Super Rugby is a 15-team rugby union competition featuring five sides from Australia, five sides from New Zealand and five sides from South Africa that now runs from February to August as a consequence of its growth in recent years.
What started out as a 12-team tournament in 1996 became a 14-team competition in 2006 and expanded to 15 teams ahead of the 2011 season. The Kings will make their Super Rugby debut in 2013, replacing the relegated Lions as one of the five sides representing South Africa in the event. South African officials have said that the lowest ranked South African team in the 2013 Super Rugby will face the Lions over two legs for the right to play in the 2014 tournament.
New Zealand-based sides have dominated Super Rugby since the competition’s establishment in 1996, winning 11 of the 17 titles. The Christchurch-centred Crusaders have won seven Super Rugby championships and finished runners-up on three occasions, while only three times has the Super Rugby final been played without at least one Kiwi team in the match.
Half a dozen sides have tasted Super Rugby glory – the Crusaders (seven times), the Blues (three times), the Bulls (three times), the Brumbies (twice), the Chiefs (once) and the Reds (once). The unluckiest team is the Sharks, with the Durban-based side having lost in four Super Rugby deciders.
Up until 2011, Super Rugby was a round-robin competition in which teams played every other team once, with some sides having six home games and some sides having seven home games. Since 2011, the Super Rugby format has had three country-specific conferences and a draw similar in many respects to the National Football League in the United States of America. The three conference winners qualify for the Super Rugby play-offs, along with the three teams with the best records that did not top their conference.
If in doubt, back the Crusaders is generally the line take when it comes to Super Rugby. Will it be different this year?
Bookmakers have a default position when it comes to framing Super Rugby title markets & as we noted last year – if in doubt, put the Crusaders at the top. And that is what they have done for the 2013 championship even though their Rugby World Cup-winning captain, Richie McCaw, will miss most of the competition, if not all of it, as he takes a well earned sabbatical.
The Crusaders are trading at odds of around 9-2 to win their eighth Super Rugby crown but they have come up short in each of the last four seasons and McCaw’s absence is a major blow since one would struggle to find a more influential player in the world of rugby union. Only an idiot would write off the pride of Christchurch but the Crusaders are opposable.
The most logical way to approach the 2013 Super Rugby season from a punting perspective is to assess each of the three five-team conferences on their merits and see what sticks out, kicking off with the Australian Conference.
The Australian Conference is an excellent one on which to bet because one thinks that three of the five sides – the Force, the Rebels and the Waratahs are trading at much shorter odds than they deserve. The Force should be 200-1 rather than 20-1, the Rebels have to improve massively to justify their 12-1 quotes and the Waratahs, Australia’s perennial underachievers, are around the 3-1 mark despite winning only four of its 16 Super Rugby games in 2012.
Both the Brumbies and the Reds are available at odds of around 2-1 to top the Australian Conference. Preference is for the Brumbies because they have a very good draw and a very good coach, whereas the Reds have got a bad draw and will start the season without their star halfback, Will Genia. The Wallabies number nine is out for several weeks.
The New Zealand Conference is the most competitive of the 2013 Super Rugby sections, with most pundits writing off just the Blues of the five Kiwi teams. The Chiefs, the Crusaders, the Hurricanes and the Highlanders each won at least nine matches last year and only 14 points separated the first-placed Chiefs from the fourth-placed Highlanders.
One can probably expect the Chiefs to regress without Sonny Bill Williams and one has covered the Crusaders in detail already, while there are grounds for thinking that the Hurricanes and the Highlanders will improve. At a push, the Highlanders at 11-2 would be the best bet but the New Zealand Conference is one to sit back and admire.
With the Cheetahs and the Kings out of their depth, the South African Conference shapes as a three-team race between the Bulls, the Sharks and the Stormers. Only the Brumbies have a draw as kind as of that of the Sharks, with the Durban-based side facing the majority of its toughest opponents at home. The Sharks are fair value at odds of around 2-1 to top the South African Conference but, again, one would rather back the Brumbies to win the Australian Conference at the same price if forced to make a choice.
However, the Sharks stand out as the best bet in the 2013 Super Rugby title market at odds of around 8-1. For the Aussies amongst us – you will probably get better value at SportsBet or CentreBet with specials and promotions. For the rest of us – You can still get the 8-1 at the bookies listed below.
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