It’s the final week of the Super Rugby season and Mad Monday looms large on the horizon.
Sadly, it looms particularly large for the Australian teams, with all but one (more than likely, the Brumbies) digging the fancy dress costumes out of the closet and preparing to tell the wife not to wait up.
But it’s not all bad news - another week of rugby means another week to make money on the punt.
So let’s have a look at the big questions, and a couple of nice early bets, for the final week of the regular season in Super Rugby.
Will any Australian team win a game this weekend?
History will show that Round 16 of the 2016 Super Rugby season was the least successful on record for the five Australian teams.
At the end of the weekend, the ledger for the Aussie teams read: Played 5, Won 0, Lost 5. Points For: 66, Points Against: 225. Ouch.
But the night is always darkest just before the dawn and the good news is that Australian rugby is set to bounce back and record at least one win this weekend! In fact, there is every chance that’s conservative, and the Aussies will rack up TWO wins!
Of course, the only reason we can be so confident is that there are two all-Australian derbies this weekend, with the Queensland Reds taking on the Melbourne Rebels in Brisbane on Friday night, and the ACT Brumbies welcoming the hapless Western Force to Canberra on Saturday.
So, the only way we will have another weekend without an Australian victory will be if both those games finish in draws. And, given the way things have been going to the Aussies, we can’t rule that out entirely.
In all seriousness, the Brumbies should beat the Force with ease in a very cold Canberra and, in doing so, they will almost certainly secure top spot in the Australian conference.
The only team that can catch them is the NSW Waratahs, who travel to Eden Park in Auckland to take on the Blues.
They need to not only win, but win with a bonus point (meaning they need to score at least three more tries than the Blues).
Given the Blues have won nine of their 10 home games against the Waratahs (the only time the Tahs have ever won in Auckland was in 2009), and given the Blues flogged the Brumbies to the tune of 40-15 last weekend, things are looking bleak for the boys from NSW, and their loyal fans. They can start planning for next year.
Early Bet: We are starting to sound like a broken record, but our mantra all year has been the same – when in doubt, back the Kiwis. Take the Blues to cover the -1.5 at $1.92.
Has the expanded competition been a success?
At the start of the 2016 Super Rugby we welcomed two brand new teams – the Sunwolves from Japan and Los Jaguares from Argentina – and saw the reintroduction of the Kings from Port Elizabeth, in South Africa.
The tale of the tape is not good for the new boys.
In 2016 they won six games in total, but four of those games were against each other, so don’t really count.
That means the only meaningful victories for the new teams were both secured by Los Jaguares, who beat the Bulls and Cheetahs (although, you could certainly mount a case that the Sunwolves draw with the conference
topping Stormers was actually the most impressive result of all).
We will keep an eye on the Jaguares in the off-season though, as they could be the big improvers in 2017.
They struggled with the travel and grind of Super Rugby, but lost five games by fewer than seven points, and have been very tough to beat at home, winning two games from six and suffering close losses (by three, four and five points).
They might even grab another win this weekend as they take on a weakened Lions.
They entered this season with high expectations, but have continued to improve.
Unfortunately, you can make no such case for the Sunwolves and Kings, who won three games between them all year for a combined points differential of -697.
It’s hard to see them improving next year, either… At least the Sunwolves fans were good fun, though.
Early Bet: Having wrapped up their conference, the Lions are sending a weakened side to Argentina to face Los Jaguares, who have been made unbackable $1.20 favorites as a result. So we need to look elsewhere for value. Let’s have a small bet on the Cheetahs to upset the Bulls (who have travelled back from Buenos Aires during the week) at $2.80. Very generous, that.
This article first appeared on TopBetta HERE