…..And then there were six. We’ve reached the pointy end. It’s the knock out stage of the Rugby and may as well be in the tipping too. When tipping in the finals, it’s easy to slip up but hard to gain ground. Time to sharpen your wits.
There has been no change at the top of the table with The Rhumdoggs and Braveheart81 still tied for the lead. Both dropped two tips on the weekend which allowed tipper Olec to get within one point. With a maximum of two games and three tipping points from here on in, one incorrect tip can see you drop up to two points: points that will be almost impossible to make back up. I’ll do my best to give you the ins and outs on each game so you can make a solid tip.
QF1 – Brumbies vs Chiefs
The first qualifying final is on Saturday night and will have the two time defending champs travelling to Canberra in a replay of last years Grand Final. In a straight comparison between this game and last year’s GF you would have to say that the Brumbies are in much the same form as last year but the Chiefs have not been as convincing. The Chiefs prevailed in that instance but had the luxury of a week off in the first round of play-offs and playing at their home ground while the Brumbies had played an extra game and had travelled to South Africa and back in the previous week.
Both teams are coming into this game with somewhat stuttering form. From the last 8 starts, both teams are on a 50% win rate. From most recent game back the Brumbies have gone W-L-W-L-L-W-L-W and the Chiefs W-W-L-L-L-W-W-L. The Brumbies win pattern matches their home and away pattern. By that I mean they are winning their games at home and losing their games away so in that regard it is important to note that this is a home game for them. Also important in regards to form is that their last start at home was a bonus point thumping of the otherwise finals bound Western Force. The Chiefs win pattern is similar but with the exception of 1 away win and 1 home loss. Their last start was their away win beating the Blues in Auckland 11-8. While we are on the home and away, you should also note that since 2009, the home team in this match up has won every single time.
I’ve mentioned a few times this season that the Brumbies weakness seems to be their ability to score big if they are forced to focus on defence. How this plays out is that every time their opposition scores more than 24 points, the Brumbies lose. 24 points is enough to beat a lot of teams so this probably isn’t an earth shattering statistic but when you look at the top 6 teams you will notice that all of them are averaging more than 24 points per game with the one exception, the Chiefs, who have averaged exactly 24 points per game. It will be interesting to see how this one pans out in terms of this statistic.
Lastly, in the betting stakes, 83% of you are riding the Brumbies while with the bookies are favouring the home side as well offering only $1.50-$1.60 for the win compared to roughly $2.50 for the visitors.
Who are you tipping?
QF2 – Sharks vs Highlanders
At the start of the season, most pundits were declaring 2014 to be the year of the Sharks. A very favourable draw saw the Sharks play their first away game in Round 6 (a 1 hour flight to Pretoria), their second in Round 9 (another 1 hour flight to Jo’burg) and their first international away game in Round 12. It’s not that surprising then that they started the season strongly. In the back end of the season, the burden of travel and their somewhat conservative game plan saw the field close and finally overtake for them to finish third on the ladder. The Highlanders on the other hand were being written off by all and sundry. Not so much for their lack of potential but because of their past years results and the seemingly very strong NZ conference.
The big difference between QF2 and QF1 is that neither the Sharks or the Highlanders have won a championship. The Sharks are 4 times runners up and the Highlanders once. They say you have to lose a final before you win a final but so on the face of it the Sharks are 4 times more qualified in this regard.
I’ll start with the betting on this fixture because it paints a pretty telling picture. 89% of the tips are going the Sharks way and the bookies are liking them so much ($1.15) they are offering roughly 6 bones for a Highlanders win. The travel for the Highlanders is probably the big factor here. In terms of the travel, the Highlanders don’t seem to mind where they play having travelled to Durban once this year and holding the Sharks try-less and claiming a bonus point win in the process. Whether they can do it again is the big question and clearly not many folk think they can. I wonder if those people have considered that the last two home games for the Sharks were losses?
The difference in form of each team heading into the playoffs is stark. In the past 5 starts the Sharks are 3 and 2 while the Highlanders are 1 and 4. But this doesn’t consider the opposition of each team. The Sharks have played the Crusaders (2nd), Blues (10th), Stormers twice (11th) and the Cheetahs (14th) where the Highlanders have faced the Tahs (1st) Crusaders twice (2nd), the Chiefs (5th) and the Reds (13th). Coming into the knockout stages of a competition against much stiffer opposition could have the Highlanders better prepared or potentially have the opposite effect and have them feeling worn out. I’m hoping for the former.
Both teams are averaging about 25 points per game but the points conceded is quite different with the Sharks conceding roughly 18 points per game and the Highlanders a bit over 27 points. The Highlanders are scoring significantly more tries than the Sharks but are conceding almost twice as many tries as the Sharks are. The recipe for them is simple then. Tighten up the defence and the result will come. The trouble for the Highlanders is though, leaving it to the playoffs to make changes to a leaky defence is probably leaving it a bit late.
Who’s your tip?