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Post your Super Rugby predictions

Remember to think less of any regular TSFers who don't make predictions. They are inferior. They are cowards.

Sure this is a little late as Super Rugby has had its staggered African start, but the important stuff all happens in the NZ conference


Australian Conference Best Player: Kurtley Beale
I think re-Tah'd Beale will have a big impact. He looks fitter than normal at this time of the year.. he may even make Foley look like a decent player again.

South African Conference Best Player: Siya Kolisi
A risky pick because Marx will probably continue to be a freak. Also his impact will depend on the Stormers who I am not convinced by. However he had promising moments in 2017 and at 26 he might be ready to peak.

New Zealand Conference Best Player: Jordie Barrett
Another risky pick - he'll be missing the first two games at least and he might have 'second year syndrome'. He'll start at fullback but I think by the end of the year he'll be in the midfield.

Leading Try Scorer: Rieko Ioane
The best winger in the world will continue to be the best winger in the world

Rookie of the Year: Jonathan Ruru
If Umaga gives him a chance..

Overall Player of the Year: Jordie Barrett
NZ conference player of the year is the same thing isn't it?


Australian Conference Winner: NSW
They finished 16th last year so they are certain to improve on that

South African Conference Winner: Lions
An easy choice. They are the only SA side that plays the style pick up enough away wins in Australasia

New Zealand Conference Winner: Crusaders
Booo Hsssss

Regular Season Table topper: Crusaders
Slightly risky to pick them in the NZ conference and on the table. They do have early season injuries but I think the damage will be limited and they'll be the most consistent.

Champions: Hurricanes
Might even pip the Crusaders int he regular season. I expect them to time their run well

The Blues:
If they don't make the playoffs Umaga should be sacked.

The table will look bad for us in the first couple of months. Only one home game and two byes in the first 6 weeks.
However 6 of the last 7 matches are at home. There is potential for a late charge.

I'll make a relatively positive prediction - beaten semi finalists

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What AB positions are up for grabs this Super Rugby season?

Backup Loosehead Prop (and maybe starting prop if Moody takes a while to get back to full speed) - Moody is recovering from injury, Crockett is 35, and Hames was a fill in.


Tim Perry toured with the All Blacks, and will get a fair bit of game time with the Crusaders. Not dynamic around the park, good but not great in the scrum, probably only a stop-gap.

Lienert-Brown is a decent player who has been injured a lot - would need a big season.

Chris Eves is a quality all-rounder, but probably doesn't standout enough in any one area. Would be a stop-gap.

Hames will get plenty of game time at the Chiefs, but is a penalty magnet and his game outside of the scrum is lacking. Improved somewhat over the All Black season. At best a stop-gap.

Atu Moli is converting from tighthead, and would be unlikely to make the grade in his first year. Could be the surprise.

Alex Hodgman had a good season for Canterbury, is strong around the field, but needs to demonstrate that his scrummaging is up to it. Needs plenty of game time. Could be a break out year for him.

Pauliasi Manu has been in AB squads before, and is a strong scrummager, but has been injured a lot since 2015. Needs a an uninterrupted season to prove he has the workrate and effectiveness around the park.

Hopefully Ofa Tu'ungafasi will specialise at tighthead this year.

Hard to look past Moody and Crockett, but the ABs need to develop two more players who will be available for the 2019 WC.

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Stormers v Jaguares Cape Town 18-Feb 2:05 AM

Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Reserves: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 George Whitehead, 23 JJ Engelbrecht.

Jaguares: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Tomás Lezana, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera (captain), 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tétaz Chaparro, 2 Agustín Creevy, 1 Felipe Arregui.
Replacements: TBC

Lions v Sharks Johannesburg 18-Feb 4:15 AM

Lions: 15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Sylvian Mahuza, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 12. Harold Vorster, 11. Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Ross Cronjé, 8. Warren Whiteley (c), 7. Cyle Brink, 6. Kwagga Smith, 5. Franco Mostert, 4. Andries Ferreira, 3. Ruan Dreyer, 2. Malcolm Marx, 1. Jacques van Rooyen.
Reserves: 16. Robbie Coetzee, 17. Dylan Smith, 18. Jacobie Adriaanse, 19. Marvin Orie, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21. Hacjivah Dayimani, 22. Howard Mnisi, 23. Rohan Janse van Rensburg.

Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha (c), 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Juan Schoeman
Reserves: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 John-Hubert Meyer, 18 Tendai Mtawarira, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Jacobus van Wyk.

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This week the Warriors begin their pre-season campaign in Rotorua against the defending champions, and current dynasty in all of Australasian sport, the Melbourne Storm.

The Storm are who the Warriors have tried to mirror for the past several seasons, with the Mt Smart club hiring everything Storm-related from former players to former coaches in an attempt to become the next NRL powerhouse.

This has led to promise after promise and failure after failure. Players like Dane Nielsen, Todd Lawrie and Ryan Hoffman have arrived on big contracts with the notion that they would bring a winning culture and work ethic back to the club only to leave with their tails between their legs. Tohu Harris is the latest (you could count Adam Blair and Blake Green too) but by now the fans have grown weary of the wannabe Storm system.

The Warriors have a lot of flaws but one of the biggest has been their plan of simply trying to mimic other teams (the other club the Warriors copy frequently is the Broncos and with head coach Stephen Kearney, from both Storm and Broncos coaching ranks, on the hot seat, another Broncos coaching disciple, Michael McGuire, is rumoured to be the favoured replacement).

We hear the soundbites of “improving the culture” and “having the right systems in place” but all that is happening is a club feebly hoping for a culture from another team to work magic on them. That mindset never wins in pro sports.

You need to realise what your club, players, coaches and management are good at and build from there. Being the Storm isn’t it. Nor the Broncos. And don’t try to be the default national team because that’s a total disaster.

Can the Warriors make the playoffs? Maybe. But every team has improved their rosters this off-season, especially wooden-spooners Newcastle, so last place is also a possibility heading into the season.

This season will be defined in the first handful of games. The Warriors need to start playing like Warriors and less like a poor man’s Storm or it will be yet another year of disappointment.

Kia ora: Peta Hiku (Warrington), Adam Blair (Broncos), Gerard Beale (Sharks), Tohu Harris (Melbourne Storm), Leivaha Pulu (Titans), Agnatius Paasi (Titans), Blake Green (Manly), Matiu Love-Henry (Broncos)
Ka kite ano: Kieran Foran (Bulldogs), Ben Matulino (Tigers), Jacob Lillyman (Knights), Ryan Hoffman (Melbourne Storm), Toafofoa Sipley (Manly)

Incumbent: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
Challengers: Peta Hiku, David Fusitua, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Zac Santo

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will enter the season wearing the number one on his back and the © beside his name on the team sheet. However, he isn’t signed for 2019 and there are many rumours out there from South Sydney to the All Blacks. The longer he leaves this undecided, the more of a distraction it will become. Peta Hiku was signed as an insurance policy should Roger the Dodger head back to Sydney or take his talents to rugby union. A capable player who the Warriors tried to sign to a $3 million deal back in 2014, the club gets him for cheaper as the utility back was homesick. David Fusitua and Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad are two other alternatives with Fusitua already having a good amount of NRL experience playing at the back. Zac Santo will be the star fullback for the NSW Cup side.

Incumbents: David Fusitua, Ken Maumalo
Challengers: Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Peta Hiku, Gerard Beale, Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck

The one thing the Warriors are not lacking this year is outside backs. Following strong form for Tonga, David Fusitua will be back on the wing to start the season. He’s the best finisher the Warriors have and should surpass his total of 12 tries from 2017. Big Ken Maumalo looks to be the most in trouble of losing his position. Maumalo had moments last season where it seemed he was going to fulfil his potential but would then revert back to cement hands and slow footwork. There are better players in this squad. Before the arrival of Hiku and Beale, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was favoured to be Maumalo’s replacement. There is still a chance of that and if last season is anything, Charnze showed he has the nous to play wing, centre or fullback. Expect this 2016 NSW Cup Centre of the Year to be in the line up most weeks. Peta Hiku is another strong wing option but will more likely start the season in the centres with Gerard Beale still recovering from his broken ankle. Roger’s brother Johnny Tuivasa-Sheck will make more of an impact on the Warriors’ social media channels than on the field.

Incumbents: Solomone Kata, Blake Ayshford
Challengers: Gerard Beale, Peta Hiku, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, David Fusitua,

The two incumbents from 2017 could both miss out on a starting spot in 2018. Just when he looked to be evolving as a player in 2016, Solomone Kata was horrendous in 2017 to the point he thought about retiring. Now, there was some family tragedy but the NRL waits for no man and a poor preseason could end Kata’s time at the club. Blake Ayshford had a different 2017 season to Kata, proving to be one of the few consistent players. His defence was solid (87% of tackles made) and his offensive output was quite good with five tries while always attempting to set up his wing (unlike Kata). Should be starting in round one but might have to work his way into the line up again.
Gerard Beale was already penciled in to start at centre but then he snapped his leg at the Rugby League World Cup and is out. Initially it was thought Beale was gone for the season but now they project he might be back to full health around round 12. Peta Hiku will be Beale’s immediate replacement and should do alright as centre is his best position. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and David Fusitua are other worthy challengers to wear #3 or #4 this season. Anthony Gelling is a late off-season signing from Wigan. An above-average player with a sense of humour, Gelling signed as his partner is recovering in Auckland following a nasty car accident. He seems set for NSW Cup duty before looking overseas again in 2019.

Incumbent: Ata Hingano
Challengers: Blake Green, Sam Cook, Mason Lino, Peta Hiku

Following the disaster that was Kieran Foran in 2017 (I think he’ll be a disaster at the Bulldogs too) it seemed the Warriors were content with Ata Hingano at standoff. He is combative and quick and showed in the Rugby League World Cup that he can play if the forward pack is moving.
The Warriors instead sign Blake Green from Manly and now a 31 year-old journeyman is to partner Shaun Johnson in the halves. Here’s the career of Green: he was terrible early in his NRL career, went to the SuperLeague and shone, came back and has been pretty good since. However, the problem is he was good in Melbourne and Manly. Heck, I would look good playing next to Cooper Cronk or Daly Cherry-Evans! I fear the Warriors might have signed pre-SuperLeague Blake Green thinking they’re getting Cooper Cronk/Daly Cherry-Evans. Be worried.
Sam Cook has really developed in the NSW Cup and will probably surpass Mason Lino on the Warriors depth chart although both will be playing for a dominant NSW Cup team this season. No first grade.
Peta Hiku will be the emergency halves man this season (like Tui Lolohea was last season).

Incumbent: Shaun Johnson
Challengers: Mason Lino, Sam Cook, Ata Hingano, Nathaniel Roache

Shaun Johnson will hold the halfback position but following the disaster that was the Rugby League World Cup (“yous got your way”) it looks like every man and his dog is conceding that Shaun Johnson is what he is: a player who can dominate a game only if the forwards are dominating but can’t be relied upon to rally the troops ala Jonathan Thurston if the trenches are being overrun. Mason Lino, Sam Cook, Ata Hingano, Nathaniel Roache all serve as backups to SJ.

Incumbent: Simon Mannering
Challengers: Adam Blair, Agnatius Paasi, Jazz Tevaga, Leivaha Pulu

Simon Mannering excels in the lock position with his all-round skills and should do the same again in 2018. Adam Blair is an option for Kearney, but if Kearney’s use of Blair in the Kiwis is anything to go by it seems Blair is destined to play in a make-shift frontrow. That’s good because, in my opinion, Blair plays his worst when at lock. If the coach was to move Mannering back into the secondrow, former Titans players Agnatius Paasi and Leivaha Pulu would be the next options as both have played the position before. Jazz Tevaga, a hooker, could fill the role coming off the bench.

Incumbents: none
Challengers: Tohu Harris, Bunty Afoa, Leivaha Pulu, Matiu Love-Henry, James Bell

With Ryan Hoffman and Bodene Thompson gone, both secondrow spots will have new inhabitants. Tohu Harris is obviously one starter but who his partner will be is still undecided. The best bet would be Bunty Afoa, a hard-nose player who just runs the ball straight (something the Warriors need more of from their forwards), but the Warriors website has him listed as a prop. Leivaha Pulu, also listed as a prop, could start there too but seems more of a bench option at this moment. The darkhorse could be former Broncos under-20 player Matiu Love-Henry. He was highly touted in Brisbane (the Broncos had to let him go due to salary cap issues) but has arrived in Auckland with little fanfare - which is a good thing for a young player with a point to prove. James Bell is a smaller backrower who did little in his two games for the club last year. NSW Cup for him.

Incumbents: James Gavet, Sam Lisone
Challengers: Adam Blair, Bunty Afoa, Leivaha Pulu, Albert Vete, Isaiah Papali'I, Ligi Sao, Patrick Sipley

Here is the critical weak point in this Warriors squad. If this team is to have any go-forward in 2018 it will need James Gavet to lead the way. His aggressive, smart style of football is able to get the Warriors moving, opening space for Shaun Johnson, and the team will need plenty of it. I’m not the biggest fan of the Adam Blair signing, but if he can replicate Gavet’s aggressive approach it would help the pack immensely. Sam Lisone is another aggressive ball-carrier but needs to work on his defence if he wants a place in this side. Bunty Afoa, Leivaha Pulu, Albert Vete and Ligi Sao are all frontrow/secondrow hybrids and will contend for the two remaining bench spots - Afoa and Pulu are best of this bunch. Isaiah Papali’l and Patrick Sipley are young talent that will spend large chunks of the season in the NSW Cup.

Incumbent: Isaac Luke
Challengers: Nathaniel Roache, Manaia Cherrington, Jazz Tevaga, Sam Cook

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Isaac Luke has been terrible in his time at the Warriors and the Warriors know this. Luke is playing for another contract this season but should he struggle in the early rounds Kearney, in desperation of course, will turn it over to the young and now extremely muscular Nathaniel Roache. Roache has bulked up this off-season, my take is that it means he will get game time at lock as well as hooker. Manaia Cherrington has moved around several clubs now and finds himself now at the Warriors. He’s skilled but is relying on either Luke or Roache to fall. Jazz Tevaga has dropped down the depth chart but still has potential - if he can stay healthy. Utility Sam Cook will try his luck at hooker in the pre-season games.

Sneakdefreak’s best 17 for round one:
1 Roger Tuivasa-Sheck © 2.Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 3.Blake Ayshford 4.Peta Hiku 5.David Fusitua 6.Blake Green 7.Shaun Johnson 8.James Gavet 9.Isaac Luke 10.Adam Blair 11.Matiu Love-Henry 12.Tohu Harris 13.Simon Mannering Bench: 14.Nathaniel Roache 15.Sam Lisone 16.Bunty Afoa 17.Leivaha Pulu

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2017 is out of the way, and all the top sides will start looking towards 2019. There is probably really only the June internationals 2018 for NH & SH to experiment a bit, it will be full strength for the 2018 6N, and the EOYT 2018 will be used by NZ as a dry run for the RWC knockouts you would think, especially with a match against England on the cards.

So with only 31 players available for a RWC squad, where is NZ at?

1. LH Prop

Moody is a cert. I think Crockett will be gone. Steve Hansen has said the ABs want Atu Moli to switch permanently to LH. And there is Kane Hames. You suspect Moody starting, Hames as squad starting back-up, Moli as bench option is the plan.

3. TH Prop

Franks. Laulala. Tu'angafasi. Franks as the starter. Laulala as the back-up. Ofa as the bench option - should be in prime form by the time we reach 2019.

RWC => Likely only 5 props taken, my pick is Moody, Moli, Franks, Laulala and Tu'angafasi.

2. Hooker

Coles, Taylor and Aumua. Surely Aumua will go past Harris and maybe even Taylor.

RWC => Coles, Taylor, Aumua

4 & 5. Locks

Retallick, Whitelock, and Barrett are certainties for mine. I was quite disappointed in PT's tour. Romano is getting on a bit. Don't think Bird is good enough, and might be heading overseas

RWC => Retallick, Whitelock, Barrett and I'll say Tuipolotu, but there is a room for a new face, or the ABs might go with the 6/emergency lock like they did for 2015

6, 7 & 8. Loose-forwards

Cane, Read are certainties. After that it becomes murky. For back-up 7 Todd has currently overtaken Savea. The selectors seem to favour Squire as the 6, but we have Kaino, Fafita and Ioane in the mix. It could be argued the 2 best 6 options (Vito, Luatua) are overseas.

RWC => Cane, Read, Todd, Ioane, Squire

9. Halfback

Smith, TJP and maybe the Crusaders Drummond. You'd think TKB would start for any other test side, aside from Ireland...

RWC => Smith, TJP, Drummond

10. First-five

I'm just going to say RWC => Barrett starting, Mounga as starting backup, McKenzie as 10/15 supersub

12, 13. Centres

Coaches preferred starting pair is SBW & Crotty. Last RWC squad has 2 more centres, I'd say ALB and either Laumape or Goodhue. It's the joke on here, but if Ngatai has an injury free 2018 and a good season, he is not totally out of the picture.

RWC => SBW, ALB, Crotty, Goodhue or Laumape

11, 14, 15

Who knows? Ioane and Smith would seem certainties. Last RWC we took 4. So I'd say Jordie Barrett and NMS. Of the other options (Naholo, Dagg, Savea, Havili, Tamanivalu, Duffie) it will take something special. Dagg has past form, but he is slower and slower these days.

RWC => Ioane, Smith, Barrett, NMS.

I think we are in a good spot 2 years out - we need to find a settled 6 and a back-up 8, work out who really are the 4 best midfielders, and choose from the usual range of wing/fullback options. There are always newbies, certain positions are asking for a bolter: a 4th lock, 6/8, 3rd halfback strike me as the most likely.

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