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Super Rugby Round 1: Whaddya mean it starts this week?

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Expert
29th January, 2020
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I know, I know, we’ve all been going on a bit about how early Super Rugby is starting this year.

But the point remains that even knowing that we were going to start early, you can never be fully prepared for that earlier than ever start when it arrives earlier than you expect!

So things get rushed. Like my email and messages to the guys late last week to check they were good to go again in 2020 not being sent until this time last week. And then the weekly email on Sunday outlining the upcoming round.

And then actually having to think about who might win a game this weekend based on nothing at all because you haven’t had time to look at squad lists, never mind actual trial form, because you know, the season is starting earlier than ever!

So this week could be anything, Roarers. Literally, anything. And next week doesn’t look great, either.

To the tips in a moment, but first a 2019 recap…

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OVERALL: Digger 81, Nobes and The Crowd 80, Harry 72, Geoff 71, Brett 69.

Now… how hard can this be?

Digger
TIPS: BLUES, BRUMBIES, SHARKS, SUNWOLVES, CRUSADERS, HURRICANES, JAGUARES

Admittedly, I was struggling with the idea of our season starting so early, what with cricket season in its prime. However, the Black Caps, by virtue of their recent stunning form, have helped me refocus immediately and with great enthusiasm for the start of rugby in this new decade, beginning with the year of the rat.

The Hurricanes do look on a hiding to nothing, losing their two best players from last season, firstly to a devious and sinister wife plant trap on Beauden Barrett instigated by some bloke only known as ‘Rugby Tragic’, and a tricky knee injury to the Ardie of the Savea clan.

And that’s on top of their experienced coach Plumtree, shifting up to the penthouse, succumbing to the temptation of the forbidden fruit from the poisoned chalice offered up by a shifty fellow known only as ‘Fozzy’ working out of the Kremlin and replaced by some bloke from Holland.

To make matters worse, as though the stars are colluding against them, they have drawn what looks on paper at least, the two strongest sides in the South African conference to try and get their campaign underway, starting with World Cup hero Siya Kolisi and his diagonally hooped sidekicks in the beautifully dangerous Cape Town while avoiding any mystery virus that may float their way.

Seems achievable; Canes by plenty.

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Ngani Laumape of the Hurricanes looks on

Ngani Laumape of the Hurricanes. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Apparently, there is also some other games on this weekend too.

Spinning my wheel of fortune, I will suggest the primary colour because while the Indians are a decent bet this year, it still takes some time to bed down new and reintroduced species, so the Auckland based Circus to entertain at Eden first up. Mules at home seem the best bet against the ‘don’t know what the angry Koalas are going to do just yet’.

Guppies at home, surely against a ravaged cattle ranch succumbing to the wonders of the Orient during the micro off season.

I will take an early punt on the soon to be extinct dogs to start hard and fast against the travelling Parkes laser brothers Inc, feeding off the diminishing remnants of the Japanese World Cup fever. I cannot see the flowers blooming in Nelson against the rebranded village of the damned and Simba looks to have lost his mane so there should be plenty of post sparklers lighting up in jungle cat territory.

SURE THING: Plenty of water breaks, too many comments around the early start to the season, refs will cop a bagging and Brett will come last again.

Brett’s note: I only understood the Sure Thing, and that felt unnecessarily harsh!

Nobes
TIPS: CHIEFS, REDS, SHARKS, REBELS, CRUSADERS, STORMERS, JAGUARES.

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What can be done when you live in a very distant hemisphere where there is only one team that participates, a non-familiar language is spoken to those who compete, and there are no less than 140 players with names that you never hear and most I would not know how to pronounce?

If we add to this the thirteen new coaches, some changes in the interpretation of some rules of the game by referees from four different countries, all making decisions under the intense heat of February. And not forgetting that some teams starting long trips while others will be comfortably at home for three weeks before touring.

Is it worthwhile to lie down in the preseason games to be able to imagine or predict the results with all the questions and unknowns that exist and the possible unexpected situations that may occur during the matches?

Well, somehow it has to start, so there we go:

The Chiefs seem to be after the Crusaders the strongest team in the New Zealand Conference and the Blues will not have BBBBB until April, so I go with the Chiefs.

The Reds are my team for the Australian conference this year and I am confident that they will start well even as visitors. The Bulls, from what I have been reading, have a lot of difficulties in assembling the team so Sharks are my pick.

Sunwolves players don’t seem to have played any games together and the Rebels will score points.

Crusaders at home is silver in your pocket. Stormers seems to be the strongest team in the African conference and the Hurricanes don’t seem to be the same of last year by names and without BBBBB.

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Jaguares will miss Pablo Matera as his leader, but the team this year started the preseason in November and seemed to be more prepared than other years at the beginning of the tournament.

Agustin Creevy of the Jaguares

How will the Jaguares’ new look line up go? (Photo by Dianne Manson/Getty Images)

SURE THING: I am not sure about anything right now. Well, that is not true, I am sure that I am not sure about anything.

Harry
TIPS: BLUES, BRUMBIES, SHARKS, REBELS, CRUSADERS, STORMERS, JAGUARES.

The oddest rugby tournament in the world begins anew this week. What kind of competition asks us to believe wolves in Singapore, jaguars in Buenos Aires, Wellington windstorms and Cape Town stormy winds, unmedicated Auckland depression, swordless bogan knights, Queensland sunburn, NSW flowers, and Great White and black Sharks have some compelling rivalry worth flying a million miles, starting in the dead of summer?

But here we are, again, and I’m perversely fascinated.

Will the power of the Stormers finally be harnessed by clever coach John Dobson, and can Damian Willemse supplant Elton Jantjies as the understudy to World Champion pivot Handre Pollard? Can Brad Thorn listen and adapt; will the Reds rise again?

Will Beauden Bok Beating Bastard BLUE Barrett batter and better his conference? Which version of Argentine rugby will we see? Who will emerge (or survive) as the All Black 2020 loose trio? Will the banana boys from Durban flip the script and be the try-scoring leaders?

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Will the Canes be competitive, at all? How long will Kurtley Beale keep the Waratah flyhalf jersey? Speaking of jerseys, for the first unpredictable round, I will use the teams’ strips as my guide.

Kurtley Beale of the Waratahs runs the ball

Kurtley Beale of the Waratahs. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

The geometrically arresting Blues will confuse the ornately-attired Chiefs in the opener. The classically conservative Brumbies will grind down and overcome the resplendently youthful Maroons who will bring the hoops in their away jersey.

The Sharks will dress as blandly as any team in the world, but with their emerging Springbok backline, the excitement will not be about their attire. They host the Bulls, who are trying to outdo the Top 14 with garish sartorial design. Sharks by seven bananas.

The Sunwolves will not be able to stop the Rebels from scoring, in a battle of tasteful uniforms. The Waratahs have unveiled an A-League design, while their hosts, the kinder, gentler, more pacifist Crusaders will feature the Southern Alps and triangles on their once fearsome jerseys. ‘Saders will pillage.

The Hurricanes are quite yellow this year; and won’t enjoy their first outing against the Bok pack minus Bok locks wearing diagonal Western Province hoops, bidding farewell to the second oldest rugby stadium in the world. The toothless Lions will not stay in touch with the beautifully clad Jaguares, in a fetching midnight blue strip, accentuating their sinewy hips and formidable physiques.

SURE THING: If the Blues and Stormers win, as they both should, expectations will inflate to proportions rivalling England’s after their win over the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup semi-final. Pundits and fans in the Cape and in Auckland will start to inscribe the trophy, already. “Rightful Return to Reign,” will adorn the Argus and Herald.

Brett’s note: #JanuaryChampions

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Geoff
TIPS: CHIEFS, BRUMBIES, SHARKS, REBELS, CRUSADERS, STORMERS, JAGUARES

A warm welcome to everyone as we once again expose ourselves to weekly ridicule, trying to predict the unpredictable.

Working from competition and franchise history, some notoriously unreliable trial form, team lists full of new names, and established Test players slow to work themselves into the season is not the stuff of which confident tipping is made. But safe in the knowledge that Brett will once again be propping up the panel, here goes;

The Blues usually handle themselves (relatively) well at the beginning of the season, but there is a bit of buzz around the Chiefs this year, especially after the way they finished off last season, and with the return of the electric DMac. Chiefs for me.

Despite the Reds promising much, until we are provided with proof to the contrary, the Brumbies remain Australia’s best side. And first blood in what looks like another ridiculously hard to call South African conference, will go to the Shorks.

Joe Powell of the Brumbies runs in for a try

Joe Powell of the Brumbies. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Whatever surprises the Sunwolves dish up on Saturday, the Rebels should have enough to cover them. Ditto the Crusaders against the Tahs.

The Hurricanes drew a very tough start, and are coming off the loss of their best back, best forward and coach. Stormers by a few. It’s an important year for the Jaguares – to build on last seasons’ excellent result and to transition in the wake of the loss of some big-name players. At home, they’ll be up to it.

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SURE THING: The Hurricanes to lose another key player, with Jordie Barrett called up by the Black Caps as pace bowling cover for the series against India.

Brett’s note: Again, harsh!

Brett
TIPS: CHIEFS, BRUMBIES, SHARKS, REBELS, CRUSADERS, STORMERS, JAGUARES

This is going to be about 60 per cent guesswork, but I’m starting with science.

For I have developed a tipping logic thought process for this season, and it works like this: when in doubt, pick the home side. If still in doubt, fly the flag and pick the Australian side. And if still in doubt, pick against the Blues.

I can’t see that failing me at any point.

Other than that, the Brumbies in a close one in sweltering – but hopefully not smoky – conditions in Canberra, the Shorks in Durban, because (HAHAHHAHHAHA!) Morne Steyn is back, and the Rebels in Japan only because I have exactly zero gauge on the mighty Moondogs thus far.

Crusaders in Nelson, but I’m very happy to see Will Harrison getting the nod at 10 (which hadn’t happened when Harry sent his words through). And the Stormers to win the War of the Winds, and the Jaguares pretty comfortably at the Amalfatani.

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SURE THING: Over the top reaction about an Australian win – but I’m just not sure who it will be. Man, this season is starting early.

Get your votes in now – The Crowd’s tips will be revealed Friday afternoon AEDT.

Week 1 Geoff Nobes Digger Brett Harry Crowd
BLU vs CHI CHI CHI BLU CHI BLU CHI
BRU vs RED BRU RED BRU BRU BRU BRU
SHA vs BUL SHA SHA SHA SHA SHA SHA
SUN vs REB REB REB SUN REB REB REB
CRU vs WAR CRU CRU CRU CRU CRU CRU
STO vs HUR STO STO HUR STO STO STO
JAG vs LIO JAG JAG JAG JAG JAG JAG

Who have you got, Roarers? Who gets your tip this weekend?

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