Super Rugby – 2016 Season Preview – Australian Conference


The following is a team-by-team preview of the Australian Conference for the 2016 Super Rugby season. 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

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  • Futures Odds: 9.00 (Palmerbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 9.8% (equates to fair odds of 10.2)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 0.2% (equates to fair odds of 500)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 6th overall (2nd in the Australian conference)
    The Brumbies finished 2nd in the Australian conference after losing a two-horse race with the Waratahs. They finished as the 6th seed and defeated the Stormers in Cape Town in the qualifying finals before losing to the Hurricanes in Wellington.
  • Head Coach: Stephen Larkham
  • Captain(s): Christian Lealiifano & Stephen Moore
  • Internationally Capped Players: 13
  • Key Departures: JP Smith (Stormers), Siliva Siliva (Rebels), Sean Doyle (Ireland), Nic White (France), Jesse Mogg (France)
  • Key New Players: Albert Anae (Italy), Tomás Cubelli (Argentina), Andrew Smith (France), Aidan Toua (France)
  • Pre-season Results Reds 18-31 Brumbies, Waratahs 21-17 Brumbies
  • Causes for Optimism Given this is the first season after a World Cup, the Brumbies have had relatively little turnover in players during the off-season, with Nic White and Jesse Mogg the two biggest departures.
  • Causes for Concern The Brumbies went 1-4 last season against New Zealand opposition, with their only win coming against the Highlanders who had rotated out their All Blacks that week. With the new format this season the Brumbies will play all five New Zealand teams during the regular season.
  • Summary The Brumbies are the favourites with some bookmakers to take out the title, but their schedule is tougher than what many of the South African franchises have to face. They are certainly a title threat this year, however, given the Waratahs appear to have been hit harder by player departures after the World Cup.




  • Futures Odds: 151.00 (Luxbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 0.5% (equates to fair odds of 200)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 7.6% (equates to fair odds of 13.16)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 15th overall (5th in the Australian conference)
    The Force picked up the competition wooden spoon with just three wins for the season – two of which were over the Waratahs. The main reason for their lack of success was their inability to convert possession into points.
  • Head Coach: Michael Foley
  • Captain(s): Matt Hodgson
  • Internationally Capped Players: 10
  • Key Departures: Wilhelm Steenkamp (France), Sam Wykes (Japan), Sias Ebersohn (Cheetahs), Zack Holmes (France), Nick Cummins (Japan)
  • Key New Players: Peter Grant (France), Ben Tapuai (Reds), Jono Lance (Waratahs)
  • Pre-season Results Force 34-26 Asia Pacific Dragons, Force 28-0 Hurricanes
  • Causes for Optimism The Force can take heart from the Rebels, who finished 10th last year with 7 wins just one year after receiving the competition’s wooden spoon with 4 wins. They’ve had relatively little turnover during the off-season so they won’t be finding their feet at the start of the competition like some other teams. Perhaps the new arrival in former Springbok fly-half Peter Grant can spark a turnaround for them?
  • Causes for Concern The inablity of the Force to convert possession into points last year isn’t new. It seems to have become a perennial problem for them.
  • Summary The Force look destined to fight to avoid the wooden spoon in the conference with the Reds. It would be great if I turn out to be wrong, but I can’t see them being title threats.




  • Futures Odds: 67.00 (William Hill)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 1.5% (equates to fair odds of 66.67)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 2.5% (equates to fair odds of 40)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 10th overall (3rd in the Australian conference)
    2015 was the Rebels’ best ever season. They picked up 7 wins to finish 10th just one year after picking up the wooden spoon with 4 wins in 2014.
  • Head Coach: Tony McGahan
  • Captain(s): Nic Stirzaker
  • Internationally Capped Players: 11
  • Key Departures: Paul Alo-Emile (France), Keita Inagaki (Japan), Tom Sexton (Force), Ben Whittaker (released), Cadeyrn Neville (Reds), Scott Higginbotham (Japan), Luke Burgess (Italy), Telusa Veainu (England), Bryce Hegarty (Japan)
  • Key New Players: Jamie Hagan (England), James Hanson (Reds), Culum Retallick (Blues), Adam Thomson (Reds)
  • Pre-season Results Blues 59-7 Rebels, Rebels 85-0 Samoa A
  • Causes for Optimism The Rebels appear to have a healthy club culture, with many players signing long-term contracts over the last year or so. They come into this year on the back of their best ever season in Super Rugby. Adam Thomson is a great signing. He is among seven Kiwis the side has brought in in recent years.
  • Causes for Concern They will miss the leadership of former captain Scott Higginbotham.
  • Summary I reported at the beginning of the 2015 campaign that their appeared to be a good vibe in the camp, with no less than sixteen players committing to the Rebels until 2016 at the earliest. That appeared to translate into results, with the Melbourne side finishing the season with a 7-9 record, just one year after collecting the wooden spoon with a 4-12 record. They don’t boast as many Wallabies as the likes of the Brumbies and Waratahs, but they can take heart from teams like the Highlanders and Lions, who have proved that you can be more than the sum of your parts.




  • Futures Odds: 51.00 (Luxbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 0.3% (equates to fair odds of 333.33)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 6.9% (equates to fair odds of 14.49)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 13th overall (4th in the Australian conference)
    The Reds had a horror 2015, winning just 4 games, which is a far cry from their 13-3 record during their title-winning campaign in 2011. Their season was disrupted by injuries, including Quade Cooper for most of the campaign, and the suspension of Karmichael Hunt. Coach Richard Graham’s position was in doubt at the end of the last year but he has kept his job.
  • Head Coach: Richard Graham
  • Captain(s): James Slipper
  • Internationally Capped Players: 12
  • Key Departures: James Hanson (Rebels), James Horwill (England), David McDuling (Sharks), Beau Robinson (England), Adam Thomson (Rebels), Will Genia (France), Quade Cooper (France), Ben Tapuai (Force), James O’Connor (France), Lachlan Turner (France), Ed Quirk (Sunwolves)
  • Key New Players: Kane Douglas (Ireland), Cadeyrn Neville (Rebels), Eto Nabuli (NRL), Ayumu Goromaru (Japan)
  • Pre-season Results Reds 18-31 Brumbies, Reds 3-31 Crusaders
  • Causes for Optimism With so much turnover during the offseason with a lot of new faces coming in, this is can be seen as the start of a new chapter for a franchise that is looking to banish the memories of the last two terrible seasons.
  • Causes for Concern The Reds must somehow bounce back from a terrible season and at the same time make up for the departures of Will Genia, James Horwill and Quade Cooper. High profile signing Taniela Tupou looked undercooked in pre-season. It may be a while before he can have an impact. The Reds were hammered by the Crusaders in pre-season.
  • Summary The Reds look a bit imbalanced on paper, with eight Wallabies in the forwards and just two in the backs. They are a much more inexperienced side than last year after a number of Wallabies moved overseas after the summer. The departure of Adam Thomson to the Rebels is also a noteworthy loss. I expect them to finish 4th or 5th in the Australian conference, although with so many new players they are more of an unknown quantity this year.




  • Futures Odds: 9.00 (Sportsbet)
  • Rugby Vision Title Winning Probability: 10.3% (equates to fair odds of 9.71)
  • Rugby Vision Wooden Spoon Probability: 0.1% (equates to fair odds of 1000)
  • 2015 Season: Finished 2nd (3rd highest points tally) overall (1st in the Australian conference)
    The Waratahs finsihed top of the Australian conference after a season-long tussle with the Brumbies. They were given a home semi-final despite finishing with fewer points than the Highlanders, but the Highlanders beat them 35-17 to knock them out of the competition.
  • Head Coach: Daryl Gibson
  • Captain(s): Michael Hooper
  • Internationally Capped Players: 14
  • Key Departures: Sekope Kepu (France), Mitchell Chapman (Retired), Tala Gray (France), Pat McCutcheon (Australia Sevens), Jacques Potgieter (Sharks), Stephen Hoiles (retired), Brendan McKibbin (England), Jono Lance (Force), Adam Ashley-Cooper (France), Peter Betham (England), Taqele Naiyaravoro (Scotland)
  • Key New Players: Angus Ta’avao (Blues), Bryce Hegarty (Japan), Zac Guildford (Hawke’s Bay), Reece Robinson (NRL)
  • Pre-season Results Chiefs 17-12 Waratahs, Waratahs 21-17 Brumbies, Highlanders 40-35 Waratahs
  • Causes for Optimism The side is packed with Wallabies and former All Black Zac Guildford could prove to be an astute signing.
  • Causes for Concern This is Daryl Gibson’s first head coaching role after Michael Cheika’s departure to coach the Wallabies fulltime. Gibson has previously been assistant coach for the Crusaders and Waratahs. The side will miss crowd-favourite, Jacques Potgieter, who has returned to South Africa to join the Sharks. Fly-half Bernard Foley expected to miss up to a month of Super Rugby due to a shoulder injury sustained in pre-season.
  • Summary Like most sides, the Waratahs have lost some big names during the off-season, however they do retain thirteen Wallabies. The biggest uncertainty is how they will fare under new coach Daryl Gibson, who takes over after Michael Cheika’s successful tenure.


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