Teams named and it's half way through the Super Rugby season; that can only mean one thing, Scott Donaldson's picks. Scott caused much debate on Twitter and Facebook last week when his key pick was replicated by Cockers and Leicester Tigers.
This week Scott assesses tactics required by rugby tipsters.
Super 15 Rugby Round 1 2015 left a lot of people red faced with most tipsters picking between two and three winners out of seven games. Fast forward to Round 9 and 10 and just when you thought this competition was getting predictable, there were three upsets and one match which split tipsters fifty fifty.
Now that all of the teams have been named for Super Rugby Round 11, we can make some calls. For those playing fantasy rugby game www.testrugby.com, it is difficult to afford a team if playing salary cap fantasy rugby, so you may have to buy bargains, but there are enough new players in Super Rugby 2015 to give you some options. 2015 seems tough to fill a squad without going over budget. The key is to sell players who have the bye straight away and buy them back early.
In fantasy rugby game www.testrugby.com there are some problems. You will be relieved to finally have some trades again. The other problem is that some stars are getting rested, players out this week for rotation or injury include Rudy Paige, Jerome Kaino, Liam Messam, Malakai Fekitoa, Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Heinrich Brussouw, Coenie Oosthuizen, Willie Le Roux, Luke Jones, Sam Carter, Israel Dagg, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Wycliff Palu (bench) and Pat Lambie among others.
There are also some Brumbies returning from injury like Tevita Kuridrani and Jesse Mogg, so they could be good value against the Highlanders depending on if they gel immediately. Richard Buckman is back for the Highlanders. Big Duane Vermeulen is also back and is a compulsory buy with the Stormers having plenty of home games this season.
Managers have to look long-term with some teams like the Highlanders having had the bye twice. The Chiefs have some good options but have the bye in a few weeks.
The Sharks have the bye in Super Rugby Round 11.
Some good value players are Waisake Naholo, James Lowe, Marty McKenzie, Steve Mafi, Sean McMahon, Pat Leafa.
If you run out of trades then you have to minimise the damage with locks probably the lowest scoring position to have a non player in. Also if you are keeping players who have the bye or are injured, make sure you keep the cheapest players as their values will drop less and they won’t take up as much of the salary cap. In some games like www.testrugby.com you can buy trades.
The average winning margin in Super Rugby Round 10 was the lowest all season 6.9 points meaning that the overall average is now under 12 points, at 11.4 points, while 12 has been the most popular winning margin, happening six times. Seven is now the most popular margin, although 12 and 5 are also very common.
50 per cent of games exactly have been won by the home team in 2015 with 33 home wins from 66 games. There was only one home win in Super Rugby Round 10. Will the 2014 overall statistic of 71 percent of home wins set in 2014? It is hard to know if it is simply because of the draw or if this trend looks set to continue. Although less home referees may also have something to do with this
To commemorate ANZAC Day on Saturday, there are three trans-Tasman derbies with the Chiefs vs Force, Brumbies vs Highlanders and the Reds vs Hurricanes. There are also some derby matches with the Crusaders vs Blues, Waratahs vs Rebels, Lions vs Cheetahs and the big South African derby between the Stormers vs Bulls.
To make things more challenging for tipsers, national selectors have demanded that international players get rested. This makes it difficult to know how teams will go and how that will affect the form of a team.
In 2012, 69 out of 120 regular season games were won by the home team, this increased in 2013 with 77 out of 120 and in the year 2014, 85 out of 120 games were won by the home team (71 percent). It seems to be getting harder to win away, with 51 away wins in 2012, 40 away wins in 2013 and only 33 away wins in 2014.
The average winning margin has been increasing, from 10.89 points in 2012 to 12.85 points in 2014.
The most common winning margin in 2014 was 3 points, in 2013 it was 7 points while in 2012 it was 5 and 6 points. Margins of 1, 7 and 8 points are also popular, while in 2014 a margin of 16 points was very popular, which shows why the average winning margin is increasing.
The Chiefs are one of the leading teams in the Super Rugby competition this season and they are hosting the bottom team, the Western Force. Surely this should be the easiest game to pick of the round, although we have learnt the hard way in recent weeks that there are always upsets in Super Rugby.
It will be the start of the post-Cruden era with Marty McKenzie stepping into the hotseat ahead of his brother Damian who has been brilliant in limited opportunities this season. It is hard to know which McKenzie will play more minutes or if either are good fantasy rugby options.
The Force complained of too much travel and their lopsided early away draw, but that is probably just a smoke screen as they sit at the bottom of the table.
The Chiefs should win easily, although it is hard to pick a margin in this first ANZAC celebration game as while the Force have been rubbish this season, they have only been thrashed once.
Marty McKenzie could be worth a shot as a potential bargain. The Chiefs will miss Liam Messam through being rested.
For the Force, Dane Haylett-Petty, Steve Mafi and Ben McCalman have been fantasy studs despite their teams poor record this season. Big Pek Cowan plays his 100th game.
Players to watch
Chiefs: Hika Elliott, Brodie Retallick, Marty McKenzie, Sonny Bill Williams, Michael Leitch, Sam Cane, James Lowe.
Force: Steve Mafi, Ben McCalman, Dane Haylett-Petty.
My pick: Chiefs
The Highlanders go into their game against the Brumbies with better form following wins over the Stormers, Crusaders and Blues, but they haven’t left New Zealand yet in 2015. Their chances have taken a hit since they will have to soldier on without all three of their All Blacks, Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and Aaron Smith.
Surely it would have been better if they rotated one at a time, but maybe this wasn’t possible. The Brumbies welcome back Jesse Mogg and Tevita Kuridrani to really boost their team. They are the top team in the Australian conference and sit higher than the Highlanders on the table despite having less points.
The Highlanders probably go in as underdogs with the returning Richard Buckman and the injury ravaged forward pack being bolstered by having six replacement forwards on the bench. The Highlanders form is the opposite of the Brumbies with a three game winning streak vs the Brumbies two game losing streak.
Both teams have made some changes to their teams through a combination of injuries and resting players to keep them fresh.
It is form vs international players. Can the Highlanders depleted team play well no matter who is starting?
This is a potential upset with the Highlanders in great form.
Players to watch
For the Brumbies, it will be interesting to see how the devastating Tevita Kuridrani, Jesse Mogg, Joe Tomane and Henry Speight go with Christian Lealiifano kicking goals also a good option, although he will be in the Number 10 jersey. Some other quality players are Stephen Moore and David Pocock who might be too classy for the Highlanders.
My pick: Brumbies
Both of these teams desperately need a win after disappointing seasons in 2015. It looks like these two teams will struggle to make the Top Six, although a win for the Crusaders will keep their faint hopes alive.
It is like both the Crusaders and Blues are simply not gelling properly despite some good teams on paper, although the way the Blues finished against the Highlanders must be of slight concern to the Crusaders.
It must be difficult for the Crusaders who have lost their last two games at home against the Highlanders and the Chiefs, but they should be too strong for the Blues.
The Blues are mixing Jerome Kaino which is a huge blow, but he is being rested. This leaves Keven Mealamu as captain.
Players to watch
Crusaders: Sam Whitelock, Codie Taylor, Nemani Nadolo, Jordan Taufua, Kieran Read, Dan Carter.
Blues: Lolagi Visina, Keven Mealamu, Charles Piutau, George Moala, Melani Nanai and Frank Halai are dangerous.
My pick: Crusaders
The Waratahs and Rebels both scored wins last week against higher ranked teams in the Hurricanes and Brumbies, so it will be interesting to see how this match goes in the terrible rain in Sydney.
The Waratahs look to be hitting their straps, although the game against the Hurricanes was expansive which probably won’t be required in Sydney and could keep this game relatively close.
This match is must win for the Waratahs to have a shot at winning the Australian conference, while the Rebels will be trying to keep their faint Top Six hopes alive.
Neither team has been named, but don’t expect many changes for this derby match.
The Waratahs have home advantage and a far better record at home and so they should be too strong.
The Rebels have claimed some big victims this year including the Crusaders and Brumbies, so they can’t be taken lightly, but the Waratahs haven’t lost to the Rebels in Sydney before.
Players to watch
Waratahs (not named yet): Bernard Foley, Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale, Micheal Hooper, Will Skelton.
Rebels (not named yet): Scott Higginbotham, Pat Leafa, Luke Jones, Mitch Inman and Sean McMahon.
My pick: Waratahs
The Cheetahs ended their Australasian tour on a high with a win over the Force, but last week they lost to the Reds. The Cheetahs have conceded the most points in Super Rugby 2015, while the Lions have been strong recently with a great tour of Australasia and wins over the Bulls and Sharks on the bounce first game back.
The Cheetahs will be missing some heavy artillery in Coenie Oosthuizen, Willie Le Roux and Heinrich Brussouw all missing which is a real blow for the visitors. Joe Pietersen moves to fullback.
The Lions are yet to be named, but with their hardworking loose forward trio and Elton Jantjies in great form, they should be tough to beat. They don’t usually win by much, but they have managed to find an effective way to win that suits them.
Players to watch
Cheetahs: Boom Prinsloo, Joe Pietersen
Lions (not named yet): Warwick Tecklenburg, Warren Whiteley.
My pick: Lions
The big boys of South African rugby clash with the Stormers hosting the Bulls. The Stormers finished their tour to Australasia well and will host a Bulls team who is on a two game winning streak and sit on top of the South African conference. This will be another titanic clash of the titans as these are the top two South African sides this season.
The Stormers have a good record against the Bulls and should get up for the victory, although it will be tight. The Stormers are returning home from tour so fatigue could also come into it.
The Stormers will want to take the Bully Boys apart up front where they traditionally have prided themselves.
Players to watch
Stormers (yet to be named): Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Damian de Allende.
Bulls (yet to be named): Pierre Spies, Adriaan Strauss, Handre Pollard, Francois Hougaard, Jesse Kriel.
My pick: Stormers
What a difference a week makes, the Reds are towards the bottom of the table, but are coming off a win, while the Hurricanes have the opposite problem!
That narrow win by the Reds over the Cheetahs and returning home must give the Reds more confidence and there is a potential upset on the cards here.
They are now starting to get some mileage out of the likes of James O’Connor finally.
The Hurricanes won’t have the electric Nehe Milner-Skudder or Cory Jane, but should still win, although given the amount of upsets happening at the moment, then this could be a potential one!
The Hurricanes have some class and the way they bounce back from their first defeat could shape their entire season.
Players to watch
Reds: Adam Thomson, Liam Gill, James O’Connor, Lachlan Turner, Samu Kerevi.
Hurricanes: Brad Shields, Ardie Savea, Callum Gibbins, Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea.
My pick: Hurricanes