Head to head: Rebels 5 Force 2.
Matches played in Melbourne: Rebels 2 Force 1
Chiefs vs Crusaders
The Crusaders rediscovered the winning touch with two from two on tour in South Africa but they were involved in two high-scoring matches, beating a spooked Lions at Ellis Park and then putting 50 points on the board against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. The Chiefs had also had a high-scoring tour of South Africa, freakishly drawing both their matches, against the Bulls and Cheetahs, before beating the Rebels last week. Home-ground advantage and the fact that the Crusaders have had to travel this week will be the difference. They also won their first-round encounter. I've got the Chiefs to win by five and the bookies have set the margin at four.
Head to head: Chiefs 4 Crusaders 5
Matches played in Waikato: Chiefs 1 Crusaders 3
Waratahs vs Bulls
Here's a strange fact. The Waratahs have never beaten the Bulls in seven Super Rugby clashes and that includes three in Sydney. The bookies have set the spread at seven points in favour of the hosts. I think they'll snap that losing streak but have it by five. I'd encourage you backing the Bulls to 'win' after they've been given a 7-0 start. Whatever you stake will result in you doubling your money if this happens.
Head to head: Waratahs 0 Bulls 7
Matches played in Sydney: Waratahs 0 Bulls 3
Sharks vs Cheetahs
The Sharks and the Chiefs are shaping up as possible finalists and Jake White's quality outfit will march on here. While the Cheetahs won the last time they played in Durban, 12-6 in atrocious conditions, the hosts all have too much all-round ability. I have them to stretch away and win by 10 and the bookies feel very much the same way, having set the spread at 12 points.
Head to head: Sharks 7 Cheetahs 3
Matches played in Durban: Sharks 3 Cheetahs 2
Stormers vs Lions
Back in February the Lions hammered the Stormers 34-10 in Johannesburg and when one takes a look at the log, the Lions are ninth with the Stormers rock bottom. They've won only the one match, against the Hurricanes, and lost six. Significantly, Newlands is the venue here and with some players returning from injury they should notch their second win out of eight this season. I've got them to squeeze home by five points and the bookies tend to agree, setting the spread at six. The last time the teams met at Newlands, in 2012, the Stormers won by 10, but it might be a bit more nervy this time.
Head to head: Stormers 8 Lions 1
Matches played in Cape Town: Stormers 4 Lions 0
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images