Last years winners The Chiefs will be hard pushed this year. They can expect stiff competition in the New Zealand Conference.
Super Rugby more than lives up to name, a 15-team rugby union competition that enjoys a well earned reputation for producing the most exciting product of the 15-man sport.
Established in 1996 as Super 12 with a dozen sides, it became Super 14 in 2006 and Super 15 in 2011. Marketing executives have dropping the numeral in recent years so Super Rugby it is, with 15 teams – five from Australia, five from New Zealand and five from South Africa, including the Kings that have replaced the Lions in the Super Rugby fold.
The Kings will play out of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth, with their catchment area comprising the Eastern Cape and parts of the Western Cape. Bookmakers are tipping that the Kings will have a dismal debut Super Rugby season, with the Matt Sexton-coach newcomers short odds to finish at the foot of the ladder. The Rebels ran last in their debut Super Rugby campaign in 2011 and the Force, one of the two Super Rugby virgins in 2006, collected the dreaded wooden spoon in their first crack at the title.
The kings of Super Rugby have generally been sides from New Zealand, with Kiwi teams taking out 11 of the 17 finals, including the first five and the last one. The Crusaders have not tasted Super Rugby success since 2008 but they boast seven gold medals and three silver medals, a tally that puts them head and shoulders above their rivals.
The Crusaders are one of six sides that have won a Super Rugby tournament, with the other triumphant teams being the Blues (three titles), the Bulls (three titles), the Brumbies (two titles), the Chiefs (one title) and the Reds (one title). One has to feel sorry for the Sharks, Super Rugby finalists four times but yet to experience the ultimate high. The Sharks lost 6-37 to the Chiefs last year. Source: Wikipedia
Conference-based Regular Season
Because of the format of the Super Rugby competition – it has gone from being a round-robin tournament in which every sides plays either a home or an away match versus every other team before the top four enter the play-offs to a conference-based competition similar to that of, say, the National Football League in the United States of America – the most sensible way to analyse the event is to look at the three conferences and how they may end up playing out. You can see the schedule here.
Brumbies to Capitalise in Australia
The Australian Conference is the first alphabetically and, as luck would have it, the first place that value-conscious 2013 Super Rugby punters should go. That is because the Australian Conference features two sides that are out of their depth but not priced accordingly by bookmakers and another team that is trading well under its true odds.
Punters should be able to write their own tickets about either the Force or the Rebels qualifying for the 2013 Super Rugby play-offs as the Australian Conference winners but the lightweights are listed at odds of around 20-1 and 12-1 respectively, while the Waratahs are offered at odds of around 3-1 despite winning only one-quarter of their 16 games last year. The Sydney-based Waratahs are Australia’s glamour side, which explains why they trade at short prices every season, often for no logical rugby union reason.
The Brumbies and the Reds are the Australian Conference teams on which to concentrate and, once one does some analysis of their draws and squads, it becomes apparent which of the 2-1 shots warrants a bet. The Brumbies have been given a very good draw and, in Jake White, they have one of the smartest coaches in the sport. The Reds have a much toucher schedule and they will have to play at least half of their matches without Will Genia, their Wallabies halfback who sustained a very serious injury in 2012.
Kiwi Section Too Close To Call
The New Zealand Conference is the most difficult to solve, with four of the five sides holding realistic domestic and international title claims. Just 14 points separated the first-placed Chiefs from the fourth-placed Highlanders in the 2012 Super Rugby tournament, with the Crusaders and the Hurricanes sandwiched between them and the Blues nowhere.
The Chiefs are going to be hard pushed to improve on last season’s championship triumph, with multi-sport star Sonny Bill Williams returning to rugby league and leaving a gap in their midfield. And the Crusaders will be without arguably the world’s most influential rugby union player, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, for most if not all of the 2013 Super Rugby tournament as the 2011 Rugby World Cup-winning skipper enjoys a well earned sabbatical. If one had to have a bet on the New Zealand Conference it would be the Highlanders at odds of around 11-2 but this is a section to leave alone.
Sharks Top of the South African Food Chain
The South African Conference is similar to the Australian Conference insomuch that it contains a couple of no-hopers – the Cheetahs and the Kings – making it a three-team race between the Bulls, the Sharks and the Stormers. The Sharks represent the value play at odds of around 2-1 because they have a draw every bit as benevolent as that of the Brumbies, with the Durban-based side facing their biggest rivals at home and their easiest opponents on the road. However, the 2-1 about the Sharks is not quite as appealing as the 2-1 about the Brumbies if one had to place only one wager.
Crusaders False Favourites Without McCaw
As far as betting on the 2013 Super Rugby title goes, there is value in supporting the Sharks at odds of around 8-1 as bookmakers have fallen into the trap of quoting the Crusaders as the favourites at around the 9-2 mark.
The Crusaders are the side whose name pops into the head of Super Rugby punters ahead of any edition of the tournament but they will miss McCaw badly – possibly for the entire season – and the fact remains that they have not won the competition in any of the last four years. Yes, they have gone close but close is not good enough for punters. One would have to be a fool to write off the Christchurch-based team but they are worth taking on given the early market.