Super Rugby – 2015 Season Preview – Australian Conference

The following is a preview of the Australian Conference for the 2015 Super Rugby season. Futures market betting tips are also provided.

When the conference system started Australia was considered to be the weakest link, however the Australian teams fared better than the South African sides last year, with three teams finishing in the top half of the table compared to just one for South Africa. With that being said, the Reds and Rebels were disappointing last year, falling well short of the Force, who finished a franchise high 3rd in the conference.

Team Previews

Below are team-by-team previews for 2015. These details will be updated as more information becomes available. All new and departed players lists are sourced from Wikipedia.



  • Futures Market Odds:
  • 2012 Season: 2nd in the Australian conference, 7th overall
  • 2013 Season: 1st in the Australian conference, 3rd overall. Lost in the Grand Final.
  • 2014 Season: 2nd in the Australian conference, 4th overall. Lost in the semi-finals.
  • 2014 Offense Ranking (based on most points scored): 6th
  • 2014 Defense Ranking (based on fewest points conceded): 7th
  • New Players: Les Makin (University of Canberra Vikings), Rory Arnold (University of Canberra Vikings), Blake Enever (Queensland Country), Sean Doyle (Ireland), Nigel Ah Wong (Japan), James Dargaville (Sydney Stars), Lausii Taliauli (University of Canberra Vikings)
  • Departed Players: Ruaidhri Murphy (Ireland), Leon Power (France), Jack Whetton (Auckland), Tom McVerry (released), Ben Mowen (France), Conrad Hoffmann (Sharks), Lionel Cronjé (Sharks), Pat McCabe (retired), Andrew Smith (Ireland), Clyde Rathbone (retired)
  • Current Squad:
    Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Ben Alexander, Les Makin, Scott Sio, Joshua Mann-Rea, Stephen Moore, Siliva Siliva, Rory Arnold, Sam Carter, Blake Enever, Scott Fardy, Tom Staniforth, Fotu Auelua, Sean Doyle, David Pocock, Jordan Smiler, Jarrad Butler
    Backs: Michael Dowsett, Nic White, Matt Toomua, Nigel Ah Wong, Rodney Iona, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, James Dargaville, Henry Speight, Lausii Taliauli, Joe Tomane, Robbie Coleman, Jesse Mogg
  • Injury Concerns: none that I’m aware of
  • Comments: the Brumbies lost a lot of experience during the off-season with the departure of captain Ben Mowen and the retirements of Pat McCabe and Clyde Rathbone, however they do get David Pocock back from injury. Most of the new recruits are from domestic ranks so it will be interesting to see how they step up into Super Rugby. From a coaching stand point Stephen Larkham remains however Laurie Fisher has departed. The Brumbies did make the playoffs last season, however much of that was due to their strong form in the first half of the season, with their results much poorer towards the end.
  • 2015 Prediction: if they can avoid too many injuries I predict the Brumbies will finish 2nd in the conference and make the playoffs, however their depth may be exposed if an injury toll mounts. The Brumbies were excellent at home last season but they must improve on their away form if they are to challenge the Waratahs for top spot in Australia.



  • Futures Market Odds:
  • 2012 Season: 5th in the Australian conference, 14th overall
  • 2013 Season: 5th in the Australian conference, 13th overall
  • 2014 Season: 3rd in the Australian conference, 8th overall
  • 2014 Offense Ranking (based on most points scored): 13th
  • 2014 Defense Ranking (based on fewest points conceded): 9th
  • New Players: Rory Walton (extended playing squad), Steve Mafi (England), Mitchell Scott (Tasman), Akihito Yamada (Japan), Albert Nikoro (Blues), Tino Nemani (Bay of Plenty)
  • Departed Players: Kieran Longbottom (England), Salesi Manu (Italy), Phoenix Battye (France), Ryan Hodson (Jersey), Hugh McMeniman (Japan), Justin Turner (Perth Spirit), Jayden Hayward (Italy), Chris Tuatara-Morrison (France)
  • Current Squad:
    Forwards: Pekahou Cowan, Tetera Faulkner, Chris Heiberg, Ollie Hoskins, Nathan Charles, Heath Tessmann, Adam Coleman, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Rory Walton, Sam Wykes, Chris Alcock, Angus Cottrell, Matt Hodgson, Steve Mafi, Brynard Stander, Ben McCalman
    Backs: Alby Mathewson, Ian Prior, Sias Ebersohn, Kyle Godwin, Zack Holmes, Marcel Brache, Luke Burton, Patrick Dellit, Junior Rasolea, Nick Cummins, Dane Haylett-Petty, Mitchell Scott, Akihito Yamada, Luke Morahan, Albert Nikoro
  • Injury Concerns:
    • Captain Matt Hodgson has a hamstring injury and is expected back in Round 9
    • Nick Cummins isn’t expected back until Round 3
  • Comments: the Force enjoyed their best ever season last year and will be keen to push on in search of their first taste of playoff rugby having missed out on the playoffs by just 2 points in 2014. The Force will be hoping to replicate their strong home form of last year, where they went 6-2.
  • 2015 Prediction: the loss of Matt Hodgson for half the season is really damaging. His absence is compounded by the departure of Hugh McMeniman and fact that five of their first seven games are on the road, so by the time he comes back they may be out of playoff contention. I expect the Force to slip back a bit from last season. With the Rebels and Reds likely to improve on their poor 2014 seasons, a 4th or 5th placed finish in the conference wouldn’t surprise me.



  • Futures Market Odds:
  • 2012 Season: 4th in the Australian conference, 13th overall
  • 2013 Season: 4th in the Australian conference, 12th overall
  • 2014 Season: 5th in the Australian conference, 15th overall
  • 2014 Offense Ranking (based on most points scored): 14th
  • 2014 Defense Ranking (based on fewest points conceded): 13th
  • New Players: Keita Inagaki (Japan), Ben Whittaker (France), Radike Samo (Japan), Mike Harris (Reds), Sefanaia Naivalu (Melbourne Rising), Cam Crawford (Waratahs), Dom Shipperley (Reds), Jonah Placid (Reds)
  • Departed Players: Max Lahiff (released), Steve Fualau (France), Hugh Pyle (France), Josh Holmes (North Harbour Rays), Angus Roberts (Sydney Stars), Lachlan Mitchell (retired), Male Sa’u (Japan), Alex Rokobaro (Italy), Jason Woodward (Hurricanes)
  • Current Squad: Cruze Ah-Nau, Paul Alo-Emile, Luke Burgess, Cam Crawford, Steve Cummins, Jack Debreczeni, Tamati Ellison, Tom English, Colby Fainga’a, Scott Fuglistaller, Jed Gillespie, Mike Harris, Bryce Hegarty, Scott Higginbotham, Keita Inagaki, Mitch Inman, Sam Jeffries, Luke Jones, Tom Kingston, Pat Leafa, Sean McMahon, Ben Meehan, Tim Metcher, Sefanaia Naivalu, Cadeyrn Neville, Jonah Placid, Jordy Reid, Radike Samo, Tom Sexton, Dom Shipperley, Toby Smith, Nic Stirzaker, Lopeti Timani, Telusa Veainu, Laurie Weeks, Ben Whittaker
  • Injury Concerns: Japanese hooker Shota Horie will miss the entire season as he continues his rehabilitation in Japan
  • Comments: after winning three out of eight games in the first half of last season the Rebels went 1-7 in the second half to slump to 15th in the overall standings with just 21 points – their worst ever points haul. The Rebels will be sorely disappointed to have lost dynamic fullback Jason Woodward, who has returned to his native New Zealand, however they have managed to keep hold of Tamati Ellison and they did well to sign Mike Harris. Despite a horror 2014 there seems to be a good vibe in the camp at the moment, with no less than sixteen players committing to the Rebels until 2016 at the earliest.
  • 2015 Prediction: the Rebels have a decent backline but their biggest weakness last year was their tight five and based on player turnover there doesn’t seem to be much to suggest anything will be different this season. I predict the Rebels will finish 4th or 5th in the Australian conference this year and well out of playoff contention. What worries me is their average losing margin for the last five games of 2014 was 23 points. Hopefully the off-season has given the Rebels a chance to regroup from that horror run.



  • Futures Market Odds:
  • 2012 Season: 1st in the Australian conference, 6th overall but 3rd seed in playoffs where they lost in the Qualifying Finals.
  • 2013 Season: 2nd in the Australian conference, 5th overall. Lost in the Qualifying Finals.
  • 2014 Season: 4th in the Australian conference, 13th overall
  • 2014 Offense Ranking (based on most points scored): 9th
  • 2014 Defense Ranking (based on fewest points conceded): 14th
  • New Players: Adam Thomson (Japan), Hendrik Tui (Japan), Duncan Paia’aua (Brisbane Broncos), Campbell Magnay (Queensland Country), James O’Connor (France), Karmichael Hunt (Gold Coast FC)
  • Departed Players: Jono Owen (France), Albert Anae (Italy), Ben Lucas (France), Mike Harris (Rebels), Aidan Toua (France), Dom Shipperley (Rebels), Rod Davies (France)
  • Current Squad:
    Forwards: Ben Daley, Greg Holmes, James Slipper, Saia Fainga’a, James Hanson, James Horwill, David McDuling, Ed O’Donoghue, Rob Simmons, Curtis Browning, Liam Gill, Eddie Quirk, Beau Robinson,
    Adam Thomson, Jake Schatz, Hendrik Tui
    Backs: Nick Frisby, Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Duncan Paia’aua, Anthony Fainga’a, Samu Kerevi, Campbell Magnay, Ben Tapuai, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Chris Kuridrani, James O’Connor, Lachlan Turner, Karmichael Hunt, JJ Taulagi
  • Injury Concerns:
    • Quade Cooper suffered a broken collarbone and is expected back in Round 7 at the earliest
    • Prop Greg Holmes is out with a thumb injury and is expected back in Round 7
    • Rob Simmons is out with a shoulder injury until Round 3
    • Anthony Fainga’a (knee), Dave McDuling (glute), Eddie Quirk (knee), Beau Robinson (calf) and Ben Tapuai (hamstring) will miss the start of the season due to injury
    • James O’Connor and Adam Thomson won’t be considered for selection in Round 1 because neither have had enough time to prove their fitness
    • Comments: after going 10-2-4 in 2013 the Reds went 5-11 last season to slump to 4th in the conference and 13th overall. They have lost some handy players during the off-season, but they did well to pick up Karmichael Hunt, James O’Connoer and former All Black Adam Thomson. The Reds will be hoping O’Connor has reformed during his time in France while league fans will be interested to see Hunt playing rugby union in Australia for the first time after leaving the Broncos in 2009. With Cooper sidelined, Karmichael Hunt impressed at No. 10 in pre-season but one game is too small a sample size to evaluate how effective he will be this year.
    • 2015 Prediction: I expect an improvement on their 13th placed last season, but the Reds would do very well to make the playoffs. They were soft on defence last year and I expect them to finish 3rd in the Australian conference.



    • Futures Market Odds:
    • 2012 Season: 3rd in the Australian conference, 11th overall
    • 2013 Season: 3rd in the Australian conference, 9th overall
    • 2014 Season: 1st in the Australian conference, 1st overall. Won the Grand Final.
    • 2014 Offense Ranking (based on most points scored): 1st
    • 2014 Defense Ranking (based on fewest points conceded): 1st
    • New Players: Sam Lousi (New Zealand Warriors), Kotaro Matsushima (Japan)
    • Departed Players: Michael Alaalatoa (NSW Country Eagles), Hugh Roach (Greater Sydney Rams), Kane Douglas (Ireland), Cam Crawford (Rebels), Alofa Alofa (France)
    • Current Squad:
      Forwards: Sekope Kepu, Benn Robinson, Paddy Ryan, Jeremy Tilse, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sam Lousi, Dave Dennis, Michael Hooper, Pat McCutcheon, Jacques Potgieter, Wycliff Palu
      Backs: Nick Phipps, Bernard Foley, Israel Folau, Rob Horne, Jono Lance, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kotaro Matsushima, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Kurtley Beale
    • Injury Concerns & Absentees: new signing Kotaro Matsushima will join the squad in March
    • Comments: with Kane Douglas and Alofa Alofa the only notable departures and Sam Lousi the only confirmed signing at the time of writing, the Waratahs have managed to keep the nucleus of last year’s winning squad. With the squad strength they have they will no doubt view anything other than first place in the Australian conference as a failure. It remains to be seen how much of an impact head coach Michael Cheika’s dual role as the Wallabies coach will have on the Waratahs’ season. The Waratahs have been done little favours by the scheduling, with their byes coming in Rounds 3 and 8. That leaves them with a long unbroken stretch leading up to the playoffs. On the plus side, the Waratahs’ overseas fixtures are against teams they are capable of beating on the road: the Lions, Cheetahs, Highlanders and Hurricanes.
    • 2015 Prediction: the Waratahs dominated the Australian conference last season, beating the 2nd placed Brumbies by a whopping 13 points. With a Wallabies-laden squad I expect the Waratahs to win the Australian conference again and go deep into the playoffs. Given the Crusaders are starting the season without a number of key All Blacks, 1st overall seed isn’t out of the question, which would put the Waratahs in fantastic position to win back-to-back titles.


    Futures Market Betting Tips

    There’s little reason to see why the Waratahs can’t become back-to-back champions. If you look back at history, there’s a strong precedence for teams to win consecutive titles in Super Rugby. Since the competition began in 1996, on six occasions the defending champions went on to win the following year. Given how competitive the New Zealand conference is and the recent struggles of the South African conference, I would back the Waratahs to be minor premiers at 5.50 (Sportsbet) and the Australian conference winners at 2.00 (Centrebet).

    Israel Folou was the joint top try scorer last season and was joint 2nd in 2013. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t be near the top of the top scorers list again so the 6.00 odds with Sportsbet look to be reasonable value.

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