Super Rugby – 2016 Season Preview – Africa 1 Conference

The following is a team-by-team preview of the Africa 1 Conference for the 2016 Super Rugby season. The Africa 1 Conference consists of the Bulls, Cheetahs, Stormers and Sunwolves.

These details will be updated as more information becomes available. All new and departed players lists are sourced from Wikipedia.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to check out our Super Rugby 2016 futures tips.

New Competition Format

Due to the addition of three new teams, the regular and post season formats have been changed. There are now two regional groups: the Australasian Group, which consists of the five Australian and five New Zealand franchises, and the South African Group, which consists of six South African sides along with the Jaguares from Argentina and the Sunwolves from Japan.

There are now four conferences instead of three. The Australian and New Zealand conferences remain unchanged, while the South African conference has been split into two, named Africa 1 and Africa 2. The Africa 1 Conference consists of the Bulls, Cheetahs, Stormers and Sunwolves, while Africa 2 consists of the Jaguares, Kings, Lions and Sharks.

Regular Season

The regular season will consist of 17 rounds. Each team will receive two byes so each side will play 15 games as opposed to 16 last year.

Each team’s schedule consists of:

– 6 intra-conference matches. In the four-team conferences, each team will play each other home and away. In the five-team conferences, each team will play two opponents home and away and once against the other two teams, one at home and one away.

– 9 inter-conference matches. Each team will play the other teams in their regional group once. They will also play against each team from one of the two conferences in the other group. For 2016, the teams in the Africa 1 Conference will play each team in the Australian Conference, while teams in Africa 2 will play each team from New Zealand.

Post Season

The top team in each of the four conferences will automatically qualify to host a quarter final as the #1-#4 seeds. They will be seeded order of competition points.

The next top three teams from the Australasian Group and the next best team from the South African group will qualify as the #5-#8 seeds. They too will be seeded in order of competition points.

The 1st seed will play the 8th seed, the 2nd seed will play the 7th seed, and so on.

The quarter final winners will progress to the semi-finals, where the highest seed to reach the semis will host the lowest seed, while the the second highest seed will host the third highest seed.

The winners of the semi-finals will progress to the final, which will be hosted by the highest-seeded semi-final winner.

Team-By-Team Previews

Click here to compare Super Rugby futures odds.



  • Futures Odds: 24.75 (Betfair)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 4.8% (equates to fair odds of 20.83)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 0.4% (equates to fair odds of 250)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 9th overall (3rd in the South African conference)
    The Bulls remained in playoff contention deep into the season but finished their campaign with five consecutive defeats, four of which were overseas.
  • Head Coach: Nollis Marais
  • Captain(s): Adriaan Strauss
  • Internationally Capped Players: 15
  • Key Departures: Morné Mellett (retired), Victor Matfield (England), Flip van der Merwe (France), Jacques du Plessis (France), Pierre Spies (Japan), Jacques-Louis Potgieter (France), JJ Engelbrecht (Wales)
  • Key New Players: Nick de Jager (England), Francois Brummer (Cheetahs)
  • Pre-season Results Cheetahs 28-10 Bulls, Bulls 28-24 Lions
  • Causes for Optimism Perhaps new coach Nollis Marais can reinvigorate the side after Frans Ludeke’s departure at the end of last season. Teams in Africa 1 conference do not play a single New Zealand team during the regular season.
  • Causes for Concern The Bulls have lost a plethora of Springboks during the off-season, with most of them replaced by provinsional players. In addition, flyhalf Handré Pollard has been ruled out for the season with a knee injury while flankers Deon Stegmann and Lappies Labuschagne are out for about eight weeks with ankle injuries. The Bulls have a terrible overseas record, going 0-11 in their last eleven fixtures outside South Africa.
  • Summary The Bulls will be a bit of an unknown quatity this year, with 13 new players brought in from provinsional rugby. Ten of those players have come up from the Blue Bulls, who new coach Nollis Marais was in charge of last season, so he will be very familiar with the new recruits. If they are to make the playoffs they will have to overcome their atrocious record on foreign soil.




  • Futures Odds: 151.00 (William Hill)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 1% (equates to fair odds of 100)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 3.4% (equates to fair odds of 29.41)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 12th overall (5th in the South African conference)
    After losing numerous key forwards to the Bulls in pre-season, the Cheetahs endured a torrid 2015, winning just five games. Their undoing was the fact that they had the worst defensive record of the competition, conceding over 33 points on average.
  • Head Coach: Franco Smith
  • Captain(s): Francois Venter
  • Internationally Capped Players: 5
  • Key Departures: Coenie Oosthuizen (Sharks), Heinrich Brüssow (Japan), Jean Cook (Italy), Sarel Pretorius (Wales), Francois Brummer (Bulls), Willie du Plessis (France), Joe Pietersen (Sharks), Johann Sadie (France), Cornal Hendricks (Stormers), Willie le Roux (Sharks)
  • Key New Players: Neil Rautenbach (Stormers), Sias Ebersohn (Force), Fred Zeilinga (Sharks)
  • Pre-season Results Cheetahs 28-10 Bulls, Cheetahs 21-11 Kings
  • Causes for Optimism Franco Smith took over as head coach with two rounds to go last year and the Cheetahs’ offensive performances improved in the final two fixtures. Teams in Africa 1 conference do not play a single New Zealand team during the regular season.
  • Causes for Concern For the second season running the Cheetahs have lost a lot of key talent to rival South African teams, which makes me wonder if players are abandoning what they feel is a sinking ship. Only three players in the entire squad have ever received Springboks caps.
  • Summary The Cheetahs need to find a way to fix their defence if they are to avoid finishing in the bottom half of the table once more. Each year they lose key players to other South African franchises, which may signify an unhappy lockerroom.




  • Futures Odds: 13.00 (Palmerbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 6.6% (equates to fair odds of 15.15)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 0.3% (equates to fair odds of 333.33)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 3rd (7th highest points tally) overall (1st in the South African conference)
    Finished with the 7th highest points tally but were gifted 3rd seed due to winning the South African conference. Despite being given a home qualifying final the Stormers lost to the Brumbies 19-39.
  • Head Coach: Robbie Fleck
  • Captain(s): Juan de Jongh & Frans Malherbe
  • Internationally Capped Players: 12
  • Key Departures: Steven Kitshoff (France), Wilco Louw (injury), Neil Rautenbach (Cheetahs), Ruan Botha (Sharks), Manuel Carizza (France), Michael Rhodes (England), Duane Vermeulen (France), Demetri Catrakilis (France), Jean de Villiers (England), Patrick Howard (England)
  • Key New Players: JC Janse van Rensburg (France), JP Smith (Brumbies), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Sharks), Jano Vermaak (France), Cornal Hendricks (Cheetahs)
  • Pre-season Results Stormers 40-15 SWD Eagles, Stormers 29-14 Jaguares
  • Causes for Optimism The Stormers were the highest finishing South African team last season and they boast twelve Springboks in the squad. Teams in Africa 1 conference do not play a single New Zealand team during the regular season.
  • Causes for Concern The Stormers have a shocking playoffs record in recent seasons, despite securing home fixtures.
  • Summary The Stormers embark on a new chapter after the departure of coach Allister Coetzee and captain Duane Vermeulen. The Bulls have been distrupted by injuries already while the Cheetahs and Sunwolves on paper look weak, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Stormers once again win their conference only to be bundled out of the playoffs early.




  • Futures Odds: 751.00 (Luxbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: <0.1% (equates to fair odds of >1000.00)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 34.7% (equates to fair odds of 2.88)
  • 2015 Season: The Sunwolves did not participate in the 2015 season.
  • Head Coach: Mark Hammett
  • Captain(s): Shota Horie
  • Internationally Capped Players: 19
  • Key Departures: N/A
  • Key New Players: Keita Inagaki (Rebels), Tomás Leonardi (France), Ed Quirk (Reds)
  • Pre-season Results Sunwolves 52-24 Top League XV
  • Causes for Optimism The side will be buoyed by the national team’s performance in the World Cup, during which they beat the Springboks. Japan does have a professional league of its own so they’re not being thrown completely into the deep end. Unlike the Jaguares, the Sunwolves have been very open to importing talent. The side is coached by former Crusader Mark Hammett and the team features nine foreigners, including three Kiwis. Teams in Africa 1 conference do not play a single New Zealand team during the regular season.
  • Causes for Concern New teams tend to struggle in their first season of Super Rugby.
  • Summary The Sunwolves are the bookmakers’ favourites for the wooden spoon, but you never know given how weak the Kings look on paper. It’s a shame some of Japan’s stars are playing for other franchises. It’s also a shame they won’t be playing any New Zealand teams in their inaugural year because I’m sure their new fans would like to see some Kiwi franchises play in Japan.


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