The Super Rugby season is upon us! While we have extensively covered the new Super Rugby format, we have yet to talk about the different super rugby teams for 2016.
Think back 10, 20, even 40 years for some, as a kid, there were these card games that most children played. Each card had different characters. Each character had its own abilities, its own strength and weaknesses. Ultimately the card with the higher ability would be the winner.
This post will essentially be the same as the above we will analyze and discuss each Super Rugby team of 2016 highlighting their individual strengths and weaknesses.
It will be a 3-part series focusing on the New-Zealand, Australian and South African super rugby conferences respectively.
New Zealand Super Rugby Teams
The legendary All Black center, Tana Umaga, will be coaching the Blues this year, whether he can work his miracles in the coaching booth, like he did on the field, remains to be seen.
There are many examples of former players who turned to coaching. Some were successful while others were not so successful.
Perhaps the best example of a former player turned coach, where it did not work out quite so well, comes in the form of Martin Johnson and his tenure with the England rugby team, where they were just plain awful under his regime. Can you throw Todd Blackadder from the Crusaders in the mix as well? More on that later in the post.
An example of a player turned coach which worked out successfully comes in the form of John Mitchell and his tenure with the Lions Super Rugby team (although many will disagree with the above)
We believe Umaga will fall into the category of player turned coach which worked out successfully. Umaga is perhaps just the right man for the job. He understands the Blues style of play and will no doubt build on it, trying to improve it rather than trying to change strategy, which is not always a good thing for a team.
The Squad / Players
The Blues mostly have a young squad build around 5 or 6 veteran players like Blues stalwart Jerome Kaino. However, don’t let the young squad and the lack of veteran players fool you there is some serious talent in the young Blues squad. Whether the young Blues players can step up to the next level will largely depend on how the Blues Super Rugby team will do in the 2016 Super Rugby competition.
Players To Watch
Blues flanker, Akira Ioane is a superstar in the making, being only 20 years old he certainly has a very bright future ahead of him, and can leave a big All Black legacy for himself.
He is currently part of the New-Zealand 7’s team but will join the Blues after the 7’s season has completed. The only problem for the Blues is that they will have him for only 10-weeks before Ioane jets off to join the New-Zealand 7’s team at the Brazilian Olympics.
Nevertheless, we believe the 10 weeks Ioane will spend with the Blues Super Rugby team will be very successful for the franchise. Expect Ioane to cause havoc in the rucks and open play.
One of the few positive which came out of the Blues Super Rugby campaign in 2015 was the Blues lock, Patrick Tuipulotu, Tuipolotu was playing some serious rugby for a bottom dwelling Blues team and a national selection to join the All Blacks on their world cup campaign was certainly on the cards.
Unfortunately, before selection Tuipuluto suffered a devastating hip injury ruling him out for several months. Patrick Tuipoluto will look to start where he left off in 2015. He will play a vital role in controlling the Blues lineout which has been struggling for several years now.
Expect some big performances from Tuipolotu, he will want to make a statement, to get the All Black call up which he heartbreakingly missed last year
The Blues have some problems with their halfback combination, Ihaia West will be the Blues hope at Flyhalf, formerly selected for the New-Zealand Under 20’s team, Ihaia West has serious potential which is yet to be unleashed, Umaga will have his hands full with the young Blues flyhalf assisting him to tap into his potential and build his confidence.
A lot will depend on how West performs, if he can get it right he will have the ability to unleash a, potentially, potent Blues backline.
The Blues have an ALL-Black centre pairing with both Rene Ranger and George Moala having earned their national colours, respectively.
These two has huge potential but, for some reason, have failed to really impress during Super Rugby campaigns. Whether the Blues centre pairing will be able to click or not will play a big role in the Blues Super Rugby Campaign in 2016.
Forward Pack, Specifically Loose Forwards
The Blues have struggled over the past several years with their set pieces and general forward play. Much emphasis and hard work have been put into the Blues forward pack, both in general play and in set pieces during Super Rugby 2015. Umaga will receive a well trained and strong forward pack with a few big name players such as rising star Akira Ioane and Jerome Kaino. Expect a strong Blues forward pack dominant at both set pieces and general play.
The “Unpredictable Factor”
The Blues Super Rugby team for 2016 is packed with young and exciting players. Combine the “unknown” factor of their young, upcoming, players with the likes of veteran players such as Jerome Kaino and Rene Ranger and you have a Blues team who can cause some serious upsets during the 2016 Super Rugby tournament.
Bookmakers Predictions for Blues in Super Rugby 2016
The Bookmakers are showing little faith in the Blues team. Most bookmakers, including rugby betting giant William Hill, has the Blues on offer to win Super Rugby 2016 at odds as long as 20/1. Unbelievably the Blues are behind, newcomers, the Argentinean Jaguars who is on offer at unbelievable odds of 11/1 (more on that later)Open An Account With William Hill
Rugby Bettings’s Prediction
We do not believe Umaga and his Blues team will win a Super Rugby title in his maiden year, however, we have a lot of faith in this Blues team. We certainly don’t expect them to be bottom dwellers like they have been for the past several seasons. If they can get everything working they have the potential to earn a playoff spot, granted that their past weaknesses will be erased.
Our prediction: Blues to finish second in the New Zealand Super Rugby Conference.
Having missed the final of Super Rugby 2015, the back to back, 2012 and 2013 Super Rugby champions will want to get their Super Rugby title back.
Chiefs coach, Dave Rennie’s, record speaks for himself and little needs to be said about the 2-time Super Rugby winning coach. After an up and down 2015 Super Rugby Campaign, Dave Rennie decided it was time to bring in some new assistant coaches. New coaches bring new ideas and strategies and we certainly see it as a positive.
Dave Rennie brought in Tasman ITM cup coach Kieran Keane to assist him, but most interestingly is the acquisition of the Canadian rugby team’s forward coach Neil Barnes.
Neil Barnes will be working with a Chiefs forward pack, which have been nothing short of average in both scrums and lineouts. It will be interesting to see what affect Neil Barnes will have on the Chiefs forwards and we will certainly watch with much anticipation what the end result will be.
The Squad / Players
The Chiefs are fielding a strong experienced squad for the upcoming Super Rugby tournament however, their depth will get seriously tested with injuries to some key players.
Stalwart Chiefs lock, Dominic Bird has been ruled out for 3-months due to a foot injury. Dominic Bird was one of the pivotal members of the Chiefs forward pack, and his presence will get sorely missed. Bird will only be available for the Chiefs come playoff time, his selection will depend on how well his replacement has filled the role, and whether the Chiefs make the Super Rugby playoffs, which we are sure they will?!
In a big blow to the Chiefs front row, their promising All Black tighthead prop, Nepo Laulala has been ruled out for the entire Super Rugby season after suffering a serious knee injury, tearing his anterior ligaments.
Like Dominic Bird, Laulala’s presence will be sorely missed in the front row. How the Chiefs scrum will perform without their tighthead prop, which has been their anchor in the scrum, remains to be seen, it is a problem which is certain to give, Chiefs and Canadain forward coach, Neil Barnes plenty of headaches.
If the above is not enough to give Chiefs supporters goosebumps up and coming Chiefs flanker Mitchell Karpik suffered a knee injury in the Chiefs preseason match against the Waratahs. Karpik tore his ACL in his left knee and will miss the entire Super Rugby season!
While the Chiefs squad remains healthy in the backline there are some serious spots to be filled in the forward pack. The depth of the Chiefs squad will be well and truly tested and how new players steps into the injured positions will play a big role in the Chiefs Super Rugby Campaign in 2016.
Players To Watch
The superb, yet unlucky, Aaron Cruden will make a comeback in Super Rugby 2016 after having undergone a serious knee surgery last year. Cruden has been absolutely superb for the Chiefs in past super rugby tournaments. Cruden is a vital member of the Chiefs squad, much of the team’s success will depend on Cruden and his form after the knee surgery.
We believe Cruden will start exactly where he left off in the past super rugby tournament, with the number-10 AllBlack jersey up for grabs this year, expect some stellar performances from Cruden.
After having a superb ITM Cup for Waikato, the Chiefs have acquired a rising star named Shaun Stevenson. The teenage fullback, born in 1996, is renowned for his devastating counter-attacking abilities. If Stevenson can replicate, in Super Rugby, what he did in the ITM Cup, he will make the Chiefs number-15 jersey his own, and it will become a case for opposition teams of, kick at your own peril.
The Chiefs have some superb loose forwards, with aspiring All Black captain and possible Richie MacCaw replacement Sam Cane leading the pack. However we believe the Chiefs are a bit thin in the tight 5, especially with injuries to two of their vital members in the “engine room.” Whether their replacements will be able to play at the same level will dictate how the Chiefs perform upfront. Expect the Chiefs to struggle against forward orientated, physical sides like the Bulls, from South Africa.
The Chiefs season will ultimately depend on whether the team can stay healthy or not. Super Rugby is one of the most physically demanding tournaments in the world. No doubt as the season progress the physicality will start to take its toll, and injuries will start creeping in.
Having lost a number of players already (as mentioned above) the squad’s depth will well and truly get tested, how well the replacements, of injured players, perform will play a huge role in dictating the Chiefs Super Rugby aspirations for 2016.
Bookmakers Predictions For Chiefs in Super Rugby 2016
The Chiefs are second favourites to win Super Rugby 2016, leading bookmakers, including Unibet, are offering odds of 6/1 on the Chiefs, which is rather short, in our opinion.Open An Account With Unibet
Rugby Betting’s Prediction for Chiefs in Super Rugby 2016
The Chiefs have some big-name players in their team, their attacking ability can break the best defensive lines, an attack can start from anywhere.
However, if your forward pack is not performing your backline will not perform. We think the Chiefs are not well set up in the “engine room” which will have a big impact on their performance, we are also sceptical over the hiring of Canadian forward coach and what he can bring to the table.
We believe this will not be a good year for the Chiefs, regardless of big name players, we disagree with the Bookies on this one and see them finishing in 3rd or 4th place in the New-Zealand conference.
Unbelievably the last time a Crusaders team won a Super Rugby Tournament was back in 2008. Blackadder will be under immense pressure to get some silverware this season. It will be harsh to say the Crusaders have not played well under Blackadders regime. They certainly have been competitive each year, and lost a Super Rugby final in 2014 against the Waratahs due to a refereeing error by Craig Joubert which he later admitted to.
With that being said if the Crusaders does not get a trophy this year, Blackadder and his Crusaders team will go down in the annuals of history as not having won any silverware. (except conference titles, which doesn’t really count, and is more of a consolidation price than anything else.)
With a start studded squad in 2015, they only managed to finish in 7th place, which is quite remarkable if you consider all the talent they had at their disposal. This is clearly an indication that something is wrong. Should Blackadder have been replaced after the Crusaders disasterous campaign in 2015?
The Crusaders are renowned for fielding a team packed with AllBlack players, in years gone by. However, this year many of the Crusaders pivot players will no longer be there. Crusaders stalwarts, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter have both stepped down, Colin Slade has also departed which means the number 10 position can become a problem for the Crusaders.
The departure of MacCaw won’t have any real effect on the Crusaders as they are packed with talent and Mat Tod will step into the number-7 jersey with ease.
Despite the departure of 2 all time greats, we don’t believe it will have any real effect on the Crusaders squad and, it is perhaps time for new talent to step in. They still have a number of star players in their squad and, perhaps have the best combination of experience and youth.
The Crusaders squad runs deep should injuries occur, there are plenty of talented players to step in, thus we can’t see injuries playing a big factor.
Players To Watch
The once brilliant and charismatic Israel Dagg renowned for his devastating counter-attacking, and having the ability to produce something out of nothing has, for reasons unknown, started fading away over the past 2-years.
Where Dagg once made the All-Black number 15 his own, so bad was his performance during Super Rugby 2015, that during the New-Zealand World Cup squad selection, Dagg was jaw-droppingly left out.
Dagg said he re-invented himself as a player and found his “mojo” again. Being only 27 years old Dagg still has plenty to offer for both the Crusaders and New-Zealand rugby.
The talismanic number 8, Kieran Read will be captaining the Crusaders this year. There is not much to say about Read since he really has not been bad during the past couple of years. However, the Kieran Read who claimed the title of best number 8 in the world during the 2013/14 season with stunning performances has not quite been there during the 2015 season.
If Kieran Read can get it going again like he did in 2013 the Crusaders will be in business. With the departure of Richie MaCaw, Kieran Read will need to step up and lead from the front. We believe Read will do exactly that. Expect a big season for Read, we believe he will
Although we said the departure of the 2 all time great Crusaders won’t have any real effect, the flyhalf position will present a nagging problem for the Crusaders during Super Rugby 2016. How do you replace a magician like Dan Carter? Colin Slade used to be there during his injuries and sabbatical and Slade did well, but he has also now departure which, will perhaps sting the most. The squad runs deep but at flyhalf they are thin. Who will step up to take the vital pivot position?
The Crusaders has a choice of 3 pivots Ben Volavola, Richie Mo’unga and Marty McKenzie. All of which are relatively unknown. Yet it is perhaps Marty McKenzie who presents the most potential, having been part of the New-Zealand under 20’s team in 2012. McKenzie was also a member of the New-Zealand 7’s team during 2013 -14 and made 7 appearances for the Chiefs in Super Rugby 2015.
Assuming Blackadder will use McKenzie as his first choice flyhalf (which he really should) The 23-year-old McKenzie will have some big boots to fill.
The flyhalf is such a vital position in rugby, not only is the flyhalf responsible for getting the backline started, he is also responsible for kicking and making penalty goals and conversions. It is a highly specialized position.
Whether McKenzie will have the ability to successfully achieve the above will play a massive role in the Crusaders Super Rugby Campaign.
The “Richie MacCaw Factor”
He did not play many games in the past 2-seasons, and the Crusaders has prepared for his departure. Matt Tod is well capable of stepping into the number 7 jersey, however just having had Richie MacCaw in the squad, even if he was not playing, had tremendous influences on all players mentality. It sounds ridiculous but Richie MacCaw had some sort of aura surrounding him which rubbed off on all players when he was around.
Whether the “Richie MacCaw factor” and the aura surrounding him will have an effect on the Crusader Super Rugby team in 2016, remains to be seen. Someone will need to step up and fill that void we believe it will be Kieran Read.
Where do we begin the Crusaders are strong in so many areas, it can make for a whole new post.
Forward Pack / Loose Forwards
The Crusaders has a solid forward pack lead by Kieran Read. Strong in the set pieces and having a very good scrum the Crusaders can compete with the best of teams when it comes to a forward battle. Matt Todd, Kieran Read, and Peter Samu will make up the loose forwards which make for an impressive loose forward trio, possibly the best in the tournament.
The Crusaders has a potent backline which has the ability to breakout from anywhere on the field, providing their flyhalf can get it going. Their backline is made up with a blend of experienced campaigners, such as Andy Ellis and Israel Dagg while fielding exciting young players such as Waisak Naholo. Naholo is a massive winger providing both power and pace weighing in at 89kg and being 1.86cm tall, aside from power and pace he has the skills to back it up as well, having been formerly part of the New-Zealand 7’s side Waisak Naholo makes for an exciting prospect on the winger.
Providing the Crusaders can get the right combinations working in the backline, expect a lot of ties from them this season.
Bookmakers Predictions for Crusaders in 2016
Strangely the bookmakers are not expecting much from the Crusaders this season. All major bookmakers including, Ladbrokes Australia, have placed the Crusaders behind both the Chiefs, Hurricanes and Highlanders. The Crusaders comes in at 9/1 to win the tournament. The bookies certainly do not have much faith in the Crusaders side this season and, believe they will finish second to last, in their conference, according to the bookmakers odds for Super Rugby 2016.
Rugby Bettings’s Predictions For Crusaders 2016
The rugby betting crew has a lot of faith in this Crusaders side. This will very well be Tod Blackadder’s last year as coach and the lack of silverware will plague him. He will want to make up for that this year to ensure he leaves a legacy in the Crusaders rugby annuals.
We expect the veteran campaigners such as Israel Dagg and Kieran Read, to stand up and lead from the front while the Crusaders exciting youth will provide the “X” factor in the team.
Rugby betting’s super rugby prediction for Crusaders 2016? We expect the Crusaders to not only win their conference but go on to win the tournament.
Taking the Crusaders at 9/1 for an outright win seems like a very lucrative deal to us!
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Super Rugby Predictions For Highlanders and Hurricanes to follow soon!