Bookies give Sharks best odds to lift Super 14 trophy

2009-03-04 00:00

While the bookmakers are now tipping the Sharks as the favourites to lift the Super 14 trophy, their opponents in Auckland on Saturday, the Blues, are being talked up by Springbok centre Jean de Villiers.

The bookies started the season with the seven-time champion Crusaders as their pick to win the title again, but they have now had a change of heart and are banking on the Sharks on the back of their two away wins in the opening three weeks and a comfortable draw, to emerge triumphant.

The Crusaders have lost twice on sucessive weekends — to the Brumbies (away) and Hurricanes (at home) — and they are now on offer at 9/2, while the fancied Sharks are at 3/1, according to leading bookies Ladbrokes.

The Waratahs and Hurricanes are at 5/1 favourites, with the Bulls at 6/1 and the Stormers at 25/1, while the Lions (200/1) and the Cheetahs (250/1) are the rank outsiders.

De Villiers, however, believes the Auckland Blues will be in the mix at the end of the campaign.

De Villiers led the Stormers team, beaten 14-8 by the Blues in Cape Town at the weekend, and he is tipping the New Zealanders, who play nine of their final 10 games in their home country, to reach the last four.

“That definitely makes it easier for them,” said De Villiers.

“I believe they will be in the running come the end of the competition,” he said, pointing out that the Blues have an all All Black tight five — now that Ali Williams is back — with Jerome Kaino in the back row.

The back division is also liberally sprinkled with All Blacks.

“That’s a lot of proven quality and experience in crucial positions and it certainly helps with the rebuilding process. If they don’t get injuries, they will be a threat.”

De Villiers said the Blues are also “fantastic players with ball in hand and I think they showed that again this time against us.”

Odds:

Sharks 3/1; Crusaders 9/2; Waratahs 5/1; Hurricanes 5/1; Bulls 6/1; Blues 9/1; Brumbies 14/1; Stormers 25/1; Chiefs 33/1; Force 33/1; Reds 50/1; Highlanders 200/1; Lions 200/1; Cheetahs 250/1.

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