Super Rugby 2019: Australian Conference Preview

Super Rugby 2019: Australian Conference Preview

With the Super Rugby season under a month away, our rugby writers have been hard at work coming up with in-depth content for you to take a look at before the tournament gets underway on February the 15th.

The 2019 Super Rugby season is just over the horizon, which is music to rugby punters ears. Not only does the tournament offer great money making value but it's also a lot easier on the eye than what has been dished up in the northern hemisphere's domestic leagues over the past five months.

While the Australian Conference is unlikely to offer up as many thrilling local derbies as the other two conferences, it should still provide some decent rugby action particularly when the Waratahs participate in a cross-conference game.

The men from New South Wales were by far and away the best of the Australian sides last term, and head into this season as the Australian favourites to lift the trophy and claim top spot on the conference.

To Win Tournament Outright
Waratahs 12/1
Brumbies 20/1
Rebels 50/1
Reds 66/1
Sunwolves 500/1

To Win Conference
Waratahs 17/10
Brumbies 2/1
Rebels 11/4
Reds 17/2
Sunwolves 33/1

*To be added upon release

New South Wales Waratahs
2018 Finish: Semi-Finalists

The Waratahs were the one ray of sunshine in what was yet another dismal Super Rugby season for Australia last year. The men from New South Wales were the only Australia side who advanced to the play-offs. They played a great brand of attacking rugby but will need to sure up the defensive side of the game this term if they are to have any hope of appearing in this year's final.

On paper, the Waratahs have a mean looking squad with a solid tight five, a handy back row and a midfield that oozes x-factor. They also have arguably the best fullback in the tournament in the shape of Israel Folau. The controversial Wallaby will need to be at his most prolific this term as his side are without the services of the juggernaut winger, Taqele Naiyaravoro, who is now plying his trade with English club the Northampton Saints.

Player to Watch: Bernard Foley
Despite being Super Rugby's top points scorer last season, the veteran pivot will be looking to prove a point this year having been benched by the Wallabies on a number of occasions in 2018.

Foley is a brilliant controller of the game; a handy goal kicker; and a tactical genius. He also takes the ball to the line marvellously.

His partnership with Kurtley Beale was eye-catching last year. The duo's ability to interchange positions had opponents at sixes and sevens last season, and don't be surprised if this is the case again this term.

2019 Squad

Forwards

Props
  • Angus Bell, Harry Johnson-Holmes, Sekope Kepu, Rory O'Connor, Tom Robertson, Shambeckler Vui, Cody Walker
Hookers
  • Damien Fitzpatrick, Tolu Latu
Locks
  • Ned Hanigan, Ryan McCauley, Le Roux Roets, Rob Simmons, Tom Staniforth
Loose Forwards
  • Jack Dempsey, Will Harris, Michael Hooper, Will Miller, Lachie Swinton, Michael Wells, Jed Holloway
Backs

Halfbacks
  • Jake Gordon, Nick Phipps
Flyhalves
  • Bernard Foley, Mack Mason, Will Harrison
Centres
  • Kurtley Beale, Lalakai Foketi, Karmichael Hunt
Outside Backs
  • Cam Clark, Alex Newsome, John Folau, Curtis Rona, Israel Folau
________________________________________________________________

Brumbies
2018 Finish: Conference Phase Exit

How the mighty have fallen! Once, Australia's premier domestic side, the Brumbies were a shadow of their all-conquering former selves last year as they limped to a third-place finish on the Australian Conference and a 10th place finish on the overall log, with just a paltry sevens wins from their 16 games.

I think the Brumbies may well struggle again this year. Their squad looks thin on quality particularly in the half-backs where a lot of responsibility will fall on the shoulders of veteran Wallaby Christian Lealiiafano.

Player to Watch: Toni Pulu
This is certainly an interesting signing with Pulu being a real quality player. I was actually surprised to see him leave the Chiefs, but the New Zealand franchise's loss is certainly the Brumbies gain.

The winger is one of the few players in this current Brumbies squad that is capable of making something out of nothing with his blistering pace and strong upper body.

2019 Squad

Forwards

Props
  • Allan Alaalatoa, Vunipola Fifita, Les Makin, Tom Ross, Scott Sio, James Slipper
Hookers
  • Folau Faingaa, Josh Mann-Rea, Connal McInerney
Locks
  • Rory Arnold, Sam Carter, Murray Douglas, Blake Enever, Darcy Swain
Loose Forwards
  • Tom Cusack, Lochie McCaffrey, David Pocock, Pete Samu, Rob Valetini, Ben Hyne
Backs

Halfbacks
  • Ryan Lonergan, Matt Lucas, Joe Powell
Flyhalves

  • Wharenui Hawera, Bayley Kuenzle, Christian Lealiifano
Centres
  • Len Ikitau, Jordan Jackson-Hope, Tevita Kuridrani, Noah Lolesio, Irae Simone, Tom Wright
Outside Backs
  • Andy Muirhead, Chance Peni, Toni Pulu, Henry Speight, Lausii Taliauli, Tom Banks, Mack Hansen
________________________________________________________________

Melbourne Rebels
2018 Finish: Conference Phase Exit

2018 was a good year for the Rebels who only missed out on qualification to the knock-out phase due to an inferior points differential. They have come on in leaps and bounds under the stewardship of head coach Dave Wessels, with the South African born mentor turning the side into a well-balanced unit who play a very tidy brand of rugby union.

Wessels has shown he's not a man who's afraid of taking a gamble as he has signed mercurial playmaker Quade Cooper, who has been in the rugby wilderness since having his contract with the Reds cut last year. This could prove to be an absolute stroke of genius.

Player to Watch: Quade Cooper
There's no doubting Cooper's talent but he's always been a player who has needed to be given a strong supporting cast to perform in the lead role. The former Reds man will be given this at the Rebels as he will be reunited with longtime friend and former partner in crime, Will Genia.

If Cooper can recapture some of that form that made him such a sort after player at the start of the decade then the Rebels may see their game reach new levels in 2019.

2019 Squad

Forwards

Props
  • Jermaine Ainsley, Ben Daley, Mees Erasmus, Pone Faamausili, Tetera Faulkner, Fereti Saaga, Sam Talakai
Hookers
  • Anaru Rangi, Hugh Roach, Jordan Uelese
Locks
  • Adam Coleman, Matt Philip, Sam Jeffries
Loose Forwards
  • Angus Cottrell, Richard Hardwick, Ross Haylett-Petty, Luke Jones, Rob Leota, Brad Wilkin, Isi Naisarani
Backs

Halfbacks
  • Will Genia, Harrison Goddard, Michael Ruru
Flyhalves
  • Quade Cooper, Matt To'omua
Centres
  • Reece Hodge, Billy Meakes, Sione Tuipulotu, Semisi Tupou
Outside Backs

  • Tom English, Marika Koroibete, Campbell Magnay, Dane Haylett-Petty, Jack Maddocks

________________________________________________________________

Queensland Reds
2018 Finish: Conference Phase Exit

This could well be a long old season for the Reds with their squad looking rather green in the backline and long in the tooth in the forward pack. I suppose the good news for fans of the Queensland franchise is that things can't get much worse than last season as their side only managed to win six games while finishing fourth on the Australian Conference.

The Reds haven't done much eye-catching off-season recruitment with the biggest name to sign on for the franchise being Sefa Naivalu from the Rebels. They have also lost some solid players with George Smith, Sef Fa’agase and Jono Lance all leaving the franchise.

Player to Watch: Harry Hockings
This young man really impressed me during the back end of the 2018 Super Rugby season.

While Hockings is a phenomenal line out jumper, it was his carries in open play that really caught the eye with the 20-year-old racking up a staggering amount of metres during the Reds final three games of the season.

With a spot in the Wallaby World Cup squad still a possibility, young Harry will be going all out to impress national coach Michael Cheika.

2019 Squad

Forwards

Props
  • Harry Hoopert, Gavin Luka, JP Smith, Ruan Smith, Taniela Tupou
Hookers
  • Efi Maafu, Alex Mafi, Brandon Paenga-Amosa
Locks
  • Angus Blyth, Harry Hockings, Izack Rodda, Lukhan Salakaia-Loto
Loose Forwards
  • Adam Korczyk, Fraser McReight, Angus Scott-Young, Caleb Timu, Harry Wilson, Liam Wright, Scott Higginbotham
Backs

Halfbacks
  • Tate McDermott, Moses Sorovi, James Tuttle
Flyhalves
  • Matt McGahan, Hamish Stewart, Teti Tela
Centres
  • Chris Feauai-Sautia, Samu Kerevi, Duncan Paia'aua (signed with Toulon for 2019-20)
Outside Backs
  • Jock Campbell, Filipo Daugunu, Will Eadie, Sefa Naivalu, Jordan Petaia, Aidan Toua, Bryce Hegarty
________________________________________________________________

Sunwolves

The Sunwolves will be hoping to get what will be a big year for Japanese rugby off to a solid start by putting in another improved Super Rugby campaign.

The 'Wolves were decent value in 2018 and managed to register three wins which equaled the number of victories they registered in 2016 and 2017 combined. They also produced some really entertaining rugby and managed to score 404 points at an average of over 25 points per game last season.

2019 may be a slightly tougher year for Tony Brown's charges as they will be without the services of their Japanese internationals who will be rested for the first few rounds of the season. This is somewhat negated by the business the Sunwolves have done during the off-season, which has seen them sign a number of New Zealanders including former New Zealand Under 20 Sam Pratley, Maori All Black Kara Pryor and former All Black Rene Ranger.

Player to Watch: Hayden Parker

Parker was one of the stand out players during last year's tournament with the former New Zealand Under 20's representative running the show for the Sunwolves.

Parker is a reliable goal kicker and a deadly attacker, who is capable of putting his dangerous outside backs into space time and time again. His tactical kicking has also come on leaps and bounds, and he is now one of the senior statesmen in the Japanese franchise.

2019 Squad

Forwards

Props
  • Keita Inagaki, Asaeli Ai Valu, Jiwon Koo, Craig Millar, Sam Prattley, Pauliasi Manu, Hencs van Wyk, Hiroshi Yamashita
Hookers
  • Atsushi Sakate, Jaba Bregvadse, Yusuke Niwai, Shota Horie
Locks
  • Wimpie van der Walt, Grant Hattingh, James Moore, Tom Rowe, Kazuki Himeno, Mark Abbott
Loose Forwards
  • Ed Quirk, Dan Pryor, Kara Pryor, Hendrik Tui, Michael Leitch, Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, Pieter Labuschagne
Backs

Scrumhalves
  • Keisuke Uchida, Jamie Booth, Kaito Shigeno, Fumiaki Tanaka, Yutaka Nagare
Flyhalves
  • Hayden Parker, Rikiya Matsuda
Centres
  • Phil Burleigh, Ryoto Nakamura, Michael Little, Rene Ranger
Outside Backs
  • Kenki Fukuouka, Lomano Lava Lemeki, Gerhard van den Heever, Jason Emery, Jamie Henry

Verdict: Waratahs Conference Winners 17/10
The 'Tahs are on another level to all the other sides in the conference and should top this group at a canter.

Second place could be interesting with the Rebels, Brumbies and possibly the Sunwolves duking it out for the runners-up spot. My opinion is that the Rebels will just edge the Japanese outfit to it, while the Brumbies will end up in fourth.

This leaves the Reds, who for my money, will struggle this term. They're a side lacking real talent and until they sort their grassroots game out they will struggle.


Written by Darry Worthington for Hollywoodbets

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