Roughly a third of the Super XV regular season is done and dusted, and the main contenders in each conference have risen to the top, mostly as expected at the beginning of the season, with the Sharks, currently at the top of the combined log, the Brumbies and the Chiefs leading the way in their respective conferences. The season is still in its opening stages, however, and there is still a long way to go for all teams concerned, with the inevitable occurrence of injuries and dips in forms destined to play a major role in determining who will make it to the playoff stages a few months down the line.
Australian Conference Odds
The top Australian sides, partially thanks to a few Aussie derbies, have fared well in the early stages of the competition, and the country is well represented in the top positions. Time will tell whether this trend stays the course, however, especially with the New Zealand sides yet to really hit their straps in the competition. The Brumbies (2/5) will have a chance to consolidate the position at the top of the conference on Friday as they travel to Melbourne to take on the Rebels (2/1), who sit bottom of the Aussie log, with just one win from their four game so far. The Waratahs (2/1), fresh their own 32-8 win against the Rebels, will face their biggest challenge so far this season as they kick off their South African leg in Durban against the Sharks (4/9), meanwhile the Reds (4/7) host a weakened and dispirited Stormers (6/4) side. The Force enjoy their bye this weekend.
New Zealand Conference Odds
The Chiefs’ (EVE) surprise defeat at the hands of the Force last week will have been a reality check for the defending champions from Wellington, and certainly not the way they would have preferred to head into a difficult trip to Loftus to take on a resurgent Bulls (4/5) side. That said, owing to the relatively poor start by all of the other New Zealand sides, they maintain an important lead in the conference already, and a win in Pretoria will only help build on that. It will not be easy however. Two derbies this weekend will help shake things up in the conference as the Crusaders (2/7) host the Hurricanes (11/4) and the Highlanders (7/4) travel to Auckland to take on the Blues (1/2). These four sides have not managed to win more than two games this season so far, and wins in this early stage of the competition will be crucial for these teams as the regular season reaches its climax.
South African Conference Odds
With the Cheetahs and the Lions – the only sides to have played six games so far this season – taking a bye, only three teams from this conference will take the field this weekend. The Sharks suffered defeat for the first time this season last weekend at Loftus, temporarily brining a pause their confident march away from the rest of the pack. A few injuries in the week preceding that game would have caused a few problems, but they will need to get up from that disappointment if they wish to bring home their first title. Their lead will stay at least five points if they manage to break the Waratahs, provided the Bulls win their game and keep the pressure on the coastal outfit. The Stormers will be out to avoid their worst tour since 1998 as they seek to avoid a clean sweep of defeats at the Reds, and in desperate need to get their season on track after their disastrous start, winning just one from five.
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