Never mind team announcements and hype reels from host broadcasters in each country, the Super Rugby is now officially underway for 2019 for one very obvious reason: the tipping panel is back!
Yes, with absolutely no persuasion required on my part, the entire panel are back in 2019. Nobes has spent the off-season stewing on his decision to pick the Lions in the final, thus robbing him of the first-ever back-to-back The Roar Super Rugby tipping panel win. I’d go dark for months as well if that happened to me. Nobes will be taking no prisoners in 2019. You’ve all been warned.
Geoff is back to defend his title, Digger claims he won’t be able to say “Canes by plenty” every week, Harry is back to redeem himself and/or save face and I’m here to, well, I’m just here to stay one point in front of Harry all year, really.
And you, the crowd, are back in 2019 too. Mainly because we all felt sorry for you, what with all your collective minds putting so much effort into lodging tips all year only to fall as short as you did.
So welcome back. And best of luck.
Super Rugby 2018 final totals
Geoff 88, Nobes 87, The Crowd 82, Digger 81, Brett 80, Harry 72.
Chiefs, Rebels, Crusaders, Hurricanes, Sunwolves, Bulls, Jaguares
Having already posted an article this week on how all of the Super Rugby teams are not really ready and how even this year’s competition looks, I won’t waste any more time grizzling about how difficult this tipping competition is. But, gee, it really is harder than trying to choose between Kyle Sinckler, David Warner and that piece of work from Married at First Sight in a popularity contest!
Let’s try the Chiefs to open their account at home against the Speights drinkers. The Brumbies are a bit further along the preseason game-time path than the Rebels, but if the Rebels are going to fulfil play-off expectations this year, then it starts here.
Everyone expects the Blues to be much improved this season. But enough to beat the Crusaders first up? The Waratahs are in the same boat as the Rebels with key players going in cold and the Hurricanes are a way off full strength, but we’ll opt for the ‘Brookvale burglary’ in this one.
In Singapore look for a fired-up Ed Quirk to start the first fight of the season and the Sunwolves to upset the Sharks. The Bulls get a tentative tick, but only because they have home advantage over the Stormers, whose coaches may or may not be talking to each other. And to finish off, the Lions have a poor record in Buenos Aires, so it’s the Jaguares to show what they are capable of without Nico Sanchez.
Conference winners should be easy enough to sort out: the Crusaders and the – yeah, right! I’d like to say the Jaguares but I’m spooked about their scrum, so it’s the Lions – weaker than last year but still good enough. A combination of impressive squad depth and wishful thinking points me towards the Rebels for the Australian conference. Good luck, everyone!
Chiefs, Rebels, Blues, Waratahs, Sharks, Bulls, Jaguares
Maybe because I am under the effects of the heat in an extremely hot summer and in my last week of vacation that I have agreed to expose myself week after week for the next five months, trying to hit the results of the matches of this next Super Rugby tournament that is far from being predictable.
Nevertheless, and with my therapist miles away, the decision is made and I will have to accept the consequences.
So many imponderable things to consider, such as a World Cup, no window in June and an unusual movement of players and coaches that I am sure will make this edition of the tournament the most entertaining since the expansion.
The Chiefs at home over the Highlanders because they play at home. The Rebels should start winning as visitors if, according to the analysts, they are the team to top the conference.
If the Blues want to mark a change of trend, this is an opportunity to beat the champions. The Waratahs at home should beat the Canes (without BB). The Sharks over the Sunwolves in Singapore.
Home team Bulls over the Stormers. Finally, Jaguares in Buenos Aires must show that they can win at home without Nicolas Sanchez and beat the Lions.
Crusaders, Rebels and Lions to top the conferences. Crusaders because they are the Crusaders, Rebels for their back line and coach and Lions because they will win all their home games. Good luck!
Chiefs, Brumbies, Blues, Waratahs, Sharks, Bulls, Jaguares
It feels like the right thing to be conservative in the opening rounds – home sides for the majority seem the smart choice.
So for Friday I will back the Chiefs and Brumbies to get away to a good start, and come Saturday I will back the Blues at home. I am picking they will be fizzing to get this season away to a promising start and the mishmash of available All Blacks selections suggests to me that if the Blues are going to take an opportunity, this is it.
Sadly I will pick the Waratahs for Saturday as I don’t like the murmurings of the potential injury issues with the Hurricanes at present – and BBBBB is off in the Maldives or something – and the Sharks should be sweet in Singapore.
Brett’s note: Wait, WHAT?! What’s just happened here?!
Bulls-Stormers clashes tend to be a home side thing, so Bulls for me, and I am guessing that Duane Vermeulen will want a big day out against his former side while the Jaguares and Lions are a head-scratcher. Both sides are not as strong as last season so will simply plump for the Jaguares at home.
All in all, I really have no idea at this stage, but it’s good to be invited back for another season!
Conference winners for 2019? Well, in New Zealand it is difficult to look past the Crusaders – they just look so settled as a squad compared to the rest – while in South Africa it has to be the Sharks for similar reasons. In the lands of Oz and Rising Sun I really do not know. Three sides look very capable in the Brumbies, Waratahs and Rebels, but my gut tells me the Ponies based on their late-season play last year. I suspect if they carry that on, they will be difficult to keep up with.
Chiefs, Brumbies, Crusaders, Waratahs, Sunwolves, Bulls, Jaguares
So having admitted on Tuesday that I’m barely ready for the start of Super Rugby this year, I’m now in this position two days later where I get to show just how not ready I really am.
I generally have two rules when it comes to the early rounds: pick the home teams and never, ever pick the Blues. I see no reason to compromise my beliefs in 2019.
I’m not sure the Chiefs will have much fun this year, but I’m quite sure the Highlanders will have even less. My suspicion is the pre-Rugby World Cup departures are going to hurt both of them a lot. I have, however, been impressed with the Brumbies in their preseason trials and will stick with them. Keep a close eye on Tevita Kuridrani – I reckon he’s in for a huge year. And when they’re leaving guys like Tom Cusack out they’re in good shape.
On Saturday the Crusaders will carry on the red-dominates-blue thing over the ditch and the Waratahs without Kurtley Beale should have enough for the Canes. Karmichael Hunt and Adam Ashley-Cooper is just crazy enough to work as a 12-13 pairing. And if you can’t pick the Mighty Moondogs chock-full-of-Kiwis in Round 1, when can you?
I have a funny feeling about the Bulls this year. Maybe it’s the Duane Vermeulen thing, maybe it’s the no John Mitchell thing. And the Jaguares to kick off the year with a Breakfast Rugby win on Sunday morning.
The idea of the picking conference winners as our sure thing this week was a great idea. Right up until the point of actually having to think about it myself. Because I’m not ready for the start of Super Rugby, remember?
So, I don’t know. Bulls. Crusaders. Someone from Australia. Rebels. No idea. Guesswork and gut feel.
Chiefs, Rebels, Crusaders, Hurricanes, Sharks, Stormers, Jaguares
It is the year of the grubber versus the rush defence. I am the grubber. My esteemed fellow panellists are in a rush and often very defensive. Only two home teams will win this week. Yes. This sounds absurd. Rugby is a sport where home field matters a great deal. The referee is human. The crowd is a mob of ale-addled savages, howling for official blood. Well, this applies more to Waikato than Singapore.
But I will explain why I have tipped five visitors. The Rebels started very well last year and seem a bit better-staffed this year. Geoff Parkes, the doctor of all things, seems high on them in his wraps and private correspondence. And the Brumbies may not like the warm weather as much as the Victorians. Do I really need to justify my Crusaders-over-the-Blues prediction? I know Ma’a Nonu is a menacing menace, but he’s been playing in France. See Six Nations results. Saders by plenty; cue New Zealand Herald laments.
The big Waratahs are slow starters; look for the newly-wed Hurricanes to blow them over. The Sharks travel well, and wet Singapore will feel just like humid Durban anyway. The Bulls should win at Loftus, but the Stormers forwards are basically the second half Boks without Duane Vermeulen, and given that backline play is rustier at the start of a year, I’ll go with the minor upset despite the usual preseason distractions – as in, will we be paid? – in the boardroom. In fact, wait – I think the Stormers will win by about 30 points.
The two home winners – the mighty Chiefs and the wild Jaguares – are good enough even with Stephen Donald and without Nico Sanchez to defend their fortresses. But I predict only average seasons for both.
My predicted rankings in the respective conferences are: (RSA) Stormers, Bulls, Sharks, Jaguares, Lions; (NZ) Crusaders, Hurricanes, Chiefs, Blues, Highlanders; and (AUS) Rebels, Reds, Waratahs, Brumbies, Sunwolves.
Get your votes in now – The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon AEDT.
Who have you got, Roarers? Who gets your tip for the first round of the season?