Super Rugby is nearly back and yes I’m getting excited! Unlike the European competitions every game is on TV and so you don’t have to miss a moment. Yup that does lead to overload and let’s be honest no one watches every minute of every game. Anyway the media coverage is something that I’m sure we’ll dive into at some point in the season. Click here to get the run down of all the Super Rugby coverage coming your way from DrivingMaul.
Here is my video with my Super Rugby 2019 Round 1 Predictions:
Before we get into the actual predictions, remember that it’s always difficult to pick in the first couple of rounds. Pre-season games give little indication to actual competitive game performances. Also with all the squad/coaching changes in the offseason which players/teams will jell the quickest?
Chiefs v Highlanders – Chiefs by 5
OK let’s set some basic rules out as it’s the beginning of the season. Always back the Kiwi side (unless it’s the Blues) and where there are 2 of them go for the home team (again unless it’s the Blues). If you go with that you won’t go far wrong.
So even before I’ve said anything about these 2 sides clearly I’m going with the Chiefs who are at home. One thing you have to remember though about the New Zealand sides is that their All Blacks have not played any pre-season games so could be rusty. The Chiefs will be missing their co-captain Sam Cane for most if not all the season. Also a season ending injury for Falcon has already required the call up of Beaver as injury cover. The great Rugby World Cup 2011 hero.
On the flip side with Sopoaga leaving the Highlanders we have to see how they are going to replace the All Black in that important 10 jersey. Basically I think that the Chiefs pack will give them the platform and the Highlanders will take a couple of games their new pivot to settle in.
Brumbies v Rebels – Brumbies by 3
A lot of people are backing the Rebels to top the Australia conference this year. However not only have they brought in the headline grabbing Quade Cooper but also made a bunch of additions in their pack. Apparently Cooper is an injury doubt for this game but the bigger question for me is how quickly that pack jells.
Brumbies have done some decent recruitment and have a more settled pack. So using the “packs win games backs decide by how much” law you have to go with the home side. Also the Crusader beat the Rebels 52-38 in preseason but as I’ve said earlier you can’t read too much into that.
Blues v Crusaders – Crusaders by 3
Everyone is on the Blues hype train this year with a new coach and Nonu back in New Zealand. It’s been interesting to see Nonu in the 13 jersey during pre-season so we might see the SBW-Nonu partnership at some point. I thought they would be interchanged to keep the 2 old boys fresh but we will see.
At the end of the day though the Saders have won the last 9 games between these sides. Even with Whitelock, Taylor and Read being rested the Crusaders are going to be a formidable side. Just remember the number of injuries they had last season and were still winning. If this was a Blackadder side then I’d back the Blues as his sides always started the season undercooked. That’s not something you can say about Razor sides and they have opened with victories the past 2 seasons.
Waratahs v Hurricanes – Hurricanes by 5
Using our picking rules above you go for the Canes. Even though Beauden Barrett is going to be missing this side a loads of class, especially in that backline. Sure Fletcher Smith is green but he’ll have an All Black 9 and 12 around him. We do have to remember though that the Canes either win or lose big on their opening game of the season. 2016 and 2018 were big losses but 2017 was a big win.
With the Waratahs back line this is a game that could really blow out either way. They do have the same issues though that the New Zealand sides have, in that the Wallabies could be rusty with a lack of pre-season game time. Also the Tahs lost to both the Highlanders and Brumbies in pre-season but who knows how much we can really read into that?
Sunwolves v Cell C Sharks – Cell C Sharks by 3
I found this to be the hardest game to call. When I was discussing this with Steve, he was really surprised by that. The reason is that the Sharks side on paper are really good, however we rarely see that on the pitch especially away from home. Their pre-season form also has been poor with a loss to the Lions and a 7-7 draw with the Bulls. The South African sides have not been resting their internationals in the way that the NZ and Aus sides have. So maybe they are more battle hardened but a 7-7 draw in preseason is very worrying, these games are normally try bonanzas as players try to not get injured.
The thing in the end that swung it for me is the Japanese preparation for the Rugby World Cup. Jamie Joseph has taken the International squad into camp for the first 5 rounds of the season. That means the Sunwolves will be highly reliant on their foreign players. New combinations will take time to jell and so I’m going for the away win but not with a lot of confidence.
Vodacom Bulls v DHL Stormers – Vodacom Bulls by 5
This game has so many questions around it. Are the Bulls in yet another transition season with a new coach?
What is going on with the Western Province and Stormers off the pitch? How will all the off the pitch uncertainty impact the players?
This is 2 teams with a bunch of quality players but can those players be given the support and structures that allow them to showcase their talent? With all that uncertainty I have to pop with the home side at altitude. Sure the Stormers beat the Bulls 33-28 in the pre-season double header but I think home advantage will reverse that.
Jaguares v Emirates Lions – Jaguares by 7
This is a simple one to call if you look at history, the Jaguares have won the 3 home games of this tie. On the flip side the Lions have won the 4 games in South Africa. So home advantage is clearly key here.
Now that’s been down to the travelling philosophy of the Lions in resting players. As this is the opening game will we see that again? I don’t know. I do know that they have had their squad chipped away at again with a couple more key players heading to Gloucester.
The Jaguares have also lost Sanchez that could be key. However news out of Argentina is that the new coach has worked with his new 10s extensively in the past so maybe it won’t be such a big loss.
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