Super Rugby 2017 Season Preview and Futures Betting Tips

Introduction

The following is a team-by-team preview for the 2017 Super Rugby season. Betting resources and futures betting tips are also provided. These details will be updated as more information becomes available. All new and departed players lists are sourced from Wikipedia.

Super Rugby Betting Resources

On Australia Sports Betting
On Australia Sports Tipping
  • The Interactive Super Rugby Form Guide enables you to filter each team’s form by home/away and strength of opponent.
  • Super Rugby match centres are available for every fixture. Each match centre provides bookmaker odds, member tipping tallies, form guides and in-depth performance guides for the game.
  • The Super Rugby line betting table ranks each team based on how frequently they have covered the line this season. Figures are shown for home, away and all fixtures.
  • The Super Rugby predictability index ranks each team based on the predictability of their score lines as measured by the accuracy of pre-game bookmaker lines. Figures are shown for home, away and all fixtures.
  • The Super Rugby betting value index ranks each team based on their betting value in the head-to-head market. The data can be filtered by date.
  • The Super Rugby home-field advantage analysis compares each team’s winning records at home versus away. League averages and medians are also provided. The data can be filtered by date.
  • The Super Rugby Elo ratings tool enables you to calculate the Elo ratings of each team using the parameters of your choosing.

Super Rugby 2017 Futures Betting Tips

Compare the latest Super Rugby odds

Back the Lions to win the Super Rugby title at 8.00 (Palmerbet). The Lions were last season’s finalists and could have been first seed had they not sent a second-string side over to Argentina late in the season. They’ve lost only one key player during the off-season and return this year with the same coach and virtually the same squad. This year they benefit from playing the Australian Conference sides during the regular season instead of the New Zealand conference teams. Also, the New Zealand franchises have the distraction of the Lions tour in June.

Back the Chiefs to win the New Zealand conference at 3.75 (Sportsbet). The Chiefs finished just 2 points behind the top seeded Hurricanes last year despite an injury-ravaged season. The Chiefs will know that this is a key year for them given the departures of All Blacks fly-half Aaron Cruden and coach Dave Rennie at the end of the season.

Back the Sunwolves to win the wooden spoon at 1.90 (Unibet). The Sunwolves won last year’s wooden spoon despite playing the Australian franchises while the Kings played the New Zealand teams. This year the conference match-ups have switched, so the Africa 1 Conference has to play the New Zealand sides. This is bad news for a Sunwolves side that has made wholesale changes to it’s squad during the off-season after a dispiriting 2016 campaign. They’re not helped by the departure of last year’s top try scorer Akihito Yamada along with Tusi Pisi.

Team-By-Team Previews

Australian Conference

Brumbies

Brumbies

  • Futures Odds: 26.00 (Ladbrokes)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 3.6% (equates to fair odds of 27.78)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 38.8% (equates to fair odds of 2.58)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 0.1% (equates to fair odds of 1000)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 6th overall (2nd in the Australian conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 4th (7th highest points tally) overall (1st in the Australian conference) with a 10-0-5 regular season record. Lost at home in the quarter-finals to the Highlanders
  • 2016 Stats: 8th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 56 tries (5th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Brumbies had the 6th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Stephen Larkham
  • Captain(s): Sam Carter & Christian Lealiifano
  • Key Departures: Ruan Smith (Japan), Stephen Moore (Reds), David Pocock (sabbatical), Ita Vaea (retired), Matt Toomua (England), Robbie Coleman (Force), Joe Tomane (France)
  • Key Arrivals: Nic Mayhew (Blues), Saia Fainga’a (Reds), Chris Alcock (Force), Tom Cusack (Australian Sevens), Anthony Fainga’a (Reds), Kyle Godwin (Force), Tom Banks (Reds)
  • Forwards: Robbie Abel, Allan Alaalatoa, Chris Alcock, Ben Alexander, Rory Arnold, Jarrad Butler, Sam Carter, Tom Cusack, Blake Enever, Saia Fainga’a, Lolo Fakaosilea, Scott Fardy, Ben Hyne, Les Makin, Joshua Mann-Rea, Nic Mayhew, Scott Sio, Faalelei Sione, Jordan Smiler, Tom Staniforth, Rob Valetini
  • Backs: Nigel Ah Wong, Tom Banks, Tomás Cubelli, James Dargaville, Anthony Fainga’a, Kyle Godwin, Wharenui Hawera, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Nick Jooste, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Ryan Lonergan, Joe Powell, Andrew Smith, Henry Speight, Lausii Taliauli, Aidan Toua
  • Injuries & Suspensions: Scrumhalf Tomas Cubelli’s season is in doubt after he ruptured his patella tendon in pre-season. Winger Lausii Taliauli injured his knee in pre-season and is expected to miss the entire campaign. Co-captain Christian Lealiifano is receiving treatment for leukemia and likely won’t feature until the end of the season at the earliest.
  • Pre-season Results: Brumbies 59-0 Australian Barbarians, Waratahs 53-17 Brumbies
  • Causes for Optimism: Pilfered a number of players from the Reds and Force during the off-season. The most consistent side in Australia in recent years, qualifying for the finals for the last four straight years. Forward pack looks solid.
  • Causes for Concern: Lost a lot of experience with Stephen Moore and Matt Toomua’s departures and David Pocock’s sabbatical. Backline looks notably weaker than in previous seasons.
  • Summary: The Brumbies have experienced a fair bit of turnover in players during the off-season. It remains to be seen whether their recruits can fill the void left by the likes of Moore, Pocock, Toomua, Coleman and Tomane.


 

Force

Force

  • Futures Odds: 501.00 (Luxbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 0.1% (equates to fair odds of 1000)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 2.5% (equates to fair odds of 40)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 4.9% (equates to fair odds of 20.41)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 15th overall (5th in the Australian conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 16th overall (5th in the Australian conference) with a 2-0-13 regular season record.
  • 2016 Stats: 18th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 25 tries (18th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Force had the 14th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: David Wessels
  • Captain(s): Matt Hodgson & Sam Wykes
  • Key Departures: Chris Heiberg (Kings), Nathan Charles (France), Steve Mafi (France), Rory Walton (France), Chris Alcock (Brumbies), Alby Mathewson (NZ), Kyle Godwin (Brumbies), Junior Rasolea (Scotland), Ben Tapuai (England)
  • Key Arrivals: Ben Daley (Reds), Tatafu Polota-Nau (Waratahs), Ben Matwijow (Reds), Bill Meakes (England), Chance Peni (NRL), Robbie Coleman (Brumbies)
  • Forwards: Jermaine Ainsley, Richie Arnold, Adam Coleman, Angus Cottrell, Pekahou Cowan, Ben Daley, Tetera Faulkner, Richard Hardwick, Ross Haylett-Petty, Matt Hodgson, Kane Koteka, Ben Matwijow, Ben McCalman, Isi Naisarani, Matt Philip, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Anaru Rangi, Harry Scoble, Brynard Stander, Heath Tessmann, Francois van Wyk, Shambeckler Vui
  • Backs: Marcel Brache, Luke Burton, Robbie Coleman, Peter Grant, Dane Haylett-Petty, Jono Lance, Ryan Louwrens, Semisi Masirewa, Bill Meakes, Luke Morahan, Alex Newsome, Chance Peni, Ian Prior, Curtis Rona, Michael Ruru
  • Injuries & Suspensions: Lock Ben Matwijow will miss the entire season with a neck injury, while No.8 Ben McCalman is likely to miss the start of the campaign with a thumb injury. Props Ben Daley and Tetera Faulkner and second-rower Adam Coleman are all coming back from injury. Flanker Angus Cottrell has missed some pre-season games due to injury and is a chance of missing the start of the season.
  • Pre-season Results: Western Force 22-14 Perth Spirit, Force 27-5 Rebels
  • Causes for Optimism: Have made some promising new signings and you could make the case they look stronger on paper than they did last season.
  • Causes for Concern: Have suffered a series of injuries to forwards. Were toothless on offence near the try line last season, scoring just 26 tries – 8 fewer than the Sunwolves. The Force have been at the bottom of the try scoring table in three of the last four seasons.
  • Summary: Given they have a number of injuries to forwards at the moment, plus the Force only have one home game in Rounds 1-6, a slow start to the season wouldn’t surprise me. I would back the Force to receive the Australian conference wooden spoon and then look to hedge prior to their home fixture in Round 7 against the Kings.


 

Rebels

Rebels

  • Futures Odds: 51.00 (Palmerbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 0.1% (equates to fair odds of 1000)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 3.1% (equates to fair odds of 32.26)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 5% (equates to fair odds of 20)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 10th overall (3rd in the Australian conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 12th overall (3rd in the Australian conference) with a 7-0-8 regular season record.
  • 2016 Stats: 13th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 46 tries (11th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Rebels had the 16th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Tony McGahan
  • Captain(s): Nic Stirzaker
  • Key Departures: Jamie Hagan (France), Luke Jones (France), Scott Fuglistaller (Japan), Adam Thomson (Japan), Tamati Ellison (France), Mike Harris (France), Cam Crawford (relesased)
  • Key Arrivals: Dominic Day (Japan), Alex Toolis (Scotland), Jake Schatz (Reds), Amanaki Mafi (Japan), Ben Volavola (Crusaders), Pama Fou (Australia Sevens), Kentaro Kodama (Sunwolves), Marika Koroibete (NRL)
  • Forwards: Cruze Ah-Nau, Steve Cummins, Dominic Day, Colby Fainga’a, Harley Fox, James Hanson, Sam Jeffries, Patrick Leafa, Rob Leota, Tyrel Lomax, Amanaki Mafi, Sean McMahon, Tim Metcher, Tom Moloney, Jordy Reid, Culum Retallick, Jake Schatz, Siliva Siliva, Toby Smith, Lopeti Timani, Alex Toolis, Jordan Uelese, Laurie Weeks
  • Backs: Jack Debreczeni, Tom English, Pama Fou, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Reece Hodge, Mitch Inman, Kentaro Kodama, Marika Koroibete, Jack Maddocks, Jack McGregor, Ben Meehan, Sefa Naivalu, Dennis Pili-Gaitau, Jonah Placid, Dom Shipperley, Michael Snowden, Nic Stirzaker, Sione Tuipulotu, Ben Volavola
  • Injuries & Suspensions: Locks Dominic Day (shoulder – due back Rounds 2/3), Alex Toolis (neck) and Sam Jeffries (ankle – possibly could play in Round 1) are currently injured. Flanker Sean McMahon (ankle) is expected to return in 5-7 weeks. Marika Koroibete has a knee injury but is on track to play in Round 1.
  • Pre-season Results: Force 27-5 Rebels, Reds 32-13 Rebels
  • Causes for Optimism: Put in a reasonably good showing at the Brisbane Tens. Had a consistent track record of beating the weaker sides in the competition last season. Have a quality backline.
  • Causes for Concern: Quality Kiwi imports Adam Thompson and Tamati Ellison have departed. Swatted aside easily by the Force and Reds in pre-season, with the Rebels scrum in particular looking weak. The Rebels have been harshly done by in the scheduling, with their two byes coming in quick succession: Rounds 3 & 7.
  • Summary: The Rebels will be hoping to improve on their 3rd place Australian conferences finishes in 2015 and 2016 and with the Brumbies expected to fall back towards the pack a top two finish isn’t out of the question in what is looking to be a tight Australian conference. Last year the Rebels were a predictable team for the bookmakers, with the side beating just about everyone they were expected to beat and losing to just about everyone they were expected to lose to. For the Rebels to make the next step they will have to start claiming scalps of the stronger sides in the competition.


 

Reds

Reds

  • Futures Odds: 29.00 (Luxbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 0.1% (equates to fair odds of 1000)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 1.8% (equates to fair odds of 55.56)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 7.1% (equates to fair odds of 14.08)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 13th overall (4th in the Australian conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 15th overall (4th in the Australian conference) with a 3-1-11 regular season record.
  • 2016 Stats: 16th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 33 tries (16th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Reds had the 15th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Nick Stiles
  • Captain(s): James Slipper
  • Key Departures: Ben Daley (Force), Greg Holmes (England), Saia Fainga’a (Brumbies), Ben Matwijow (Force), Curtis Browning (France), Liam Gill (France), Jake Schatz (Rebels), Sam Greene (Japan), Anthony Fainga’a (Brumbies), Ayumu Goromaru (France),
  • Key Arrivals: Stephen Moore (Brumbies), George Smith (England), Scott Higginbotham (Japan), Quade Cooper (France)
  • Forwards: Kane Douglas, Sef Fa’agase, Michael Gunn, Reece Hewat, Scott Higginbotham, Leroy Houston, Adam Korczyk, Alex Mafi, Stephen Moore, Cadeyrn Neville, Pettowa Paraka, Andrew Ready, Izack Rodda, Rob Simmons, James Slipper, George Smith, Sam Talakai, Caleb Timu, Hendrik Tui, Lukhan Tui, Taniela Tupou, Markus Vanzati
  • Backs: Quade Cooper, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Nick Frisby, Karmichael Hunt, Samu Kerevi, Chris Kuridrani, Campbell Magnay, Lachlan Maranta, Jake McIntyre, Eto Nabuli, Jayden Ngamanu, Duncan Paia’aua, Izaia Perese, Moses Sorovi, Henry Taefu, James Tuttle
  • Injuries & Suspensions: Taniela Tupou is suspended until Round 2.
  • Pre-season Results: Reds 32-13 Rebels
  • Causes for Optimism: Have brought in some experienced heads in the form of Stephen Moore and George Smith. Scott Higginbotham and Quade Cooper return from overseas stints to bolster the squad. Quade Cooper and Karmichael Hunt combined well in pre-season. The Reds dominated the Rebels in their pre-season clash, with their scrum looking notably superior.
  • Causes for Concern: Lost the Fainga’a brothers to the Brumbies during the off-season. Have steadily regressed in recent seasons, winning 11 games in 2012, 10 in 2013, 5 in 2014, 4 in 2015 and 3 in 2016.
  • Summary: With the injection of some seasoned campaigners into this young squad, the Reds on paper should have an improved season. Given the player turnover at the Brumbies and Waratahs, the Australian conference could end up being very tight, so a top place finish in the conference isn’t out of the question.


 

Waratahs

Waratahs

  • Futures Odds: 15.00 (Ladbrokes)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 6.3% (equates to fair odds of 15.87)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 53.8% (equates to fair odds of 1.86)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: <0.1% (equates to fair odds of >1000.00)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 2nd (3rd highest points tally) overall (1st in the Australian conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 10th overall (2nd in the Australian conference) with a 8-0-7 regular season record.
  • 2016 Stats: 6th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 55 tries (7th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Waratahs had the 5th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Daryl Gibson
  • Captain(s): Michael Hooper
  • Key Departures: Benn Robinson (retired), Tatafu Polota-Nau (Force), Sam Lousi (Hurricanes), Dave Dennis (England), Wycliff Palu (Japan), Kurtley Beale (England), Zac Guildford (released)
  • Key Arrivals: Sekope Kepu (France), Damien Fitzpatrick (France), David McDuling (Sharks), Cameron Clark (Australian Sevens)
  • Forwards: Jack Dempsey, Damien Fitzpatrick, Ned Hanigan, Jed Holloway, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Tolu Latu, Ryan McCauley, David McDuling, Dean Mumm, Sam Needs, Hugh Roach, Tom Robertson, Paddy Ryan, Matt Sandell, Will Skelton, Angus Ta’avao, Senio Toleafoa, Michael Wells, Brad Wilkin
  • Backs: Cameron Clark, Andrew Deegan, Israel Folau, Bernard Foley, Jake Gordon, Bryce Hegarty, Rob Horne, David Horwitz, Harry Jones, Andrew Kellaway, Matt Lucas, Mack Mason, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Nick Phipps, Reece Robinson, Irae Simone
  • Injuries & Suspensions:
  • Pre-season Results: Waratahs 53-17 Brumbies, Waratahs 47-50 Highlanders
  • Causes for Optimism: Thrashed the Brumbies in pre-season, some of the new NRC recruits look promising. Keep an eye on Sevens recruit Cameron Clark.
  • Causes for Concern: Appear to have a net loss of talent during the off-season after missing out on the playoffs last season. Kurtley Beale’s departure will hurt because he paired up well with Bernard Foley. The Waratahs looked weaker when Beale was injured last year. The Waratahs didn’t look at all convincing in the Brisbane Tens. They haven’t looked as strong since Daryl Gibson’s appointment as head coach last year, dropping from an 11-5 season in 2015 to 8-7 a year later.
  • Summary: With the infusion of new names from the NRC, the Waratahs will be somewhat of an unknown quantity this year. Much of their success will depend on the new names. My biggest concern is how they will cope with the departure of Kurtley Beale.


 

New Zealand Conference

Blues

Blues

  • Futures Odds: 17.00 (Ladbrokes)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 1.3% (equates to fair odds of 76.92)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 1.4% (equates to fair odds of 71.43)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 0.3% (equates to fair odds of 333.33)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 14th overall (5th in the New Zealand conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 11th overall (5th in the New Zealand conference) with a 8-1-6 regular season record.
  • 2016 Stats: 12th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 45 tries (12th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Blues had the 11th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Tana Umaga
  • Captain(s): Jerome Kaino
  • Key Departures: Nic Mayhew (Brumbies), Quentin MacDonald (France), Josh Bekhuis (France), Tanerau Latimer (France), Bryn Hall (Crusaders), Male Sa’u (Japan), Tevita Li (Highlanders)
  • Key Arrivals: Alex Hodgman (Crusaders), Pauliasi Manu (Chiefs), Jimmy Tupou (Crusaders), Augustine Pulu (Chiefs), Sonny Bill Williams (Chiefs),
  • Forwards: Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Epalahame Faiva, Charlie Faumuina, Blake Gibson, Josh Goodhue, Alex Hodgman, Akira Ioane, Jerome Kaino, Steve Luatua, Sione Mafileo, Pauliasi Manu, Matt Moulds, Brandon Nansen, James Parsons, Sam Prattley, Kara Pryor, Scott Scrafton, Murphy Taramai, Patrick Tuipulotu, Jimmy Tupou, Ofa Tu’ungafasi
  • Backs: Michael Collins, Matt Duffie, T. J. Faiane, Piers Francis, Billy Guyton, Rieko Ioane, George Moala, Melani Nanai, Sam Nock, Declan O’Donnell, Stephen Perofeta, Augustine Pulu, Rene Ranger, Jordan Trainor, Matt Vaega, Ihaia West, Sonny Bill Williams
  • Injuries & Suspensions: Sonny Bill Williams isn’t expected to return from injury until April.
  • Pre-season Results: Blues 33-38 Hurricanes
  • Causes for Optimism: Have pilfered Pauliasi Manu, Augustine Pulu and Sonny Bill Williams from the Chiefs. When Williams returns from injury the Blues will boast a pretty menacing midfield, with the likes of George Moala, Rieko Ioane and Rene Ranger in the squad already. The Blues will have full access to the Ioane brothers this year after their participation was cut short last season due to New Zealand Sevens commitments. The Blues only lost one of their nine games against foreign opponents last year.
  • Causes for Concern: Have finished last in the NZ conference in the last 3 straight years. Haven’t made the playoffs since 2011. The Lions are touring NZ this year so the All Blacks in the squad will have one eye on that series. The Blues don’t have a lot of depth at the fly-half position. They only won 1 of their 6 games against Kiwi opponents last year.
  • Summary: In their second year under Tana Umaga I expect the Blues to continue on their improvement shown last season, when they finished 11th (out of 18) compared to 14th (out of 15) in 2015. New Zealand boasts a lot of depth at the domestic level so it will be interesting to see how many of their new names turn out. An interesting stat is the Blues went 7-1-1 against foreign opponents last year but 1-5 against Kiwi opposition. The Blues will hope the 9/10 pairing of Augustine Pulu and Ihaia West works out. It’s no concidience that the Blues’ lack of impact in Super Rugby in recent years has coincided with the fat that they haven’t had a dominant fly-half since Carlos Spencer.


 

Chiefs

Chiefs

  • Futures Odds: 7.00 (Luxbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 14.5% (equates to fair odds of 6.9)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 23.5% (equates to fair odds of 4.26)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: <0.1% (equates to fair odds of >1000.00)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 5th overall (3rd in the New Zealand conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 6th (5th highest points tally) overall (3rd in the New Zealand conference) with a 11-0-4 regular season record. Lost away to the Hurricanes in the semi-finals
  • 2016 Stats: 2nd ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 76 tries (2nd most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Chiefs had the 9th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Dave Rennie
  • Captain(s): Sam Cane & Aaron Cruden
  • Key Departures: Pauliasi Manu (Blues), Siate Tokolahi (Highlanders), Hiroshi Yamashita (Japan), Johan Bardoul (Japan), Ma’ama Vaipulu (France), Augustine Pulu (Blues), Seta Tamanivalu (Crusaders), Sonny Bill Williams (Blues), Andrew Horrell (Japan)
  • Key Arrivals: Tim Nanai-Williams (Japan)
  • Forwards: Michael Allardice, Dominic Bird, Lachlan Boshier, Mitchell Brown, Sam Cane, Hika Elliot, Siegfried Fisiihoi, Mitchell Graham, Kane Hames, Nathan Harris, Mitchell Karpik, Sefo Kautai, Nepo Laulala, Michael Leitch, Matiaha Martin, Liam Messam, Atunaisa Moli, Liam Polwart, Brodie Retallick, Aidan Ross, Tom Sanders, Taleni Seu, James Tucker
  • Backs: Solomon Alaimalo, Finlay Christie, Aaron Cruden, Stephen Donald, Johnny Fa’auli, Glen Fisiiahi, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Anton Lienert-Brown, James Lowe, Damian McKenzie, Sam McNicol, Tim Nanai-Williams, Charlie Ngatai, Toni Pulu, Shaun Stevenson, Jonathan Taumateine, Chase Tiatia, Brad Weber
  • Injuries & Suspensions: Halfback and All Blacks hopeful Brad Weber broke his leg during the Brisbane Tens and has been ruled out for the season. Prop Mitchell Graham is also out for the season after fracturing both his tibia and fibula at the same event.
  • Pre-season Results: Chiefs 7-28 Bulls
  • Causes for Optimism: Despite the turnover the Chiefs still boast a solid, well-rounded squad. They won the Brisbane Tens and managed to make the playoffs last season despite an injury-plagued campaign.
  • Causes for Concern: Have lost some big names with Tim Nanai-Williams the only new signing with Super Rugby experience. The Lions are touring NZ this year so the All Blacks in the squad will have one eye on that series.
  • Summary: On paper the Chiefs look weaker than last year, however Augustine Pulu and Sonny Bill Williams missed all of last season anyway. The new recruits are all young players with all but one having just one season of experience in the New Zealand provincial competition. With that being said the Chiefs still boast a formidable squad and managed to make the playoffs last season despire an injury-ravaged year.


 

Crusaders

Crusaders

  • Futures Odds: 7.50 (Sportsbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 6.9% (equates to fair odds of 14.49)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 7.3% (equates to fair odds of 13.7)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: <0.1% (equates to fair odds of >1000.00)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 7th (6th highest points tally) overall (4th in the New Zealand conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 7th (6th highest points tally) overall (4th in the New Zealand conference) with a 11-0-4 regular season record. Lost away to the Lions in the quarter-finals
  • 2016 Stats: 3rd ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 68 tries (4th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Crusaders had the 7th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Scott Robertson
  • Captain(s): Sam Whitelock
  • Key Departures: Alex Hodgman (Blues), Ged Robinson (retired), Jimmy Tupou (Blues), Andy Ellis (Japan), Ben Volavola (Reds), Kieron Fonotia (Wales), Johnny McNicholl (Wales), Nemani Nadolo (France)
  • Key Arrivals: Bryn Hall (Blues), Tim Bateman (Japan), Seta Tamanivalu (Chiefs), Digby Ioane (Japan)
  • Forwards: Michael Alaalatoa, Scott Barrett, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Jed Brown, Wyatt Crockett, Mitchell Dunshea, Owen Franks, Ben Funnell, Oliver Jager, Andrew Makalio, Joe Moody, Tim Perry, Kieran Read, Luke Romano, Peter Samu, Quinten Strange, Jordan Taufua, Codie Taylor, Matt Todd, Sam Whitelock
  • Backs: Tim Bateman, George Bridge, Ryan Crotty, Israel Dagg, Mitchell Drummond, Sione Fifita, Leon Fukofuka, Jack Goodhue, Bryn Hall, David Havili, Mitchell Hunt, Digby Ioane, Jone Macilai-Tori, Manasa Mataele, Marty McKenzie, Richie Mo’unga, Seta Tamanivalu, Sean Wainui
  • Injuries & Suspensions: Kieran Read underwent wrist surgery during the off-season and is expected back sometime around Round 7.
  • Pre-season Results: Crusaders 50-33 Highlanders, Hurricanes 33-27 Crusaders
  • Causes for Optimism: Have brought in some experienced campaigners who are returning to Super Rugby after overseas stints. Runners-up in the Brisbane Tens. Have brought in new players from Canterbury, which won the Mitre 10 Cup (NZ domestic competition).
  • Causes for Concern: They lose a lot with the departure of Fijian strike weapon Nemani Nadolo, who scored 27 tries in 40 appearances. The Lions are touring NZ this year so the All Blacks in the squad will have one eye on that series.
  • Summary: The Crusaders start a new era following the departure of coach Todd Blackadder. Actually the new era felt like it started last season after the likes of Carter and McCaw departed. All good sides have a solid 9/10 pairing but with Andy Ellis now departed the Crusaders look weaker than average in that department (by NZ standards). It’s interesting to see a former Wallaby join the side, with Digby Ioane returning from Japan. The Crusaders will be hoping to improve upon their domestic results in 2016. Last year they didn’t lose to any overseas opponents during the regular season, but the Crusaders lost every domestic fixture with the exception of their two games against the Blues.


 

Highlanders

Highlanders

  • Futures Odds: 7.00 (Luxbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 13.7% (equates to fair odds of 7.3)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 19.9% (equates to fair odds of 5.03)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: <0.1% (equates to fair odds of >1000.00)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 4th (2nd highest points tally) overall (2nd in the New Zealand conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 5th (3rd highest points tally) overall (2nd in the New Zealand conference) with a 11-0-4 regular season record. Lost away to the Lions in the semi-finals
  • 2016 Stats: 7th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 56 tries (6th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Highlanders had the 2nd best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Tony Brown
  • Captain(s): Ash Dixon and Ben Smith
  • Key Departures: Brendon Edmonds (injury), Ross Geldenhuys (Kings), Josh Hohneck (England), Mark Reddish (England), Fumiaki Tanaka (Sunwolves), Ryan Tongia (France),
  • Key Arrivals: Siate Tokolahi (Chiefs), Tevita Li (Blues)
  • Forwards: Alex Ainley, Shane Christie, Liam Coltman, Josh Dickson, Ash Dixon, Elliot Dixon, Gareth Evans, Tom Franklin, Siua Halanukonuka, Jackson Hemopo, James Lentjes, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Craig Millar, Guy Millar, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Dan Pryor, Aki Seiuli, Liam Squire, Siate Tokolahi, Joe Wheeler, Luke Whitelock
  • Backs: Marty Banks, Richard Buckman, Jason Emery, Matt Faddes, Malakai Fekitoa, Kayne Hammington, Tevita Li, Waisake Naholo, Patrick Osborne, Hayden Parker, Josh Renton, Aaron Smith, Ben Smith, Fletcher Smith, Lima Sopoaga, Rob Thompson, Sio Tomkinson, Teihorangi Walden
  • Injuries & Suspensions: Hayden Parker looks set to miss out on another season after re-rupturing his ACL in training.
  • Pre-season Results: Crusaders 50-33 Highlanders, Waratahs 47-50 Highlanders
  • Causes for Optimism: Have secured the services of Mark Hammett as assistant coach to assist Tony Brown. Little turnover during the off-season and they boast a lethal backline that hasn’t lost any starters from last year. Have managed to keep hold of All Black Ben Smith, who looked like he was departing at one stage. Have resigned Marty Banks after it looked like he was headed for Italy. The addition of Tevita Li gives them great depth on the wing.
  • Causes for Concern: Have lost coach Jamie Joseph to the Japanese national team. The Lions are touring NZ this year so the All Blacks in the squad will have one eye on that series.
  • Summary: Looking at the Highlanders squad another second place finish in the New Zealand conference isn’t out of the question.


 

Hurricanes

Hurricanes

  • Futures Odds: 6.00 (Luxbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 27.6% (equates to fair odds of 3.62)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 47.9% (equates to fair odds of 2.09)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: <0.1% (equates to fair odds of >1000.00)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 1st overall (1st in the New Zealand conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 1st overall (1st in the New Zealand conference) with a 11-0-4 regular season record. Super Rugby Champions
  • 2016 Stats: 4th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 72 tries (3rd most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Hurricanes had the 1st best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Chris Boyd
  • Captain(s): Dane Coles
  • Key Departures: Motu Matu’u (England), Victor Vito (England), James Marshall (England), Jason Woodward (England)
  • Key Arrivals: Sam Lousi (Waratahs), Jordie Barrett (Canterbury)
  • Forwards: Mark Abbott, Leni Apisai, James Broadhurst, Dane Coles, Geoffrey Cridge, Chris Eves, Michael Fatialofa, Vaea Fifita, Callum Gibbins, Reggie Goodes, Toa Halafihi, Mike Kainga, Sam Lousi, Ben May, Reed Prinsep, Hugh Renton, Ricky Riccitelli, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, Blade Thomson, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Loni Uhila
  • Backs: Pita Ahki, Vince Aso, Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett, Otere Black, Wes Goosen, Cory Jane, Ben Lam, Ngani Laumape, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Kylem O’Donnell, TJ Perenara, Matt Proctor, Julian Savea, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, Peter Umaga-Jensen
  • Injuries & Suspensions: Vaea Fifita will miss the first five weeks due to an ankle injury.
  • Pre-season Results: Blues 33-38 Hurricanes, Hurricanes 33-27 Crusaders
  • Causes for Optimism: Back-to-back minor premiers, won the title last year and have retained the bulk of last year’s squad. Have signed promising young player Jordie Barrett, Beauden’s younger brother, despite the fact that he played domestic rugby for Canterbury.
  • Causes for Concern: Struggling to find any. The only way is down I suppose. If I had to be picky I would say they look a touch light at No.8 with the departure of Victor Vito. Also Jason Woodward’s departure means Nehe Milner-Skudder, who had an injury-disrupted season in 2016, is the only specialist fullback on the books. The Lions are touring NZ this year so the All Blacks in the squad will have one eye on that series.
  • Summary: The Hurricanes are well placed to push for a third consecutive minor premiership and a second straight title.


 

Africa 1 Conference

Bulls

Bulls

  • Futures Odds: 34 (Palmerbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 2.5% (equates to fair odds of 40)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 42.5% (equates to fair odds of 2.35)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 0.2% (equates to fair odds of 500)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 9th overall (3rd in the South African conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 9th overall (2nd in the Africa 1 conference) with a 9-1-5 regular season record.
  • 2016 Stats: 9th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 47 tries (Tied 9th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Bulls had the 8th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Nollis Marais
  • Captain(s): Adriaan Strauss & Handre Pollard
  • Key Departures: Werner Kruger (Wales), Marcel van der Merwe (France), Bandise Maku (retired), Grant Hattingh (Japan), Nico Janse van Rensburg (France), Marvin Orie (Lions), Lappies Labuschagné (Japan), Deon Stegmann (Japan), Dan Kriel (Stormers), Bjorn Basson (Stormers), SP Marais (Stormers)
  • Key Arrivals: Jacobie Adriaanse (Kings), Edgar Marutlulle (Kings), Lood de Jager (Cheetahs), Johnny Kôtze (Stormers)
  • Forwards: Shaun Adendorff, Jacobie Adriaanse, Arno Botha, Renaldo Bothma, Lood de Jager, Nick de Jager, Martin Dreyer, Corniel Els, Lizo Gqoboka, Jason Jenkins, John-Roy Jenkinson, Jannes Kirsten, Hanro Liebenberg, Edgar Marutlulle, Trevor Nyakane, Jacques Potgieter, Pierre Schoeman, Roelof Smit, RG Snyman, Ruan Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, Conraad van Vuuren, Jaco Visagie
  • Backs: Ulrich Beyers, Francois Brummer, Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, JT Jackson, Tony Jantjies, Johnny Kôtze, Jesse Kriel, Kefentse Mahlo, Duncan Matthews, Sibahle Maxwane, Luther Obi, Burger Odendaal, Rudy Paige, Handré Pollard, Tian Schoeman, Jan Serfontein, Jade Stighling, Dries Swanepoel, Jamba Ulengo, Ivan van Zyl, Piet van Zyl, André Warner
  • Injuries & Suspensions:
  • Pre-season Results: Lions XV 17-38 Bulls, Chiefs 7-28 Bulls
  • Causes for Optimism: Play their home games at high altitude, which is tough on visiting teams. Fly-half Handré Pollard is back to full fitness. Have poached Lood de Jager from the Cheetahs.
  • Causes for Concern: Have to play every NZ franchise this year after only playing Australian franchises last season.
  • Summary: The Bulls have undergone a fair bit of turnover during the off-season, particularly in the forwards. The majority of the new signings are from provincial ranks, mainly the Blue Bulls, so the Bulls look a more youthful side this season. Having so many new players makes them a bit of an unknown quantity this year.


 

Cheetahs

Cheetahs

  • Futures Odds: 126.00 (Sportsbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 0.2% (equates to fair odds of 500)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 8.7% (equates to fair odds of 11.49)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 2.8% (equates to fair odds of 35.71)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 12th overall (5th in the South African conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 14th overall (3rd in the Africa 1 conference) with a 4-0-11 regular season record.
  • 2016 Stats: 10th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 47 tries (Tied 9th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Cheetahs had the 12th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Franco Smith
  • Captain(s): Francois Venter
  • Key Departures: Maks van Dyk (France), Lood de Jager (Bulls), Willie Britz (Sunwolves)
  • Key Arrivals: Tom Botha (Kings)
  • Forwards: Justin Basson, Tom Botha, Tienie Burger, Uzair Cassiem, Aranos Coetzee, Luan de Bruin, Erich de Jager, Jacques du Toit, Joseph Dweba, Elandré Huggett, Reniel Hugo, Günther Janse van Vuuren, Niell Jordaan, Armandt Koster, Hilton Lobberts, Charles Marais, Steven Meiring, Danie Mienie, Oupa Mohojé, Ox Nché, Gerhard Olivier, Junior Pokomela, Boom Prinsloo, Fiffy Rampeta, Paul Schoeman, Francois Uys, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Henco Venter, Reinach Venter, Ntokozo Vidima, Dennis Visser, Carl Wegner, Jasper Wiese
  • Backs: Rayno Benjamin, Clayton Blommetjies, Ryno Eksteen, Nico Lee, Mosolwa Mafuma, Niel Marais, Tian Meyer, Ali Mgijima, Zee Mkhabela, Sergeal Petersen, Raymond Rhule, William Small-Smith, JP Smith, Clinton Swart, Michael van der Spuy, Francois Venter, Shaun Venter, Lihleli Xoli, Fred Zeilinga
  • Injuries & Suspensions:
  • Pre-season Results: Sharks 37-7 Cheetahs, Stormers 43-7 Cheetahs
  • Causes for Optimism: Play their home games at high altitude, which is tough on visiting teams. Haven’t lost a long list of players to other franchises as they have done in previous seasons. The Free State Cheetahs won the Currie Cup.
  • Causes for Concern: Have to play every NZ franchise this year after only playing Australian franchises last season. Have lost Lood de Jager to the Bulls.
  • Summary: Have avoided losing too many players to other South African franchises, as they did in previous seasons, however they have failed to attract any big names to the club. It’s hard to be optimistic about their changes this season.


 

Stormers

Stormers

  • Futures Odds: 15.00 (Luxbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 2.9% (equates to fair odds of 34.48)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 48.6% (equates to fair odds of 2.06)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 0.1% (equates to fair odds of 1000)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 3rd (7th highest points tally) overall (1st in the South African conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 3rd (4th highest points tally) overall (1st in the Africa 1 conference) with a 10-1-4 regular season record. Lost at home to the Chiefs in the quarter-finals
  • 2016 Stats: 5th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 52 tries (8th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Stormers had the 4th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Robbie Fleck
  • Captain(s): Siya Kolisi
  • Key Departures: Vincent Koch (England), Mike Willemse (Kings), Jean Kleyn (Ireland), Schalk Burger (England), Nic Groom (England), Jaco Taute (Ireland), Johnny Kôtze (Bulls), Kobus van Wyk (Sharks)
  • Key Arrivals: Martin Ferreira (Kings), Ramone Samuels (Lions), Stephan de Wit (Lions), Dewaldt Duvenage (France), Dan Kriel (Bulls), SP Marais (Bulls), Bjorn Basson (Bulls)
  • Forwards: Juarno Augustus, Nizaam Carr, Jaco Coetzee, Jan de Klerk, Stephan de Wit, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Rynhardt Elstadt, Eben Etzebeth, Martin Ferreira, JC Janse van Rensburg, Oli Kebble, Siya Kolisi, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Scarra Ntubeni, Caylib Oosthuizen, Ramone Samuels, JD Schickerling, Marnus Schoeman, Chad Solomon, Kobus van Dyk, Jurie van Vuuren, Frans van Wyk, Chris van Zyl, Alistair Vermaak, Cobus Wiese, Eduard Zandberg
  • Backs: Bjorn Basson, Kurt Coleman, Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh, Daniël du Plessis, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Robert du Preez, Dewaldt Duvenage, Huw Jones, Eduan Keyter, Cheslin Kolbe, Dan Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, SP Marais, Godlen Masimla, Khanyo Ngcukana, Justin Phillips, Seabelo Senatla, Brandon Thomson, Jano Vermaak, EW Viljoen, Damian Willemse, Leolin Zas
  • Injuries & Suspensions:
  • Pre-season Results: Stormers 43-7 Cheetahs, Stormers 57-14 South West District Eagles, Stormers 57-40 Lions
  • Causes for Optimism: In a weak conference. The Stormers have been one of the more consistent South African franchises in recent seasons. Were a well balanced side last season, boasting the 5th highest scoring offence and 4th stingiest defence. They have poached Bjorn Basson from the Bulls.
  • Causes for Concern: Have to play every NZ franchise this year after only playing Australian franchises last season. Have lost the likes of Schalk Burger, Cornal Hendricks, Vincent Koch and Jaco Taute. The 10-1-4 record last year flattered the Stormers who only had to play three games against playoff-bound sides during the regular season.
  • Summary: The Stormers have made 5 of the last 7 post-seasons, but can they turn their dismal post-season form around? In recent years the Stormers have been a side that beats weaker opponents consistently but they don’t have the quality to mix it with the title contenders.


 

Sunwolves

Sunwolves

  • Futures Odds: 1001.00 (William Hill)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: <0.1% (equates to fair odds of >1000.00)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 0.2% (equates to fair odds of 500)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 47.1% (equates to fair odds of 2.12)
  • 2015 Season: The Sunwolves did not participate in the 2015 season.
  • 2016 Season: Finished 18th overall (4th in the Africa 1 conference) with a 1-1-13 regular season record.
  • 2016 Stats: 15th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 33 tries (17th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Sunwolves had the 17th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Filo Tiatia
  • Captain(s): Ed Quirk & Harumichi Tatekawa
  • Key Departures: Shinnosuke Kakinaga (Japan), Futoshi Mori (Japan), Yoshiya Hosoda (Japan), Taiyo Ando (Japan), Andrew Durutalo (USA Sevens), Fa’atiga Lemalu (Japan), Tomás Leonardi (England), Atsushi Hiwasa (Japan), Daisuke Inoue (Japan), Tusi Pisi (England), Mifiposeti Paea (Japan), Ryohei Yamanaka (Japan), Kentaro Kodama (Rebels), Akihito Yamada (Japan), Hajime Yamashita (Japan)
  • Key Arrivals: Heiichiro Ito (Japan), Yasuo Yamaji (Japan), Takeshi Hino (Japan), Kyosuke Kajikawa (Japan), Sam Wykes (Japan), Willie Britz (Cheetahs), Uwe Helu (Japan), Shunsuke Nunomaki (Japan), Malgene Ilaua (Japan), Shuhei Matsuhashi (Japan), Yuhimaru Mimura (Japan), Yoshitaka Tokunaga (Japan), Takahiro Ogawa (Japan), Fumiaki Tanaka (Highlanders), Keisuke Uchida (Japan), Timothy Lafaele (Japan), Will Tupou (Japan), Kenki Fukuoka (Japan), Teruya Goto (Japan), Kotaro Matsushima (Rebels)
  • Forwards: Takuma Asahara, Kohei Asahori, Willie Britz, Uwe Helu, Takeshi Hino, Shota Horie, Malgene Ilaua, Keita Inagaki, Heiichiro Ito, Kyosuke Kajikawa, Shokei Kin, Takeshi Kizu, Koo Ji-won, Naohiro Kotaki, Shinya Makabe, Shuhei Matsuhashi, Masataka Mikami, Yuhimaru Mimura, Liaki Moli, Yusuke Niwai, Shunsuke Nunomaki, Hitoshi Ono, Ed Quirk, Yoshitaka Tokunaga, Kazuhiko Usami, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Sam Wykes, Yasuo Yamaji, Koki Yamamoto
  • Backs: Michael Bond, Derek Carpenter, Hayden Cripps, Shota Emi, Kenki Fukuoka, Teruya Goto, Timothy Lafaele, Kotaro Matsushima, Ataata Moeakiola, Takaaki Nakazuru, Takahiro Ogawa, Jumpei Ogura, Yasutaka Sasakura, Kaito Shigeno, Hikaru Tamura, Yu Tamura, Fumiaki Tanaka, Harumichi Tatekawa, Will Tupou, Keisuke Uchida, Riaan Viljoen, Yuki Yatomi
  • Injuries & Suspensions:
  • Pre-season Results:
  • Causes for Optimism: Have done well to secure the services of halfback Fumiaki Tanaka from the Highlanders. Have also signed Sam Wykes and Willie Britz.
  • Causes for Concern: Huge amount of player turnover in the off-season, with 2016 top try scorer Akihito Yamada and Tusi Pisi among the departures. Have to play every NZ franchise this year (after playing only the Australian sides last season)
  • Summary: For a new franchise, it’s staggering how much player turnover occurred during the off-season for the Sunwolves. They’re almost a different team this year. Given they must play every New Zealand franchise this season (after playing the five Australian franchises last year), I am incredibly pessimistic about the Sunwolves’ chances this season. Another wooden spoon beckons.


 

Africa 2 Conference

Jaguares

Jaguares

  • Futures Odds: 26.00 (Ladbrokes)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 0.9% (equates to fair odds of 111.11)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 6.1% (equates to fair odds of 16.39)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 0.3% (equates to fair odds of 333.33)
  • 2015 Season: The Jaguares did not participate in the 2015 season.
  • 2016 Season: Finished 13th overall (3rd in the Africa 2 conference) with a 4-0-11 regular season record.
  • 2016 Stats: 11th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 44 tries (13th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Jaguares had the 13th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Raúl Pérez
  • Captain(s): Agustin Creevy
  • Key Departures: Felipe Arregui (France), Lucas González Amorosino (released)
  • Key Arrivals: Benjamín Macome (France), Santiago Álvarez (Argentina Sevens), Bautista Ezcurra (Argentina Sevens)
  • Forwards: Matías Alemanno, Rodrigo Báez, Cristian Bartoloni, Facundo Bosch, Agustín Creevy, Santiago García Botta, Facundo Gigena, Juan Cruz Guillemaín, Ramiro Herrera, Facundo Isa, Marcos Kremer, Ignacio Larrague, Tomás Lavanini, Juan Manuel Leguizamón, Tomás Lezana, Benjamín Macome, Pablo Matera, Julián Montoya, Lucas Noguera Paz, Javier Ortega Desio, Guido Petti Pagadizábal, Enrique Pieretto, Santiago Portillo, Leonardo Senatore, Roberto Tejerizo, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
  • Backs: Santiago Álvarez, Gabriel Ascárate, Gonzalo Bertranou, Emiliano Boffelli, Santiago Cordero, Jerónimo de la Fuente, Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, Bautista Ezcurra, Felipe Ezcurra, Nicolás Freitas, Santiago González Iglesias, Juan Martín Hernández, Martín Landajo, Manuel Montero, Matías Moroni, Ramiro Moyano, Matías Orlando, Nicolás Sánchez, Joaquín Tuculet
  • Injuries & Suspensions: Nicolas Sanchez, Martin Landajo, Juan Martin Hernandez, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Matias Moroni, and Tomas Lavanini will miss the start of the season due to injury.
  • Pre-season Results:
  • Causes for Optimism: Don’t have any regular season games against New Zealand sides because their conference has been paired up with the Australian conference this year. Very little turnover in players this off-season.
  • Causes for Concern: As the lone side from the Americas, the Jaguares have an incredibly difficult travel schedule. Unlike the Sunwolves, who are in a similar time zone to Australia and New Zealand, the Jaguares have to battle jet lag every time they depart and return from an away game. In player news, Facundo Isa might be heading to France, which would be a big loss. They have seven players out injured for the start of the season while Enrique Pieretto is suspended until March 20.
  • Summary: The Jaguares didn’t live up to expectations last year, but they do have cause for optimism. While the other two debutantes last year have experienced a huge amount of turnover this off-season, the Jaguares return with the bulk of the 2016 squad. They have a season under their belt so they will be better placed to handle the travel and rigours of Super Rugby now that they’ve had a chance to reflect on what they did right and wrong last year. The Jaguares are well placed to be one of the biggest improvers this season. The main thing they need to tidy up is their discipline.


 

Kings

Kings

  • Futures Odds: 1001.00 (Sportsbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: <0.1% (equates to fair odds of >1000.00)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: <0.1% (equates to fair odds of >1000.00)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 32.2% (equates to fair odds of 3.11)
  • 2015 Season: The Kings did not participate in the 2015 season.
  • 2016 Season: Finished 17th overall (4th in the Africa 2 conference) with a 2-0-13 regular season record.
  • 2016 Stats: 17th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 34 tries (15th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Kings had the 18th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Deon Davids
  • Captain(s): Steven Sykes
  • Key Departures: Jacobie Adriaanse (Bulls), Tom Botha (Cheetahs), Sti Sithole (Lions), Edgar Marutlulle (Bulls), JC Astle (France), Schalk Oelofse (France), Steven Sykes (France), Aidon Davis (France), Jacques Engelbrecht (France), Louis Fouché (Japan), Lukhanyo Am (Sharks), Shane Gates (Japan), Jeremy Ward (Sharks), Jaco van Tonder (Italy), Jurgen Visser (Japan)
  • Key Arrivals: Ross Geldenhuys (Highlanders), Chris Heiberg (Force), Schalk van der Merwe (France), Mike Willemse (Stormers), Ruaan Lerm (Lions), Louis Schreuder (Stormers)
  • Forwards: Tango Balekile, Martin Bezuidenhout, Thembelani Bholi, Chris Cloete, Christiaan de Bruin, Schalk Ferreira, Justin Forwood, Ross Geldenhuys, Kurt Haupt, Chris Heiberg, Irné Herbst, Ruaan Lerm, Cameron Lindsay, Sintu Manjezi, Andisa Ntsila, Tyler Paul, Wandile Putuma, Schalk van der Merwe, Dayan van der Westhuizen, CJ Velleman, Mike Willemse, Stefan Willemse, Mzwanele Zito
  • Backs: Coyi Banda, Alshaun Bock, Chrysander Botha, Lionel Cronjé, Pieter-Steyn de Wet, Ntabeni Dukisa, Siyanda Grey, Malcolm Jaer, Berton Klaasen, Makazole Mapimpi, Neil Maritz, Garrick Mattheus, Wandile Mjekevu, Waylon Murray, Yaw Penxe, Louis Schreuder, Ricky Schroeder, Johan Steyn, Johann Tromp, Rudi van Rooyen, Luzuko Vulindlu
  • Injuries & Suspensions:
  • Pre-season Results:
  • Causes for Optimism: Don’t have any regular season games against New Zealand sides because their conference has been paired up with the Australian conference this year. Their off-season could not possibly have been as shambolic as last season.
  • Causes for Concern: Were dreadful last season, particularly defensively, and are rebuilding following a huge turnover in players. Steven Sykes, who was one of their best players last year, has departed.
  • Summary: The Kings have experienced a massive amount of turnover during the off-season, so they may start slowly as they try to settle the new guys in. Another wooden spoon in the Africa 2 conference wouldn’t surprise me.


 

Lions

Lions

  • Futures Odds: 8.00 (Palmerbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 15.7% (equates to fair odds of 6.37)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 73.3% (equates to fair odds of 1.36)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: <0.1% (equates to fair odds of >1000.00)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 8th overall (2nd in the South African conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 2nd overall (1st in the Africa 2 conference) with a 11-0-4 regular season record. Lost away to the Hurricanes in the final
  • 2016 Stats: 1st ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 81 tries (1st most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Lions had the 10th best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Johan Ackermann
  • Captain(s): Warren Whiteley
  • Key Departures: Ramone Samuels (Stormers), Stephan de Wit (Stormers), Ruaan Lerm (Kings), Warwick Tecklenburg (retired), Marnitz Boshoff (Ireland), JW Bell (Spain)
  • Key Arrivals: Sti Sithole (Kings), Marvin Orie (Bulls)
  • Forwards: Justin Ackerman, Ruan Ackermann, Fabian Booysen, Cyle Brink, Robbie Coetzee, Hacjivah Dayimani, Bobby de Wee, Ruan Dreyer, JP du Preez, Lourens Erasmus, Andries Ferreira, Corné Fourie, Rhyno Herbst, Wiehan Jacobs, Pieter Jansen, Johannes Jonker, Jaco Kriel, Robert Kruger, Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Marvin Orie, Pieter Scholtz, Victor Sekekete, Sti Sithole, Dylan Smith, Kwagga Smith, Akker van der Merwe, Jacques van Rooyen, Jano Venter, Warren Whiteley
  • Backs: Jeanluc Cilliers, Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Ross Cronjé, Ashlon Davids, Faf de Klerk, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Eddie Fouché, Selom Gavor, Dean Gordon, Stokkies Hanekom, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Elton Jantjies, Gerrie Labuschagné, Sylvian Mahuza, Lionel Mapoe, Koch Marx, Howard Mnisi, Shaun Reynolds, Jarryd Sage, Courtnall Skosan, Dillon Smit, Michael Tambwe, Gerdus van der Walt, Jaco van der Walt, Anthony Volmink, Harold Vorster
  • Injuries & Suspensions:
  • Pre-season Results: Lions 49-19 SupaBaabaas, Stormers 57-40 Lions
  • Causes for Optimism: Don’t have any regular season games against New Zealand sides because their conference has been paired up with the Australian conference this year. Relatively little turnover in players during the off-season. Scored an astonishing 81 tries last year, 5 more than the next best team. Had they not sent a second string team to Argentina last year they could well have ended up as top seeds, which might have resulted in them being reigning champions.
  • Causes for Concern: The Jaguares should be a stronger conference rival this season. Warwick Tecklenburg has retired. Last season the Stormers lamented the fact that they didn’t play any regular season fixtures against NZ sides after they were thrashed at home by the Chiefs in the quarter-finals. Could the same thing happen to the Lions this season?
  • Summary: The Lions are arguably the least South African side in terms of the expansive way they play. They are a well-coached unit that featured the highest scoring offence last season. If they are to go one step further and win the title, however, they will need to shore up their defence, which was only ranked 10th in the competition last year.


 

Sharks

Sharks

  • Futures Odds: 19.00 (Luxbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 3.8% (equates to fair odds of 26.32)
  • Rugby Vision Conference Winning Probability: 20.6% (equates to fair odds of 4.85)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 0.1% (equates to fair odds of 1000)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 11th overall (4th in the South African conference)
  • 2016 Season: Finished 8th overall (2nd in the Africa 2 conference) with a 9-1-5 regular season record. Lost away to the Hurricanes in the quarter-finals
  • 2016 Stats: 14th ranked offence in terms of points scored, with 40 tries (14th most in the competition). In terms of points conceded the Sharks had the 3rd best defence in the competition.
  • Head Coach: Robert du Preez
  • Captain(s): Patrick Lambie
  • Key Departures: Dale Chadwick (France), Kyle Cooper (England), Marcell Coetzee (Ireland), Paul Jordaan (France), Heimar Williams (retired), JP Pietersen (England), Willie le Roux (England), Joe Pietersen (Japan), Clément Poitrenaud (France)
  • Key Arrivals: Lukhanyo Am (Kings), Jeremy Ward (Kings), Kobus van Wyk (Stormers)
  • Forwards: Lourens Adriaanse, Hyron Andrews, Ruan Botha, Stephan Coetzee, Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel, Jean Droste, Dan du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Thomas du Toit, Francois Kleinhans, Stephan Lewies, Khaya Majola, Mzamo Majola, Franco Marais, John-Hubert Meyer, Enoch Mnyaka, Tendai Mtawarira, Tera Mtembu, Giant Mtyanda, Coenie Oosthuizen, Etienne Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Juan Schoeman, Philip van der Walt, Jacques Vermeulen
  • Backs: Lukhanyo Am, Garth April, Tristan Blewett, Curwin Bosch, Michael Claassens, Johan Deysel, André Esterhuizen, Rowan Gouws, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Patrick Lambie, Marius Louw, Ilunga Mukendi, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, S’busiso Nkosi, Clément Poitrenaud, Inny Radebe, Cobus Reinach, S’bura Sithole, Rhyno Smith, Kobus van Wyk, Jeremy Ward
  • Injuries & Suspensions: Loose-forward Keegan Daniel is expected to miss around 12 weeks of Super Rugby after he broke his arm in pre-season.
  • Pre-season Results: Sharks 37-7 Cheetahs, Sharks 53-7 Bulls XV
  • Causes for Optimism: Don’t have any regular season games against New Zealand sides because their conference has been paired up with the Australian conference this year. They get their Australian tour out of the way early, with away fixtures against the Reds and Brumbies in Rounds 1 & 2.
  • Causes for Concern: Were improved last year compared to their 2015 season, but have lost a number of big names, including Marcell Coetzee.
  • Summary: The Sharks start a new era following the departure of coach Gary Gold and a number of senior players. A playoff berth is a tall order given the departure of key players, the strength of the Lions squad and expected improvement from the Jaguares.


 

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