THE MONEY MAN will be putting R5,000 on the Sharks to beat the second-string Stormers at Kings Park.
Last weekend, I could do no wrong; even my accumulator seemed destined to win until Kurt Coleman took over the Stormers' goal-kicking. He cost me the accumulator, but everything else I predicted came true, even the bets I did not make would have won if you had followed my advice.
My grand total now sits at R19,450, from the R5,000 given to me by SARugbymag.co.za, which not a bad return by anyone's reckoning.
This weekend is the 18th and final regular-season round and I will be taking a pragmatic approach, as some teams will be blooding new players, some will be resting players for the play-offs, some will be saying an emotional goodbye (or good riddance) to some of their players and all will have the approaching World Cup in the back of their minds.
I still believe money can be made but be careful. There's no point giving back all our hard earned cash from the last big weekend. Let's go and find the winners that will take us over R20,000.
Blues (+9.5) vs Highlanders (-9.5)
This is an interesting match with which to kick things off. The Highlanders have 48 log points, the same as the Chiefs, but are behind by one on points difference (+80 compared to the Chiefs' +81). It's a pretty simple equation for both teams: get the bonus point and keep scoring. Whoever finishes fourth gets a vital home play-off qualifier next weekend, so there's so much riding on this one. If the Highlanders lose, it's possible for them to finish sixth and in all probability end up flying to Cape Town next weekend, which no team wants to do. Bookies expect the Highlanders to win easy, especially with the inclusion of Ben and Aaron Smith. The Blues also have a couple of returning players but not much to play for. The Highlanders have looked decent on attack and if I had to bet (which I am not) I would bet the Highlanders will win by double digits. This is one I will watch for 10 minutes and may bet in running. There are far easier games to win money on out there this weekend.
Rebels (-9.5) vs Force (+9.5)
Weather: No rain
It’s too bad the Force can’t play the Waratahs every weekend, because both their wins in a very dismal season have come against the champions. The form of the Force is such that they are 10-point underdogs to a team they would have been strong favourites to finish ahead of at the start of this year. Folks, if you bet on this one then you will surely bet on anything, The Rebels should win, but In my view it will be closer than the 10 points, and if the ball bounces right, the Force could upset the Rebels. No, I will not be betting on this either, but if I had to, I’d bet on the +9.5 points the Force get, comfortable knowing they won’t lose by 10 or more.
Brumbies (-3.5) vs Crusaders (+3.5)
Weather: Cold and clear
Near freezing conditions await the Crusaders in Canberra for a game with no meaning to them. It should hardly put them off, though, as New Zealanders are used to the frigid conditions. The Brumbies have a difficult task in this game and in all likelihood will probably have to travel to Cape Town at the end of the weekend. I doubt there is a more difficult team to score four tries against and win the game. That said they will have to try to do just that. A more open and expansive game may well just play into the Crusaders' hands and for that reason I will be betting for the mild upset here. I’m hoping the Brumbies will give up early and ring the changes and save their players for the trip to Cape Town and even if they don’t, a team like the Crusaders playing with a bit of freedom just might rip the Brumbies open anyway and @13/10 I’m willing to bet R500 to win R650 to test my theories.
Chiefs (-4.5) vs Hurricanes(+4.5)
Should be simple really! The Hurricanes have wrapped up home-ground advantage by finishing top of the log, and forget about the clichés about them wanting to 'finish on a high' and 'maintaining momentum'. If you believe that, then you deserve all you get when gambling. The Hurricanes are resting key players and the Chiefs need to win well. I imagine that is what will happen but I won’t be betting on this game. I think the Chiefs will win and by more than the 4.5 points you will need to beat the handicap, but as I've mentioned this week, and last week, my banker is just too good not to put maximum money into.
Waratahs (-13.5) vs Reds (+13.5)
The bookies expect the Waratahs to win and win big, by two converted tries to be exact. The last time these team met in Brisbane the Tahs ran out easy 18-point winners and there's no reason to think they won’t inflict the same beating on them this time. I think the Waratahs will win this game and there will be plenty of points on offer. Look out before kick-off on total points and if any is on over high at 50.5 will be a decent bet. It's not a game I will be throwing money at but I feel this will be closer than 14, so take the Reds and the +13.5 points you get to start the game with.
Bulls (-15.5) vs Cheetahs(+15.5)
Ideal weather and another hiding await the Cheetahs in Pretoria. I can’t make much of an argument for the Cheetahs in this game; they are a team in free fall and have conceded an average of nearly 50 points per game in their last four outings. That said, both team have lost four on the bounce and the Bulls' Boks are being rested, so it may well be closer than the bookies think. I am going to have a R500 tickle on the Cheetahs to not lose by 16 or more points.
Sharks (-8.5) vs Stormers (+8.5)
Weather: Sunny skies
At the beginning of the week the Stormers coaching staff were throwing out every rhetorical cliché they could: 'we want to continue the momentum', 'this is a game we want to win,' blah blah blah. The bookies, ever cautious, took this seriously and on Monday the Sharks were favoured by -1.5. Then the team announcement had the bookies scrambling as the Stormers have flown up the Vodacom Cup side that lost to the Pumas last weekend. The handicap went to -5.5 (which yours truly jumped on for R5,000) and they quickly suspended betting to lick their wounds. It now sits at 8.5 and I still believe that is soft because if the Sharks can’t beat this side by at least 20 points then a full investigation should take place. I still think it offers value at -8.5 so bet on the Sharks to win by nine or more. You should be safe at half-time.
There's no accumulator this weekend, as nothing is really jumping out and the R5,000 on my banker is enough for me.
I hope everyone has a successful weekend.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images