Round 18 in the Super Rugby season gets underway this Friday with a great double header from 5.35pm. The round offers a full slate of seven matches and our rugby expert, Matta91, is back to preview all seven games of the weekend here.
The Highlanders take this home game against the Waratahs down to Invercargill and both sides will be eager to keep their slim wildcard hopes alive. The Highlanders are 11th and need a bonus point win over the Waratahs to give them any hope. The same can be said for NSW. Last week, the Highlanders opened the Round with a 24-24 draw against the Bulls and they'll be starting as massive favourites against the 'Tahs. NSW continued their inconsistent form with a 35-24 loss against the Brumbies at Bankwest last week. They do seem to match up well with the Highlanders after 2 straight wins in Australia. In New Zealand, they have lost the last 4 meetings but there hasn't been a massive blowout in all 4 games. However, they are resting 5 Wallabies for this clash and that sums up the importance of this game for NSW. Highlanders to win but the line is not offering much value.
The Melbourne Rebels will look to forget last week as they need to beat the Chiefs in Melbourne this Friday. It was all the Crusaders in a 66-0 defeat of the Rebels and with just 1 win in their last 4, Melbourne's wildcard hopes are in huge danger. The Chiefs will be fresh from the bye and an impressive 40-27 comeback win over the Crusaders in Fiji last time out. They also have a good record against the Rebels at 5-1 and they beat the home side 27-14 in the last meeting in Australia. The odds currently can't separate either side at this stage but it's impossible to confidently back the Rebels after last week. The Chiefs are rested and their attack could have a field day against the Rebels mediocre defence. Chiefs WIN.
The Jaguares are riding an impressive four-game winning streak which saw them capture top spot in the South African Conference. So there's not much to play for in this meeting against the Sunwolves as they've already locked in a home final. The Sunwolves showed some fight last week in South Africa as they went down 31-18 against the Stormers. Interestingly, they do play well against the Jaguares with a win in 2016 and a close loss at this venue in 2017. With nothing on the line for the Jaguares, I think they'll get an early lead and rest some players in the second half for the finals. Which should see the Sunwolves cover a generous line. They're 13-5 ATS after a loss and playing away.
Westpac Stadium features a New Zealand rivalry matchup between the 11-3-1 Hurricanes and 5-9-1 Blues. In terms of the finals, this game has no impact as the Hurricanes have already locked up 4th and the Blues are out of contention. There's also some interesting off the field play between these two sides as the Blues are chasing the signature of Beauden Barrett. In the end, this is a hard game to bet on because of the chances that the Hurricanes may opt to rest players before the finals. So this will be a no bet.
GIO Stadium will see the Australian conference winners in the 9-6 Brumbies taking on the 6-9 Reds. ACT sealed their position atop Australian Rugby with a 35-24 victory over the Waratahs and they're hitting the finals with 5 wins on the trot. Meanwhile, the Reds produced a great win at Suncorp over the Blues as they saluted for the departing Scott Higginbotham and Kerevi. But they will face a tough test against the Brumbies. ACT pumped them 45-21 in the last meeting here and the Brumbies have won 6 straight at this venue in 2019. While against the Reds, they have won 4 straight and scored 40+ in all 4 victories. So their home record makes it hard to back against the line.
Not only will this be an all South African battle but the Stormers and Sharks are playing for their season. The Stormers are 7th in the standings and just need to win. For the Sharks, they need a bit of help if they can upset the Stormers in Cape Town. Since 2012, these two sides have both won 3 games against each other at this venue so it's always a tough battle. With the added spice of the finals, the either team bet is very good value here.
The Super Rugby regular season concludes in South Africa as the Bulls host the Lions. For the Bulls, they currently sit 5th and that means a meeting with the Hurricanes awaits in the finals if they beat the Lions. Otherwise, if the Lions win this clash, they'll likely replace the Bulls in 5th. Coming into this clash, the Lions should be very confident of an upset considering their form at this venue. They've smashed the Bulls in the last 2 meetings and have averaged 52.5 points scored. As such, the Bulls are just 1-5 ATS when playing the Lions at home since 2011. This should be a closer battle as both sides prepare for the finals and the value looks to be with the away team.
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