Super Rugby Round 18

Just two rounds remain in the 2018 Super Rugby regular season, with several finals spots and conference titles still up for grabs. Huge Friday night derbies on both sides of the Tasman kick off an absorbing Round 18 schedule. The Wolf’s best this week is Jaguares WIN. 

Round 18 Preview and Tips

Crusaders vs Highlanders (5:35pm Friday 6th July)
Super Rugby showdowns don’t come much bigger than the southern derby between the Crusaders and Highlanders, and with only a fortnight of the regular season left both teams will be eager to build some momentum for the finals. The Crusaders have all but sealed top spot on the ladder and are on an 11-match winning streak, but sat out last weekend with the bye. The Highlanders have a point to prove after getting pumped by the Chiefs in Fiji, falling behind 42-0 at halftime before rallying to go down 45-22. The Crusaders have won nine of their last 12 against the Highlanders and are 13-4 all-time at home against their South Island rivals. The Highlanders took advantage of an under-strength Crusaders side to prevail 25-17 in Dunedin in Round 5, ending a three-match losing streak in the rivalry. Kieran Read is a big in for the Crusaders, but the Highlanders could receive a similar boost in the shape of Liam Squire’s possible return. It’ll be tight, but the Wolf can’t go past the Crusaders, who are 6-0 at AMI Stadium in 2018.
Best Bet: HT/NT – Crusaders/Crusaders ($1.75)
Value Bet: Crusaders 1-12 ($2.55)

Reds vs Rebels (7:45pm Friday 6th July)
The Rebels’ bid for a maiden finals bid is teetering after being run down 31-26 by the Waratahs last week, ending a three-match winning run. They now sit just three points ahead of the ninth-placed Sharks. With a final-round away assignment against the Highlanders to come, this is must-win. Fortunately for the Rebels, the 4-10 Reds have been horrible this season and are coming off a 39-16 loss to the similarly struggling Blues, their fifth on the trot. Wallaby centre Samu Kerevi is out for the Reds, while the Rebels have been boosted by the return of wing speedster Marika Koroibete. The Rebels whipped the Reds 45-19 in Round 2 but have a 2-4 record in Brisbane. The Reds are far more formidable at home – going 3-3 at Suncorp Stadium this year – but the Rebels’ 3-3 away count, including wins over the Brumbies and Blues in their last two road trips, should provide enough impetus for a vital victory.
Best Bet: Rebels -4.5 ($1.90)
Value Bet: Marika Koroibete To Score 2+ Tries ($9.00) 

Chiefs vs Brumbies (3:15pm Saturday 7th July)
It will require several other results to fall their way, but the Brumbies can still scrape into the finals after last week’s stunning 24-12 upset of the heavyweight Hurricanes. They are six points adrift of the eighth-placed Rebels and three behind the ninth-placed Sharks but have doubled their season win tally with a recent three-game winning streak. The Chiefs hit the international break in patchy form with three losses in their last five games but were unstoppable in Fiji last Saturday against the Highlanders, storming to a 42-0 halftime lead before easing off the gas to win 45-22 and climb to fifth. The Chiefs have a 7-4 home record against the Brumbies, including a 28-10 result in Hamilton late last season – though 10 of the teams’ last 14 clashes were decided by eight or less. The Brumbies are a poor 2-4 on the road this year while the Chiefs are 4-2 at home, which the Wolf thinks will prove the difference here. But the visitors have been afforded a big start that could be worth a nudge.
Best Bet: Brumbies +14.5 ($1.90)
Value Bet: Chiefs by 11-15 ($5.00)

Hurricanes vs Blues (5:35pm Saturday 7th July)
After a shock 24-12 loss to the Brumbies last week, the fourth-placed Hurricanes need to win their last two matches against the Blues and Chiefs to secure a home quarter-final. Their title credentials have taken a hit courtesy of three straight losses. The 4-10 Blues are limping towards the finish line but snapped a four-game losing run with a 39-16 belting of the Reds last Friday. The ’Canes have won seven of their last eight against the Blues, including a 36-15 result in Auckland earlier this season. Alarmingly, the hapless Blues have not won against a fellow New Zealand side since the opening weekend of the 2016 season. The Wolf says don’t count on the Blues breaking that torturous streak at ‘The Cake-tin’, with the Hurricanes aware their chances of making an impression in the finals could hinge on their efforts in the last two rounds.
Best Bet: Hurricanes 13+ ($1.90)
Value Bet: Hurricanes by 16-20 ($5.50)

Waratahs vs Sunwolves (7:45pm Saturday 7th July)
The Waratahs put one hand on the Australian Conference title with a come-from-behind victory over the Rebels in Round 17, scoring two tries in the final 12 minutes to win 31-26. They have won three of their last four and get Israel Folau back from suspension this week. The Sunwolves are in an unprecedented purple patch despite sitting last, winning three of their last four games. Last weekend they downed the Bulls 42-37 by scoring the last three tries of the match. But they remain 0-6 on the road this season and are yet to win away in their Super Rugby history. The Waratahs have scored 50-plus in both of their previous meetings with the Sunwolves, both in Tokyo. The Sunwolves have been an outstanding play against the start this year, going 7-1 in their past eight, but the ’Tahs should breeze past a conservative line here as they chase a bonus point.
Best Bet: Waratahs -16.5 ($1.90)
Value Bet: Waratahs by 16-20 ($5.50)

Bulls vs Jaguares (11:05pm Saturday 7th July)
The Jaguares need just one more victory to clinch a historic finals berth, but they could also snatch the South African Conference title if they can win their last two games. Their 25-14 win over the Stormers was their seventh in a row, while the conference-leading Lions’ loss last weekend has reduced the gap between the teams to just three points. The Bulls have tumbled out of contention with a three-match losing streak that commenced with a 54-24 hammering at the hands of the Jags in Buenos Aries and continued with a home loss to the Brumbies and an away defeat to the last-placed Sunwolves. Despite winning their last six away games in Australia and New Zealand, the Jaguares are on a six-match losing streak on South African soil that stretches back to Round 1 last year. The Bulls are 4-3 at Loftus Versfeld in 2018 and won their only previous clash at home against the Jaguares last season, but the Argentine outfit has a head of steam up and should make it eight straight. The Wolf loves their value as underdogs against an out-of-form opponent.
Best Bet: Jaguares WIN ($2.07)
Value Bet: Jaguares 1-12 ($3.10)

Stormers vs Sharks (1:15am Sunday 8th July)
The ninth-placed Sharks kept their finals flame flickering with a 31-24 upset of the conference-leading Lions last week at Kings Park, outscoring the visitors 20-3 in the second half. They are now just three points behind the Rebels with two rounds to go. The 5-10 Stormers’ hopes have evaporated courtesy of a four-match losing streak, including a dismal defeat away to the Sunwolves and last weekend’s 25-14 loss to the Jagaures in Buenos Aries. But they are 5-2 at home this season, while the Sharks are a horrible 1-6 on the road. The Stormers are also 5-2 in their last seven against the Sharks at Newlands. But with so much on the line – and five wins in their last six outings against the Stormers at all venues – the Sharks should have enough in the tank to stay in the top-eight race for one more week.
Best Bet: Sharks WIN ($2.00)
Value Bet: Sharks Win By Over 7.5 Points ($3.60)