The opening round of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman is upon us. If you listen to the bookies shouting their odds at you it’s going to be a 0-5 start for Australia’s five teams and by a clear margin. What’s really in store?
Super Rugby Trans-Tasman Round 1 Betting Tips
Highlanders v Queensland Reds
Fri, May 14, Forsyth-Barr Stadium, Dunedin 5:05pm (AEST)
The Reds would win this one any other week of the season but not just six days after their Super Rugby AU triumph. Too much emotion has been drained from them. The Reds also looked undersized in the backs and barely made a break against the Brumbies without Hunter Paisami in the final. Now they are also without the injured Jordan Petaia. Their mosquito fleet in the backs will struggle. The Highlanders went just 3-5 in Super Rugby Aotearoa but they knocked off the champion Crusaders 33-12. The hallmark that night was big defence forcing errors and turning those chances into tries. Fun match-up at halfback between All Black Aaron Smith and 19-year-old Reds halfback Kalani Thomas, who idolises him. Highlanders to win but Reds to be a real force in this competition.
NSW Waratahs v Hurricanes
Fri, May 14, Sydney Cricket Ground, 7:45pm (AEST)
The Hurricanes (2-6) ran last in the NZ comp but finished strongly with a 41-22 win over the Highlanders a fortnight ago. They lose a good deal of firepower with All Blacks centre Ngani Laumape out of this game in the same week he announced his move to French club Stade Francais. Jordie Barrett and his backs shred unorganised defences and you still have to question whether the Waratahs have repaired all the holes that existed during their awful early season performances. The ‘Tahs have improved and Ben Donaldson has given the attack more edge at five-eighth but this is still such a raw young NSW outfit.
Crusaders v Brumbies
Sat, May 15, OrangeTheory Stadium, Christchurch 5:05pm (AEST)
This will be a hard one for both teams coming off finals just a week ago. The Crusaders have too much polish and ingrained performance to let this one slip even though they are resting a few regular starters. The Brumbies played some terrific rugby in Super Rugby AU. Now young stars like five-eighth Noah Lolesio get to test their development against the best Kiwi side. The Brumbies haven’t beaten the Crusaders since 2009. A well-drilled pack, winger Tom Wright and centre Len Ikitau can cause the Crusaders some tricky moments but can’t see an upset here.
Melbourne Rebels v Blues
Sat, May 15, AAMI Park, Melbourne 7:45pm (AEST)
An interesting match-up with the Rebels under interim head coach Kevin Foote for the first time. The Rebels beat the Highlanders in NZ early last year so they are not cannon fodder in front of Kiwi opposition. The Blues have been NZ’s big improvers in 2020-21. Strike force Rieko Ioane will be a handful for the Rebels in the centres. The Blues have elected to play three All Blacks forwards off the bench so they should come home strongly. The Kiwis are relishing the idea of getting back on tour. Pressuring defence and slowing down the Blues’ ball will make this closer than many think.
Western Force v Chiefs
Sat, May 15, HBF Park, Perth 9:45pm (AEST)
The Force got on a roll at the end of Super Rugby AU. They are a team with hunger to defy the odds every time they play. Key back Richard Kahui was once a Chiefs stalwart and his urgency to perform against his old club will be infectious. The Force may well have more energy than a Chiefs team which spent plenty of emotion in last weekend’s losing final in NZ. It’s a stretch to tip a Force upset but with points start they look appealing in Perth.