Super Rugby returns with nine games across the opening weekend and we bring you the best bets for Round 1 of the 2017 season.
It is fair to say that 2016 was generally a year to forget for Australian Rugby Union and the five Australian Super Rugby franchises will be keen to bounce back this season.
The Rebels, Brumbies and Reds all have very difficult starts to the season, while the Waratahs will be confident they can kick off their season with a win over the Western Force.
Meanwhile, defending champions the Hurricanes begin their bid to achieve back-to-back titles with a trip to face the Sunwolves.
Best bets are provided alongside the relevant match preview.
Rebels v Blues
The Rebels and Blues both had seasons to forget last year and will be looking to improve significantly in 2017. The Blues actually finished 2016 with a wet sail and it is no surprise that they will go into this clash with the Rebels as clear favourites. Winning away from home was somewhat of an issue for the Blues last season, but they were able to win two of their game games as home favourites for a profit. There was plenty expected of the Rebels in 2016 and they really didn’t perform. It is fair to say that they haven’t really strengthened their side too much heading into this season – outside of former Melbourne Storm winger Marika Koroibete – and it could be another long season for the Melbourne-based franchise. The Rebels did not win a single game as home underdogs last season and even more concerning is the fact that they failed to beat the line in that scenario. The Blues should prove too good for the Rebels and the line of 4.5 points will not be enough.
Highlanders v Chiefs
The Highlanders and Chiefs are two of the favourites for the Super Rugby title and this will be a fascinating early-season clash between the pair. It is the Highlanders that will go into this fixture as favourites and they have proven very tough to beat at Forsyth Barr Stadium in recent seasons. The Highlanders won six of their seven games as home favourites last season and they were 4-3 against the line in this scenario. The Chiefs struggled for consistency in 2016, but they are still capable of brilliance on their day. The Waikato-based side actually won four of their six games as away underdogs last season for a clear profit and they had an identical record against the line. This is one of the most interesting games of the weekend, but it is one that the market looks to have got just about right.
Reds v Sharks
It has been several years of pain for Reds supporters, but there is some reason for optimism ahead of this season. The Reds will go into this clash as favourites, but they have been tough to trust in this scenario in recent years. They won just two of their four games in this situation last year and their record against the line was a very poor 1-3. The Sharks were their usual consistent selves during the 2016 Super Rugby season and they look like excellent value at their current price. They won three of their seven games as away underdogs last season for a clear profit and they were 5-2 against the line in this scenario. The Reds are far too short at their current price and the Sharks are one of the best value plays of the weekend.
Sunwolves v Hurricanes
The Hurricanes finally claimed their maiden Super Rugby title last season and they will start this clash with the Sunwolves as dominant favourites. The Hurricanes were the best team throughout the Super Rugby season and if they bring that form back in 2017 they will be extremely tough to beat. Their record away from home last season was excellent and they were able to beat the line in six of their eight games on the road. Things were tough for the Sunwolves in their maiden Super Rugby season and it won’t be any easier for them in 2017. They won just the one game away from home last season, but they were 5-3 against the line and were far from disgraced in front of their home fans. The Hurricanes should prove far too good for their rivals, but the line of 27.5 points is excessive for the opening round of the season.
Crusaders v Brumbies
The Brumbies finished ahead of the Crusaders on the Super Rugby ladder last season, but it is the Crusaders that will start this clash as dominant favourites. The Brumbies have lost key play-makers Matt Toomua and Christian Lealiifano for 2017 and Stephen Larkham has turned to Kiwi five-eighth Wharenui Hawera. Winning away from home was not a problem for the Brumbies last season, but they did lost their only game as underdogs in this scenario and their record against the Brumbies is very poor. The Crusaders are always tough to beat at AMI Stadium and they did win six of their eight games at home last year, but they were still not a profitable betting play in this scenario. This really should be a fairly low-scoring game and the line of 15.5 points does seem excessive, but it is tough to back this Brumbies team with any confidence as there are plenty of unknowns. I am keen to see how both these teams perform, but this is another game that I will be staying out of from a betting perspective.
Waratahs v Western Force
The first Australian Derby of the season will be played by the Waratahs and the Western Force on Saturday night. The Waratahs will start this clash as favourites, but they did struggle as the punter’s elect last season. Daryl Gibson’s men finished the season with a 3-3 record as home favourites and they were beaten by the Force in Sydney in 2015. The Western Force finished the most recent Super Rugby season with seven wins from their past eight games and they continue to be arguably the most disappointing franchise in the entire competition. They won only one of their seven games as away underdogs last season, but they were 5-2 against the line in that scenario and they at least defended strongly in the majority of their games. This will be a closer match than the current betting market suggests and the Force are a good bet to cover the line with a start of 14.5 points.
Cheetahs v Lions
The Lions were the story of the 2016 Super Rugby season and they made their first-ever Super Rugby final. They will start this clash with the Cheetahs as clear favourites and they were the best betting team in Super Rugby this season. The Lions won both their game as away favourites last season and they were a profitable betting team against the line all season long. It was another season for mediocrity for the Cheetahs in 2016, but one positive factor was the fake that they were a predictable betting outfit. The Cheetahs lost all three of their games as home underdogs and they covered the line in just one of those games. The Lions should be able to make a winning start to the season and the line of 9.5 points will not be enough.
Kings v Jaguares
2016 was a very tough season for both the Kings and the Jaguares and it will be interesting to see how they both fare this season. It is the Jaguares that will start this clash as clear favourites, but they were an incredibly tough team to trust from a betting perspective last year. The Jaguares are yet to win a game away from home in their existence and they were a lost betting proposition across just every single metric. The Southern Kings won just the two games last season, but one of those victories did come against the Jaguares at Nelson Mandela Bay. This is a gamble, but there is no way that the Jaguares should be as short as their current price and the Kings are worth a small bet at the juicy odds.
Stormers v Bulls
The rivalry between the Stormers and Bulls is one of the fiercest in all of Super Rugby and the two sides will do battle again this weekend. The Stormers have the home ground advantage and they will start this clash as favourites, but they look a touch under the odds at their current quote. They did win five of their seven games as home favourites this season, but they did not make a profit in this scenario and they were 2-5 against the line. The Bulls were a very safe bet as favourites last season, but they failed to win a single game as away underdogs and their record against the line as just as poor. It is tough to trust either of these teams from a betting perspective and this is another game that I am happy to stay out of.
*State exclusions apply to some offers. NSW Residents are excluded from bonuses and offers. Please read the T&Cs of each offer with each bookmaker.