Thu, Jul 19, 1:10pm by Staff Writer
The 2018 Super Rugby finals begin this weekend with four matches across two nights.
The teams are seeded one through eight, with the top three seeds represented across all three conferences. The Crusaders were the runaway leaders atop the table after 19 rounds, followed by the Lions from South Africa. The Waratahs are the only Australian side in the finals and are seeded third.
Hurricanes versus Chiefs
Friday, 20 July 2018 at 5.35pm AEST at Westpac Stadium, Wellington
The Hurricanes host the Chiefs on Friday night in a rematch of their clash in Hamilton last Friday night.
The Canes are $1.50 favourites at Sportsbet, with the Chiefs $2.60 outsiders.
On that occasion it was the undermanned Chiefs who got the better of the Canes 28-24. The home side led 21-0 before a furious second half comeback by the visitors fell just short.
The Chiefs will welcome the return of Sam Cain and Damien McKenzie who were both rested for that match, which they dominated for the entire first half.
The Hurricanes have been out of sorts for the past month, managing only a win against the lowly Blues, amongst losses to the Brumbies and Chiefs.
The Canes have won only two of their past six matches against the Chiefs, with the visitors winning last season in Wellington.
The 5.5-point start is too many to give the Hurricanes on current form and with the Chiefs welcoming back two of their best players, it wouldn’t surprise if they snuck home to win.
Best bet- Chiefs Big Win Little Win 1-12 at $3.50
Crusaders versus Sharks
Saturday, 21 July 2018 at 5.35pm AEST at AMI Stadium, Christchurch
The Crusaders should have no trouble brushing aside the travelling Sharks from South Africa when the two sides meet on Saturday night.
The home side are $1.08 favourites to win the match. The Sharks are travelling from Durban and are $8 underdogs.
These two sides last met at Kings Park in 2016, where the Crusaders were 19-14 winners. The last time the Crusaders lost to the Sharks was in 2013 in Durban.
The Sharks have never beaten the Crusaders in Christchurch, but did manage a draw in 1997 against them.
Expect the Crusaders to be at their ruthless best on Saturday night and cover the 18.5-point handicap against a Sharks side that has managed only one road win this season, albeit in Auckland.
Best bet- Crusaders to cover 18.5-point handicap at $1.90
Waratahs versus Highlanders
Saturday, 21 July 2018 at 8.05pm AEST at Allianz Stadium, Sydney
The Waratahs have won 14 of their 23 matches played against the Highlanders all-time, but will go into this final as underdogs against the side from Dunedin.
The Tahs are $2.20 outsiders at Sportsbet, with the Highlanders priced at $1.67.
A 41-12 win to the Waratahs in round 14 this season was marred by a red card to Wasake Naholo early in the match which ruined the Highlanders hope of victory.
The visitors have been in a poor run of form since the resumption of the competition following the international break.
They have conceded 45, 45 and 37 points in their past three matches, winning only one of them.
The Waratahs will be disappointed with a 40-31 loss against the Brumbies at home last weekend and face a tougher finals match against the Highlanders as opposed to the Jaguares had they won that match.
The Highlanders defensive woes are a concern, especially with so much at stake in this match.
The last finals game the two teams played was in 2016, which the Highlanders won 35-17 in the semi finals, before winning the final in Wellington.
The home side are a good value underdog and worthy of a wager in this one.
Best bet- Waratahs to win at $2.20
Lions versus Jaguares
Saturday, 21 July 2018 at 11.05pm AEST at Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
The Lions host the Jaguares in Johannesburg in the final match of the quarterfinals on Saturday night.
The home side are $1.33 favourites to win the match, with the Jags priced at $3.30.
It is the first finals appearance for the visitors who entered the competition in 2016. They enjoyed a wonderful mid-season surge, winning seven matches in a row, including four in Australia and New Zealand.
Back-to-back losses in South Africa to end the season dented their hopes of topping the conference and they must now beat the Lions to progress to the semi-finals.
The Jags have won only once in South Africa in their history and it was their first match in the competition against the Cheetahs.
The Lions have made the Super Rugby Grand Final in the past two seasons and will be looking to repeat that feat again this season as second seed.
These teams have split their results 3-3, with the home side winning each of the matches. In round two this season, the Lions were victorious 47-27 and we expect a similar result on Sunday night.
Best bet- Lions to cover 8.5-point handicap at $1.90
Super Rugby Quarter Final Odds – Sportsbet
Hurricanes $1.50 v Chiefs $2.60
Crusaders $1.08 v Sharks $8
Waratahs $2.20 v Highlanders $1.67
Lions $1.33 v Jaguares $3.30
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