Ciamol previews Round 16 of the 2015 Super 15 Rugby season and selects his favourite bets of the weekend.
Western Force vs Reds
The bottom two teams face off in a game that could be the decider for the coveted wooden spoon.
The Force are currently bottom of the table with just two wins from thirteen games. Those two victories, however, did come in Australian derby matches – home and away to the Waratahs. They were beaten last weekend against the Highlanders, their fourth successive home defeat, and it was also the second time they’ve failed to score a try in front of their own supporters this season. But it’s not all doom and gloom, as they have a strong abrasive forwards game plan where they attack the breakdown and try to disrupt the other team. Teams that get sucked into this type of play, like the Waratahs, struggle as it often results in a low scoring slugfest that gives the Force a shot at victory without having to score too many points.
The Reds are just one point and two places better off than the Force. They’ve won three of their thirteen matches, including their most recent local derby which saw them put in their most impressive display of the season to see off the Rebels 46-29 in Round 14. Unfortunately they couldn’t follow up that performance last week, losing 21-14 at home to the Sharks. Like the Force, the Reds haven’t had a decent attacking game all season. They do, however, have a very solid scrum and lineout which they look to leverage into points. Another huge boost for them is the return of Quade Cooper but whether he can make a game changing impact in just his third game of the year, and his first game back from another injury, is a question everyone is pondering.
Unfortunately I’m truly past the stage of getting overly excited about Cooper returning and the stats are screaming that you shouldn’t expect sparkling champagne rugby from this match. In my mind there is very little between these two strugglers and apart from home advantage the Force really don’t have much going for them to justify the 4/7 price. I accept that if the Force put in a display like they did against the Tahs (twice), they will have too much for the Reds but with the prices on offer I’m going with the Reds to edge it.
Verdict: Reds by 3 Points.
Lions vs Waratahs
The Lions’ bonus point win in Bloemfontein last weekend moved them up to seventh in the overall standings but unlike all the other play off hopefuls, they only have two fixtures remaining (rather than three). They have to win this weekend, away at the Stormers, and hope it is enough to sneak into the final rounds. Coming into this match they make four changes to their starting line-up including a replacement for Robbie Coetzee who has a three-week lifting tackle suspension.
The Waratahs beat the Crusaders 32-22 in Sydney last weekend, which at the time gave them a three-point lead over the Brumbies at the top of the Australian Conference. Following this match they will finish the regular season away at the Cheetahs and at home to the Reds so this weekend looks like the biggest hurdle they face to ensure they make the playoffs. It won’t be an easy task this weekend either, especially as the Tahs are without their key engine room duo Tolu Latu and Will Skelton (suspension).
This is a very intriguing match up considering the Waratahs precarious place on the overall table and the fact the Lions will be desperate to win – it really is do or die for them this weekend. The Lions have proven that they can topple quality overseas opposition after they beat the Highlanders three weeks ago but the grunt and directness the Tahs showed last week suggests they are ready to make a run at defending their title.
Verdict: Waratahs by 5 Points.