The 2018 Super Rugby season is the 23rd season of the tournament organized by SANZAR between teams from Argentina, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa.

After two seasons in which 18 teams participated, the 2018 edition will revert to a 15-team competition, consisting of three geographical conferences with the Cheetahs, Kings and Force dropped for this season
The 15 participating teams are divided into three geographical conferences: the Australian Conference (consisting of four Australian teams and the Sunwolves), the New Zealand Conference (consisting of five New Zealand teams), and the South African Conference (consisting of four South African teams and the Jaguares)

In the group stages, there are 18 rounds of matches, with each team playing 16 matches and having two rounds of byes, resulting in a total of 120 matches. Teams play eight inter-conference matches and eight cross-conference matches; they play all the other teams in their conference twice – once at home and once away – and play once against four of the teams in the other two conferences.

The top team in each of the three conferences qualify for the quarterfinals, as do the next five teams with the best records across the three conferences, known as wildcards. The conference winners and best wildcard team will host the Quarterfinals. The Quarterfinal winners will progress to the Semifinal, and the winners of the semifinals will advance to the final.

The perennial superpowers of Super Rugby, the Crusaders, secured their eighth Super Rugby title last season, with a 25-18 win over the Lions in Johannesburg. In 2017, 142 matches were played and a total of 978 tries were scored, the highest tries per game ratio in the tournament’s history (6.89/game).
Tournaments outright odds are

Crusaders 3/1
Hurricanes 3/1
Lions 15/2
Chiefs 7/1
Highlanders 9/1
Blues 22/1
Brumbies 25/1
Stormers 20/1
Sharks 14/1
Waratahs 28/1
Bulls 25/1
Jaguares 40/1
Reds 80/1
Rebels 66/1
Sunwolves 750/1

The New Zealand conference and the New Zealand game is general is the strongest in the competition as evidenced by them having five of the six tournament favourites this time round. The Hurricanes won 12 of their 15 regular season matches last year and were the only team to beat the Crusaders, a 31-22 win in the final round of the regular season. Tey lost in Johannesburg in the Semis having won the competition the year before.

The Hurricanes broke the try-scoring season record amassing 97, 16 more than the record set by the Lions the year before. They played an extremely entertaining and high-octane brand of rugby and managed to secure the second-best defensive record (points allowed and tries allowed) in the competition. Players like Vaea Fifita and Ardie Savea showed that they can mix it with the best and the Wellingtonians have the best 9-10 combination of TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett in provincial rugby. Their vision and explosive speed created a number of opportunities for the key centre pairing of Ngani Laumape (15 tries) and Vince Aso (14 tries), who led the competition. Fullback Jordie Barrett also had a phenomenal breakout season
Wellington won the domestic Mitre 10 Championship and a pipeline of great talent is now coming into the Hurricanes team too

Recommendation I expect the Hurricanes to win the New Zealand Conference, secure a home Final and win their second title in three seasons
3/1 outright
15/8 New Zealand conference
Both with Bet365

And the conference odds
Australian Conference:

Since the inception of the tournament, the Brumbies have been the most consistent and successful of the Australia franchises. If their squad stays relatively healthy, the Brumbies should have enough in their arsenal to win the Australian Conference once again.

Brumbies 13/8
Waratahs 21/10
Rebels 16/5
Reds 5/1
Sunwolves 100/1

New Zealand Conference:

The Hurricanes are well coached, have a great mix of youth and experience and are rife with Test match quality players. I expect the Hurricanes to win the New Zealand Conference, secure a home Final and win their second title in three seasons

Crusaders 15/8
Hurricanes 15/8
Chiefs 9/2
Highlanders 11/2
Blues 11/1

South African Conference:

The Lions have been the premier team in South Africa over the past three seasons and they will be eager to continue riding the wave that Johan Ackermann helped create for them. A few key losses in the off-season, including coach Ackermann will make things a lot more challenging this time around. 2017 was their golden opportunity to secure a maiden Super Rugby title and this year will see the franchise lose more games than we have been accustomed to. They should still have enough quality and depth to make the playoffs though, primarily due to a weak South African Conference

The Sharks are still a work in progress, but I expect more consistent performances from them this season. They have a good blend of youth and experience and if they remain fit, they could challenge for South Africa’s Conference trophy and they should be backed at 100/30

Lions 10/11
Stormers 19/4
Sharks 100/30
Bulls 8/1
Jaguares 12/1