Super Rugby 2018 preview: Reds and Rebels

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    Is Super Rugby still logical and financially viable with South African teams split across two international competitions? Can Australian teams become competitive with New Zealand, making the trans-Tasman battles interesting again? Can the Jaguars and Sunwolves finally make an impact on the competition?

    These are some of the big questions ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season.

    But today, we’re focusing on big questions for the Reds and Rebels, having dealt with the Waratahs and Brumbies yesterday.

    Reds

    The only thing I have watched with more anticipation than the scramble for Force signatures is the pre-season trainwreck that has been the Reds.

    Initially, things looked promising, with Brad Thorn appointed as coach, Rob Simmons shown the door, Stephen Moore retiring early, and Queensland Country performing well in the NRC.

    Since then, there has been nothing but controversy and concern.

    George Smith has been injured, putting his season in doubt, Quade Cooper and Nick Frisby got the boot, and Karmichael Hunt was charged with drugs possession.

    Squad
    1. James Slipper
    2. Alex Mafi
    3. Taniela Tupou
    4. Lukhan Tui
    5. Izack Rodda
    6. Caleb Timu
    7. George Smith
    8. Scott Higginbotham
    9. James Tuttle
    10. Jono Lance
    11. Filipo Daugunu
    12. Samu Kerevi
    13. Eto Nabuli
    14. Izaia Perese
    15. Duncan Paia’aua

    16. Andrew Ready
    17. JP Smith
    18. Sef Fa’agase
    19. Harry Hockings
    20. Liam Wright
    21. Moses Sorovi
    22. Hamish Stewart
    23. Chris Feauai-Sautia

    R. Markus Vanzati
    R. Harry Hoopert
    R. Brandon Paenga-Amosa
    R. Kane Douglas
    R. Angus Blyth
    R. Michael Gunn
    R. Angus Scott-Young
    R. Adam Korczyk
    R. Reece Hewat
    R. Tate McDermott
    R. Lachlan Maranta
    Coach: Brad Thorn

    Brad Thorn celebrates

    Brad Thorn (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    Out
    Stephen Moore, Sam Talakai, Rob Simmons, Leroy Houston, Hendrik Tui, Nick Frisby, Quade Cooper, Jack McIntyre, Campbell Magnay, Henry Taefu, Jayden Ngamanu

    In
    Harry Hoopert, Brandon Paenga-Amosa, Angus Blyth, Harry Hockings, Liam Wright, Angus Scott-Young, Tate McDermott, Filipo Daugunu

    Biggest gain
    Jono Lance’s hard-edged skills and leadership makes him the Reds’ biggest gain in their current state. He has the skills, strong head and maturity to make a big impact with this team.

    Biggest loss
    The loss of Cooper’s skills, leadership and entertainment value may come back to haunt Thorn during a long Super campaign.

    Key player
    The franchise’s hard-nosed, no-nonsense brand of rugby should suit James Slipper. Provided he comes back okay from a long injury layoff, he will play a big part in how well the Reds perform.

    Up and comer
    Look out for this young bit of tall timber poking out from atop the other trees. During the NRC, Harry Hockings’ aggression, skill set and mobility were nice to see in a young lock.

    Unknown entity
    Filipo Daugunu is a perfect example of what the NRC offers. His speed, power and ability to find the try line make him a very dangerous winger. He will push for a spot in the starting 15 very early in the season.

    Predicted finish
    Conference: third
    Overall: ninth

    Rebels

    The Rebels have probably had the greatest recruitment drive since the Brumbies were labelled the Real Madrid of rugby back in 2010. The biggest question is whether Dave Wessels can bring this squad together in time to make an impact on the competition.

    From all accounts, the team is gelling well but will that translate into success for a club that has consistently been cellar dwellers?

    Squad
    1. Tetera Faulkner
    2. Jordan Uelese
    3. Jermaine Ainsley
    4. Geoff Parling (international signing)
    5. Adam Coleman
    6. Lopeti Timani
    7. Richard Hardwick
    8. Amanaki Mafi (international signing)
    9. Will Genia
    10. Jack Debreczeni
    11. Marika Koroibete
    12. Bill Meakes
    13. Reece Hodge
    14. Sefanaia Naivalu
    15. Dane Haylett-Petty

    16. Anaru Rangi
    17. Ben Daley
    18. Laurie Weeks
    19. Matt Philip
    20. Ross Haylett-Petty
    21. Michael Ruru
    22. David Horwitz
    23. Jack Maddocks

    R. Fereti Sa’aga
    R. Sam Talakai
    R. Tom Moloney
    R. Alex Toolis
    R. Sam Jeffries
    R. Trevor Hosea
    R. Esei Ha’angana
    R. Colby Fainga’a
    R. Jordy Reid
    R. Rob Leota
    R. Nic Stirzaker
    R. Harrison Goddard
    R. Tayler Adams
    R. Jack McGregor
    R. Sione Tuipulotu
    R. Hunter Paisami
    R. Semisi Tupou
    R. Tom English
    R. Dom Shipperley
    R. Henry Hutchinson
    R. Pama Fou
    Coach: Dave Wessels

    Dave Wessels Super Rugby 2017

    Dave Wessels (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

    Out
    Toby Smith, Cruze Ah-Nau, Tyrel Lomax, Tim Metcher, James Hanson, Pat Leafa, Siliva Siliva, Dominic Day, Steve Cummings, Culum Retallick, Jake Schatz, Sean McMahon, Will Miller, Ben Meehan, Jack Debreczeni, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Ben Volavola, Mitch Inman, Jonah Placid

    In
    Tetera Faulkner, Ben Daley, Jermaine Ainsley, Sam Talakai, Geoff Parling, Adam Coleman, Matt Philip, Ross Haylett-Petty, Will Genia, Michael Ruru, David Horwitz, Bill Meakes, Dane Haylett-Petty, Henry Hutchinson

    Biggest gain
    Wessels is by far their biggest gain for 2018, for both his coaching skills and ability to bring a team together, as well as the fact the club may not have achieved the last few Force refugee signatures without him.

    Player wise, Adam Coleman is the biggest win – he’s an absolute man mountain, with the strength, aggression and skills to back it up.

    Biggest loss
    Sean McMahon is an absolute weapon, whose ability to deliver a big play – either by running over the top of a defender or cutting someone in half – makes him the type of player you want running out beside you.

    Key player
    Will Genia needs to help bring this team together and will use every ounce of his experience to help them gel both on and off the field. A great signing for a team beaming with young talent.

    Up and comer
    It’s funny calling a Wallaby an up and comer, but Uelese has nearly as many Wallabies caps (two) as he does Rebels caps (three). His strength and skills are well beyond his years and he showed his talents at the Under 20s tournament. He has to step up and become a mainstain in the Rebels’ 15, which won’t be easy with the breadth of quality hookers in this squad.

    Unknown entity
    Anyone who watched the sevens circuit over the last two years will know Henry Hutchinson is an explosive player with speed and hunger for meat.

    How he will transition to professional 15s is the big question and in a squad with such depth, he may not see the game time required to really find that out this year.

    Predicted finish
    Conference: second
    Overall: seventh

    Have Your Say



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    The Crowd Says (94)

    • January 24th 2018 @ 7:20am
      Fionn said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:20am | ! Report

      I think that Wessels will be much smarter about managing Genia’s workload than Cheika has been. It helps that Wessels has another very good SR quality scrumhalf in Ruru.

      • January 24th 2018 @ 7:56am
        Selector said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:56am | ! Report

        I hope he does both for Rurus sake and for the Wallabies. Who do you think will be named Captain?
        I think Genia with Coleman as his deputy.

        • January 24th 2018 @ 8:09am
          riddler said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:09am | ! Report

          genia is not a captain.. coleman could be in the mould of a johnson/matfield type..

          just let genia play..

          • January 24th 2018 @ 8:14am
            Fionn said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report

            Yeah, I hope that it’s Coleman too, to be honest. Genia can be VC.

            Actually, I can see Hodge as a captain too. And it might be a better idea to have a player from a Melbourne last year, rather than a former Force player, as captain in order to smooth the transition. I wonder if we will see Hodge as captain and Coleman as VC.

            • January 24th 2018 @ 8:46am
              Selector said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:46am | ! Report

              Let’s hope Wessels has removed any divide between Force and Rebels players andhe finds a player that clearly puts there hand up as a true leader that can bring this team together.
              Whilst I don’t disagree that Genia has never really taken that well to the role, I honestly see him as the best candidate within this squad. I think Coleman is a leader of the future and Hodge also has potential, but (without knowing the ins and outs of this squad) I would choose Genia with Coleman VC.

              • Roar Guru

                January 24th 2018 @ 9:40am
                John R said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

                From what I’ve read Wessels has got the Force and Rebels guys getting along really well.

                Something about a narrative of the other 3 clubs (Brumbies/Tahs/Reds) not wanting either of their clubs.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 10:09am
                Fionn said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:09am | ! Report

                I don’t think it holds true for the Brumbies, and I’m unsure if it holds true for either of the other clubs either.

                That said, it’s a very good narrative to spin, and perhaps there is more than a grain of truth.

              • Roar Rookie

                January 24th 2018 @ 12:36pm
                piru said | January 24th 2018 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

                I think he’ll make Coleman captain, he was grooming him as Hodgo’s replacement at the Force, no reason not to continue that path.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 12:46pm
                bluffboy said | January 24th 2018 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

                I think Coleman really is the only choice.
                I’ve never liked it when the captain is subbed and see Ruru getting a fair bit game time.

              • January 25th 2018 @ 2:37pm
                Rebellion said | January 25th 2018 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

                Does anyone else agree that there has to be a better prospect at flyhalf than Jack Debreczeni?

                I haven’t watched loads of him but his distribution looks slow to me (bit like Mike Harris was in the same position)

                Who is his understudy ?

              • January 25th 2018 @ 2:41pm
                Fionn said | January 25th 2018 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

                Rebellion, Wayne Smith wrote an article indicating Jack Maddocks may play at 10.

              • Roar Guru

                January 26th 2018 @ 4:50pm
                jeznez said | January 26th 2018 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

                Horwitz is listed as a flyhalf on their website as well.

    • January 24th 2018 @ 7:29am
      Redsfan1 said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      I’m mystified by the wrap Wessels is constantly getting as such a great coach.

      Beat cellar dwelling Aussie teams and just teams like the Kings and he is the greatest thing since sliced bread?

      Even when. the Force got smashed by 50 points by the Highlanders at home this was brushed over as them being “tired”. Aussie rugby is truly delusional.

      • January 24th 2018 @ 8:48am
        Selector said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        I was very excited when Wessels stayed in Australia as I think he is our brightest prospective coach right now. Last year he brought together a squad with a lot of unknowns and turned them into a pretty tight unit.
        I think if anyone is going to bring this disparate team together it will be him.

        But granted I do agree that all of this excitement from me could be very premature.

      • January 24th 2018 @ 9:26am
        bluffboy said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        Delusional or not the force had the same win lose as the best Australian side, the Brumbies. Separated only by bonus and for and against points.
        Even though i think Brad will prove to be one of Australia’s great coaches, Wessel’s has runs on the SR board in respect to Australian coaches.

      • January 24th 2018 @ 10:16am
        Jamie said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        Exactly!!! Let’s not beat around the bush ALL Aus teams were rubbish last season ALL. I hoping for big improvements this year, teams and coaches have to take some responsibility for last year’s atrocious display (And it staretd in round one with the Rebels)

        • January 24th 2018 @ 12:39pm
          bluffboy said | January 24th 2018 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

          And lets not forget the only Australian team to win in round 17 was the Force every other team was beaten.
          Mind you the force played NSW. Not sure that counts………

      • Roar Rookie

        January 24th 2018 @ 12:38pm
        piru said | January 24th 2018 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

        You’re mystified as to why a coach who took a bottom dwelling team to equal top of the conference within a year (whilst that team was also under daily attack by all and sundry) gets kudos?

        • January 25th 2018 @ 7:04am
          Redsfan1 said | January 25th 2018 @ 7:04am | ! Report

          Er.. The Brumbies were top of the Conference not the Force.

          Some of Wessels results:

          Tahs 19 Force 13
          Brumbies 25 Force 17
          Crusaders 45 Force 17
          Sharks 37 Force 12
          Force 6 Highlanders 55
          Force 12 Hurricanes 34

          I hardly think this is a coaching record to boast about. Yes it’s in the context of a miserable Aussie season but that doesn’t make it good.

          • January 26th 2018 @ 1:12am
            Ex force fan said | January 26th 2018 @ 1:12am | ! Report

            He took a team that were the favourites for the wooden spoon and build them up through a horror season. The Force was clearly building towards 2018 but would never get the opportunity to show what is in thrm. You need to look at the Force at the start of the season and the team by the end of the season to judge the coach. He has been excellent and never ever accepted a good loss. Quality is not only in the results, it is in the process to get to the results with the little he had to work with. Other coaches like Heynecke Meyer, Johan Ackerman and even Jake White had much worst first season with a team with much better players in their group. He is a good coach, probably the best in Australia at the moment.

            • January 26th 2018 @ 2:33pm
              Realist said | January 26th 2018 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

              Piru & ExFF

              Yes, the Force were perennial cellar-dwellers, but it’s important to note that their surprising finish as second in the Australian conference (yes “2nd” – if 1st, they would have played in a final) had more to do with the other Aus sides declining rather than the Farce improving.
              They still got their guts kicked in by the kiwi and African sides.
              12 seasons and not a single finals appearance. It angers me they were allowed to suck on Australian Rugby’s resources for so long 🤬

      • January 24th 2018 @ 1:52pm
        Ex force fan said | January 24th 2018 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

        If the Rebels should make the finals with the talent they have. If the Force was not axed they would certainly target a finals appearance. With the merger to form the Rebels anything less would be failure!

        • Roar Rookie

          January 24th 2018 @ 3:59pm
          piru said | January 24th 2018 @ 3:59pm | ! Report

          They need to win in front of big crowds for it to have meant anything

    • January 24th 2018 @ 7:35am
      riddler said | January 24th 2018 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      i am feeling optimistic about qld this year..

      i think we will surprise a few teams and their fans..

      let’s go qld!!

      • January 25th 2018 @ 3:34pm
        Winston said | January 25th 2018 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

        I’m with you. I know that Thorn has been absolutley smashing them in preseason. As usual they will be tough to beat at home

    • Roar Guru

      January 24th 2018 @ 8:25am
      PeterK said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      It will be an interesting tussle between tahs and reds for 3rd and 4th in the comp

      and even more so between rebels and brumbies for 1st with only the winner making the finals.

    • January 24th 2018 @ 8:33am
      Dave_S said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Selector, perhaps unintentionally you’ve omitted Ben Lucas from the squad. He is a handy and experienced (albeit unspectacular) utility who will be ahead of a number of backs, like Maranta. I expect to see him on the bench.

      Not sold on Nabuli as a 13. I’d prefer Chris Feauai-Sautia, or Duncan P at 12, Kerevi at 13, and Stuart at 15.

      Given Thorn dropped Quade with only Stewart as the obvious starting (or at least reserve) 10 at the time, I expect Stewart was always going to be a starter.

      Newspaper report this morning has Higgs as the Reds captain, a sensible choice IMO. A lot will turn on his ability to lead a number of rookies in the darker hours.

      Predicted finish looks about right.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 24th 2018 @ 9:06am
        Don said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        Yeah. The starting 15 here isn’t what I expect to see.
        I think Ready will get first shot at hooker, Timu will play 8 with Higginbotham at 6.
        Watch for Timu to be the standout number 8 in the Aus conference and pressure Cheika to select a genuine big hitting, hard, ball carrying 8 in the Kefu mould but faster. Here’s hoping he stays fit…
        12 & 13 should be Kerevi & CFS.

        Flip a coin to determine whether Duncan Paia’aua or Jono Lance plays 10 or 15.
        Nabuli will probably get the nod ahead of Perese.

        Imagining Thorn coaches a strong set piece game and won’t be looking to play wide without it being absolutely “on”, and play a very structured simple defence, you can start to see why he made his decision to move Quade on.

        The starting side looks pretty strong with Tuttle and the locks maybe with a bit of a question over them. Back up at halfback is really shallow too.

        Hunt would still have been really handy on the bench.

        • January 24th 2018 @ 9:52am
          jameswm said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:52am | ! Report

          Geez I think the locks are a strength. Tuttle and the halves on the other hand I agree on. I realise he’s had some unfortunate injuries, but who has signed Louwrens.? A very strong prospect.

          • January 24th 2018 @ 10:37am
            Fionn said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:37am | ! Report

            James, Louwrens looks to he signing with Twiggy Forrest.

          • January 24th 2018 @ 5:31pm
            Stephen Creagh said | January 24th 2018 @ 5:31pm | ! Report

            Sorovi reminds me of a young Genia. Don’t be surprised if he overtakes Tuttle as the starting 9 at some point.
            The Reds forward pack is easily their biggest strength – six of the starting eight are Wallabies.

        • January 24th 2018 @ 10:16am
          Jacko said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          Don I felt that Thorn played a very expansive game when coaching the NRC side Qld country. I saw them having a go from pretty much anywhere on the field. I think he wanted to get rid of the luggage Cooper has and decided the drama wasnt worth the gains. Stewart and Paia’aua combined well in the NRC and could well dupilicate that for the Reds. With Lance having been training at the Reds for a while now it would appear maybe Thorn knew he had Lance before dropping Cooper……Mind you Cooper has not been let go, he has been stood down from the training group so I suppose their is a small chance he coukd come back but I think that would be a backward step.
          Reds have the weakest squad but I think they will perform above their rating. Who knows where that will be

          • Roar Rookie

            January 24th 2018 @ 1:02pm
            Don said | January 24th 2018 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

            From watching the limited Qld Country matches on Fox I agree that they often went wide but it was usually after some sustained pressure applied from multiple phases first, or, more often than not, an offload in traffic by Timu. This will happen less at a higher level.

            I still reckon we will see some solid traditional Rugby being played by the Reds.
            There won’t be much swapping of positions in defence and there will be sensible tactical kicking for field position with confidence that they can strongly contest possession in lineouts and scrums.

            That doesn’t mean we’ll be dull. Just won’t be playing a wider style that is not suited to a side with inexperienced players and unfamiliar combinations against high caliber opponents.

            It’ll be interesting to see how differently the Australian SR sides play to each other and compared with the current Wallabies way.

            • Roar Rookie

              January 24th 2018 @ 1:41pm
              Dave_S said | January 24th 2018 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

              Agree, and in any event it’s hard to extrapolate too much from NRC to SR, the former was noticeably more expansive anyway, from what I saw. I suspect due to less organised and less well-conditioned defences.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 2:07pm
                Jacko said | January 24th 2018 @ 2:07pm | ! Report

                Same coach tho Dave, meaning same philosophy hopefully. Agree Don about the defending being done in each players position than all the silly swapping we see from Grey and Cheika.
                Im hoping with Thorn that we see the Reds play an NZ SR style of game…attack from anywhere

              • January 24th 2018 @ 2:39pm
                Dave_S said | January 24th 2018 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

                Jacko I’m also interested in the Reds playing a NZ style – specifically WINNING!

              • Roar Rookie

                January 24th 2018 @ 3:01pm
                Don said | January 24th 2018 @ 3:01pm | ! Report

                The thing is, NZ sides usually only attack “from anywhere” if it is a low or moderate risk.
                It helps that so many of their sides have multiple high quality attacking options in their back 3s and that so many of their fullbacks also kick well.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 2:42pm
                Fionn said | January 24th 2018 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

                Jacko, I don’t know if that is a NZ style of rugby, that sounds like a Cheika style of rugby.

                The Crusaders and Highlanders definitely could not be described in that way.

                I hope we see the Reds play an intelligent style of rugby under Thorn, and win.

              • January 24th 2018 @ 9:59pm
                Cuw said | January 24th 2018 @ 9:59pm | ! Report

                NZ sides play % rugger – except perhaps Highlanders who played a little helter-skelter.

                100m trys happen only when the other team is either walking or lost defensive shape.

                it is better to say they attack relentlessly , with higher accuracy – so that after a while the gaps open up.

                but for sure i noticed that the attacking mindset of Crusaders was tempered as the season went on and they became quite conservative at the end of season.

                also meant Mounga stopped running and resorting to a more tactical game.

                got to wait n see how DMAC runs the game – or if he chooses to run a round as he did from 15.

                Mounga Sopoaga and Barrett we have seen their game . that leaves the BLUES 😀

    • January 24th 2018 @ 8:56am
      Selector said | January 24th 2018 @ 8:56am | ! Report

      Thanks Dave

      I thought it would be the backline selections of the Reds where I would get some question raised. I was just very highly impressed by Nabuli at 13 during the barbarians game, that I think it would be worth a look (noting that those type of invitational games don’t come with the same structures etc.).
      I am a big fan of Kerevi at 12 and I wish that Magnay had been retained so he could stay there. I also think Lance is more suited to two ball runners, rather than a second ball player style centre. I would also be happy if F-Sautia refound his form and played 13.

      I actually tossed up about 4 different combinations for this backline, all with strengths and weaknesses.

      Sorry, I thought I had included Lucas, as I believe he is a good addition to fit Thorn’s mould. However I didn’t have him in my 23.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 24th 2018 @ 10:44am
        Dave_S said | January 24th 2018 @ 10:44am | ! Report

        Selector, I suspect even Thorn is still deciding on his best 10-15, it may not settle until well into the season.

        The only certain starters are Kerevi, Paia’aua and Lance, and maybe Nabuli. A long-term injury to one of those first 3 will probably see a recall for Cooper.

        I understand Hunt is contesting his charge. It will be a tricky decision for Thorn if he is acquitted. Hunt is desperately needed for his experience and broad0based skills. But Thorn does not need to apply the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard if he suspects Hunt was sufficiently implicated in some wrongdoing as to be a liability or poor role-model in terms of team discipline. I also suspect a lot of Roarers who are decrying Cooper’s omission wouldn’t blame Thorn for waving Hunt by-bye. I don’t envy Thorn either way, in that regard.

      • Roar Guru

        January 24th 2018 @ 4:29pm
        jeznez said | January 24th 2018 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

        Taqele Naiyaravoro played 13 for the Barbarians didn’t he? I though Nabuli was on the wing.

        • January 25th 2018 @ 12:14pm
          Selector said | January 25th 2018 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

          I remember thinking how well I thought Nabuli was playing at 13. But looking back Naiyaravoro was wearing the 13 jersey. Maybe they switched it up a bit, or maybe I am just going mad.

          The one thing Thorn has now with his recent signings is a lot of versatility in his backs. I can’t wait to see what combinations he tests out in the Trial matches.

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