Super Rugby Round 1 – 2017

Super Rugby 2017 Preview | Rugby Union | The Profits

The wait is finally over as Super Rugby returns this weekend with a full complement of matches (nine in total). The tournament kicks off in Melbourne on Thursday night with a match between the Rebels and the Blues. The Highlanders versus the Chiefs on Friday night will be an absolute belter followed by some tense local derbies the rest of the weekend across Australia and South Africa. 135 games remain of the highest quality provincial rugby in the world, so it is important to tread lightly in the first couple of weeks given that it might take time for some of these teams to gel and their fitness levels to adapt to the intensity of live action. Without further ado, let’s have a look at the matchups. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@S15_TheProfits) for insight, other plays or just for a chat.

Thursday Play:

Best Bet 1: Blues -4.5 (vs Rebels) @ $1.91 – Sportsbet

Friday Plays:

Best Bet 2: Reds -4.5 (vs Sharks) @ $1.87 – Tab.co.nz

Saturday Plays:

Best Bet 3: Jaguares -11.5 (vs Kings) @ $1.86 – Sportsbet

Note: Additional plays may be posted on twitter throughout the course of the weekend.

Rebels ($2.44) vs Blues ($1.56)

The 2017 Super Rugby season gets underway on Thursday night with a match between the Rebels and the Blues at AAMI Park in Melbourne. Both teams have sat mid-table for the past couple of seasons and both have been showing promise, without causing much concern to the teams that sit above them. Looking at the history between these two, neither of them has ever won two-in-a-row with the Blues winning 36-30 in a high-scoring affair last season in Auckland. In saying that, the Rebels have never lost to the Blues in Melbourne.

Prediction:

Both teams will be without someone of their star players with Sean McMahon and league-convert Marika Koroibete still unavailable for the home team. New Zealand-born flyhalf, Jackson Garden-Bachop has been selected by Tony McGahan with Jack Debreczeni slotting in at fullback. Lopeti Timani and Amanaki Mafi will be known as the bruise brothers in no time and I expect both to target Akira Ioane and stop his gain line ascendency. Tana Umaga has named an inexperienced Blues outfit with his hands largely being tied with the unavailability of James Parsons, Patrick Tuipulotu and Jerome Kaino in the forward pack and Stephen Perofeta and Sonny Bill Williams in the backline. The tight five isn’t their strength, with captain Jimmy Tupou in the second row, however, the back row of Luatua, Blake and Ioane should keep them in the game. Umaga has also opted for two playmakers in Ihaia West and Piers Francis, with the punishing Rieko Ioane outside of them. I expect Charlie Faumauina, George Moala and Rene Ranger to get more than enough game time to make an impact after half time.

In what promises to be an exciting season-opener on a clear Melbourne night, I think the Blues pack will get enough go forward to unleash what could be a powerful second-half back line to put a stain on what will be Rebels’ captain Nic Stirzaker’s 50th match. I expect a Blues win in a high-scoring encounter.

Predicted result: Blues to win @ $1.56 – William Hill

Best Bet 1: Blues -4.5 @ $1.91 – Sportsbet

Highlanders ($1.58) vs Chiefs ($2.44)

The match of the round comes to us from the enclosed Forsyth-Barr Stadium in Dunedin, where the Highlanders and the Chiefs face-off. Both teams were eliminated in the semi-finals last season and will be looking to go one better at the very least, this time around. The Highlanders are currently on a six-match win streak over the Chiefs dating back to 2014, including victories in the last four encounters at home.

Prediction:

New Highlanders coach Tony Brown has named an experienced line-up that includes six All Blacks (Squire, A. Smith, Sopoaga, Fekitoa, Naholo, B. Smith) in the starting fifteen with Elliot Dixon on the bench. They are a settled unit with a tight five that often performs well above their weight. I am expecting big things from Aaron Smith, who had a questionable year in 2016, alongside Lima Sopoaga, one of the better kickers in Super Rugby.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has announced a starting fifteen with ten of those players capped by the All Blacks. Kane Hames and Brodie Retallick will spearhead the tight five with the blonde-haired debutant Mitchell Karpik selected at openside in place of the injured Sam Cane. He will be joined by Taleni Seu, a player who had a breakout year in 2016, and the seasoned Liam Messam at number eight. Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden know each other very well in the halves, and Johnny Faauli will make his debut alongside Anton Lienert-Brown in the centres. James Lowe and Toni Pulu will be a handful on the wing, with the mercurial Damien McKenzie selected in a jersey that he has made his own over the past 12 months. The bench is inexperienced, but keep an eye on the development of prop Atu Moli and Shaun Stevenson throughout the course of this year.

This is a tough match to call and it could be a piece of individual brilliance that proves to be the difference. Over the past two seasons, the Highlanders have won 85% of their home games and they have a dominant record over the Chiefs. The visitors will be fresh off their Tens victory in Brisbane a fortnight ago, however, without Sam Cane to contest the breakdowns and an experienced head like Charlie Ngatai in the centres, the Highlanders lethal backs should be able to get them over the line.

Predicted result: Highlanders to win @ $1.58 – Sportsbet

Reds ($1.53) vs Sharks ($2.50)

The Reds and the Sharks open their 2017 campaigns with an interesting matchup at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Friday night. There is a lot of confidence around the new-look Reds this season with the return of several stalwarts. The Sharks also have a coach in his first full season in charge, so it will be interesting to see his flavour added to the Sharks mix. The Sharks are currently on a two-match win streak against the Reds and they have won two of the last three in Brisbane.

Prediction:

For the first time in a long time, confidence is brewing in Brisbane. Coach Nick Styles has brought in a few experienced heads to assist players that he has helped developed in the NRC over the past two seasons. Stiles has named a strong squad with six Wallabies (Slipper, Moore, Simmons, Douglas, Smith, Higginbotham) in the pack. The troops will be marshalled around by Nick Frisby and Quade Cooper (who returns to Super Rugby) in the halves, with Duncan Paia’aua selected as a second ball player in the midfield. Chris Kuridrani and Eto Nabuli have been given first rights out wide, with a bulked-up and raring to go Karmichael Hunt, selected at fullback. There is a lot of talent sitting on the bench as well with the likes of Andrew Ready, Izack Rodda and Izaia Perese on the bench.

Sharks coach Robert du Preez has named an experienced forward pack with Tendai Mtawarira and Coenie Oosthuizen selected in the front row. Philip van der Walt, Jean-Luc du Preez and Tera Mtembu will have their hands full in Brisbane and collectively the pack needs to provide Cobus Reinach and Patrick Lambie front-foot ball, as they struggle when going backwards. Sharks centre Andre Estherhuizen will be looking forward to his battle with Samu Kerevi, as they are similar in age and stature. Kerevi did play for the Wallabies last season though so it will be a stern test for the Sharks youngster. I’m excited about the prospect of fullback Curwin Bosch, however, I expect him to make a few errors under the pressure that the Reds will throw at him.

Both teams will be used to the conditions as they are very similar in Durban to what they have been in Brisbane. Coupled with the fact that there should be a good turnout at Suncorp Stadium, the experience of the home team in key positions (Moore, Smith, Cooper, Hunt) should be enough to keep the Sharks at bay in an entertaining game.

Predicted result: Reds to win @ $1.53 – Ladbrokes

Sunwolves ($1.01) vs Hurricanes ($16.00)

The Hurricanes open their title defence on the road with a match against the Sunwolves at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo on Saturday afternoon. The Hurricanes were simply outstanding in 2016, wrapping up the minor premiership and the overall title, whereas, the Sunwolves picked up the dreaded wooden spoon having only won one match from sixteen outings. This will be the first time that the Hurricanes and the Sunwolves clash and I feel things could get ugly.

Prediction:

The Sunwolves are a new-look outfit this season with Filo Tiatia the new coach. A number of their International players departed at the end of last season, however, the growth of the game in Japan continues to unearth local talent. Whether they can consistently compete at this level is another discussion, but what I do know is that former Red Ed Quirk has become somewhat of a cult hero over there and now is co-captain alongside Harumichi Tatekawa. Hooker Shota Horie and locks Liaki Moli and Sam Wykes will oversee the grunt work, but I feel that the halves pairing of Keisuke Uchida and Hikaru Tamura will face a baptism of fire against the reigning champs. Derek Carpenter and Riaan Viljoen provide some stability to the back line.

Chris Boyd has named a strong team to begin their title defence this weekend. Regular captain and the best hooker in the world, Dane Coles and World Rugby’s player of the year in 2016, Beauden Barrett both start on the bench because of rest protocols enforced by the All Blacks. Their places have been taken by Ricky Riccitelli and Otere Black respectively. Their back row of Brad Shields, Ardie Savea and Blade Thomson are going to create nightmares for their opposition this year, with Thomson having the big shoes of Victor Vito to fill. TJ Perenara, a player who cracked the All Blacks starting 15 last year has been selected as captain. Former league player

Ngani Laumape gets first crack at inside centre alongside the ever-developing Matt Proctor, with Cory Jane and Julian Savea selected on the wings. Jordie Barrett, a name everyone will become familiar with this season, starts at fullback. He is the full package and has the potential to be even better than Beauden, but we won’t get too far ahead of ourselves just yet.

The temperature has been forecast to be in single figures come kick-off which will make things trickier for the reigning champions. It took the Hurricanes 21 years to win their first Super Rugby title, but I can guarantee the next one will be sooner than that. This starts with a comfortable victory over a Sunwolves outfit that has had a very limited pre-season (three weeks).

Predicted result: Hurricanes to win convincingly @ $1.01 – Sportsbet

Crusaders ($1.13) vs Brumbies ($6.00)

The Crusaders and the Brumbies clash on Saturday evening at AMI Stadium in Christchurch in a rematch of the 2004 Super Rugby Final. Both the Crusaders and the Brumbies will be disappointed in their quarter-final exits last season and it would be fair to say that both teams have had to deal with an exodus with some of their stalwarts in the off-season. The Crusaders are currently riding a six-match win streak over the Brumbies dating back until 2010 and they haven’t lost at home since 2000, a stretch of nine matches.

Prediction:

As expected, Scott Robertson has named a strong pack with no less than five All Blacks (Moody, Franks, Barrett, Whitelock, Todd) ready to go and a further three (Codie Taylor, Wyatt Crockett, Luke Romano) on the bench. Brynn Hall has moved from Auckland to play his first game for the Crusaders inside of Richie Mo’unga, a prolific points-scorer last season. Ryan Crotty and Seta Tamanivalu will post a threat in the back line, alongside Israel Dagg in what will be his 100th match.

Stephen Larkham has named a young Brumbies outfit with seven players in line to make their Brumbies debut. Rory Arnold and Sam Carter will have a big job to do and Scott Hardy and Chris Alcock will get their hands dirty as they normally do. Michael Cheika has had his eye on Joe Powell for the last 12 months and his partnership with the New Zealand-born Wharenui Hawera need to fire if they are any hope in Christchurch. Kyle Godwin and Tevita Kuridrani look like a promising duo in the centres with Speight and Toua the speedsters out wide.

The Brumbies have lost too much experience and although they will still be able to put together some great play under Stephen Larkham, the Crusaders should dominate them in almost every facet at AMI Stadium.

Predicted result: Crusaders to win comfortably @ $1.13 @ William Hill

Waratahs ($1.22) vs Force ($4.40)

The Waratahs and the Force collide in the only Australian derby of the round at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Saturday night. Last year, the Waratahs snapped a three-game losing streak to the Force with a convincing 49-13 victory.

Prediction:

Darryl Gibson’s first line up of the year is a strong one with a more than capable tight five. There is a lot of pace in their back row with Jack Dempsey, Michael Hooper and former Australian sevens start Michael Wells selected. Bernard Foley has succumbed to injury and will be replaced by Bryce Hegarty. Irae Simone and Israel Folau form a dangerous centre combination with more than enough speed and finesse outside them.

There’s a new coach in the West by the name of David Wessels, who has a strong defensive pedigree. He has selected an inexperienced squad for round one, with six players in line for their potential Super Rugby debut. Probably most surprising is that fact that Tatafu Polota-Nau is on the bench, with Heath Tessman selected as the starting hooker. Ross Haylett-Petty and Adam Coleman will need to lead the charge for the Force’s pack, with Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman still sidelined. If the Force are to win, Jono Lance needs to be at the forefront of everything, but I’m interested to see how he works alongside Chance Peni, former league try-scoring machine Curtis Rona and Bill Meakes. I expect big things of the latter this year, especially combining with Luke Morahan and Dane Haylett-Petty in open space.

Unfortunately for the Force, they are coming up against a giant pack and one of the best attacking sides in the comp. I expect the relentless pressure provided up front and out wide to be telling, en route to a double-digit victory in Sydney.

Predicted result: Waratahs to win @ $1.22 – Sportsbet

Cheetahs ($4.00) vs Lions ($1.25)

The first match from the Republic this year comes to us from the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, when the Cheetahs host the Lions. The Cheetahs are the reigning Currie Cup Champions going undefeated last season, but Super Rugby is a huge step up, especially coming up against last year’s finalists. The Lions have held the wood over the Cheetahs in recent seasons winning the past four games. Last year’s only fixture saw the Lions win 39 – 22.

Prediction:

In the early days of Super Rugby, both of these teams were amalgamated and were presented as the ‘Cats’. Many years on, both teams have had their moments and like to play attacking rugby. The Cheetahs have a very youthful line up with a number of faces who will be new to Australasian audiences. Flanker Uzair Cassiem as capped by the Springboks last year and Oupa Mohoje seems to play some of his best rugby at this level. The outside back trio of Rhule, Petersen and Blommetjies are electric, but I just don’t think they are going to get enough quality ball.

Johan Ackermann has named a familiar Lions team with a solid scrum, grafting locks and a well-balanced back row. Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies fell out of favour in the Springboks setup last season and need to show their ability to bounce back starting in Bloemfontein. Lionel Mapoe finds himself on the wing with Howard Mnisi joining the impressive Rohan Janse van Rensburg in the centres. Courtnall Skosan has heaps of gas with Andries Coetzee one of the safer fullbacks in South Africa.

I expect this game to be a high-scoring match with a number of speedsters on the field. The Lions defence was their cornerstone for the most part of last season, and that confrontational and decisive attitude should be too much for the Cheetahs on the Highveld.

Predicted result: Lions to win @ $1.20 – Sportsbet

Kings ($4.20) vs Jaguares ($1.22)

In what could be their last season in Super Rugby, the Kings kick off their campaign with a match against the Jaguares at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth. The two matches last season were split with the Jaguares belting the Kings 73 – 27 in Buenos Aires before the Kings exacted revenge on an ill-disciplined 13-man Jaguares outfit in Port Elizabeth.

Prediction:

The Kings are a ‘filler’ in this competition and once again they are going to feel the brunt of some of the best provincial teams in the world. This weekend, the Jaguares, a team stack with Argentinian Internationals, comes to town to seek redemption for last year. Although there are still a number of players on the sidelines including Martin Landajo, Nicolas Sanchez and Juan Martin Hernandez, these players have been playing together in the International setup as well. Bad news coming out of Buenos Aires for the Jaguares is that Facundo Isa, one of the most promising number eight’s in the game has had his contract torn up, allowing him to start his European sojourn a year early. Complacency is the Jaguares biggest worry this weekend, but the fact that they lost this corresponding fixture last year, will be enough to spur them on to a comfortable double-digit victory.

Predicted result: Jaguares to win convincingly @ $1.22 – Sportsbet

Best Bet 3: Jaguares -11.5 (vs Kings) @ $1.86 – Sportsbet

Stormers ($1.50) vs Bulls ($2.60)

The final match of the round is a crucial Africa 1 conference clash between the Stormers and the Bulls at the picturesque Newlands Stadium in Cape Town. Last year’s series was split with both teams winning their home fixtures, however, the Stormers have won four of the last five matches played, and they haven’t lost to the Bulls at home since 2011, a run of five matches. The return fixture will be the final match of the regular season.

Prediction:

Robbie Fleck surprisingly has selected Siya Kolisi as his captain for the 2017 season, with Eben Etzebeth his deputy. Their five Springboks in the pack should provide a stable platform up front for Jano Vermaak and the budding Jean-Luc du Plessis. Damien de Allende needs a big season for the Stormers after a sub-par 2016 at both provincial and International level. Keep an eye out for wing Dillyn Leyds as he is a dangerous finisher and likes to get involved in the action.

Nollis Marais has selected a solid team to face the Stormers with their lock pairing of RG Snyman and Lood de Jager one of their real strengths up front. Their back row is abrasive and Rudy Paige will accompany captain Handre Pollard in the halves pairing. Burger Odendaal and Dries Swanepoel are a young centre combination and they’ll look to shift the ball wide to the speedsters in Ismael, Ulengo and Jesse Kriel at fullback. Warrick Gelant is a player of real promise and he should take the field for a solid stint in the second half.

The Stormers have been quietly preparing in Cape Town, whereas the Bulls have already faced the Chiefs in a trial win in Brisbane and competed in the Brisbane 10’s, where they played some exceptional rugby at times. South African derbies are usually tense and tight and I can’t see this one being any different. I do feel that the Bulls familiarity with competition play will help catch the Stormers off-guard en route to a pleasing, but narrow victory. This is my upset of the round, but if you are having a play, take the handicap (currently stands at +5.5)

Predicted result: Bulls to win @ $2.60 – Sportsbet

Author

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Glenn

Glenn has followed rugby union for 19 years and has expert knowledge on the game freely committing to over 500 viewing hours a year. Having played with and against some current Super Rugby players and International superstars, he understands the game, the players and the laws inside out. Having been born in South Africa, spent time in New Zealand and currently living in Australia, Glenn lives and breathes rugby. With so many different tournaments happening around the world simultaneously and the addition of Rugby Sevens to the Olympic program, there are always plenty of healthy betting options available. An obsession, a passion, call it what you will, Glenn enjoys sharing his insight, opinions and predictions with anyone who wants to listen.

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