Arguably the game of this weekend is an all-New Zealand affair, with 2012 champions Waikato Chiefs hosting Auckland Blues. The Blues won both of their opening games, but then lost their next two. Despite this, a bonus point win in this game could see them go level on points with their more fancied rivals. To do that, though, they will have to stop the Chiefs picking up a bonus point, something which no side this season has managed to do. That will be hard, and yet Sportingbet have surprisingly generous odds of 7/1 available on a Blues win by fewer than 6 points, which looks just about the best option for our sports picks this weekend to me.
Although we are saying to back against them this week, don’t discount the Chiefs holding on to their Super XV crown. That they are the only side to have taken a bonus point in every game is a good indicator of how strong they are and at 100/30 (again with Sportingbet) they look a good tip for the title.
Going back to Saturday’s games, there’s an intriguing match in prospect at Newlands, where the Western Stormers take on the Canterbury Crusaders. The hosts have seen their front row decimated by the suspension of prop Steven Kitshoff and then an injury which means that hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, but are odds on favourites against a Crusaders side who will themselves be missing an important player in the shape of All Black Number 8 Kieran Read. Both teams have two wins from their four games, but the visitors have much the better scoring record - 132 points to 92 - and therefore have two more bonus points than their hosts. Home advantage usually counts for a lot in this competition, but for the saddest of reasons the Crusaders are better than most at playing on the road, so back them at 15/8 in most markets to take this one.
Finally, on Sunday there is a bottom of the table scrap between the New South Wales Waratahs and the Western Force. Both teams have been disappointing this year, amassing only three wins from ten games between them, each picking up a solitary bonus point along the way. As you might expect, there is little to choose between the two, but although the Force don’t travel well - something of a disadvantage when you are based in the most remote city on Earth - at betting odds of 9/2 (Sportingbet) they are far too generously priced to ignore. This will be a game of bad, nervous, rugby, so also back either side to win by 1-12 points, for which the Waratahs are 13/8 with Bet365 and the Force are 9/2 with Coral.
Also check out our Cricket picks and predictions for many of this weekend's matchups.