All prices are courtesy of green listed bookmaker Bet365.
8.35 am Hurricanes v Stormers (Friday 5th May)
The Stormers complete their tour of New Zealand with a tough task against the Hurricanes in Wellington in the first of Friday’s Super Rugby Round 11 matches.
The Hurricanes come off a bye week and return to action third best in the New Zealand Conference, eight points behind the Crusaders. They have won all four of their home games this season, covering their handicap three times.
This is the third and final tour match for the Stormers who have had a miserable time of it in New Zealand over the last couple of weeks. In Round 10 away to the Highlanders the Stormers were given a 13.5 point start on the handicap but lost 57-14. It was a similar story in Round 9 when the Stormers began their tour against the Crusaders in Christchurch with a 57-24 defeat, again the handicap was 13.5 points. The Stormers now have a record of six wins and three defeats this season but they still top Africa Conference 1 12 points clear of the Bulls. The Stormers go into this game injury hit two having lost the services of JC Janse van Rensburg, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kurt Coleman.
All this considered the Hurricanes handicap line of -19 at 10/11 looks eminently beatable at the end of a long three-game stretch away from home for the Stormers.
6 pm Cheetahs v Highlanders (Friday 5th May)
With two wins and seven defeats, the Cheetahs continue to struggle to make an impact and they now have only the Sunwolves below them in the combined Africa group. The d Cheetahs were beaten 48-21 at home by the Crusaders last week and now face New Zealand opposition again.
The Highlanders put the Stormers away 57-14 in Dunedin last week. After a slow start, they now have six wins and three defeats this season for fourth in the New Zealand Conference.
I would expect the improving Highlanders to win by 20+ points here making -12.5 at 10/11 a very attractive proposition.
6 am Rebels v Lions (Saturday 6th May)
After a home win over the Brumbies in Round 8 and a draw away to the Sharks in Round 9, the Rebels season seemed to be taking a turn for the better and they were marginal favourites for last week’s visit to the Kings. However, they were hammered 44-3 in Port Elizabeth and they return home at the bottom of the Australian Conference with just seven points this season.
The Lions began their tour away to the Force in Perth last week and they came through with a 24-15 win, scoring three unanswered tries. The Lions started as 9.5 point favourites last week. The Lions now have a nine point lead at the top of the South Africa group and their record comprises of eight wins and one defeat.
The Lions need to win by 15 points to cover the handicap this week. I will take the Rebels -14.5 at 10/11 with Bet365 to run them closer than the market expects.
8.35 am Chiefs v Reds (Saturday 6th May)
The Chiefs were trading at around -34.5 points for their home fixture against the Sunwolves last week but they laboured to a 27-20 victory in Hamilton, scoring four tries to two and failing to secure a bonus point. The Chiefs remain in the second spot in New Zealand, four points behind the Crusaders with a record of eight wins and one defeat. They have failed to cover the handicap in five of their last six outings
The Reds came out second best in a tight encounter at home to the Waratahs last weekend and they come into this game with an overall record of two wins and seven defeats. In two home games against New Zealand sides this season the Reds gave a good account, just failing to hold off the Crusaders 22-20 in Round 3 and they were competitive for the bulk of a Round 6 34-15 loss to the Hurricanes. How they get on in New Zealand could be a different story and the Reds have been poor travelers of late, losing 12 in a row away from home.
The Chiefs are down to 17.5 point favourites here and I will support them to win well this time.
10.45 am Waratahs v Blues (Saturday 6th May)
The Waratahs edged out the Reds (29-26) in Brisbane last weekend to chalk up their third win of a disappointing campaign so far. In terms of the Australian Conference, the Waratahs the same win/loss record as the Brumbies (3 from 6) but the Canberra side who top that division have a five point lead from obtaining more bonus points.
The Blues saw off the Brumbies (18-12) in Canberra last week, a game which they started as 3.5 point favourites. They have an overall record of four wins and five defeats and are bottom of the New Zealand Conference.
The Blues are 6.5 point favourites here and should be a score better than their hosts so can be supported at 10/11.
2.05 pm Sharks v Force (Saturday 6th May)
In two of their lasts three matches the Sharks have completed wins home and away to Jaguares, 18-13 in Durban and most recently 33-25 in Buenos Aires but in between they drew 9-9 at home to the Rebels, a game where they started as 16 point favourites and were widely expected to win with a bonus point. Sharks are nine points behind the Lions who top the Africa Conference although four of their last six matches are in Durban in addition to visits to the Sunwolves and the Kings.
The Force were beaten 24-15 by the Lions in Perth last weekend, a second successive home defeat after they went down 16-7 to the Chiefs in Round 9. They remain stuck on two wins from eight outings with both victories coming in home fixtures against the Reds (26-19) in Round 2 and the Kings (46-41) in Round 7.
The Sharks are 13 point favourites here, which could be optimistic given the Force are increasingly competitive in recent game salbeit without much-attacking fiorepower.Force +13 at 10/11 here.
4.15 pm Bulls v Crusaders (Saturday 6th May)
The Bulls sat out Round 10 and they went into that bye on the back of successive home wins, seeing off Jaguares 26-13 in Round 8 and then the Cheetahs (20-14) in Round 9. Their only other win this season also came at Loftus, 34-21 over the Sunwolves in Round 3. That gives the Bulls a 100% record at home this season but this promises to be by far their biggest test. Earlier this season the Bulls lost both their games on tour in New Zealand, 28-12 at the Chiefs and 38-14 at the Blues.
With nine wins from nine outings, the Crusaders lead at the top of the New Zealand Conference by four points. This will be their third successive match against South African opposition and they will be without Sam Whitelock who picked up a ban in last week’s 48-21 win over the Cheetahs. They have easily covered the pre-match handicaps in both recent matches.
At -12 here, the Crusaders are an attractive handicap bet.