The conference stage of the Super XV tournament comes to an end this weekend with the twentieth round of fixtures. The six teams who will compete in the play-offs are decided, so this weekend is mostly about jockeying for position and trying to land that coveted bye week. Let's take a brief look at how the betting odds are shaping up for each team.
The one team who know that they definitely will be playing next time around are the Cheetahs. They are the only team with a bye this week and whilst the four points they will be awarded for this mean that they cannot be caught by seventh placed Stormers, they also can’t pick up enough points to break into the top two. That means that, if they are going to win this tournament, they are going to have to do it on the road. Although not an impossible task, it will be tremendously difficult and could easily involve them having to play on all three continents in the space of a fortnight. The size of that is reflected in their odds of 50/1 with Spreadex, but that is a very long price in a six horse race and one you should carefully consider.
The other five teams are all in action, and the team currently occupying the top seed spot, the Blue Bulls, will fancy their chances of a 13th win of the season against a Stormers team who have little to play for. They’ve been by far the best of the South African sides and even on the road are a heady 4/5 with Bet365 to win.
Waikato Chiefs are pretty much assured of coming out as top dogs in New Zealand. It would take them to lose to an ultimately-disappointing Auckland Blues side without picking up even a bonus point and for the Canterbury Crusaders to have their own bonus point win over the equally-uninspired Hurricanes for the Chiefs to lose top position in the Land of the Long White Cloud. If you think that could happen then the Crusaders are 2/15 with Bet365, which you could then roll over on to the 11/4 that Sportingbet will give you on a Blues win.
The bigger fear for both the Bulls and the Chiefs, though, is that defeat for either would open the door for the top Australian side to snatch the bye week from them. ACT Brumbies - who you will recall were the first team to beat the British Lions on their tour Down Under - would need a bonus point win over the bottom-ranked Aussie side Western Force (and are 2/7 with Sportingbet to get it) to do that. At the same time, they know that if they slip up, then a bonus point win for Queensland Reds could see them lose even second spot. The Reds have a tough road trip to NSW Waratahs, though, and although you’ll get 10/11 on them winning in most places it seems unlikely that they could finish better than fifth.
Looking at the overall picture, it is slightly surprising to see the Chiefs favorite at 5/2 with Bwin. The Bulls, who have won more games, are at a best price of 13/4 though 888.com. This does reflect the fact that, on the whole, the New Zealand conference has been the toughest one this year - the Crusaders are 19/4 third favorites, too. The tip here, though, are the Brumbies. Remember that not only did they beat the Lions, they did so without their full strength side due to international call ups. They do look likely to have to play their semi-final away from home, but that doesn’t present an insurmountable obstacle. Moreover, it lengthens their price somewhat and at 11/2 with Stan James they look the best priced, most realistic option here for your sports betting picks.