Off-field woes aside, bookies can't see past Crusaders
Cape Town - Despite an ultra-competitive South African Super Rugby Conference with all five teams still in the running for champion status, bookmakers don't foresee anything but a New Zealand overall winner.
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With just four rounds of action left in the 2019 season, a mere six points separates top from bottom in the South African Conference.
Contrast that with the New Zealand Conference (26 points) and the Australian Conference (17 points) and it's clear to see the importance of the remaining matches for the - in current ranking order - Bulls, Jaguares, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.
As the playoff picture stands today, all of the Bulls, Jaguares, Lions and Sharks would finish in the Top 8 and contest the quarter-finals.
Never before in the current Super Rugby format have as many as four South African Conference teams reached the playoff stage.
To complicate matters further, a strong case can be made for current wooden-spoonists, the Stormers, forcing their way into the reckoning as they have three of their final four matches at home at fortress Newlands, something no other side has the luxury of boasting.
That having been said, leading SA bookies Sportingbet have the nine-time champion Crusaders as overwhelming favourites to make it a 10th title in 2019.
The Crusaders, who are currently embroiled in off-field controversy following their tour to SA, have been installed as 3/5 favourites, followed by their fellow New Zealanders, the Hurricanes, at 7/2.
A third New Zealand side, the Highlanders, follow next at 12/1, with the Rebels available at 14/1.
The Jaguares are seen as the best SA Conference bet at 16/1, with the Brumbies and Sharks both on offer at 20/1.
The Bulls are only eighth-best at 28/1, while Lions supporters can get involved at 33/1.
The Waratahs' off-field woes have seen them slip to 40/1, while die-hard Stormers fans can back their side at 66/1.
Only the very brave will splash any cash on the Reds (100/1), Chiefs and Blues (both 150/1).