The first round of fixtures in Super Rugby 2019 gets underway on Friday 15th February.
The Crusaders will begin their defence of the title they won last year away at the Blues on Saturday 16th whilst the South African interest sees the Sharks travel to meet the Sunwolves, the first derby of the season will be contested between the Bulls and the Stormers and the Lions begin overseas at Jaguares.
The Crusaders won 14 and lost 2 of their matches in the round robin last season to finish well clear and they went on to progress through the play offs before beating the Lions in the final to win their second successive Super Rugby title
The Waratahs fared the best of the Australian sides in 2018 with a round robin record of 9 wins, 1 draw and 6 defeats. The Tahs were Australia’s only representatives in the play offs and they made it to the semi-finals where they lost to the Lions in Joburg. The Rebels were second best in Australia running out of steam after a very promising start to finish 8 points adrift of the Tahs. The Brumbies came in third 10 points off top spot and the Reds filled fourth position with the Sunwolves cut adrift after winning just 3 matches.
New Zealand Conference:
The Crusaders finished 12 points clear of the Hurricanes in the NZ Conference last season and the Chiefs were third a further 2 points in arrears. The Highlanders points tally in finishing fourth in this division was still plenty to earn a play off place and the Blues finished bottom in NZ with just 4 wins from 16 matches.
South African Conference:
In 2018 the Lions topped the SA Conference with 46 points and a record of 9 wins and 7 defeats. They finished 8 points clear of Jaguares and 10 in front of the Sharks whilst the Stormers and the Bulls were further back with both sides earning 29 log points. The Sharks did squeeze into the play offs before falling at the first hurdle in Christchurch.
It is no surprise to see the New Zealand sides at the top of the outright betting this year as follows
The shortest of the non-New Zealand teams in the Lions at 9-1 with the top Australian side expected to be the Waratahs at 14-1
In the top try scorer market there may be an opportunity, accepting this is a long term play where injuries can play a part over a season
Last season’s top try scorers were as follows
Ben Lam (Hurricanes) 16
George Bridge (Crusaders) 15
Taqele Naiyaravoro (Waratahs) (15)
And the top of the market this time round is
Reiko Ioane (Blues) 11/1
Naholo (Highlanders) 11/1
With Betfair Sportsbook. George Bridge is one of the fastest emerging players in New Zealand rugby and will be the starter on the wing for the tournament favourites. He became a regular starter for the Crusaders during 2018 and scored his 15th try of the season during the semi-final against the Hurricanes. In all competitions for the Crusaders he has 25 tries in 37 matches.
In November Bridge made his international test debut for New Zealand during the All Blacks vs Japan test. Bridge came off the bench at half-time and he scored two tries in the second half, including one off his first touch of the ball in international rugby
Fitness permitting he has to have a serious shot at 13-1 of being the top try scorer in the competition this season and also making a real impact at September’s World Cup.