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The Drawing Board – Super Rugby 2012 Season Preview

Super Rugby is back! Check out David’s comprehensive preview of the upcoming season.

 

 

Super 15 Rugby 2012 Preview – Australian Conference

The Super 15 Rugby 2012 competition gets under-way on Friday. The first of the Australian winter sports to get its 2012 season into gear with the NRL and AFL not kicking off until early and late March respectively.

Last season, the Queensland Reds took the Super 15 Rugby competition by storm. I don’t think anyone predicted they would be champions prior to the season commencing, defeating the Crusaders in the Super 15 Rugby final 18-13.

This season is slightly different from previous years, with the Super 15 Rugby Competition paused in June for a round of international matches. These matches will feature the Wallabies, All-Blacks and Springboks over a 3 week period. The Wallabies take on Wales, the All-Blacks take on Ireland and the Springboks will play England, all will play 3 tests.

This gives the Super Rugby teams a bit of a break towards the end of the season, with just 3 rounds remaining once the internationals are out of the way. This is a good way of extending the Super 15 Rugby Season which finished in early July last year compared to September and October for the NRL & AFL.

We preview each of the Super 15 Rugby teams from the Australian Conference below, including our predictions for where each team will finish in the 2012 competition.

 

ACT Brumbies

The Brumbies had a shocker in 2011. In response the have hired Jake White who has completely revamped their squad for this year’s competition. Last year they finished in 13th, their worst finishing position since the inception of Super Rugby in 1996.

The Brumbies have not been the force they were at the beginning of last decade, but are trying to rectify that. They too are in a rebuilding phase and may not do as well this year but should still be more competitive than last season. Maybe not finals criteria just yet, but they should be up there none the less.

Prediction: 3rd in the Australian Conference

Odds:

Winners – $29.00

Make Top 6 – $3.25

Brumbies Squad:

Andrew Smith. Ben Alexander. Ben Hand. Ben Mowen. Cam Crawford. Christian Lealiifano. Colby Faingaa. Dan Palmer. Fotu Auelua. Henry Speight. Ian Prior. Ita Vaea. Jerry Yanuyanutawa. Jesse Mogg. Jono Owen. Joseph Tomane. Kimami Sitauti. Leon Power. Matt Toomua. Michael Hooper. Nic White. Pat McCabe. Peter Kimlin. Robbie Coleman. Sam Carter. Siliva Siliva. Stephen Hoiles. Stephen Moore. Tevita Kuridrani. Tom Cox. Zack Holmes.

 

Western Force

In their sixth season, the Force managed to only place 12th overall, 1 place better than in 2010. Overall they were the 3rd best team in the Australian conference which says a lot about the seasons the other two Australian sides had.

The Force have named David Pocock captain for season 2012, a good choice with Nathan Sharpe looking at his final season. The youngster will now have Sharpe around to guide him and will no doubt have benefited from being vice-captain last season.

I can’t see them finishing anywhere near the finals again. They tend to play well in patches but I have my reservations whether they can pull together week after week

Prediction: 5th in the Australian Conference

Odds:

Winners – $51.00

Make Top 6 – $5.50

Force Squad:

Alfie Mafi. Ben McCalman. Ben Seymour. Ben Whittaker. Brett Sheehan. Cameron Shepherd. David Pocock (c). Gene Fairbanks. James Stannard. Jordan Rapana. Justin Turner. Kieran Longbottom. Lachlan McCaffrey. Matt Hodgson. Napolioni Nalaga. Nathan Charles. Nathan Sharpe. Nick Cummins. Patrick Dellit. Pekahou Cowan. Phoenix Battye. Richard Brown. Rory Sidey. Salesi Ma’afu. Sam Wykes. Tetera Faulkner. Toby Lynn. Will Tupou. Willie Ripia. Winston Stanley.


Melbourne Rebels

The Rebels head into their second Super Rugby season on the back of last years wooden spoon. They won three of their first seven matches and things weren’t looking too bad, but a run of 11 straight defeats after this did not help their cause. There is cause for optimism though as they did manage to put together a couple of meaningful performances and produce the best result of any of the expansion sides in their first year.

The Rebels have secured a couple of high profile off season recruits in Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor. These players will complement the area that the Rebels were severely lacking in last year – the halves. This should help them improve on their efforts of last year. Not quite top 6 material but they will certainly not be as bad as they were at times during last season.

Prediction: 4th in the Australian Conference

Odds:

Winners – $41.00

Make Top 6 – $4.00

Rebels Squad:

Laurie Weeks. Rodney Blake. Adam Byrnes. Alister Campbell. Danny Cipriani. Tom Chamberlain. Tim Davidson. Gareth Delve. Adam Freier. Mark Gerrard. Nic Henderson. James Hilgendorf. Julian Huxley. Luke Jones. Richard Kingi. Michael Lipman. Lachlan Mitchell. Stirling Mortlock. Nick Phipps. Hugh Pyle. Ged Robinson. Jarrod Saffy. Heath Tessmann. Cooper Vuna. Paul Alo-Emile. Kurtley Beale. Mitch Inman. Lloyd Johansson. James King. James O’Connor.

 

Queensland Reds

Ah, the Reds. They are coming off a vintage year in which they managed to take out their maiden title.  They still possess a strong squad and will be pumped to become the first Australian team to defend their title. There is plenty of experience and talent around and they have a coach who understands how they tick.

They may struggle without Quade Cooper, who is out until at least April with the injury he sustained in the World Cup, which is a massive blow. A slow start to the season could severely hamper their chances come August. They’ll be up there though and anything can happen in finals rugby.

Prediction: 1st in the Australian conference

Odds:

Winners – $7.00

Make Top 6 – $1.38

Reds Squad:

Quade Cooper. Ben Daley. Rod Davies. Anthony Faingaa. Saia Faingaa. Will Genia. Liam Gill. James Hanson. Michael Harris. Scott Higginbotham. Greg Holmes. James Horwill (c). Van Humphries. Peter Hynes. Digby Ioane. Jono Lance. Ben Lucas. David McDuling. Luke Morahan. Ed Quirk. Beau Robinson. Radike Samo. Jake Schatz. Guy Shepherdson. Dom Shipperley. Rob Simmons. Chris Feauai-Sautia. James Slipper. Ben Tapuai. Aidan Toua. Adam Wallace-Harrison.

 

New South Wales Waratahs

The Waratahs finished last season in 5th place before going out to the Blues in week 1 of the finals. That seems to be a trend in recent seasons as they copped the same fate in 2010. The Waratahs were attacked by sections of the media and public for their boring style of play and I tend to agree with them.

This season, they have signed some some high profile players including Adam Ashley-Cooper, Berrick Barnes, and South African scrumhalf Sarel Pretorious to give them a more exciting looking backline.

Each season the Waratahs promise so much and then fall at the final hurdle, I think this season may be different though. I think they will make the top 6 and possibly make it to the final as well.

Prediction: 2nd in the Australian conference

Odds:

Winners – $7.50

Make Top 6 – $1.55

Waratahs Squad:

Adam Ashley-Cooper. Chris Alcock. Berrick Barnes. Tom Carter. Daniel Halangahu. Rob Horne. Dave Dennis. Kane Douglas. Rocky Elsom (c). Damien Fitzpatrick. Bernard Foley. Brackin Karauria-Henry. Sekope Kepu. Tom Kingston. Pat McCutcheon. Brendan McKibbin. Drew Mitchell. Dean Mumm. Atieli Pakalani. Wycliff Palu. Greg Peterson. Tatafu Polota-Nau. Sarel Pretorius. Benn Robinson. Paddy Ryan. Jeremy Tilse. Sitaleki Timani. Lachie Turner. John Ulugia. Dan Vickerman.

 

 

Super 15 Rugby 2012 Preview – New Zealand Conference

This conference has produced a winner three out of the last seven Super Rugby seasons; however no winners have come from here for the last 3 seasons.

The Crusaders have been the dominant force in this conference for the last few years and will be gunning to keep their amazing finals record alive (they have made at least the semi – finals every year since 1998 except for 2001). They have seven titles to their name and they will once again be up there in the 2012 Super Rugby season.

 

Blues

Last season the Blues made it to the Semi Finals of the Super Rugby competition for the first time since 2007. They will obviously want to go one better this year, whether they can continue to improve is the biggest question. The Blues are one of the most successful sides in Super Rugby history, winning the competition 3 times and making the finals on numerous occasions. They are also one of the most frustrating as they continue to underachieve with squads that are stacked with talent.

They still have another good squad assembled and have some star recruits from the Hurricanes in the form of Ma’a Nonu and Piri Weepu and have welcomed back Rudi Wulf from overseas.  They should be set for another good year, but can they get over the inconsistencies of the past? Only time will tell.

Prediction: 2nd in the NZ conference

Odds:

Winners – $5.50

Make Top 6 – $1.33

Blues Squad:

Alby Mathewson. Ali Williams. Angus Ta’avao. Anthony Boric. Benson Stanley. Brad Mika. Charlie Faumuina. Chris Lowrey. Daniel Braid. David Raikuna. Filo Paulo. Gareth Anscombe. George Moala. Isaia Toeava. Jerome Kaino. Keven Mealamu. Lachie Munro. Liaki Moli. Luke Braid. Ma’a Nonu. Michael Hobbs,. Pauliasi Manu. Peter Saili. Piri Weepu. Rene Ranger. Sherwin Stowers. Tevita Mailau. Tom McCartney. Tony Woodcock.

 

Chiefs

Last season the Chiefs finished a disappointing 10th, a position that belied their talented squad. The Chiefs have never won the Super Rugby title and will feel that 2009 was their best chance, thrashed in the finals by the Bulls from Pretoria. They have yet to fully recapture their form from that showed that year, but this year promises to be different

This season, the Chiefs have secured high profile signing Sonny Bill Williams from the Crusaders and a new coach in the form of Dave Rennie, who is highly rated here in NZ. This should provide a massive boost to their side, and their profile at the same time. There have been some high profile departures from the Chiefs, but they have covered themselves really well and should possess one of the most lethal backlines in the whole competition.

I think the Chiefs might battle back into contention for the top 6 this year. Sonny Bill Williams will provide the firepower they were lacking. It will be touch and go as to whether they finish, but I think they will be there or thereabouts come finals time.

Prediction: 3rd in the NZ conference

Odds:

Winners – $14.00

Make Top 6 – $2.00

Chiefs Squad:

Aaron Cruden. Alex Bradley. Andrew Horrell. Aseli Tikoirototuma. Ben Afeaki. Ben Tameifuna. Brendon Leonard. Brodie Retallick. Craig Clarke. Declan O’Donnell. Fritz Lee. Hika Elliot. Jackson Willison. Kane Thompson. Lelia Masaga. Liam Messam. Mahonri Schwalger. Maritino Nemani. Mike Fitzgerald. Richard Kahui. Robbie Robinson. Romana Graham. Sam Cane. Scott Waldrom. Shane Cleaver. Sona Taumalolo. Sonny Bill Williams. Tanerau Latimer. Tawera Kerr-Barlow. Tim Nanai-Williams. Toby Smith.

 

Crusaders

The Crusaders went close again last year, with only the Queensland Reds denying them their 8th Super Rugby title. It wasn’t to be for the team that were fighting for the title on behalf of everyone in Christchurch, following last year’s devastating earthquakes. This season they will be looking to go one better and who would bet against the most successful side in the history of the Super Rugby competition.

For starters, they will be back in Christchurch to play their home games with a new stadium with loads of temporary seating being erected over the summer. They have lost some high profile members from last year including Brad Thorn and SBW but have the depth to cover both quite adequately. They’ll be vulnerable early on without some of their stars but they always peak at the right time of the year.

The Crusaders will be hard to beat again in 2012. Any side with Richie McCaw and Dan Carter is going to be right up there and I think they will secure their 8th title this year.

Prediction: 1st in the NZ conference

Odds:

Winners – $4.50

Make Top 6 – $1.25

Crusaders Squad:

Adam Whitelock. Andrew Ellis. Ben Franks. Ben Funnell. Corey Flynn. Dan Carter. George Whitelock. Israel Dagg. Joe Wheeler. Kieran Read. Luke Romano. Luke Whitelock. Matt Todd. Nick Barrett. Owen Franks. Patrick Osborne. Quentin MacDonald. Richie McCaw. Robbie Fruean. Ross Kennedy. Ryan Crotty. Sam Whitelock. Sean Maitland. Tom Donnelly. Tom Marshall. Tom Taylor. Tyler Bleyendaal. Willi Heinz. Wyatt Crockett. Zac Guildford.

 

Highlanders

The Highlanders finished 8th in the 2012 Super 15 Rugby season, their best position since they finished 8th in 2005. They have not made the finals since 2002 and are yet to win a Super Rugby title, their closest a 2nd place finish to the Crusaders in 1999. Those stats could change this year though.

This season, the Highlanders have recruited some experience. They snatched both Hosea Gear and Andrew Hore from the Hurricanes to bolster their wing and hooking stocks respectively. They have also brought in former All Black Tamati Ellison, who should give them the necessary depth required to push for a top 6 spot.  Additionally, they have made a splash by signing English international James Haskell.

They were the darlings of last year and will be looking to replicate last season’s form. They have a new stadium and will be looking to challenge for top 6 spots.

Prediction: 4th in the NZ conference

Odds:

Winners – $23.00

Make Top 6 – $2.75

Highlanders Squad:

Aaron Smith. Adam Thomson. Andrew Hore. Ben Smith. Bronson Murray. Chris King. Chris Noakes. Colin Slade. Culum Retallick. Doug Tietjens. Elliot Dixon. Hosea Gear. James Haskell. Jamie Mackintosh. Jarrad Hoeata. Jason Rutledge. Jimmy Cowan. John Hardie. Josh Bekhuis. Kade Poki. Kendrick Lynn. Kurt Baker. Lima Sopoaga. Ma’afu Fia. Nasi Manu. Nick Crosswell. Shaun Treeby. Siale Piutau. Tamati Ellison. Telusa Veainu.

 

Hurricanes

The 2011 season was one for the Hurricanes to forget, finishing 9th overall and 4th in the New Zealand conference. Considering they had not finished any worse than 5th going back to 2002, Hurricanes fans will desperately want to wipe 2010 and 2011 from their memories. We can’t forget there was a massive fall out between coach and senior players, which lead to the loss of the majority of their All Blacks.

They’ve lost a wealth of experience and talent, but still have plenty to work with. I don’t think that they will be much good for this season, but watch this space in years to come.

Prediction: 5th in the NZ conference

Odds:

Winners – $26.00

Make Top 6 – $3.50

Hurricanes Squad:

Alapati Leiua. Andre Taylor. Beauden Barrett. Ben May. Brad Shields. Charlie Ngatai. Chris Eaton. Chris Smylie. Conrad Smith. Cory Jane. Dane Coles. Daniel Kirkpatrick. David Hall. Faifili Levave. Jack Lam. James Broadhurst. Jason Eaton. Jayden Hayward. Jeffery Toomaga-Allen. Jeremy Thrush. Julian Savea. Karl Lowe. Mark Reddish. Michael Bent. Motu Matu’u. Reggie Goodes. Richard Buckman. Tim Bateman. TJ Perenara. Tristan Moran. Tusi Pisi. Victor Vito.

 

 

Super 15 Rugby 2012 Preview – South Africa Conference

And finally, here is my South African conference preview. Last year was the year of the Stormers as far as the South Africans were concerned, as the men from the Cape finished 2nd overall but fell at the semi-final stage. Can they do it again?

The current season promises to be one of the toughest in the history of the competition as many of the teams have lost experienced stalwarts.  Already there has been infighting amongst the five existing teams in relation to the 2013 season. The teams are threatening to boycott the competition if any of them are excluded due to the new ‘Southern Kings’ franchise which has just been approved for entry. The Kings would come in at the expense of one of the other South African sides unless the competition is expanded to 16 teams from next season. This opens up a can of worms for South African Rugby as politics enters the Rugby scene, and I have no doubt that this will affect the mind-set of some of the teams in 2012.

 

Bulls

In 2011 the Bulls dropped outside the playoff zone after winning the previous two competitions. In fact, three of the previous four Super 15 Rugby competitions were won by the Bulls. Considering where they were a few years prior to those wins, they were massive achievements.

However, as much as they have been successful over the last few years, they have hit a bit of a junction. Gone are the names like Matfield and du Preez. They have lost a wealth of experience and talent and should struggle this year. They should still be a decent team, but I’m not predicting that this will be the year of the Bulls.

Prediction: 3rd in conference

Odds:

Winners – $13.00

Make Top 6 – $2.00

Bulls Squad:

Bjorn Basson. JJ Engelbrecht. Louis Fouche. Dean Greyling. Francois Hougaard. Zane Kirchner. Juandre Kruger. Werner Kruger. Akona Ndungane. Wynand Olivier. Dewald Potgieter. Jacques Potgieter. Chiliboy Ralepelle. Johann Sadie. Pierre Spies (captain). CJ Stander. Wilhelm Steenkamp. Deon Stegmann. Dawie Steyn. Flip van der Merwe. Jano Vermaak. Willie Wepener. Morne Steyn. Francois Venter. Frik Kirsten. Arno Botha. Daniel Adongo. Warwick Tecklenburg. Jurgen Visser.

 

Cheetahs

As bad as the stats looked last year for the Cheetahs, it wasn’t actually such a bad year. Sure they didn’t do that well (11th overall) but this does not tell the whole story. They played some fantastic running rugby and caused some notable upsets against the Crusaders and Brumbies and were only a few points off beating some of the bigger teams.

They don’t really have any notable gains for 2012, and they have lost their best playmaker to the Waratahs in Sarel Pretorius. He will be missed and I have a feeling the Cheetahs will be much of the same this year.  Close but no cigar. With the sides around them last season making marked improvements it will be hard for them to finish higher up the table, but here’s hoping.

Prediction: 4th in the conference

Odds:

Winners – $51.00

Make Top 6 – $5.50

Cheetahs Squad:

Lourens Adriaanse. Ryno Benjamin. Heinrich Brüssow. Hennie Daniller. Tewis de Bruyn. Justin Downey. George Earle. Robert Ebersohn. Sias Ebersohn. Andries Ferreira. Barry Geel. Johan Goosen. Cameron Jacobs. Rocco Jansen. Ashley Johnson. Pieter Labuschagne. Willie le Roux. Hercu Liebenberg. WP Nel, Dusty Noble. Trevor Nyakane. Davon Raubenheimer.  Philip Snyman. Adriaan Strauss (captain). Andries Strauss. François Uys. Izak van der Westhuizen. Marcel van der Merwe. Philip van der Walt. Piet van Zyl.

 

Lions

What to do with the Lions? They are coming off a couple of really bad years in Super Rugby and have not finished higher than 11th since 2002. However, they did manage to win the Currie Cup (South Africa’s domestic rugby comp) so there is a glimmer of hope for them.  They would be most at risk if SANZAR do not sanction a 16 team competition in 2013, with the Southern Kings waiting in the wings for a chance.

For me, I would expect the Lions to be better this year. Maybe not championship winning. I would expect them to pull themselves out of the bottom four and into some improved territory. They have some exciting youngsters in their ranks and would be hoping to cause a few upsets this season.

Prediction: 5th in the South African conference

Odds:

Winners – $34.00

Make Top 6 – $4.50

Lions Squad:

Patric Cilliers. CJ van der Linde. Jacobie Adriaanse. JC Janse van Rensburg. Bandise Maku. Martin Bezuidenhout. Edgar Marutlulle. Callie Visagie. Wikus van Heerden. Hendrik Roodt. Franco van der Merwe. Cobus Grobbelaar. Jaco Kriel. Derick Minnie. Michael Rhodes. Josh Strauss (captain). Warren Whiteley. Michael Bondesio. Ross Cronjé. Whestley Moolman. Butch James. Elton Jantjies. Alwyn Hollenbach. Doppies la Grange. Lionel Mapoe. Waylon Murray. Jannie Boshoff. Dylan Des Fountain. Michael Killian. Deon van Rensburg. James Kamana. Jaco Taute.

 

Sharks

2011 was a much better season for the Sharks. They managed a credible 6th placed finish before getting done by a very good Crusaders outfit in NZ. Sharks fans should be expecting much of the same from this team as they look to finish higher up the table this year.

The Sharks have lost a few players for the 2012 season including ex-captain Stefan Terblanche and have replaced them with a few up and comers in South African rugby. These players should be able to cover their losses, but it will remain to be seen whether they can climb up the ladder without some of their former stars. It has opened the door for Bismark du Plessis to prove to everyone why he is, and has been for a while, the best hooker in South Africa.  I would be surprised if they did not feature somewhere around the top of the table.

Prediction: 2nd in the South African Conference.

Odds:

Winners – $11.00

Make Top 6 – $1.80

Sharks Squad:

Dale Chadwick. Jannie du Plessis. Wiehahn Herbst. Tendai Mtawarira. Julian Redelinghuys. Craig Burden. Kyle Cooper. Monde Hadebe. Bismarck du Plessis. Anton Bresler. Alistair Hargreaves. Jan André Marais. Peet Marais. Ross Skeate. Steven Sykes. Pieter-Steph du Toit. Willem Alberts. Jacques Botes. Marcell Coetzee. Keegan Daniel (captain). Jean Deysel. Ryan Kankowski. François Kleinhans. Lubabalo Mtembu. Conrad Hoffmann. Charl McLeod. Cobus Reinach. Patrick Lambie. Frédéric Michalak. Meyer Bosman. Paul Jordaan. Marius Joubert. Wandile Mjekevu. Tim Whitehead. Heimar Williams. Lwazi Mvovo. Odwa Ndungane. JP Pietersen. Sibusiso Sithole. Louis Ludik. Gouws Prinsloo. Riaan Viljoen.

 

Stormers

Last season the Stormers were the best of the South African conference, finishing on 63 points, just 3 points behind the first-place Queensland Reds. They’ve finished second in the last two seasons and have featured in one final, but are yet to win a Super Rugby competition.

Like all the South African teams, the Stormers are having a bit of a clean out, which means they’ll be in a bit of a rebuilding phase. This has given an opportunity for some of the younger players in the squad to step up after a few years of learning. The biggest acquisition for this year is JP Du Plessis from the Rebels. They should still be the top of the South African bunch this year and have a decent squad. It would be a major surprise if they were not in the top 6.

Prediction: 1st in the South African Conference

Odds:

Winners – $8.00

Make Top 6 – $1.50

Stormers Squad:

Gio Aplon. Reuben Johannes. Donovan Armandt. Rohan Kitshoff. Andries Bekker. Steven Kitshoff. Wicus Blaauw. Berton Klaasen. Tom Botha. Siya Kolisi. Marcel Brache. Nick Koster. Schalk Burger. Adrian Kritzinger. Nizaam Carr. Deon Carstens. Clement Lewis. Demetri Catrakilis. Tiaan Liebenberg. Kurt Coleman. Hilton Lobberts. Bolla Conradie. Fran. Malherbe. Juan de Jongh. Scarra Ntubeni. Jean de Villiers. Joe Pietersen. JP du Plessis. Danie Poolman. Dewaldt Duvenage. Quinn Roux. Rynhardt Elstadt. Louis Schreuder. Eben Etzebeth. De Kock Steenkamp. Nick Fenton-Wells. Tim Swiel. Schalk Ferreira. Ricky Schroeder. Deon Fourie. Gary van Aswegen. Burton Francis. Gerhard van den Heever. Peter Grant. Hein van der Merwe. Nic Groom. Michael van der Spuy. Bryan Habana. Willem van Wyk. Brok Harris. Allister Vermaak. Yaya Hartzenberg. Duane Vermeulen.

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