Mon, Mar 5, 12:05pm by Staff Writer
With two full Rounds plus one Round featuring just the South African Conference, Super Rugby is back in action. The return to a 15-side tournament should make it more competitive than ever. Although from current performances, the New Zealand franchises appear to still be the ones to beat.
Reigning Champions, the Crusaders, have kicked off the new season with back to back wins over the Chiefs and Stormers. They possess a squad with attacking threats throughout and are looking to build a dynasty in Christchurch in the mould of the team from the mid 00’s. Coach Scott Robertson has moulded together a side who once again look like Champions elect. They stand at $3.50.
A tough start to the year for the Hurricanes has seen them on the road for the first two Rounds. Registering a surprise loss in South Africa against the Bulls but bouncing back against the Jaguares in Argentina. In that win they showed the qualities that saw them as Champions in 2016, with arguably the world’s best player, Beauden Barrett pulling the strings at fly half they are priced at $4.
The only non-New Zealand in the top five favourites are the Lions from South Africa. They have fallen at the final hurdle in the last two years, losing the Grand Final to the Hurricanes and Crusaders. Three wins from three has seen them take an early lead in the South African Conference. They should be assured a place in the playoffs but will need to improve if they want to wrap up the Super Rugby title at $5.50.
At $8 each the Highlanders and Chiefs are both capable of having a run to the Grand Final this year. With new coaches in place and an influx of new players, however, it will be a question of how quickly they can gel in an extremely tough New Zealand Conference. In particular, the Chiefs must rebuild after parting ways with their head coach, first choice fly half and scrum half.
The Waratahs were the last Australian side to win the Super Rugby title back in 2014. A game in which they defeated the Crusaders. They stand as the best priced Australian franchise at $15 and have started the year with a win and a draw. Both of which were decided in the closing stages of their matches. They have several stars in their squad, their problem will be consistency throughout the campaign.
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