Bookies' title belief in Lions grows
Garrin Lambley - Sport24 Editor
Cape Town - Bookmakers have cut the odds further on the high-flying Lions emerging victorious in this year's Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.
READ: Looks like Lions or bust for SA!
Following their narrow 24-21 win over the Jaguares at Ellis Park on Saturday, leading SA bookies Sportingbet have cut the Lions' odds from 6/1 to 11/2.
The Lions currently top Africa Conference 2 with 32 points at the halfway mark in the season, a full 8 points clear of the Sharks.
The defending champion Hurricanes remain the bookies' favourites at 9/4, followed by the seven-time champion Crusaders, who are the only remaining unbeaten side in 2017, at 100/30.
The Chiefs are next best at 15/4, followed by the Lions.
The Highlanders can be backed at 10/1, while those still behind the Stormers and Sharks, the last of the realistic title contenders, can have them at 18/1.
The Jaguares, who face a massive, season-defining clash against the Sharks in Buenos Aires on Saturday (21:40 SA time), are on offer at 40/1.
Such are the on-field difficulties currently blighting Australian rugby, the Brumbies, seven point leaders in the Australian Conference and thus guaranteed a home quarter-final in Canberra should the status quo remain, are on offer at 50/1, alongside New Zealand's "worst" team - the Blues.
The Bulls (200/1), Cheetahs (500/1) and Kings' (no odds) reflect their respective 2017 Super Rugby seasons to date.
Meanwhile, Sportingbet are predicting more misery for South Africa's franchises in Round 10, coupled with more joy for their New Zealand counterparts.
While the Bulls have a bye, only the Lions are considered favourites among the other five SA teams in action this weekend.
The Lions are 9-point favourites to beat the Force in Perth in their first of three tour matches in Australia.
The Stormers are 14-point underdogs against the Highlanders in Dunedin, the Cheetahs are backed to go down by a similar margin against the Crusaders in Bloemfontein, the Rebels are 4-point favourites to beat the Kings in Port Elizabeth (I smell an "upset" there) while the Sharks will have to overcome a 7-point handicap in beating the Jaguares in their back yard.
From a New Zealand point of view, besides the Highlanders (v Stormers) and Crusaders (v Cheetahs), the Chiefs are massive 38-point 'sure things' to beat the Sunwolves in Hamilton while the Blues are favoured - by 4 points - to come out on top in their match against the Brumbies in Canberra.
The Hurricanes join the Bulls in having the weekend off.