cash One of the biggest barriers to entry when it comes to sports betting is a lack of understanding as to how everything works. With the Super Rugby around the corner we will try and explain the various options at a sports bettor’s disposal starting with match betting and the handicap.




Match Betting


This is the bet that newcomers into the game find easiest to understand. It is a case of selecting which team will win the game and then betting accordingly.


Match betting will typically look like this


Bulls 11/20 (or 0.55/1)

Draw 25/1

Sharks 14/10 (or 1.4/1)


If you fancy the Bulls and put R200 on them your bet will be 110/200.


If they win you make R110 profit over and above your R200 stake which gets refunded. If the match is drawn or the Sharks win then you lose your R200 stake.


Had you put your R200 on the Sharks at 14/10 your bet would be 280/200. If the Sharks win R480 would be returned to your account, R280 of this would be profit and the remaining R200 is your stake. Once again if it is a draw or the Bulls win you would lose your R200 stake.


Rugby matches are not always competitive affairs though and what if the Crusaders are hosting the Kings?


The betting may look as follows:


Crusaders 1/50 (or 0.02/1)

Draw 50/1

Kings 20/1


You like the Crusaders to win but for every R100 you put down you only make R2 profit. Not that exciting and hardly worth the risk that they have an off day and get beaten.


It is in games like this where the “Handicap” comes into its own.


The Rugby Handicap


The rugby handicap is incredibly simple but it usually takes new comers a while to work it out.


Basically the bookmakers set a line or margin that they think a team will win by, this is the handicap. More accurately in fact they set this line at the point where they think they will get equal interest in both teams as far as people having bets go.


Let’s return to the above example:


The handicap would probably look like this


Crusaders -28.5 at 9/10
Kings +28.5 at 9/10 (or 0.9/1)


At this point let me explain the use of the half point as this is what tends to confuse the first time punter who usually says “but you can’t get a half point in rugby!”


Exactly! The half point is there to take the tie or drawn result out of the equation and while looking like an unnecessary complication at first glance it in fact simplifies matters.


Let’s assume you like the Crusaders to win big. You would back the Crusaders -28.5 and this means you need them to win by 29 points or more as the Kings are in effect being given a 28.5 point start.


They win the match 50-13 and your bets was R180/200 Crusaders -28.5.


The easiest way to calculate this is to take the Crusaders handicap off their final score to see if they beat the handicap.


50-28.5=21.5 so after removing the handicap they in effect still finished ahead of the Kings by 21.5-13 and your bet arrived with 8.5 points to spare.


Let’s say you had backed the Kings +28.5. Once again your stake is R200 and your bet is R180/200.


They score a last minute interception try to lose the match 19-47 and the commentator speaks of the try as a “meaningless consolation”. That may be so for the Kings themselves but if you now add the 28.5 points start they were given by the bookmakers you will find that the Kings get up on the handicap by half a point – the narrowest of margins and that try means you collect R180 profit rather than losing R200 and that’s a R380 swing so hardly meaningless in your eyes.


Just to confirm the final gap was 28 points but you had the Kings +28.5 and thus win your bet by the half point. Using the same logic I applied above if you add the Kings handicap onto their score 28.5 + 19 = 47.5 then they win the game 47.5 – 47.


In short when you place a handicap bet your team either has to beat a team by more than a certain margin or prevent a team from winning by more than a certain margin. It means that a match between 2 sides of very different levels can still be an exciting betting proposition.


At Goodforthegame we preview all Super Rugby, World Cup, 6 Nations and Currie Cup matches and the focus of the preview is generally the handicap which is the most popular bet in rugby.  


Hint: Bookmakers handicaps can differ and if you intend to get into sports betting I would suggest at least 3 accounts. This means you can shop around to get the best deal out there and make a big difference to your overall position. There is nothing worse than losing by half a point when backing the same team with another bookmaker could have resulted in a half a point win.




Sports betting can add to your enjoyment of a tournament like Super Rugby but always make sure to bet with what you can afford otherwise it just wouldn’t be fun anymore.