Super Rugby: Round 18 Friday Preview

Super Rugby 2018: Crusaders v Bulls Preview

With the penultimate round of the regular season commencing on Friday, the return of All Black skipper Kieran Read to the Crusaders starting line-up is sure to lift his side against the Highlanders, while the Rebels will look to guarantee playoff football when they tackle the Reds at the Suncorp.

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Crusaders v Highlanders
6 July 09h35
Wyatt Crocket Stadium, Christchurch

To Win (80 Mins)
Crusaders 1/3
Draw 25/1
Highlanders 22/10

Crusaders (-8.5) 9/10
Highlanders (+8.5) 9/10

Read returns for the first time this season after recovering from a back injury in what will be prop Wyatt Crocket’s 200th game for the franchise, the first ever player to reach the milestone. As a token of respect, the AMI Stadium will be renamed in his honour for Friday’s encounter against a 'Landers side coming off the back of a rotten 45-22 loss to the Chiefs in Fiji.

With just five points separating them from the second-placed Hurricanes, Aaron Mauger’s men are still in with a shot at qualifying for the playoffs yet again. That said, they will be low on confidence after their dismal showing last week (they were behind 42-0 at the break) and may find the going tough coming up against a virtually full-strength Crusaders outfit at home.

The Canterbarians may have fallen 17-25 when the two sides met in Dunedin in March, but that should count for naught during Friday’s rematch. The hosts have lost just one other game on their way to earning 12 wins from 14 fixtures and are well-placed to host a potential Grand Final at season’s end.

Verdict: Crusaders (-8.5) 9/10
With solid conditions expected, the Crusaders should record a comfortable victory of about 14 points or more to all but end the Highlanders’ playoff aspirations.

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Reds v Rebels
6 July 11h45
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

To Win
Reds 13/10
Draw 22/1
Rebels 6/10

Reds (+3.5) 9/10
Rebels (-3.5) 9/10

Victory for the men from Melbourne will all but cement their playoff berth in a fortnight’s time, but they may have to withstand a Reds arm-wrestle to do so. The Queenslanders have picked up just four wins all year, but local derbies do seem to bring out the best in them, especially playing in front of the Brisbane faithful.

It was the Rebels who came out on top in a 45-19 win in February and they should be confident of making it a 100% record against their brothers from the North. If the likes of Dane Haylett-Petty and Marika Koroibete can continue the sparkling form they produced for the Wallabies in June, then it is they who should prevail.

Verdict: Rebels (-3.5) 9/10
It will be close for much of the contest, but I’m backing the Rebels to put their recent five point loss to the Waratahs behind them and come out victorious by seven or more.

Written by Shaun Goosen for Hollywoodbets

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