Super Rugby Pacific Season Preview & Futures Betting Tips

Super Rugby Pacific Season Preview

Super Rugby Pacific Season Preview

The following is a team-by-team preview for the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season. Futures betting tips are also provided.

As always, we will be publishing weekly betting tips.

Competition Format

The twelve-side competition features the five Australian and five New Zealand franchises, plus two debutants, the Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika. The Argentinian, Japanese and South African franchises are no longer part of the competition.

A single pool replaces the previous conference system. The regular season will consist of fifteen rounds. Each team will play fourteen games and have one bye week. The teams will face each other once in a home-and-away format for eleven games. The remaining three games will focus on derby matches.

The top eight teams will qualify for the play-offs. This will use a traditional quarterfinals, semi-finals and final format, with no teams receiving preliminary round byes. The higher ranked team will host each playoff match.

Blues

Blues

  • Odds to win title: 3.75 (Sportsbet)
  • Coach: Leon MacDonald
  • Captain: Dalton Papali’i
  • Forwards: Adrian Choat, Sam Darry, Kurt Eklund, Josh Goodhue, Alex Hodgman, Akira Ioane, Nepo Laulala, James Lay, Jordan Lay, Dalton Papalii, Taine Plumtree, Marcel Renata, Ricky Riccitelli, Tom Robinson, Luke Romano, Anton Segner, Hoskins Sotutu, Cameron Suafoa, James Tucker, Karl Tu’inukuafe, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Soane Vikena
  • Backs: Beauden Barrett, Finlay Christie, Caleb Clarke, Corey Evans, Taufa Funaki, Bryce Heem, Rieko Ioane, AJ Lam, Sam Nock, Stephen Perofeta, Harry Plummer, Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Zarn Sullivan, Mark Telea, Tanielu Teleʻa, Tamati Tua, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
  • Key arrivals: Jordan Lay (Auckland), Ricky Riccitelli (Hurricanes), Luke Romano (Crusaders), Beauden Barrett (returned from Japan), Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (Warriors – NRL)
  • Key departures: Ray Niuia (Moana Pasifika), Luteru Tolai (Moana Pasifika), Gerard Cowley-Tuioti (Japan), Jacob Pierce (Japan), Patrick Tuipulotu (Japan), Blake Gibson (Hurricanes), Dillon Hunt (retired), Jonathan Ruru (France), Otere Black (Japan), TJ Faiane (Japan), Emoni Narawa (Chiefs)
  • Internationally capped forwards: 10
  • Internationally capped backs: 4
  • 2019 season result: 16th with a 5-1-10 record
  • 2019 conference standing: 5th
  • 2020 domstic season result: 2nd with a 5-1-2 record
  • 2021 domestic season result: 3rd with a 4-4 record
  • 2021 Trans-Tasman season result: 1st with a 5-0 record. Won the final.
  • Injuries: Karl Tu’inukuafe is out until April. Beauden Barrett’s return date is unknown as he recovers from a concussion.
  • Pre-season results:
    • Hurricanes 21-26 Blues
    • Chiefs 17-7 Blues (40-minute game)
    • Highlanders 21-19 Blues (40-minute game)
  • Positives:
    • Boosted by the return of Beauden Barrett from Japan.
    • Won Super Rugby Trans-Tasman last year.
  • Negatives:
    • Patrick Tuipulotu is on sabbatical in Japan.
    • The postponement of their Round 1 game against Moana Pasifika will create scheduling headaches later.
    • A number of their players missed out domestic rugby last season due to Auckland and Northland’s covid-enforced absence for most of the 2021 NPC season.
    • Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s performances in pre-season suggest he’s still a work in progress.
  • Bottom line: A run to the final should be their target.

 

Brumbies

Brumbies

  • Odds to win title: 19.00 (Unibet)
  • Coach: Dan McKellar
  • Captain: Allan Alaalatoa
  • Forwards: Allan Alaalatoa, Jahrome Brown, Folau Fainga’a, Nick Frost, Tom Hooper, Fred Kaihea, Sefo Kautai, Ed Kennedy, Lachlan Lonergan, Connal McInerney, Cadeyrn Neville, Billy Pollard, Luke Reimer, Tom Ross, Pete Samu, Rory Scott, Scott Sio, James Slipper, Darcy Swain, Rob Valetini
  • Backs: Lachie Albert, Tom Banks, Cam Clark, Hudson Creighton, Chris Feauai-Sautia, Len Ikitau, Rodney Iona, Noah Lolesio, Ryan Lonergan, Andy Muirhead, Jesse Mogg, Ollie Sapsford, Irae Simone, Nic White, Tom Wright
  • Key arrivals: Ed Kennedy (Wales), Hudson Creighton (Reds), Chris Feauai-Sautia (France), Jesse Mogg (France)
  • Key departures: Archer Holz (Waratahs), Harry Lloyd (Force), James Tucker (Blues), Tom Cusack (retired), Will Miller (retired), Issak Fines-Leleiwasa (Force), Bayley Kuenzle (to Force), Reesjan Pasitoa (Force), Solomone Kata (Moana Pasifika), Mack Hansen (Ireland)
  • Internationally capped forwards: 8
  • Internationally capped backs: 9
  • 2019 season result: 3rd with a 10-6 record. Knocked out in the semi-finals.
  • 2019 conference standing: 1st
  • 2020 domstic season result: 1st with a 6-2 record. Beat the Reds in the final.
  • 2021 domestic season result: 2nd with a 6-2 record. Beat the Force in the qualifying final and lost to the Reds in the final.
  • 2021 Trans-Tasman season result: 6th (1st best AUS team) with a 1-4 record
  • Pre-season results:
    • Waratahs 24-14 Brumbies
    • Brumbies Runners 28-12 Melbourne Rebels A
  • Positives:
    • Have been Australia’s most consistent side for years and have retained 26 players from the 2021 squad.
    • Were Australia’s top finisher in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman last year.
    • Jesse Mogg returns from France.
    • Have brought in former Wallabies winger Chris Feauai-Sautia following his return from France.
    • Boast a strong front row laden with Wallabies caps.
  • Negatives:
    • Only have two specialist fly-halves in the squad.
    • Went 1-4 against the New Zealand sides last year.
  • Bottom line: Should finish make the quarter-finals as one of the top two sides in Australia.

 

Chiefs

Chiefs

  • Odds to win title: 7.00 (Sportsbet)
  • Coach: Clayton McMillan
  • Captain: Brad Weber and Sam Cane
  • Forwards: Naitoa Ah Kuoi, Kaylum Boshier, Mitchell Brown, Sam Cane, Samipeni Finau, Luke Jacobson, Josh Lord, Sione Mafileo, Laghlan McWhannell, Atu Moli, Ollie Norris, Reuben O’Neill, Simon Parker, Brodie Retallick, Aidan Ross, Bradley Slater, Pita Gus Sowakula, Angus Ta’avao, Samisoni Taukei’aho, Tyrone Thompson, Tupou Vaa’i
  • Backs: Bryn Gatland, Josh Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jonah Lowe, Etene Nanai-Seturo, Alex Nankivell, Emoni Narawa, Rameka Poihipi, Cortez Ratima, Rivez Reihana, Xavier Roe, Shaun Stevenson, Chase Tiatia, Kaleb Trask, Quinn Tupaea, Brad Weber, Gideon Wrampling
  • Key arrivals: Brodie Retallick (returned from Japan), Josh Ioane (Highlanders), Emoni Narawa (Blues), Cortez Ratima (Waikato)
  • Key departures: Joe Apikotoa (Moana Pasifika), Ezekiel Lindenmuth (Moana Pasifika), Nathan Harris (retired), Lachlan Boshier (Japan), Viliami Taulani (England), Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Crusaders), Bailyn Sullivan (Hurricanes), Sean Wainui (deceased), Damian McKenzie (Japan)
  • Internationally capped forwards: 8
  • Internationally capped backs: 4
  • 2019 season result: 7th with a 7-2-7 record. Knocked out in the quarter-finals.
  • 2019 conference standing: 3rd
  • 2020 domstic season result: 5th with a 0-8 record
  • 2021 domestic season result: 2nd with a 5-3 record. Lost 13-24 to the Crusaders in the final.
  • 2021 Trans-Tasman season result: 5th with a 4-1 record
  • Injuries: Anton Lienert-Brown and Tupou Vaa’I will miss Round 1 due to minor injuries.
  • Pre-season results:
    • Chiefs 61-7 Moana Pasifika
    • Chiefs 14-5 Highlanders (40-minute game)
    • Chiefs 17-7 Blues (40-minute game)
  • Positives:
    • Should receive a notable lift with the return of world-class lock Brodie Retallick from a stint overseas.
    • Co-captain Sam Cane is back after missing much of last season with injury.
    • Have boosted their fly-half stocks by poaching Josh Ioane from the Highlanders.
    • Secured the services of the promising Waikato halfback Cortez Ratima despite strong interest from other Kiwi franchises.
    • Promising prop Atunaisa Moli returns from a long-term injury.
    • They were the only Kiwi side to go undefeated in pre-season.
    • Boast solid back up players for most positions.
  • Negatives:
    • The departure of world-class versatile back Damian McKenzie is a huge blow. He was the top points scorer in Super Rugby Aotearoa last year.
    • Scored six fewer tries than any other side in Super Rugby Aotearoa last season whilst conceding three more than any other.
  • Bottom line: A good chance to make the semi-finals.

 

Crusaders

Crusaders

  • Odds to win title: 2.50 (Unibet)
  • Coach: Scott Robertson
  • Captain: Scott Barrett
  • Forwards: Scott Barrett, Ethan Blackadder, George Bower, Finlay Brewis, Tom Christie, Mitchell Dunshea, Zach Gallagher, Dominic Gardiner, Cullen Grace, Sione Havili Talitui, Oli Jager, Corey Kellow, Shilo Klein, Pablo Matera, Brodie McAlister, Joe Moody, Fletcher Newell, Quinten Strange, Codie Taylor, Sam Whitelock, Tamaiti Williams
  • Backs: George Bridge, Fergus Burke, Mitchell Drummond, Braydon Ennor, Leicester Fainga’anuku, Chay Fihaki, Jack Goodhue, Bryn Hall, David Havili, Simon Hickey, Will Jordan, Dallas McLeod, Richie Mo’unga, Kini Naholo, Isaiah Punivai, Sevu Reece, Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi
  • Key arrivals: Pablo Matera (France), Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi (Chiefs), Simon Hickey (Hurricanes)
  • Key departures: Michael Ala’alatoa (Ireland), Isi Tu’ungafasi (Moana Pasifika), Luke Romano (Blues), Whetu Douglas (Japan), Tom Sanders (Japan), Ere Enari (Moana Pasifika), Manasa Mataele (Force), Josh McKay (Scotland)
  • Internationally capped forwards: 8
  • Internationally capped backs: 9
  • 2019 season result: 1st with an 11-3-2 record. Won the competition by beating the Jaguares in the final.
  • 2019 conference standing: 1st
  • 2020 domstic season result: 1st with a 6-1-1 record
  • 2021 domestic season result: 1st with a 6-2 record. Beat the Chiefs 24-13 in the final.
  • 2021 Trans-Tasman season result: 3rd with a 5-0 record
  • Injuries: Ethan Blackadder is out for three weeks with a hamstring injury. Jack Goodhue is out until April with a knee injury. Cullen Grace is recovering from a clavicular joint injury.
  • Pre-season results:
    • Highlanders 20-19 Crusaders
    • Hurricanes 27-24 Crusaders
  • Positives:
    • Won the last three completed seasons of Super Rugby (2017-2019), then finished 1st in both Super Rugby Aotearoa tournaments and went undefeated in 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman.
    • Have done well to recruit world-class Argentinian loose forward Pablo Matera.
    • Fullback Will Jordan was crowned the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2021.
    • Boast an All Blacks-laden squad. In Round one they have named eight All Blacks in the starting line-up, with three more to come off the bench.
  • Negatives:
    • The departed prop Michael Alaalatoa leaves big shoes to fill.
    • Will be under-strength at the start of the series. Ethan Blackadder, Jack Goodhue and Cullen Grace are injured, plus All Blacks fly-half Richie Mo’unga will miss the first three rounds as part of a contractual agreement.
  • Bottom line: With their high-quality squad and unmatched track record, the Crusaders are once again the team to beat.

 

Fijian Drua

Fijian Drua

  • Odds to win title: 101.00 (Unibet)
  • Coach: Mick Byrne
  • Captain: Nemani Nagusa
  • Forwards: Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta, Meli Derenalagi, Mesu Dolokoto, Haereiti Hetet, Tevita Ikanivere, Jone Koroiduadua, Chris Minimbi, Vilive Miramira, Raikabula Momoedonu, Nemani Nagusa, Isoa Nasilasila, Rusiate Nasove, Viliame Rarasea, Ratu Leone Rotuisolia, Kitione Salawa Jr., Manasa Saulo, Timoci Sauvoli, Joseva Tamani, Samu Tawake, Zuriel Togiatama, Sorovakatini Tuifagalele, Meli Tuna, Kaliopasi Uluilakepa
  • Backs: Napolioni Bolaca, Vinaya Habosi, Baden Kerr, Simione Kuruvoli, Ratu Peni Matawalu, Caleb Muntz, Kalione Nasoko, Leone Nawai, Onisi Ratave, Kitione Ratu, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Selestino Ravutaumada, Tuidraki Samusamuvodre, Kitione Taliga, Teti Tela, Alivereti Veitokani, Apisalome Vota, Serupepeli Vularika
  • Internationally capped forwards: 8

  • Internationally capped backs: 3
  • Injuries: Alivereti Veitokani has been ruled out for the season.
  • Pre-season results:
  • Positives:
    • The franchise has been in existence since 2017 and has three years of experience playing in the Australian National Rugby Championship.
    • Will have received a confidence boost by beating the Rebels in pre-season.
    • Will only play Australian teams in the first half of the season. This gives them time to find their feet before taking on the New Zealand sides.
  • Negatives:
    • At best will only have one regular season ‘home’ game in Fiji this season.
    • Unlike Moana Pasifika, who have recruited heavily from other Super Rugby franchises, the Fijian Drua will field a virtually all-Fijian squad with little to no Super Rugby experience.
    • Only managed one pre-season fixture due to covid restrictions derailing their game against the Force.
    • Have only one specialist fullback in the squad due to Alivereti Veitokani missing this season through injury.
  • Bottom line: Will find life tough but have the benefit of starting the campaign by only playing the Australian sides. Avoiding the wooden spoon should be their goal.

 

Force

Force

  • Odds to win title: 67.00 (bet365)
  • Coach: Tim Sampson
  • Captain: Ian Prior
  • Forwards: Bo Abra, Tim Anstee, Ollie Callan, Greg Holmes, Feleti Kaitu’u, Kane Koteka, Fergus Lee-Warner, Harry Lloyd, Ryan McCauley, Santiago Medrano, Jackson Pugh, Andrew Ready, Tom Robertson, Izack Rodda, Brynard Stander, Jeremy Thrush, Angus Wagner, Jack Winchester
  • Backs: Daniel Ala, Issak Fines-Leleiwasa, Kyle Godwin, Richard Kahui, Bayley Kuenzle, Brad Lacey, Grason Makara, Manasa Mataele, Michael McDonald, Jack McGregor, Jake McIntyre, Reesjan Pasitoa, Ian Prior, Toni Pulu, Byron Ralston, Jake Strachan, Reece Tapine
  • Key arrivals: Harry Lloyd (Brumbies), Izack Rodda (France), Issak Fines-Leleiwasa (Brumbies), Bayley Kuenzle (Brumbies), Reesjan Pasitoa (Brumbies), Manasa Mataele (Crusaders)
  • Key departures: Kieran Longbottom (retired), Tomás Lezana (Wales), Tomás Cubelli (France), Jono Lance (Japan), Domingo Miotti (Scotland), Tevita Kuridrani (France), Jordan Olowofela (England), Henry Taefu (Moana Pasifika), Rob Kearney (retired), Sitaleki Timani (refused Covid-19 vaccine)
  • Internationally capped forwards: 7
  • Internationally capped backs: 3
  • 2020 domstic season result: 5th with a 0-8 record
  • 2021 domestic season result: 3rd with a 4-4 record. Lost to the Brumbies in the qualifying final.
  • 2021 Trans-Tasman season result: 8th (3rd best AUS team) with a 0-5 record
  • Pre-season results:
  • Positives:
    • Are on an upward trajectory. Finished 4-4 in Super Rugby Australia 2021, compared to 0-8 the season before.
  • Negatives:
    • The experienced international quartet of Kearney, Cubelli, Lezana and Miotti have departed.
    • Kuridrani’s departure to France is a blow.
    • Sitaleki Timani departed the days before their season opener after he refused the Covid-19 vaccine.
    • Due to WA travel restrictions they will play a long run of away games to start the season.
    • Only managed one pre-season fixture due to covid restrictions derailing their game against the Drua.
  • Bottom line: Were vastly more competitive in 2021 compared to 2020. There is a big risk they will take a backward step, however, given the departure of half a dozen experienced players.

 

Highlanders

Highlanders

  • Odds to win title: 19.00 (bet365)
  • Coach: Tony Brown
  • Captain: James Lentjes
  • Forwards: Jermaine Ainsley, Sam Caird, Liam Coltman, Ethan de Groot, Josh Dickson, Bryn Evans, Gareth Evans, Sam Fischli, Shannon Frizell, Billy Harmon, Max Hicks, Josh Hohneck, Luca Inch, Ayden Johnstone, James Lentjes, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Christian Lio-Willie, Andrew Makalio, Rhys Marshall, Saula Ma’u, Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, Pari Pari Parkinson, Hugh Renton, Manaaki Selby-Rickit, Jeff Thwaites, Sean Withy
  • Backs: Solomon Alaimalo, James Arscott, Marty Banks, Mosese Dawai, Folau Fakatava, Connor Garden-Bachop, Sam Gilbert, Scott Gregory, Kayne Hammington, Nathan Hastie, Mitch Hunt, Vilimoni Koroi, Jona Nareki, Fetuli Paea, Ngane Punivai, Aaron Smith, Vereniki Tikoisolomone, Josh Timu, Sio Tomkinson, Thomas Umaga-Jensen
  • Key arrivals: Sam Caird (Waratahs), Gareth Evans (Hurricanes), Marty Banks (Japan)
  • Key departures: Siate Tokolahi (Japan), Ash Dixon (Japan), Jack Regan (Wales), Teariki Ben-Nicholas (Japan), Kazuki Himeno (Japan), Liam Squire (retired), Josh Ioane (Chiefs), Michael Collins (Wales), Nehe Milner-Skudder (Manawatu)
  • Internationally capped forwards: 6
  • Internationally capped backs: 2
  • 2019 season result: 8th with a 6-3-7 record. Knocked out in the quarter-finals.
  • 2019 conference standing: 4th
  • 2020 domstic season result: 4th with a 3-5 record
  • 2021 domestic season result: 4th with a 3-5 record
  • 2021 Trans-Tasman season result: 2nd with a 5-0 record. Lost in the final.
  • Injuries: Pari Pari Parkinson and Patelesio Tomkinson have been ruled out for the season. Jona Nareki will be out for most of the season. Billy Harmon is out until April. Rory van Vugt and Christian Lio-Willie suffered a broken wrist and hand, respectively, in pre-season.
  • Pre-season results:
    • Highlanders 20-19 Crusaders
    • Chiefs 14-5 Highlanders (40-minute game)
    • Highlanders 21-19 Blues (40-minute game)
  • Positives:
    • The New Zealand franchises are based in Otago until at least Round 3, so the Highlanders will play their first two ‘away’ fixtures in Queenstown and Dunedin, respectively.
    • Made the Trans-Tasman final last year despite losing eight players to season-ending injuries.
    • Are incredibly strong in the halfback position with Aaron Smith and his understudy Folau Fakatava.
    • Fan-favourite Marty Banks has returned from Japan.
    • Have promising winger stocks after signing the Fijian duo of Mosese Dawai and Vereniki Tikoisolomone.
    • Jermaine Ainsley and Fetuli Paea have regained fitness after being ruled out of the 2021 campaign.
  • Negatives:
    • Have numerous injuries to start the season, including Pari Pari Parkinson for the entire campaign and Billy Harmon until at least April.
    • They lost a lot of experience and leadership with the departure of Ash Dixon.
    • Only have two specialist fly-halves in the squad following the departure of Josh Ioane to the Chiefs.
    • Only have three current All Blacks in the squad.
  • Bottom line: Will be a bit of an unknown this season following the recruitment of ten players from NPC ranks. As always I expect them to punch above their weight for a side with two few current All Blacks.

 

Hurricanes

Hurricanes

  • Odds to win title: 8.00 (Unibet)
  • Coach: Jason Holland
  • Captain: Ardie Savea
  • Forwards: Asafo Aumua, Dominic Bird, James Blackwell, Dane Coles, Caleb Delany, Alex Fidow, Devan Flanders, Owen Franks, Blake Gibson, TK Howden, Brayden Iose, Du’Plessis Kirifi, Tyler Laubscher, Tyrel Lomax, Tevita Mafileo, Xavier Numia, James O’Reilly, Reed Prinsep, Pouri Rakete-Stones, Justin Sangster, Ardie Savea, Scott Scrafton, Pasilio Tosi, Isaia Walker-Leawere
  • Backs: Jordie Barrett, Jamie Booth, Jackson Garden-Bachop, Wes Goosen, Ruben Love, Josh Moorby, Aidan Morgan, Pepesana Patafilo, TJ Perenara, Billy Proctor, Salesi Rayasi, Cam Roigard, Julian Savea, Bailyn Sullivan, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Teihorangi Walden
  • Key arrivals: Owen Franks (England), Dominic Bird (Japan), Blake Gibson (Blues), TJ Perenara (Japan), Bailyn Sullivan (Chiefs)
  • Key departures: Fraser Armstrong (retired), Ricky Riccitelli (Blues), Liam Mitchell (Italy), Gareth Evans (Highlanders), Vaea Fifita (England), Luke Campbell (France), Jonathan Taumateine (Moana Pasifika), Orbyn Leger (Japan), Vince Aso (Japan), Ngani Laumape (France), Danny Toala (Moana Pasifika)
  • Internationally capped forwards: 6
  • Internationally capped backs: 4
  • 2019 season result: 4th with a 12-1-3 record. Knocked out in the semi-finals.
  • 2019 conference standing: 2nd
  • 2020 domstic season result: 3rd with a 5-3 record
  • 2021 domestic season result: 5th with a 2-6 record
  • 2021 Trans-Tasman season result: 4th with a 4-1 record
  • Injuries: Ex-All Blacks prop Owen Franks is out until at least April with an Achilles injury. Lock Isaia Walker-Leawere is also out with a long-term injury. Halfback TJ Perenara is out for up to four weeks with a knee injury.
  • Pre-season results:
    • Hurricanes 21-26 Blues
    • Hurricanes 27-24 Crusaders
  • Positives:
    • All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara has returned from Japan.
  • Negatives:
    • Finished last in Super Rugby Aotearoa last season.
    • Ngani Laumape’s departure to France leaves big shoes to fill.
    • Only have two specialist fly-halves in the squad.
    • Start the season with three medium to long-term injured players.
  • Bottom line: Like the Highlanders, the Hurricanes will be a bit of an unknown this season following a large turnover in players. On paper they look much weaker than the likes of the Blues and Crusaders.

 

Moana Pasifika

Moana Pasifika

  • Odds to win title: 101.00 (Unibet)
  • Coach: Aaron Mauger
  • Captain: Sekope Kepu
  • Forwards: Joe Apikotoa, Chris Apoua, Penitoa Finau, Solomone Funaki, Lotu Inisi, Sekope Kepu, Tau Koloamatangi, Jack Lam, Ezekiel Lindenmuth, Don Lolo, Mike McKee, Alex McRobbie, Sam Moli, Alamanda Motuga, Ray Niuia, Veikoso Poloniati, Sam Slade, Henry Stowers, Luteru Tolai, Sione Tuipulotu, Isi Tu’ungafasi
  • Backs: Tomasi Alosio, Levi Aumua, Ere Enari, Tima Fainga’anuku, Neria Fomai, William Havili, Fine Inisi, Solomone Kata, Christian Lealiifano, Lincoln McClutchie, Manu Paea, Henry Taefu, Jonathan Taumateine, Timoci Tavatavanawai, Danny Toala, Anzelo Tuitavuki, Lolagi Visinia
  • Internationally capped forwards: 10
  • Internationally capped backs: 7
  • Pre-season results:
    • Chiefs 61-7 Moana Pasifika
  • Positives:
    • Don’t have the burden of expectation.
    • Have a good amount of leadership in the squad in the form of Sekope Kepu, Christian Lealiifano and Jack Lam.
    • Have recruited well in the coaching department with Southland head coach Dale MacLeod and former Highlanders head coach Aaron Mauger, plus Pauliasi Manu as scrum coach.
    • Have numerous players with Super Rugby experience.
  • Negatives:
    • Were thrashed by a 54-point margin in pre-season by a mostly second-string Chiefs side.
    • Pre-season preparations were disrupted by a covid outbreak in the squad. This forced the cancellation of a second pre-season fixture.
    • The postponement of their Round 1 game against the Blues will create scheduling headaches later.
    • Their first eight opponents are all Kiwi teams, which will be a baptism of fire.
  • Bottom line: Based on their thrashing in pre-season, it appears they have a tough season ahead. A major contender for the wooden spoon.

 

Rebels

Rebels

  • Odds to win title: 51.00 (Unibet)
  • Coach: Kevin Foote
  • Captain: Michael Wells
  • Forwards: Cabous Eloff, Pone Fa’amausili, Matt Gibbon, James Hanson, Richard Hardwick, Ross Haylett-Petty, Trevor Hosea, Tamati Ioane, Josh Kemeny, Rob Leota, Efi Ma’afu, Tom Nowlan, Cameron Orr, Matt Philip, Jordan Uelese, Rhys van Nek, Michael Wells, Brad Wilkin
  • Backs: Lachie Anderson, Carter Gordon, Reece Hodge, Stacey Ili, Andrew Kellaway, Ray Nu’u, Joe Pincus, Joe Powell, Jeral Skelton, Moses Sorovi, Matt To’omua, James Tuttle, Ilikena Vudogo, Young Tonumaipea
  • Key arrivals: Efi Ma’afu (Japan), Matt Philip (France), Moses Sorovi (Reds), Joe Pincus (Australia Sevens)
  • Key departures: Albert Anae (Japan), Lucio Sordoni (France), Steve Cummins (France), Isi Naisarani (Japan), Frank Lomani (England), Marika Koroibete (Japan), Dane Haylett-Petty (retired)
  • Internationally capped forwards: 5
  • Internationally capped backs: 6
  • 2019 season result: 11th with a 7-9 record
  • 2019 conference standing: 2nd
  • 2020 domstic season result: 3rd with a 4-1-3 record. Lost to the Reds in the qualifying final.
  • 2021 domestic season result: 4th with a 3-5 record
  • 2021 Trans-Tasman season result: 9th (4rd best AUS team) with a 0-5 record
  • Pre-season results:
    • Rebels 26-28 Drua
    • Brumbies Runners 28-12 Melbourne Rebels A
  • Positives:
    • Squad has a good blend of youth and experience.
    • Matt Philip returns following a stint in France.
    • Matt To’omua has overcome the lingering concussion symptoms that plagued him last season.
    • Had excuses for their 4th placed domestic finish last year, with injuries derailing their campaign.
  • Negatives:
    • The squad looks notably weaker for the departures of winger Markia Koroibete and No.8 Isi Naisarani to Japan.
    • Have only one specialist fly-half in the squad.
    • Dane Haylett-Petty was forced into retirement from concussion.
  • Bottom line: They begin life under new head coach Kevin Foote. Can they overcome the departures of Koroibete and Naisarani?

 

Reds

Reds

  • Odds to win title: 15.00 (Unibet)
  • Coach: Brad Thorn
  • Captain: Liam Wright, Tate McDermott
  • Forwards: Richie Asiata, George Blake, Angus Blyth, Lopeti Faifua, Feao Fotuaika, Harry Hoopert, Alex Mafi, Fraser McReight, Josh Nasser, Zane Nonggorr, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, Angus Scott-Young, Ryan Smith, Tuaina Taii Tualima, Taniela Tupou, Seru Uru, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright, Dane Zander
  • Backs: Jock Campbell, Lawson Creighton, Filipo Daugunu, Ilaisa Droasese, Josh Flook, Mac Grealy, Isaac Henry, Spencer Jeans, Tom Lynagh, Tate McDermott, James O’Connor, Hunter Paisami, Jordan Petaia, Hamish Stewart, Kalani Thomas, Suliasi Vunivalu
  • Key arrivals: Tom Lynagh (England)
  • Key departures: Brandon Paenga-Amosa (France), Moses Sorovi (Rebels), Bryce Hegarty (England), Hudson Creighton (Brumbies)
  • Internationally capped forwards: 5
  • Internationally capped backs: 5
  • 2019 season result: 14th with a 6-10 record
  • 2019 conference standing: 4th
  • 2020 domstic season result: 2nd with a 5-1-2 record. Beat the Rebels in the qualifying final and lost to the Brumbies in the final.
  • 2021 domestic season result: 1st with a 7-1 record. Beat the Brumbies in the final.
  • 2021 Trans-Tasman season result: 7th (2nd best AUS team) with a 1-4 record
  • Pre-season results:
    • Reds 33-42 Force
    • Reds 14-21 Waratahs
  • Positives:
    • Won Super Rugby Australia last season.
    • Have had relatively little squad turnover compared to the rest of the competition, so the Reds should enjoy good squad cohesion right from the start.
  • Negatives:
    • Their pre-season preparations have been hindered by two covid outbreaks in the squad.
    • Went 1-4 against the New Zealand sides last year.
  • Bottom line: Should finish make the quarter-finals as one of the top two sides in Australia.

 

Waratahs

Waratahs

  • Odds to win title: 67.00 (Sportsbet)
  • Coach: Darren Coleman
  • Captain: Jake Gordon
  • Forwards: Angus Bell, Hugh Bokenham, Geoff Cridge, Max Douglas, Tetera Faulkner, Charlie Gamble, Langi Gleeson, Ned Hanigan, Will Harris, Jed Holloway, Archer Holz, Michael Hooper, Tom Horton, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Dave Porecki, Hugh Sinclair, Ruan Smith, Lachlan Swinton, Tiaan Tauakipulu, Carlo Tizzano, Hamdan Tuipulotu, Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, Jeremy Williams
  • Backs: Ben Donaldson, Tane Edmed, Lalakai Foketi, Tevita Funa, Jake Gordon, Jack Grant, Will Harrison, Mark Nawaqanitawase, Alex Newsome, Izaia Perese, Dylan Pietsch, James Ramm, Triston Reilly, Jamie Roberts, Henry Robertson, Mosese Tuipulotu, Joey Walton
  • Key arrivals: Archer Holz (Brumbies), Ruan Smith (USA), Ned Hanigan (Japan), Jed Holloway (Japan), Michael Hooper (returned from Japan), Jamie Roberts (Wales), Dylan Pietsch (Australia Sevens)
  • Key departures: Chris Talakai (France), Robbie Abel (retired), Joe Cotton (Bristol), Sam Caird (Highlanders), Jack Whetton (France), Sam Wykes (retired), Jack Dempsey (Scotland), Tepai Moeroa (Melbourne Storm, NRL), Jack Maddocks (France)
  • Internationally capped forwards: 6
  • Internationally capped backs: 4
  • 2019 season result: 12th with a 6-10 record
  • 2019 conference standing: 3rd
  • 2020 domstic season result: 4th with a 4-4 record
  • 2021 domestic season result: 5th with a 0-8 record
  • 2021 Trans-Tasman season result: 10th (5th best AUS team) with a 0-5 record
  • Injuries: Will Harrison sustained a shoulder injury in pre-season.
  • Pre-season results:
    • Waratahs 24-14 Brumbies
    • Three 25-minute matches: Waratahs 26-0 Pirates, Waratahs 26-5 Wildfires, Waratahs 27-0 Two Blues
    • Reds 14-21 Waratahs
  • Positives:
    • Wallabies captain Michael Hooper has returned from Japan, as has Jed Holloway. Those two, plus Jamie Roberts’ addition, will add a lot of experience and leadership to the squad.
    • The Waratahs defence looked vastly improved upon last year in pre-season.
    • Had some excuses for their terrible 2021 campaign, with numerous injuries playing a role.
  • Negatives:
    • Failed to win a single game last season.
    • Michael Hooper isn’t expected to return to the side until Round 6.
  • Bottom line: The delay in Michael Hooper’s return is a blow given the first half of the season features easier fixtures on paper. The only way is up after last season.

 

 

Compare Super Rugby Pacific odds

My ranking tiers at the start of the season are:
Crusaders / Blues
Chiefs / Highlanders
Hurricanes / Reds / Brumbies
Waratahs / Rebels / Force
Drua
Moana Pasifika

The Crusaders are the deserved title favourites however they will be under-strength for the first month of the competition, so the best time to back them may come later.

Of the two debutants, Moana Pasifika have the biggest challenges to face. They have been assembled largely using journeyman and players who couldn’t get contracts with other Super Rugby franchises. Their pre-season has been derailed by a covid outbreak that had the double whammy of limiting them to just one pre-season fixture – one that they lost by 61-7 to a largely second-string Chiefs outfit. They also face the arduous ask of playing eight consecutive New Zealand franchises to start the campaign. In contrast, the Drua will only play five games against Kiwi opposition, by which time they will have eight games under their belt against the Australian teams. That last point alone is a big reason to think the Drua will avoid the wooden spoon. At the very least you could back Moana Pasifika for bottom spot now and after Round 9, just before the two sides switch which countries they play against, you could hedge and back the Drua.

Back Moana Pasifika to finish last at 2.50 (Unibet)

 

Notes

New and departed players lists are sourced from:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_2021%E2%80%9322_Super_Rugby_transfers_(Australia)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_2021%E2%80%9322_Super_Rugby_transfers_(New_Zealand)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_2021%E2%80%9322_Super_Rugby_transfers

 

Author: info

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