THE STATUS OF SUPER RUGBY (PLUS OUR PREVIEW OF THE NEW KIWI COMP)

Super Rugby: Covid-19 Update

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Along with the rest of the world’s sporting codes, rugby union came to a screeching halt in mid-March as the coronavirus crisis deepened. Super Rugby – arguably the strongest club rugby union competition in the world – was seven rounds into its 2020 season.

Within weeks, SANZAAR announced the cancellation of the remainder of the Super Rugby season. The logistics and risks of teams travelling to and from their bases in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina and Japan meant a meaningful conclusion to the competition – which was celebrating its 25th season – was near-impossible.

On 6 May, however, New Zealand Rugby announced that Super Rugby Aotearoa, a 10-week competition involving only the five Kiwi Super Rugby franchises, would get underway in June, representing the welcome return of Super Rugby betting odds for punters.

WILL BETTING ON SUPER RUGBY BECOME A THING OF THE PAST?

The Super Rugby landscape was already looking unstable before COVID-19 turned the rugby union world upside down. The controversial conference system has been tinkered with ad nauseam in recent years, without producing a result that was anywhere near satisfactory.

Meanwhile, what was an 18-team competition in 2016–17 has been trimmed to 15, with the Perth-based Western Force and two South African teams axed; it had already been confirmed 2020 would be the short-lived Sunwolves’ last. The cancellation of the Super Rugby season means the Tokyo-based side is no more.

The four remaining Australian teams’ dismal recent showings in Super Rugby have also damaged the competition’s credibility. But Rugby Australia – in turmoil and under financial strain at all levels of the game – revealed on 27 May it would be following neighbouring New Zealand’s lead and staging a domestic Super Rugby AU competition. Western Force will rejoin Queensland Reds, NSW Waratahs, ACT Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels from 11 July for a 10-round competition followed by two finals weekends.

South Africa are reported to be considering a similar domestic competition. The big loser of the Super Rugby shutdown is sole Argentina team the Jaguares, which reached the 2019 final but is effectively stranded with nobody to play. The shape of Super Rugby from 2021 and beyond is destined to be an intriguing and lengthy saga.

Super Rugby odds and Super Rugby betting options will be available for all Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby AU matches, as well as futures markets.

THE SUPER RUGBY AEOTAROA PREVIEW

Beginning on 13 June, the 10-week Super Rugby Aeotaroa competition is chock-full of talent – and Sportsbet’s betting markets are already heating up.

CRUSADERS AND CHIEFS VIE FOR FAVOURITISM IN SUPER RUGBY BETTING MARKETS

The Christchurch-based Crusaders were gearing up for a tilt at a record fourth straight Super Rugby title when the season was put on ice. Already brimming with current and future All Blacks, the Crusaders have been bolstered by the return of legendary lock Sam Whitelock ahead of the Super Rugby Aotearoa start. They won five of their six games to start 2020, with a young and exciting backline headlined by top-point-scorer favourite Richie Mo’unga, top-tryscorer favourite Sevu Reece, Jack Goodhue and Braydon Ennor wreaking havoc.

The Crusaders are even-money favourites in Super Rugby betting odds to take out the fledgling competition. A combined record of 34 wins, 10 losses and one draw against the Highlanders, Blues and Hurricanes since 2011 holds the powerhouse franchise in good stead for a 10-week feast of derbies. The Crusaders have a bye in round 1 of Super Rugby Aotearoa.

But the Chiefs – who are on the second line of Super Rugby betting – loom as a major threat to the Crusaders’ dominance. With Warren Gatland returning to the region as coach, and ex–All Black number 10 Aaron Cruden also rejoining their ranks, the Chiefs had a blistering start to 2020, including an authoritative 25–15 defeat of the Crusaders. The Chiefs boast an 11–10 record against the Crusaders since 2011 to boot.

A gentle start to the new competition awaits the Chiefs, who travel south from Hamilton to Dunedin for a clash with the Super Rugby odds outsiders, the Highlanders, in Saturday’s historic opener  – although skipper Sam Cane will miss the trip. The extended break should prove fruitful for injury-hampered livewire Damian McKenzie, who is reportedly fit and firing.

BLUES WARM FAVOURITES FOR SUPER RUGBY BREAKTHROUGH

The much maligned, perennially underachieving Blues inspired hope among their long-suffering fan base after a 5–2 start to 2020, including a momentous derby upset of the Hurricanes. Then coronavirus struck, seemingly scuppering a highly promising campaign.

The Blues already boasted the stand-out storyline of Super Rugby 2020 after securing the signature of the electrifying Beauden Barrett. The All Blacks linchpin and two-time IRB World Rugby Union Player of the Year is yet to take the field for the Aucklanders due to a post-World Cup sabbatical – but he is set to make his Blues debut on Sunday alongside icon Dan Carter.

Regarded by many as the greatest rugby union player of all time, Carter bowed out of the Test arena in 2015 and has been playing in France and Japan since. The 38-year-old’s sensational move to the Blues has sent shockwaves through Super Rugby Aotearoa… particularly among his former adoring Crusaders fans.

There’s always been firepower and talent in the Blues’ squad, but Barrett and Carter may be the belated solution to tying it all together – if they can manage the hype. The Blues are warm Super Rugby betting odds favourites to again account for the Hurricanes at a packed-out Eden Park in round 1 on Sunday.

The Blues’ biggest obstacle may be overcoming an astonishing hoodoo in derby matches: they have won just three of their last 30 matches against their fellow Kiwi sides.

HURRICANES THE DARK HORSE TIP, HIGHLANDERS NO SHOW

The Highlanders and Hurricanes – who surged to maiden Super Rugby titles in 2015 and ’16, respectively – are on the last two lines of Super Rugby betting to take out the inaugural title.

The Hurricanes aren’t far behind the three front-runners according to the Super Rugby odds, however. Despite losing Beauden Barrett, the Wellington outfit’s team sheet is still dripping with class in the form of All Blacks Dane Coles, Jordie Barrett, Ardie Savea, Vaea Fifita, Ngani Laumape and TJ Perenara. In a reminder of the danger they present, the Hurricanes upset the Chiefs in Hamilton just before the season went on hiatus.

Similar optimism around the Highlanders is hard to come by. The southerners’ title-winning squad has been slowly dismantled over the past five years, with Ben Smith, Waisake Naholo and Elliot Dixon the latest to leave post-2019. The world’s best halfback, Aaron Smith, is a rare trump card in a side badly lacking in quality and experience in most areas. Signing ex-Hurricane and All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder was a handy move from a PR perspective, but his impact is unlikely to be significant and he has been ruled out of round 1.

Super Rugby betting odds reflect the almost universal opinion that the Highlanders will finish last in Super Rugby Aotearoa – and may even struggle to win a game.

Sportsbet has Super Rugby odds and Super Rugby betting options available for all matches of the upcoming Super Rugby Aotearoa and Super Rugby AU competitions. Bet now.

 

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