Super Rugby round 15 preview & fantasy rugby guide

Victor Matfield
Can Victor Matfield inspire the Bulls to victory against the Chiefs?
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For Super Rugby fans, the competition is at the three quarter stage with 14 rounds giving tipsters an opportunity to get a gauge on the form horses for 2015. Now is the time to make a move in that tipping conference and that is where we help.

Super 15 Rugby Round 1 2015 left a lot of people red faced with most tipsters picking between two and three winners out of seven games. Things have got more predictable since then with Round 11 featuring no upsets at all, but Round 12 showed us with three upsets out of seven matches, that you must be prepared for at least one upset per round. Round 14 was no exception with two upsets.
The average winning margin in Super Rugby Round 14 was 12 points meaning that the overall average is now 11.3 points, while the most popular margins are 1,2,5, 7 and 12.

Last round two out of six teams that lost matches did so by seven points or less, meaning that in nearly half of games (44 out of 92) the winning margin has been between 1 and 7 points.

Over 50 per cent of games have been won by the home team in 2015 with 55 home wins from 92 games, the last three rounds have seen 22 out of 26 games won by the home team. Will the overall statistic of 71 percent of home wins set in 2014 be matched? It is hard to know if it is simply because of the draw or if this trend looks set to continue. Although less home referees may also have something to do with this

To make things more challenging for tipsters, national selectors have demanded that international players get rested. This makes it difficult to know how teams will go and how that will affect the form of a team. The Highlanders for example, rested all of their All Blacks at once and paid the price, hardly firing a shot against the Brumbies.

Super Rugby Round 14 gave us two upsets, with there usually being two upsets per round on average. So if you smell an upset, it is well worth tipping it!

Super Rugby round 15 fixtures

22 May Chiefs v Bulls
22 May Reds v Sharks
23 May Blues v Hurricanes
23 May Waratahs v Crusaders
23 May Force v Highlanders
23 May Cheetahs v Lions
23 May Stormers v Rebels

Statistics from Super Rugby tipping competition SuperBru shows us that one third of all matches up until the end of Round 10 ended in upset results, while half of all results end in either upsets or those matches that fifty fifty. This means that for tipsters, don't be afraid to pick at least one upset per round, probably two.

So, don't be so conservative when making your picks and if you have a hunch about an upset, pick it!


In SuperBru you get one point for picking the winner, half a point for getting within 5 points of the winning margin (assuming you picked the winner) and another point for being the closest. The other benefit of picking an upset is that there will be less competition for being the closest to the result.

Even if you get the margin completely wrong, if you are the only person that picked a team then you will get the bonus point.

There is no point picking upsets in every game as the most upsets in any round was Round 1 with five upsets from seven games, but this is relatively rare.

If you get the wrong winner then chances are there will be lots of different people who pick up the margin and bonus point for being the closest that everyone else gets a little rather than one person getting a lot.

Let's use Super Rugby Round 10 as an example. If you picked every game to end in an upset then you would have had the opportunity to win 2.5 points x 7 games which is an amazing week, 17.5 points. If you picked the Chiefs to win over the Crusaders and the three other upsets then your maximum points would be 4 x 2.5 which is 10 points. If you picked the favourites to win you would have had a maximum of 3 x 2.5 = 7.5 points and you would have a lower chance of getting the bonus points as more others would have picked the winner.

This theory of picking the upsets in every game depends on who is playing. For example in one round there might be plenty of evenly matched teams and so there really is no upset as no one is surprised if either team wins.

But if there are rounds where one team is a clear favourite then it is worth sniffing out an upset.

The other assumption is that less others sniff an upset than pick the favourite. The more people who pick an upset, the less the chances are of you getting bonus points.

In summary, picking upsets in every game is probably not a good long-term solution but is a good move if there is a round with plenty of potential upsets or that you have a hunch.

Depending on the size of your pool and how many others pick upsets then if there are more than two upsets then it is probably profitable to pick every game as an upset. If there are two or less, then you probably lose more than you gain. The problem is that towards the end of the competition, people who are towards the bottom of the conference will go for the upsets and steal some potential points off you!

So are you an upsets tipster or do you play it safe in Super Rugby tipping?

Super Rugby Round 15 is harder to pick than a broken nose with the potential for plenty of unexpected results, which strategy are you going to use?

The last four rounds of Super Rugby have seen 22 home teams winning out of 26 games. It will be interesting to see if some of the underdogs like the Blues, Force, Cheetahs can win at home this round.

There are so many difficult to pick games, but the match of the round has to be the match between the 2014 finalists, the Waratahs and Crusaders in Sydney. If it is anything like the final last year, we are in for a cracker, even though both teams are struggling to confirm their spot in the finals.

The Brumbies have the bye in Super Rugby Round 15.

It is interesting that if Super Rugby positions were solely decided on points, rather than requiring the top team from each conference to reach the top three, then the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Highlanders would be gold, silver and bronze at the moment.

The best likely finish for these teams is 1st, 4th and 6th, which mathematically could see the chance of two New Zealand teams making the final, although the format makes this difficult to achieve as it would require an away win overseas.

New Zealand teams are dominating their overseas opponents, winning 10 from 16 against Australian opponents and 13 from 19 against South African teams.

In 2012, 69 out of 120 regular season games were won by the home team, this increased in 2013 with 77 out of 120 and in the year 2014, 85 out of 120 games were won by the home team (71 percent). It seems to be getting harder to win away, with 51 away wins in 2012, 40 away wins in 2013 and only 33 away wins in 2014.

The average winning margin has been increasing, from 10.89 points in 2012 to 12.85 points in 2014. The most common winning margin in 2014 was 3 points, in 2013 it was 7 points while in 2012 it was 5 and 6 points. Margins of 1, 7 and 8 points are also popular, while in 2014 a margin of 16 points was very popular, which shows why the average winning margin is increasing.

Chiefs vs Bulls

The Bulls had a rough start to their New Zealand tour, losing to the Blues, so Saturday night could be tough for the visiting Pretorian based team, given their relatively poor record in New Zealand.

The visitors main strength will be their lineout with Victor Matfield in his element, against a team without their three leading locks, so they are starting a loose forward and either a partially injured lock or a veteran former All Blacks lock.

It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs set piece will be tested given that locks play an important part in both scrums and lineouts.

There are no SBW and no James Lowe this week either, and Damian McKenzie takes the Number 10 jersey, will all of this leave the Chiefs vulnerable? They still have a potent backline with McKenzie, Ngatai, Heem, Gear and Marshall all exciting players.

The Bulls have a talented team on paper with plenty of Springboks including the likes of Pierre Spies, Handre Pollard and Jan Serfontein, so they won’t be easybeats. They will also be disappointed after losing to the Blues.

We are picking the Chiefs to win this game at home.

Players to watch

Chiefs: Damian McKenzie, Hika Elliot, Sam Cane, Michael Leitch, Tom Marshall, Hosea Gear, Charlie Ngatai.

Bulls: Jan Serfontein, Handre Pollard, Pierre Spies, Victor Matfield.

Our pick: Chiefs

Reds vs Sharks

These teams have both had disappointing 2015, that they will be looking to rectify after contrasting build ups to this match.

The Reds have the worst attack in the competition, but had a breakout win over the Rebels, while the Sharks have been improving since being given a flogging by the Highlanders at the start of their tour. They have been a bit unlucky with the refereeing of the rolling mauls.

The Reds have had their injury problems, but they look to be close to full strength with the possible exception of new first five eighth Jake McIntyre, with the likes of James O’Connor, Liam Gill and Samu Kerevi being fantasy rugby studs recently.

The Sharks look a shadow of their former selves, especially without Pat Lambie running the cutter, but Bismarck du Plessis and Marcell Coetzee are especially hardworking players in a heavily defeated team.

The battle between Bismarck du Plessis and James Hanson will be brilliant.

The history between these teams suggests the Reds should win, but they are far from a form horse here despite winning their last game. Maybe they will gain confidence from that win. We are picking them to continue their dominance against the Sharks when playing in Brisbane, but the Sharks are improving, so it will be close.

Players to watch

The Reds have some great fantasy rugby players in Samu Kerevi, Liam Gill, James O’Connor, James Hanson.

Sharks: Bismarck du Plessis, Lwazi Mvovo, Marcell Coetzee.

My pick: Reds

Blues vs Hurricanes

The Hurricanes are the top dogs in Super Rugby 2015 after beating the Chiefs last week, while the injury depleted Blues are the bottom New Zealand team, but don’t let that fool you.

The Hurricanes have already got one hand on the New Zealand conference title, and there is a chance they could lose to the Blues this week given that they haven’t been as convincing without Beauden Barrett and that they have rotated their squad by resting Conrad Smith and starting Blade Thomson on the side of the scrum as well as replacing their entire starting front row.

The Blues have had to deal with losing two of their most influential players in Jerome Kaino and Charles Piutau, while Steven Luatua was injured last week. This means there is no pressure on the Blues to win this game under new captain James Parsons and that seems to be how the Blues like it.
Infact, both teams have new skippers, with Jeremy Thrush and James Parsons wearing the armbands.

The Hurricanes have the better side on paper, but so did the Bulls last week too. The Blues are a tough nut to crack at Eden Park, and so this game has potential upset written all over it.

Players to watch

Blues: Akiro Ioane, James Parsons, George Moala, Lolagi Visinia.

Hurricanes: Victor Vito, Ardie Savea, Blade Thomson, Ma’a Nonu, Nehe Milner-Skudder (bargain), James Marshall (bargain), Dane Coles.

My pick: Blues

Waratahs vs Crusaders

This game is huge, as this is not only a repeat of 2014 Super Rugby final which was a brilliant game of rugby, but both of these teams desperately need victory to be in the Top Six at the end of the round.

The Waratahs are sitting in sixth spot, while the Crusaders are struggling in ninth. Amazingly, these two teams always have close games while playing in Sydney.

The Waratahs will have to contain Nemani Nadolo who is the Crusaders main threat. There are some great battles including Nemani Nadolo vs Taqele Naiyaravoro on the wing, while Michael Hooper vs Richie McCaw is another classic, while both sets of forwards like to dominate, so this will be a great game.

The Crusaders have scored the most points this season, but the jury is out on if they have enough X Factor players to complement their grafters. Super Rugby Tips thinks that the Waratahs will be good enough to contain the Crusaders and score some tries of their own with their own talented backline featuring the likes of Israel Folau, Naiyaravoro, Kurtley Beale and Adam Ashley-Cooper.

Players to watch

Waratahs (not named yet): Bernard Foley, Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale, Micheal Hooper, Will Skelton, Taqele Naiyaravoro.

Crusaders: Colin Slade, Nemani Nadolo, Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock.

My pick: Waratahs

Force vs Highlanders

The Highlanders will be pleased after thrashing the Cheetahs last week, but the Force will also be confident after beating the Waratahs in their last game and they have an impressive record against the Highlanders.

Indeed, the Force are 15th and stonecold motherless last, but they can’t be taken for granted as the Waratahs found out. They are also somewhat a bogey team for the Highlanders who sit in fifth spot and are returning home from South Africa.

I have personally sat through some of these narrow victories by the Force over the Highlanders over the years, despite the Highlanders seemingly being expected to win easily.

This is a good one to pick the Force in as it is a potential upset, as they play a style that seems to frustrate the Highlanders.

Ben Smith celebrates his 100th game, while John Hardie raises his 50th.

Players to watch

Force: Steve Mafi, Nathan Charles, Ben McCalman, Dane Haylett-Petty.

Highlanders: Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Patrick Osborne, Waisake Naholo, Lima Sopoaga, Nasi Manu.

My pick: Force

Cheetahs vs Lions

The Lions have improved after a sloppy start to sit within reaching distance of the Top Six, but can they contain the exciting Cheetahs who will be disappointed after losing last week?

The Cheetahs let the Highlanders off to a flying start and were left playing catch up. The Lions had their first loss in a while, to the Brumbies, so it will be interesting to see if the Lions can take their recent run of winning games at home, on the road.

The Cheetahs are going through the motions now, with coach Naka Drotske set to leave them early and they look set to have the wooden spoon locked in the trophy cabinet as bottom placed South African team.

The Lions must win this match if they are to have a shot at making the Top Six.

Some of the Lions players have really put their hands up this season with the likes of Jaco Kriel, Elton Jantjies and Warren Whiteley impressing in 2015. Compare this to the Cheetahs stars who have mainly been on the injured list, hence why we are picking the Lions.

Players to watch

Cheetahs: Carl Wegner, Boom Prinsloo, Torsten van Jaarsveld.

Lions (yet to be named): Warren Whiteley, Elton Jantjies, Warwick Tecklenburg, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert.

Our pick: Lions

Stormers vs Rebels

The Stormers are in a battle with the Bulls to win the South African conference and confirm a home finals game even if they won’t have the third highest points and besides, there may only be one South African team in the finals at this rate!

Even with a mainly home game run in to the finals, the Stormers have stumbled in recent weeks. Expect them to bounce back against the Rebels who struggle in South Africa, without a win yet.

These two teams have only met once in South Africa before too, but on 2015 form, the Stormers should be just too strong for the Rebels who have punched above their weight this season.

The Stormers should be too strong for the Rebels, although the Rebels have been more competitive this season. The Stormers are in 7th with the Rebels 10th, being a win outside the Top Six makes this a must win for both teams.

Players to watch

Stormers (yet to be named): Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh, Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen.

Rebels (yet to be named): Pat Leafa, Luke Jones, Sean McMahon, Mitch Inman, Sefanaia Naivalu (Rebels). The Rebels players have been good value fantasy rugby players this season.

Our pick: Stormers

Who are you picking to win Super Rugby Round 15 matches?