Super Rugby is back and it’s earlier than ever! Yup it is still January and our winter sport is going to kickoff….. OK it is all a bit strange but that’s what the new global season brings you. The mid-year International window has moved from June to July meaning that Super Rugby can take place in one continuous piece. The flip side to that is that it has to start earlier to fit in.
Especially in South Africa the temperatures really could have a bering on results. You’ll probably see the same teams winning but they might not be picking up the try bonus points you would expect.
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I’ll be testing my Super Rugby picks against the TAB in my series DrivingMaul v The Bookie, will I come out on top?
Blues v Chiefs – Blues by 3
Two teams with new eras on the way, maybe. Is it the start of the Beauden inspired resurgence of the Blues? Not if you listen to Steven in our New Zealand Conference preview. With Beauden missing half the season the Blues need to keep themselves in contention until he arrives.
For the Chiefs this is the start of the Gatland era (well Gatland as coach rather than player). Clearly he’s one of the top coaches in the world with B&I Lions Tour wins and grand slams with Wales. However I’m going with the home win after the Blues showed last season that they can start well but then fade. Where as I think it will take time for the Chiefs to get used to Gatland’s systems.
Brumbies v Reds – Brumbies by 5
A really hard pick, I think all the Australian sides are going to be hard to figure out until we have seen them for a couple of weeks. With so much turnover in the 9 and 10 jerseys of the sides it’s anyones guess how well they will go early on.
Both sides have had encouraging pre-season run-outs but you never really know what coaches are trying to get out of those games. I’ve backed the Brumbies rolling maul for this one. I remember an interview with Laurie Fisher where he said they deliberately sign players who like to maul.
Cell C Sharks v Vodacom Bulls – Cell C Sharks by 3
The Sharks came-up short against the Stormers in the superhero pre-season weekend games. In contrast the Bulls beat the Lions that same weekend. It’s going to be an interesting season for the Sharks in the post du Preez era. That’s not only the coach but also the three brothers who are now playing in Sale.
If it looks like a year of transition for the Sharks well it’s a totally rebuilding effort over at the Bulls. That pre-season win over the Lions will be important for moral of this side that lost 29 players in the off season. It’s a real question of which side gels first and we won’t have the full answer to that after this weekend.
Sunwolves v Rebels – Rebels by 7
The Bulls might be rebuilding but the Sunwolves are just trying to throw something together that will last a couple of weeks. It’s almost like a Barbarians side. With 38 new players it’s quicker to say who’s remained than joined and we already know they are disbanding at the end of the season. It’s purely a matter of damage limitation really.
I’ve only gone for a modest margin for the Rebels as they have had a poor pre-season losing two games to the Brumbies. With three new scrum-halves and a new fly-half, there’s only Toomua around from last year and that means all the decision makers need to get to know each other. That takes time but luckily for them they have an easy opening weekend.
Crusaders v Waratahs – Crusaders by 7
If Beale is your answer at 10 then you’re asking all the wrong questions. Until that’s answered properly it doesn’t really matter what the rest of the players are doing.
Sure the Crusaders have shed that slow starter image under Razor but I still think they might be a bit slow out of the blocks this season. There are some question marks around their backrow also how quickly will they have their remaining All Blacks back? They will have easily enough to win but it might not be as big a margin as many are expecting.
Join me straight after the final whistle for post match reaction to Crusaders v Waratahs.
DHL Stormers v Hurricanes – DHL Stormers by 5
In our preview of the Africa conference Hermann went as far as to suggest that the Stormers could win the whole thing! I think that’s a little optimistic but they are looking like one of the top teams on paper. Add to that a decent win over the Sharks in pre-season and things are looking good.
This is a tough first up game for the Canes and we are going to see how they go without a top class 10. Everything else is similar to last year, slightly under powered front 5 and really fantastic backs. I think that means an early trip to South Africa will be a step too far for them.
Jaguares v Emirates Lions – Jaguares by 3
The Jaguares haven’t been around for long but this has already turned into an interesting matchup. In the first couple of visits the Lions rested players but with this being the start of the season I can’t see that happening. However the Lions have lost too much talent over the last few years.
The Jaguares on the other hand are one of the most settled sides in the competition. When you’ve just been to the final that’s a good thing and I think they should start with a win at home.
Join me straight after the final whistle for post match reaction to Jaguares v Lions.
Record So Far
Well it’s Round 1 so there haven’t been any results yet 🙂
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