We are now just over a third of the way through the Super XV rugby season and it is already shaping up to be another storming season, with a particularly close scrap for dominance in the Australian conference and only one team from each nation slipping off the pace in the opening six or seven games.
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In Australia it already looks to be a two way fight between the ACT Brumbies and the Queensland Reds for the conference title, with the other strongly placed for a wild card spot. After seven games each the Brumbies have 29 points, with the Reds three behind on 26. Both are well clear of the third placed side, NSW Waratahs, who have 17. Completing the field are the Melbourne Rebels with 14 points and it is Western Force who have fallen off the back of the pack with only 11 points. The Brumbies are currently at 6/1 with Ladbrokes to win the Grand Final, with the Reds best priced at 14/1 with Sportingbet. Be wary of those betting odds, though. At present all of the Aussie sides have played 7 games, whilst everyone else bar one has only played 6, meaning that both of those sides have fewer points per game than their rivals occupying the same positions in other conferences.
Over in South Africa it is the Natal Coastal Sharks who are making all of the running, losing only once all season. However, they have picked up only one bonus point along the way, leaving them with a mere 25 points. They also have a three point lead, but this time it is a more significant one as the Central Cheetahs are the only other side to have played a seventh match. This means that whilst the Cheetahs lie second at this stage of the season, the better placed team are the Blue Bulls from Nothern Transvaal, who have 19 points from a game less. The Sharks are currently the best priced South African side at 10/1 with Bet365, with the Blue Bulls at 22/1 (Betfair) and the Cheetahs 25/1 (BetVictor). Don’t be put off by those odds when making your sports picks, as two of those sides should make the post-season and have a real chance of winning that Grand Final.
New Zealand is the real powerhouse of this season’s Super XV, so much so that the weakest of their sides, the Highlanders, might be the only winless side in the tournament to date but should still avoid finishing last as that one win would take them past South Africa’s Southern Kings. At the other end of the table the Waikato Chiefs have notched up a massive 29 points from just six games, giving them a huge six point advantage over second placed Wellington Hurricanes. A point behind them are the Auckland Blues. They are not a side to be taken lightly, because although they have lost half of their games this season, no team has picked up more bonus points than them, largely because of the narrow nature of those losses (never by more than seven points). The Chiefs are hot favourites for the Grand Final at 11/4 in most markets, with the Hurricanes at 14/1 with William Hill and the Blues a surprisingly long 20/1 at Sportingbet.