The following are previews with betting tips for Round 7 of the 2019 Super Rugby season.
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Friday, 29 March

Hurricanes vs Crusaders

5:35 PM AEDT, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
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The Hurricanes came from behind to see off the Stormers 34-28 to extend their winning streak at home to 13 games. Offensively they have stuttered this season but to their credit they continue to find a way to win close contests, with three of their four wins coming by 6 points or less. Fly-half Beauden Barrett has been showing some good form which is a positive sign. In team news, Ngani Laumape, TJ Perenara return after being rested last week, however hooker Dane Coles is out with a calf strain.
The Crusaders fielded an under-strength team and put in a limp performance in wet conditions to fall 12-20 to the Waratahs last week to snap a 19-game winning streak. They scored a late try to add some respectability to the scoreline, but it was an uncharacteristically poor performance from the two-time reigning champions. The Crusaders are a quality team, so I expect them to bounce back with a stronger showing this week. The Crusaders have named a full-strength squad for this clash. All Blacks captain Kieran Read returns to the starting line-up after a four-month break from rugby due to a back injury.
Betting: the Hurricanes are on a 13-game winning streak at home but the Crusaders have gone 8-1 away from home over the last 12 months, so something will have to give. The Hurricanes have won their last five straight at home against the Crusaders, however the Crusaders have won the last three meetings (all in Christchurch), with their last two wins coming by comfortable 30-12 (2018 semi-finals) and 38-22 (Round 2) margins. The last five meetings in Wellington were all settled by 12 points or less, and every Crusaders’ away fixture this season has been settled by 1-12 points, so I will back both the Hurricanes 1-12 at 3.50 (bet365) and the Crusaders 1-12 at 2.80 (Ladbrokes, TopBetta).
Confidence: medium

Waratahs vs Sunwolves

7:45 PM AEDT, McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
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The Waratahs handled the wet conditions better to upset the under-strength Crusaders 20-12 at the SCG last week and they now top Australian conference with a 3-2 record. A notable improvement for the Waratahs over previous seasons is defence. They conceded 35 points per game in 2017, 28 points in 2018 and are currently averaging 20 points conceded in 2019, so new defence coach Steve Tandy has certainly had an impact. Discipline has also been good. The Waratahs conceded just three penalties against the Crusaders. Offensively the Waratahs have yet to fire, however, with their 22 points per game the 3rd lowest in the competition. Nevertheless, having a strong defence creates a good platform to build upon. In team news, lock Jed Holloway is in doubt with a rib injury.
The Sunwolves were soundly beaten 24-37 by the Lions in Singapore last week. They paid the price for poor discipline and their scrum came off second best. They are now 1-5 for the season and must find a way to keep their spirits up knowing that they will be axed from the competition after the 2020 season. The Sunwolves have had to do a fair amount of travelling over the last few weeks, having played in New Zealand, then Tokyo, then Singapore and now Australia. This may catch up with them against a Waratahs side that hasn’t had to travel further afield than Canberra since Round 2.
Betting: the Waratahs put in their best performance of the campaign last week but they will have to maintain their focus and work rate against a less illustrious opponent. Over the last 12 months the Waratahs have a better record as the home underdog (3-1) than as the home favourite (3-3). Nevertheless, given 6 of the 7 Sunwolves’ away defeats over the last 12 months were by 8+ points, I would back the Waratahs -7.5 in the pick your own line market at 1.40 (Sportsbet). While the Waratahs’ offence hasn’t fired yet, the Sunwolves have the second worst defensive record in the competition.
Confidence: medium
Saturday, 30 March

Blues vs Stormers

5:35 PM AEDT, Eden Park, Auckland
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The Blues defeated the Highlanders 33-26 last week to snap a 20-game winless streak against New Zealand opposition. Rieko Ioane scored two tries to bring his tally to six over the last two games. When the Blues introduced three All Blacks forwards off the bench in the second half they dominated the Highlanders’ scrum. They are now 2-3 for the season and have genuine cause for optimism after far too many years of being also-rans.
The Stormers fell 28-34 in a see-sawing game in Wellington last week. They had most of the ball in the final ten minutes but couldn’t take their opportunities. It was their 9th consecutive defeat on foreign soil and their 7th defeat in their last 8 away games, but at least they picked up a consolation bonus point. Despite losing, the Stormers’ competitive performance against the Hurricanes is a positive sign.
Betting: the last five meetings between the two were all won by the home team, however the last time the Blues hosted the Stormers they squeaked away with a 18-17 victory. The last three meetings in Auckland were all settled by 1-12 points, so I would back the Blues 1-12 at 2.80 (Ladbrokes, Sportsbet).
Confidence: low

Reds vs Rebels

7:45 PM AEDT, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
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The Reds put in a dominant performance to see off the listless Brumbies 36-14 in Brisbane last week. They continue to be much stronger at home than away. Four of their five wins over the last 12 months were at Suncorp Stadium. After starting the campaign 0-3, albeit with an incredibly tough opening schedule, the Reds have now won two straight. A win over the Rebels would put them right back in contention in the congested Australian conference.
The Rebels were their own worst enemy as they lost 14-28 to the Sharks last week. Mistakes and ill-discipline unraveled their chances. This was on the back of a poor disciplined performance that cost them the game against the Lions. The good news is the Rebels have their South African tour out of the way and they have the same 3-2 record as the conference-leading Waratahs, who have yet to leave Australasia. Will Genia and Dane Haylett-Petty will likely return after being rested last week. This game provides a chance for Quade Cooper to make a point against his former franchise.
Betting: the Rebels’ decision to rest their Wallabies last week means they will probably field a full-strength team this week. Nevertheless, given the Reds’ 6-2 line record at home over the last 12 months and the fact that they beat the Rebels at this venue last year, I will back the Reds +3.5 at 1.77 (TopBetta).
Confidence: low
Sunday, 31 March

Sharks vs Bulls

12:05 AM AEDT, Kings Park Stadium, Durban
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The Sharks saw off the under-strength Rebels 28-14 last week to move to 3-2 for the season. They controlled the game well and forced the visitors into numerous penalties and errors. The Sharks have only received one hiding this season and that was their 14-37 mauling by the Bulls in Round 4, so they will be looking to make amends here. A win this week is crucial for both sides given the congested nature of the South African conference.
The Bulls were blind-sided by the previously struggling Chiefs in a 20-56 home defeat last week. Prior to that they had looked like one of the form teams in the competition, with 18 and 23 point wins over the Lions and Sharks leading into that fixture. The Bulls came off second best in all aspects of the game against the Chiefs, with perhaps the bye the week before disrupting their momentum.
Betting: the Sharks have gone 7-2 at home over the last 12 months while the Bulls have gone 2-5 away from home, however the head-to-head history is one-sided. The Bulls have gone 7-1-0 in their last 8 fixtures against the Sharks. They beat the Sharks by 23 points in Round 4 and by 30 points the last time they visited Durban. If I were to bet on this fixture I would take the Bulls +4.0 at 1.90 (Palmerbet).
Confidence: low

Jaguares vs Chiefs

8:40 AM AEDT, Estadio José Amalfitani, Buenos Aires
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Prior to their bye last week the Jaguares were thrashed 35-8 by the Stormers in Cape Town. They were still in the game at halftime but were shut out of the scoreboard in the second half as the Stormers dominated the forward exchanges. The Jaguares are now 2-3 for the season as they continue to be a frustratingly mercurial team. They will be desperate to record a win this week given their next home fixture isn’t until the end of April.
After having struggled – particularly defensively – this year, the Chiefs pulled of a shock 56-20 thrashing of the Bulls in Pretoria last week to record their first win of the season. Star player Damian McKenzie started at fullback which paid dividends as he had an excellent game. After averaging 47 points conceded per game in Rounds 1-4, the Chiefs have made adjustments to stem the tide and their next two opponents were restricted to 23 and 20 points.
Betting: the two sides have met twice before, with both fixtures won by the away team by a 4-point margin. I believe the Chiefs can win this, but I’m wary that they may rotate the squad for this clash. Given the Jaguares are 0-2 as the home underdog over the last 12 months I would back the Chiefs in the head-to-head at 1.65 (BetEasy, Palmerbet). Those who are more risk averse may prefer to wait until the team sheets are announced to confirm that the Chiefs field a strong squad.
Confidence: low
 
Best Bets of the Round
Back both the Hurricanes 1-12 at 3.50 (bet365) and the Crusaders 1-12 at 2.80 (Ladbrokes, TopBetta).
 
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