THE MONEY MAN is backing the Hurricanes to end the Crusaders' 10-match unbeaten start to the season with a victory in Christchurch on Saturday.
Blues vs Cheetahs
The Cheetahs have travelled to Auckland, where they will try to end a seven-game losing streak. That won't happen. The only thing in question is the margin of victory for the Blues.
The Cheetahs are involved in more high-scoring games than any other team this season, with matches they feature in averaging 62.7 points per game. The men from Bloemfontein tend to be a decent first-half team and usually keep things close with an average of 14.1 points scored and 14.8 conceded before the break. They normally let it slip in the second half, averaging 11.3 points scored and 21.1 conceded per game this year.
The bookies have the Blues favoured by -21.5 points, but I think that is too many, as the hosts themselves have not been clinical at finishing off teams. I'm placing a R500 bet on the Cheetahs to lose by fewer than 22 points. The bet pays out R450 plus my stake back.
Brumbies vs Lions
The Lions will try to make it eight wins in a row and 10 in 11 games, when they take on the Brumbies in Canberra.
This should be a tight game and even though the Lions are playing good rugby, they haven't been blowing their opponents off the field – with the exception of the Rebels, of course. But this Brumbies side offers an entirely different challenge to that of the Rebels.
The bookies have inserted the Lions to win by seven or more. I think we'll see a low-scoring result in favour of the Lions, who will be hard-pressed to beat the Brumbies. For R500, I'm taking the Brumbies to not lose by seven or more.
Crusaders vs Hurricanes
The must-see game of this round pits the undefeated Crusaders against the Hurricanes. Just how good are the Crusaders? Well, the answer to that may lie in their round two, 30-27 comeback win over the Highlanders.
I hate to criticise an unbeaten team, but there are enough trolls out there and one more won't hurt.
The last six teams the Crusaders faced were the Force, Waratahs, Sunwolves, Stormers, Cheetahs and Bulls; hardly the most feared playing schedule known to rugby teams. The Hurricanes average 45.5 points per game while they have conceded just 17.3 in return. That is a 26-point difference.
Perhaps the Crusaders will score 40 points in this game, but they will suffer a first defeat of the season. I'm putting down R1,000 on the Hurricanes to win it. It pays back R1,100 and the stake back.
Rebels vs Reds
Is anyone really going to watch this? This a Rebels side that lost by 41 against the Kings. The Reds only just avoid worst-team-in-the-competition status because it already belongs to the Rebels. However, if anyone is set on betting on this, take the Reds to win by five or more with a R500 bet placing, as I'll be doing the same.
Bulls vs Highlanders
Hands up all those who thought the Bulls would have the same record as the Kings at this stage of the tournament? Be honest!
Fortress Loftus seems to be a bit of a myth after the 62-point try-fest display by the Crusaders there last weekend. My suggestion is to sit back, save your money and hope for the best for the Bulls.
Kings vs Sharks
What can you say about the Kings? They have surpassed every expectation this year and their 41-point beating of the Rebels underlines just how farcical this competition can be. There's nothing for the Kings left to prove, but my only worry is how much they have left in the tank.
The bookies have favoured the Sharks by -13.5 and if they were to do that, they'd accomplish something they haven't so far this year: secure a double-digit win away from home. I won't be betting on this contest, but did pick the Sharks to win by seven on Superbru. It should be a close one.
Jaguares vs Force
This is a must-win game for the Jaguares who have won five and lost five matches this year. They are, however, up against a Force team struggling to put points on the board, so I expect the hosts to win by double digits in Buenos Aires. I'm not placing any bets on it, though.
Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images