Moneyball: TAB confused by first round fixtures

By Michael Guerin

Waikato Chiefs star Aaron Cruden. Photo / Getty Images.
Waikato Chiefs star Aaron Cruden. Photo / Getty Images.

If you have no idea what to expect from the opening New Zealand round of Super Rugby you are not alone - neither do the men charged with putting a dollar value on the games.

"I'll admit we are confused but the only comforting thing for us is that most of the punters will be too," says TAB rugby spokesman Mark Stafford.

Normally the New Zealand season opener in Christchurch would seem straight forward - Crusaders with McCaw against the Chiefs away from home. Crusaders win.

But this is a Crusaders team without Carter and Read and who can be notoriously slow starters against the two-time champs.

Which means the Crusaders, who would usually be $1.30 in this match, are $1.55.

"And that is because like a lot of people we don't know what to make of Tyler Bleyendaal against Aaron Cruden for an example," says Stafford.

"And there are All Blacks coming back from shortened pre-seasons and even the styles of rugby everybody will be looking to play.

"So I think everybody is waiting to see what happens."

Which is where, if you are that way inclined, your Iphone comes into play.

The biggest trend the TAB and other bookmakers have seen in the last two years is the move toward betting "in play" or during the game.

It has been made significantly easier by mobile phone apps that actually work quickly and who hasn't watched a game of rugby and thought they could predict the result after 20 minutes?

"That has been the biggest shift. Punter aren't as keen on the head to head betting during the week now but love the in play stuff," says Stafford.

"And the Crusaders-Chiefs is a perfect game for that. If the Crusaders start well most punters will assume they are unbeatable but if they are sluggish then there will be people who want to back the Chiefs."

Perhaps even a better example is the Blues, who start $1.80 away from home against the Highlanders after a less than sparkling pre-season.

If the northerners gel quickly and start showing some razzamatazz then the Highlanders are in for a long night and $1.80 will feel like stealing.

But if they get bogged down the Highlanders might feel a lot more at home, excuse the pun.

The marathon length of the season now interrupted by the international window and how teams come out of the other side of that has stymied betting on the actual Super15 champions.

Crowning the champs seems an ice age away, with pivotal questions like will Dan Carter even play for the Cru post-international window still a long way from being answered.
But Stafford knows one thing --- one of the two championship big guns will drift next Monday morning.

"We have the Chiefs and Crusaders equal favourites for the title at the moment and barring a draw one of them will be longer on Monday than they are today.

"Especially the Crusaders if they lose, because a Chiefs win will have a lot of people thinking about a three-peat."? For those who don't want to waste their Iphone battery waiting for in-play markets here are two bets to start the season, one in hope, the other a long-term investment.

Week one: Blues to beat the Highlanders at $1.80 seems very fair, with Noakes the right man to steer, and calm, the ship.

Long term: Israel Falou at $8.50 to be the top tryscorer in the comp. Near impossible to defend, great in the air and scarily might even be better than last season.

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