Super Rugby Odds – Kiwi Teams Set for More Success
Starting this Friday (February 26), the 2016 Super Rugby season kicks off with a few changes compared to previous years.
The league has expanded to 18 teams in an effort to grow the sport beyond the big three – Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. This year, Argentinian side Jaguares make their debut along with the Sunwolves out of Japan. But this means that the grouping process has become a little more complicated.
This season, the teams will be arranged into two groups (Australasia and South Africa), which will further divide into four conferences. The Australasia Group will have an Australian Conference and a New Zealand Conference; the South African Group will have an Africa 1 Conference (home to the Sunwolves) and an Africa 2 Conference (home to the Jaguares).
The revised schedule may seem complicated but it’s pretty simple when visualized. Teams will each play six games within their conference, five games outside their conference but within their group, and four games outside of their group.
Despite all the changes to the league, the favorites remain relatively unchanged. Last year’s finalists, the Hurricanes and Highlanders (both out of New Zealand), still sit high in our predictions. Given New Zealand’s dominance in the Rugby World Cup, it’s not surprising that the Kiwi teams are prominently featured in the favorites.
The Waratahs represent Australia’s best hope for a title, while the Stormers have the best odds to take the trophy across the Indian Ocean.
Here’s the breakdown of the Super Rugby landscape and the current odds.
Odds to win the 2016 Super Rugby Grand Final:
The Hurricanes finished at the top of the table on points last year (14-0-2, 66 points), thirteen points clear of second-place. The Kiwis went onto the finals but lost in an upset against the Highlanders (21-14).
This season, they start out as favorites, and for good reason. After a ridiculous 74-7 hammering of the Crusaders in a preseason trial, the Hurricanes look like they’re on a mission.
The Waratahs are Australia’s best chance to claim the title, which would be sweet revenge for the entire country after the Aussies fell to New Zealand in the last World Cup. The Waratahs finished second on points last season (11-0-5, 52 points), and reached the semi-finals, where they fell to the Highlanders (35-17).
But the Waratahs and country-mates the Chiefs have a tough schedule ahead of them and their preseason loss to the Highlanders may be a warning of what is to come if some changes aren’t made.
Despite finishing fourth on points last season (11-0-5, 53 points), the Highlanders went on to sweep the finals, winning convincingly in the quals, semis, and final. With both the top point scorer (Lima Sopoaga) and try scorer (Waisake Naholo) from the 2015 season on their squad, the Highlanders are in good position to replicate last year’s performance.
Their preseason victory against the Waratahs (40-35) puts them in good standing.
The Chiefs won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013 but have since failed to achieve anything remotely close to that success. Last year’s 10-0-6 record (48 points) earned them a spot in postseason play, but that’s as far as they would get. After a disappointing loss in the qualifiers (a.k.a. quarter-finals) to the Highlanders (24-14), the Chiefs sought change. And it seems to be working.
With a handful of new recruits, the Chiefs beat the Waratahs in a preseason trial and look set for a better season than last.
The Stormers may not be of the same caliber as the other teams on this list, but they are the only South African team with a fighting chance. They had a decent run last season (10-1-5, 45 points), finishing first in the South African conference. They then went on to lose in the qualifiers to the Brumbies (39-19).
However, one distinct advantage the Stormers have over other teams in this list is their relatively easy group. With eleven games to play in the South Africa Group, the Stormers have a real chance of finishing in the top two on points, chipping them directly into the semi finals.
Western Force: 100/1
(Photo credit: JMK [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.]