Garrin Lambley – Sport24 Editor
Cape Town – Despite a thrilling victory over the Chiefs at Newlands last Saturday, bookmakers aren’t sold on the Stormers clinching a maiden Super Rugby title in 2017.
The Stormers put to bed the demons of last year’s horror 60-21 quarter-final thrashing at the hands of the same New Zealand foes, to run out 34-26 victors in their Round 7 clash.
The victory gave the Cape side a commanding – and likely insurmountable – 17 point lead atop the Africa Conference 1 standings.
A first place finish would ensure a home quarter-final for coach Rob Fleck’s team, where they will be joined as playoff hosts by the Africa Conference 2 winners (currently the Lions), the Australian Conference winners (currently the Brumbies) and the New Zealand Conference victors (currently the Crusaders).
With a home playoff match thus virtually assured, it therefore comes as something of a surprise (but potentially excellent value) that the Stormers are “only” joint sixth-favourites for the title according to local bookies, Sportingbet.
The defending champion Hurricanes, currently second in the New Zealand Conference, have been installed as 5/2 favourites, while the Chiefs can be backed at 100/30.
The seven-time champion Crusaders, who along with the Stormers are the only remaining unbeaten team this season, are next best at 4/1.
The Lions, who lead Africa Conference 2 by a slender point from the Sharks (albeit having played one fewer match), are on offer at 15/2.
The Highlanders, the 2015 winners, but only fourth at this stage in the New Zealand Conference, are next best at 9/1.
The Stormers and Sharks have been bracketed together at 16/1.
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 33/1 – along with the Blues and Jaguares.
The Bulls (125/1), Cheetahs (500/1) and Kings’ (1 000/1) odds reflect their respective 2017 Super Rugby seasons to date.