Thu, Feb 22, 10:06am by Staff Writer
Super Rugby kicked off last week with two games in the South African Conference. Impressive wins from the Lions and Stormers will have fired warning shots that the Australian and New Zealand sides will have to be at their best as their season commences this weekend.
Rebels v Reds, Friday 23rd February 2018, 7.45pm (AEDT)
Both of these sides have a lot to prove this season after poor performances in 2017, especially the Rebels who survived the axe from Rugby Australia with the Western Force making way for them to continue in Super Rugby. They inherited a large number of the Force playing squad as well as their coaching staff. On paper they have a fine side with several Wallabies, but it will be on the pitch where they have to make it count. They still lack depth at flyhalf but look good at $1.45 to get their season off to a winning start.
Brad Thorn, head coach of the Reds, took no time in making an instant impact at the franchise – telling star flyhalf Quade Cooper that he was not in his long-term plans and could play out his contract in club rugby. With a young relatively inexperienced side, the Reds will need to front up against their opponents for the full 80 minutes if they are to win this match at $2.75.
Bet of the Match – Rebels by 1-12 points at $2.63
Crusaders v Chiefs, Saturday 24th February 2018, 5.35pm (AEDT)
Reigning Champions, the Crusaders will head into the season high on confidence looking to cement an era of dominance as the franchise has done in the past. With little player movement in the off-season, their squad remains strong. With a winning mentality echoed through coach Scott Robertson and resonating throughout the team, they could well win back to back titles. The loss of captain Kieran Read through injury for the early Rounds may have an effect on the side, yet they stand at $1.36 to kick off with a win.
Whilst the Crusaders go in search of continuity, the Chiefs are starting a new era after the departure of head coach Dave Rennie and several key players. Colin Cooper is the man tasked with bringing Super Rugby glory back to the Waikato whilst playmaking responsibilities will land on the shoulders of Damien McKenzie. He has gone from strength to strength for the Chiefs and All Blacks and this will be a year to make or break him. They are priced at $3.15 to win their opener.
Bet of the Match – Crusaders by 1-12 points at $2.80
Waratahs v Stormers, Saturday 24th February 2018, 7.45pm (AEDT)
A disappointing 2017 season for the Waratahs has heaped the pressure on coach Daryl Gibson. He, however, cannot be solely responsible for their poor performances. With quality throughout the squad especially in the backs with star Wallabies Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau, they should be a major contender especially in the Australian Conference.
They kick off against the Stormers as favourites at $1.35 compared to the South Africans at $3.20. The Stormers started the season with a win but will face a big test away from home.
Bet of the Match – Waratahs by 1-12 points at $2.70
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