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by Baylion

Super Rugby 2014: Aussie Conference Preview

January 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

An interesting aspect of the Aussie conference is the number of South African players who will ply their trade down under this year with the bulk being in the Force’s squad. Most of these players were fringe players with only Wilhelm Steenkamp (Force) and Jacques Potgieter (Waratahs) being regulars in their previous teams.

The Aussie franchise all had heavy staff turnovers during the off season with the Force, the Rebels and the Waratahs the hardest hit by the loss of key players while the Brumbies and the Reds both lost their head coaches.

After losing only a few key players the Brumbies have a good chance of emulating their 2013 season and ending top of the Aussie conference and in a semi-final spot overall. Losing coach Jake White may have an effect but they retained his assistant coaches so the effect of Jake White’s defection should be minimal.

The Reds lost a few key players but the biggest loss is probably losing head coach Ewen McKenzie who took a young team from a regular bottom feeders prior to 2010 to contenders since 2010 and champions in 2011. 2014 could be a tough year coming to grips with a new coach and the Reds will hope that the Li’l Genius regained his form during the off season.

The Waratahs lost quite a few key players although a number of them are close to being over the hill. The ‘Tahs have been struggling in recent years and 2014 is going to be no different as the try to rebuild to former glory days when they were regular contenders.

The Force took a knock during the off-season as key players deserted and they recruited heavily from South Africa to restock their squad. Although the none of the South Africans were first choice players at their previous teams they may be enough to keep the Force off the bottom of both the Aussie and the Combined tables.

The sob story of the Aussie conference is that of the Rebels. Not only are they struggling financially but their core has been ripped apart as players left what seems to be a sinking ship. And they nowhere near replaced the quality they lost with their new recruits. I really don’t see them moving off the bottom off the log at any time during the competition

Brumbies:

Predicted Positions:
Aussie Conference: 1
Overall: 2

Key losses: Jake White (head coach), Peter Kimlin, George Smith,
Key gaines: None

Internationals: 15 (14 Wallabies, 1 Japan)

Props: Ben Alexander, Ruaidhri Murphy, Scott Sio, Ruan Smith
Hookers: Joshua Mann-Rea, Stephen Moore, Siliva Siliva
Locks: Sam Carter, Scott Fardy, Leon Power, Jack Whetton
Loose Forwards: Fotu Auelua, Jarrad Butler, Ben Mowen, David Pocock, Jordan Smiler, Ita Vaea
Scrum-Halves: Conrad Hoffmann, Nic White
Fly-Halves: Lionel Cronjé, Harumichi Tatekawa, Matt Toomua
Centres: Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Pat McCabe, Andrew Smith
Wings: Clyde Rathbone, Henry Speight, Joe Tomane
Fullbacks: Robbie Coleman, Jesse Mogg

Reds:

Predicted Positions:
Aussie Conference: 2
Overall: 5

Key losses: Radike Samo, Digby Ioane, Ewen McKenzie (head coach)
Key gaines: Lachlan Turner

Internationals: 18 (18 Wallabies)

Props: Albert Anae, Ben Daley, Greg Holmes, Jono Owen, James Slipper
Hookers: Saia Fainga’a, James Hanson
Locks: James Horwill, David McDuling, Ireland Ed O’Donoghue, Rob Simmons
Loose forwards: Curtis Browning, Liam Gill, Ed Quirk, Beau Robinson, Jake Schatz
Scrum-halves: Nick Frisby, Will Genia
Fly-halves: Quade Cooper, Ben Lucas
Centres: Anthony Fainga’a, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Ben Tapuai, Aidan Toua
Wings: Rod Davies, Dom Shipperley, Lachlan Turner
Fullbacks: Michael Harris, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi

Waratahs:

Predicted Positions:
Aussie Conference: 3
Overall: 11

Key losses: Sitaleki Timani, Matt Lucas, Berrick Barnes, Tom Carter, Tom Kingston, Drew Mitchell, Lachlan Turner
Key gaines: Jacques Potgieter, Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale

Internationals: 16 (15 Wallabies, 1 Springbok)

Props: Sekope Kepu, Benn Robinson, Paddy Ryan, Jeremy Tilse
Hookers: Tolu Latu, Tatafu Polota-Nau
Locks: Kane Douglas, Jed Holloway, Will Skelton
Loose Forwards: Mitchell Chapman, Dave Dennis, Tala Gray, Michael Hooper, Pat McCutcheon, Wycliff Palu, Jacques Potgieter
Scrum-halves: Brendan McKibbin, Nick Phipps
Fly-halves: Bernard Foley, Ben Volavola
Centres: Adam Ashley-Cooper, Michael Hodge, Rob Horne, Jono Lance
Wingers: Peter Betham, Matthew Carraro, Cam Crawford
Fullbacks: Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau

Force:

Predicted Positions:
Aussie Conference: 4
Overall: 13

Key losses: Brett Sheehan, Winston Stanley, Alfi Mafi
Key gaines: Wilhelm Steenkamp, Ian Prior, Luke Morahan

Internationals: 6 (6 Wallabies)

Props: Pekahou Cowan, Tetera Faulkner, Chris Heiberg, Kieran Longbottom, Salesi Manu
Hookers: Nathan Charles, Heath Tessmann
Locks: Phoenix Battye, Hugh McMeniman, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Sam Wykes
Loose Forwards: Chris Alcock, Angus Cottrell, Matt Hodgson, Ben McCalman, Brynard Stander
Scrum-Halves: Alby Mathewson, Ian Prior
Fly-Halves: Sias Ebersohn, Kyle Godwin, Zack Holmes
Centres: Marcel Brache, Jayden Hayward, Junior Rasolea, Ed Stubbs, Chris Tuatara-Morrison
Wingers: Nick Cummins
Fullbacks: Patrick Dellit, Dane Haylett-Petty, Luke Morahan

Rebels:

Predicted Positions:
Aussie Conference: 5
Overall: 15

Key losses: Ged Robinson, Jarrod Saffy, Gareth Delve, Nick Phipps, James O’Connor, Richard Kingi, Cooper Vuna, Kurtley Beale
Key gaines: Lopeti Timani, Tamati Ellison, Tom Kingston

Internationals: 6 (3 Wallabies, 1 Tonga, 1 Fiji, 1 Japan)

Props: Eddie Aholelei, Paul Alo-Emile, Max Lahiff, Toby Smith, Laurie Weeks
Hookers: Shota Horie, Tom Sexton
Locks: Luke Jones, Cadeyrn Neville, Hugh Pyle, Chris Thomson
Loose Forwards: Colby Fainga’a, Scott Fuglistaller, Scott Higginbotham, Jordy Reid, Lopeti Timani
Scrum-halves: Luke Burgess, Nic Stirzaker
Fly-halves: Bryce Hegarty, Angus Roberts
Centres: Tamati Ellison, Tom English, Mitch Inman, Lachlan Mitchell
Wingers: Tom Kingston, Telusa Veainu
Fullbacks: Alex Rokobaro, Jason Woodward

SA Conference Preview and Kiwi Conference Preview

SA Conference:
Sharks
Cheetahs
Stormers
Bulls
Lions

Kiwi Conference:

Chiefs
Crusaders
Hurricanes
Blues
Highlanders

Aussie Conference:

Brumbies
Reds
Waratahs
Force
Rebels

Overall:
1. Chiefs
2. Brumbies
3. Sharks
4. Crusaders
5. Reds
6. Cheetahs
7. Hurricanes
8. Stormers
9. Blues
10. Bulls
11. Waratahs
12. Lions
13. Force
14. Highlanders
15. Rebels

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by Baylion

2013 Super Rugby Week 1 Preview

February 13, 2013 in Uncategorized

Down Under, in the Land of Oz, Super Rugby kicks off on Friday, a week earlier than in the rest of the world, due to the extended winter test window the Aussies need to accommodate the Lions, the British & Irish Lions that is, not the real Lions. In the first two Super Rugby matches of the year the two bottom Aussie teams of last year start the fight to see which one will end at the bottom this year and the top two sides do battle too while the Waratahs will have an additional week to recover from injuries, a problem that hampered them last year and is already casting a gloom over their 2013 campaign.

Rebels vs Force:

The Battle for the Aussie Wooden Spoon kicks off the 2013 Super Rugby competition in Melbourne where the Rebels hope to maintain their superiority over Force, having won three of their four derbies so far.

Both teams have lost some key players since 2012 without gaining many players of similar quality, The Rebels lost Adam Byrnes, Danny Cipriani, James Hilgendorf, Sterling Mortlock, Mark Gerrard and Julian Huxley while gaining Scott Higginbotham and the Force lost Nathan Sharpe, David Pocock, James Stannard, Rory Sidey and Cameron Shepherd while gaining Sias Ebersohn and Alby Mathewson.

The Rebels will hope for an injury free year from James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale and together with Laurie Weeks, Scott Higginbotham, Jarrod Saffy, Gareth Delve, Richard Kingi and Nick Phipps the Rebels just look to be the stronger team. The Force, unfortunately, just looks weak and a long year awaits them with possibly a win over the Kings the following their only hope, and even that isn’t assured.

We all know derbies tend to be close affairs and upsets are often on the cards but I think the Rebels will be too much for the Force, especially at home, and the Force will end up the losers on Friday.

Interesting fact: Rebels hooker Shota Horie will be the first Japanese player to play Super Rugby.

The Rebels by 10.

Melbourne Rebels: 15 James O’Connor, 14 Lachlan Mitchell, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Rory Sidey, 11 Richard Kingi, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve (c) 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Scott Higginbotham, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Shota Horie, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Cadeyrn Neville, 19 Jarrod Saffy, 20 Nic Stirzaker, 21 Alex Rokobaro, 22 Tom English.

Western Force: 15 Will Tupou, 14 Patrick Dellit, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Alfie Mafi, 10 Sam Christie, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Toby Lynn, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan (c).

Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Kieran Longbottom, 18 Phoenix Battye, 19 Richard Brown, 20 Mick Snowden, 21 Sias Ebersohn, 22 Junior Rasolea.

Date: Friday, February 15
Venue: AAMI Park,Melbourne
Kick-off: 19.40 (08.40 GMT)
Referee: Angus Gardner (Australia)

Brumbies v Reds:

In another Aussie derbie the Brumbies host the Reds in Canberra on Saturday, potentially the two teams that will fight it out for the top Aussie log spot. The Brumbies had an unexpected good year last year while the Reds started slowly, mainly due to injuries, but picked up the pace as the season progressed and eventually pipped the Brumbies on a count-out.

The Brumbies only lost a few players since 2012 but the loss of Michael Hooper was probably the worst. Together with the high profile signing of Clyde Rathbone they also gained David Pocock, a straight replacement for Hooper, and 2012 u/20 Lions beanstalk, Etienne Oosthuizen. The Reds lost a few fringe players, except for Scott Higginbotham and Sam Lane, with no notable gains but will hope for a less injury-ridden start to the season.

On paper the Reds probably have the better team, a team filled with first choice Wallabies and players who have grown up in the squad but Jake White instilled a pride and commitment in the Brumbies which makes them very dangerous, especially at home. The Reds forward pack looks to be the stronger, although they will miss James Horwill in the second row, but their weakness is probably their midfield. In Digby Ioane and Dom Shipperley they have two try-scoring wings but their biggest weapon is the halfback pairing of Will Genia and Quade Cooper, but with Genia out Cooper won’t quite be the danger he can be.

The Brumbies have a good frontrow and one of the best open side flanks in the world and I liked Christian Lealiifano at flyhalf last year but their step-up player last year was NRL convert Jesse Mogg at fullback. All in all, this is a team with young talent, if still a bit raw, with some old hats like Stephen Moore and Clyde Rathbone thrown in.

The first match, particularly between two sides that play an open game, is always tricky to predict as a lot depends on which side does the basics right and is less affected by rust. A few missed tackles or a few too many handling errors and the game could be lost. Both sides have the players to punish mistakes and both sides have wiley coaches who will make sure their teams are prepared well.

But it is a derbie match and neither side will want to start the season with a loss so the game will probably be tighter that one would normally expect.

The Brumbies by 6.

Brumbies:

15. Jesse Mogg, 14. Clyde Rathbone, 13. Andrew Smith, 12. Christian Lealiifano, 11. Henry Speight, 10. Matt Toomua, 9. Nic White, 8. Ben Mowen, 7. David Pocock, 6. Peter Kimlin, 5. Scott Fardy, 4. Sam Carter, 3. Dan Palmer, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Ben Alexander

Reserves: 16. Siliva Siliva, 17. Ruaidhri Murphy, 18. Colby Faingaa, 19. Fotu Auelua, 20. Ian Prior, 21. Joseph Tomane, 22. Robbie Coleman

Reds:

15 Mike Harris, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Aidan Toua, 12 Ben Tapuai, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Ben Lucas, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 3 James Slipper (c), 2 Saia Faingaa, 1 Greg Holmes

Replacements: 16 Albert Anae, 17 James Hanson, 18 Ed O’Donoghue, 19 Jarrad Butler, 20 Nick Frisby, 21 Jono Lance, 22 Chris F’Sautia
Date: 16 February 2013

Venue: Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19.40 (08.40 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Lees (Australia)