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View from Down Under: Rebels tipped to beat Reds as Australian teams kick off Super Rugby season

Australia’s Super Rugby campaign kicks off this weekend in a slimmed-down, 15-team tournament that the Aussies hope will offer more come finals time.

Just four teams hold Australia’s hopes this year after the Western Force were culled from the tournament at the end of last season.

The Rebels are tipped to have the better of the Queensland Reds in Friday night’s local derby opener, with the Melbourne side fielding a powerful XV at home Friday.

Former Reds star half Will Genia will be pulling on a Rebels jersey after an offseason switch, joining former Force winger Billy Meakes in their first matches for Melbourne.

The Reds, meanwhile, have a new coach in former All Black Brad Thorn, who has already ruffled feathers by sidelining longtime playmaker Quade Cooper for the season.

Sportsbet has the Rebels as $1.45 (-222) favorites to start their season off with a win, with $2.75 (+175) for the Reds.

The ACT Brumbies are short-money favorites to start the new season with a win when they meet the Sunwolves in Japan on Saturday.

The Brumbies have undeniably been Australia’s strongest side over the past two seasons and will only be strengthened this week by the return of vice-captain David Pocock from a year-long sabbatical.

And while the ACT reached the quarterfinals of last year’s tournament, the Sunwolves won just one game in 2017.

The Brumbies are paying just $1.15 (-667) to claim the win this week, with $7 (+600) for the Japanese side.

NSW fans have high hopes for the 2018 season as the once-great side welcomes the return of favorite son Kurtley Beale and Reds discard Rob Simmons.

The Waratahs open with a home match against South Africa’s Stormers, who beat Argentina’s Jaguares at home in their opener last week.

The Waratahs are on $1.35 (-268) to take the points, with $3.20 (+220) for the Stormers.

While New Zealand’s Hurricanes are the early favorites to lift the Super Rugby trophy in August at $4 (+300), the Brumbies are expected to have the best of the Australian teams at $17 (+1600), with the Waratahs on $18 (+1700), the Rebels on $31 (+3000) and the long-suffering Reds at $67 (+6700).

Basketball fans should have plenty to cheer about when the Boomers host the Philippines in World Cup qualifying at Melbourne on Thursday.

Australia and the Philippines are both undefeated in Group B after two games, but the Boomers are tipped to pull ahead of the pack after this weekend.

While the Boomers will be without their big-name NBA regulars, including Philadelphia 76ers breakout star Ben Simmons, the home side is on just $1.01 (-10000) to beat the Philippines, with $12 (+1100) for a loss.

In the A-League, the Brisbane Roar must win their home match against the second-place Newcastle Jets if they are to have a realistic chance of reaching the finals.

The seventh-place Roar have won just one of their past five matches against the Jets and are paying $2.88 (+188) to cause an upset on Saturday, with $2.25 (+125) for the Jets.