Round 17 in the Super Rugby season offers a great seven game slate which gets underway with the Highlanders taking on the Blues in the first of a Friday night double header. Catch our preview and tips for all seven games over the weekend below.
Round 17 starts in Dunedin as the 5-7-2 Highlanders clash with the 7-6-1 Bulls. After two losses on the trot in South Africa, the Highlanders will be desperate to finish the season on the high with 2 games left. They are still a chance of reaching the finals if other results go their way as well. Meanwhile, the Bulls are coming off a 22-22 draw against the Blues in wet conditions. They did overturn poor form in NZ so they should take confidence into this clash. The two sides have played the last 2 meetings in South Africa and the Highlanders won both in close finishes. In New Zealand, the last meeting ended in a Highlanders 27-20 victory as well. But the line is set fairly high for this contest so I do like the Bulls to cover. They're currently 7th in the standings and will be desperate to finish higher with an upcoming home game against the Lions.
Suncorp Stadium features the struggling QLD Reds as they host the Blues. The Reds have lost 4 on the trot and that means their season over. While for the Blues, they're a very slim chance of making the top 8 but it's pretty unlikely. The money is with the Blues but the Reds do have good history against them at this venue. QLD have won 3 of the last 4 meetings and the most recent result was a 25-25 draw. So in the Reds last home game of the season, I think that will give some extra motivation to officially end the Blues season. While QLD have lost 4 in a row, they've been a chance in all 4 games.
The Crusaders are back on home turf after a 40-27 loss against the Chiefs and that could mean trouble for the Rebels. Melbourne lost 20-15 last week to the Waratahs and it continued their inconsistent form recently with 2 wins in their last 5. Their record against the Crusaders is extremely poor with 3 straight large defeats. Overall, they've been outscored 181-55 and that explains the massive line on offer. History should reoccur with the Crusaders looking to rebound from a big loss and they'll be looking to build form before defending their title in the coming weeks. So while I see the Crusaders winning this one, the line is just too large at this stage.
The Waratahs and Brumbies reignite their rivalry in Round 17 as they meet at Bankwest on Saturday. This is usually a close matchup and with finals position on the line, that should see a great an extra intense battle. The Brumbies can seal top spot in the Australian conference with a win and they're flying after 4 straight wins. To be fair, they have played the Sunwolves twice but winning form is the key. Meanwhile, the Waratahs have beaten the Rebels and Reds in recent weeks and that has kept their top 8 hopes alive. The first meeting of the season went to the Brumbies in Canberra 19-13 so it's hard to see a blowout margin in such an important game for both sides.
The great matchups continue in Round 17 as the 8-6 Lions host the 10-3-1 Hurricanes on Saturday night. This could also be a finals preview with the Hurricanes sitting 4th and the Lions 5th. For the home side, they're peaking nicely before the finals with 3 wins in their last 4 and a 41-22 victory over the Stormers at this venue last week. The same can be said for the Hurricanes after 4 wins in their last 5. They played in a fiery battle against the Sharks last week in Durban and this is expected to be another tough contest. Interestingly, the Lions are underdogs on their home turf and they're worth backing at the line as a result. They have covered in 15 of their last 20 home day games and the home team is 3-0 SU in the last 3 meetings.
At 6-7-1 on the season, the Stormers will be desperate for a big win in this clash as they meet the struggling Sunwolves. The Japanese side has lost 7 on the trot and they finish the season in South Africa/Argentina. Meanwhile, the Stormers will have to play the Sharks in the last round and that could be for a finals spot. The line is obviously set very high for this contest and the Stormers have outscored the Sunwolves 98-34 in the 2 meetings in South Africa. However, the line record is 4-1 in the Sunwolves favour at any venue. The Stormers are likely going to win but this huge line is worth taking on the underdog.
The Jaguares will look to cement their spot atop the South African Conference when they meet the Sharks in Argentina this Sunday morning. They'll be back at home after a successful 4 game road trip where they beat the Hurricanes in NZ and the Reds/Waratahs in AUS. The Sharks are currently in 8th position in the standings but they have a host of teams chasing their spot. Their form is quite patchy with 2 losses in their last 3. They were also smashed 51-17 in Durban against the Jaguares in April. At home, the Jaguares have covered in 5 of their last 7 day home games and that looks the best bet to end the round.
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