Connect with us

Super Rugby

Super Rugby: Season Preview, initial thoughts.

A look ahead to the 2019 Campaign

Published

on

Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

Entertainment central on the Chiefs wings

The Chiefs have two absolutely box-office wingers in their squad for this year’s Super season; Japanese international Ataata Moeakiola  and Etene Nanai-Seturo, fresh off the World Sevens circuit.

Moeakiola burst onto the scene in 2016 at the World Rugby U20s, scoring a hat-trick within 30 minutes against South Africa. The Tongan-born wing performed to the point that he was being compared to Jonah Lomu. The 23 year old is quite a physical specimen; he stands 185cm and weighs in at 110kg. This will be Moeakiola’s debut in Super Rugby; he was on the books at the Sunwolves since 2017, but university rugby for Tokai took priority. It will be fascinating to see how the big man adapts to top level rugby, given that it is nearly three years since we saw him at U20 level.


If Ataata Moeakiola is Jonah Lomu, then Etene Nanai-Seturo is Christian Cullen. The 19 year old from Auckland is a much smaller operator than his Japanese compatriot, coming in at just under 90kg and six foot. He is similar in ways to Nehe Milner-Skudder when he first broke through, he is one hell of a stepper, and is one of those players that makes things happen, there is a sense of anticipation when he gets hands on the ball, as those who watched him play for Counties Manukau in this years Mitre 10 Cup are well aware. He showcased his try-scoring ability last weekend, with two tries, simple finishes as they were


Nanai-Seturo was the subject of legal battle when he was younger; he was contracted by the New Zealand Warriors as a 15 year-old, but after he had a change of heart, an agreement was reached between New Zealand Rugby and the Warriors to allow him to join New Zealand Sevens.

Break up with Nick Phipps, I’m Bored

The Rugby Championship was a tough one for Australia, and in particular the much-maligned Waratahs out-half Bernard Foley. Undroppable for Cheika in the past, Foley lost his spot to Kurtley Beale for a couple games. This weekend sees two potential Wallaby half-back pairings face off; Christian Leali’ifano and Joe Powell start for the Brumbies, opposite Will Genia and Quade Cooper for the Melbourne Rebels.

It’s been a difficult couple of seasons for Quade Cooper; he spent time playing for Souths rugby and Brisbane in the NRC after being told he was not part of Brad Thorn’s plans for the Reds. An attempt to make it into the Australian Sevens squad in 2016 didn’t pan out, and two year contract with Toulon ended prematurely.

Embed from Getty Images

Cooper’s contract with the Rebels is a lifeline, and his World Cup hopes are greatly benefitted by the fact that he’ll be playing every week opposite Cheika’s first choice scrum-half Will Genia. Half-backs are the source of a lot of Australia’s difficulties. Cheika’s policy of a 6/2 split on the bench means that there is almost never specialist out-half cover on the bench for Australia, Kurtley Beale is the backup. Beale has a lot of good qualities, but he is not a Test level out-half. Quade looked good in Rebels colours last weekend, and if he can get into a good run, it would be very hard to ignore him for a spot in the World Cup

The continued selection of Nick Phipps is also not good for Australia, considering he does not even start for the Waratahs regularly (Jake Gordon does). Joe Powell and Jake Gordon are both young, talented scrum-halves and the sooner Michael Cheika realises that he needs a scrum-half and out-half on the bench, and that he needs to delete Nick Phipps’ number off his phone, the better Australia will be come Japan this Autumn.

https://gty.im/1064882638

Guess who’s back?

Nonu is back folks. Turning 37 this summer, the legendary All Black started last weekend in the Blues midfield outside TJ Faiane. Nonu didn’t look the quickest, understandably, but he was making big hits and carried hard. Many people expected Nonu to retire after he left Toulon for family reasons but he will line out for the Blues this season in what his third stint in Auckland, after the 2012 and 2014 seasons. Nonu will be part of what is quite a tasty backline for the Blues this year; he will form a seriously destructive partnership with Sonny Bill Williams, and will have some lightning pace outside him, with likes of Melani Nanai and Rieko Ioane.

Embed from Getty Images

Nonu is hopeful of making it to the World Cup. He has said that he learned how to take better care of his body during his three years in France, is a goal for him during this Super Rugby season. He’ll have his work cut out for him however, with the likes of Sonny Bill, Ngani Laumape, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown all in contention for a spot.

Will anyone stop the Crusaders?

In the eyes of many, the Crusaders are the best club team in world rugby. A club world cup like football has is something every rugby fan would love to see, the men from Canterbury lining out against Dublin’s finest, or a reenactment of the ancient battles from which the teams get their names, the Saracens taking a stand against the Crusaders.

Crusaders have been dominating Super Rugby for the last two seasons, going for the three in a row this year. It has been the Lions that have come closest, they were beaten finalists in 2017 and 2018. It is hard to see anyone beating the Crusaders to the title this year. Depth wise, they have the most impressive squad in Super Rugby. An all international pack, combined with some of the most exciting young backs coming through in New Zealand, Crusaders will be great to watch this year.

Embed from Getty Images

Most exciting to see are full-back Will Jordan, and halfback Ere Enari. Jordan has long been earmarked for stardom and coach Scott Robertson is excited to see him make his Super Rugby debut, telling Stuff.co.nz

“”Obviously a prodigious talent. You could see in the pre-season, his ability to beat players and take opportunities, he’s definitely got an eye for a gap and a bit of extra speed. He’s a good local boy, he always dreamed of being a Crusader, so it’s a dream for him this weekend.”

Ere Enari has had a torrid time with injuries over the past couple of years, suffering three leg breaks in the space of two years. Like Jordan, he is a star in waiting, who has had to bide his time before making it to Super Rugby, if he can string a good run of games together, it won;t be long before we see him wearing black.

Embed from Getty Images

Also worth a watch are Manasa Mataele and George Bridge, both wingers, and Braydon Ennor in the midfield. Ennor in particular looks like a serious player; searing pace, and along with a highly intelligent rugby brain. It will be interesting to see if Richie Mo’unga can build on the calls for him to be given the All Black first five jersey, after his impressive Rugby Championship appearances, and his combining with Beaudy Barrett at full-back.

Embed from Getty Images

International

Leicester confirm signing of Springbok

Published

on

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Leicester Tigers will welcome World Cup-winning fly-half Handré Pollard to the club ahead of the 2022/23 season. 

The South Africa international will make the move to Leicester from French club Montpellier.

The 27-year-old has been capped on 60 occasions by the Springboks since making his Test debut against Scotland in 2014 while still a member of the South Africa Under-20s squad.

Pollard played youth rugby for Western Province, in Cape Town, while attending Paarl Gimnasium School and was selected for South Africa Schoolboys in 2012.

That same year, Pollard was selected for the Junior Springboks as an 18-year-old and remained in the squad for three successive seasons, captaining the age-grade national side in his final year. 

In 2013, Pollard moved to the University of Pretoria and represented UP Tuks while also making his provincial debut for the Blue Bulls in South Africa’s Currie Cup competition.

His Super Rugby debut followed in 2014 for the Bulls, who he would represent for the next five seasons, as well as a lone campaign for Japanese club NTT DoCoMo Red Hurricanes in 2015/16. 

After playing in South Africa’s 2019 Rugby World Cup win, Pollard joined current club Montpellier. 

An accomplished goal-kicker, he has registered more than 600 points for the Springboks at an average of more than 10 points per Test.

He represented the Barbarians in 2018 and recently shared in South Africa’s series win over the British & Irish Lions.

Speaking about the addition of Pollard to the Leicester Tigers squad for next season, Head Coach Steve Borthwick said: “Handré is a world-class fly-half who brings with him a wealth of experience from Super Rugby, Top14 and international rugby.

“He is a World Cup winner who has been highly sought-after from clubs all over the globe. But, most pleasingly, he sees Leicester Tigers as the club for him.

“What has impressed me most in our dealings with him has been his desire to be a part of what we are building at this club but also his desire to develop, learn and grow as a player and person.

“This is a very exciting signing for the club and one I hope Leicester Tigers fans are excited about.”

Discussing his decision to join Leicester Tigers, Pollard said: “I am excited to join Leicester Tigers, to be a part of this great group of players at a special club and challenge myself, test my limits and be the very best I can be for the team.

“The club is going brilliantly at the moment and I know there is an expectation to continue that, to keep getting better because getting to the top is hard but staying there is even harder.

“There are bigger deals on the table, but I’ve made this decision to work with Steve [Borthwick] and to be a part of an unreal, great club at Leicester Tigers which has such a great history,” he added.

The Springboks fly-half also spoke of his excitement ahead of playing at Mattioli Woods Welford Road.

“I don’t know the whole history of Leicester Tigers, but this is a club that is so well renowned worldwide,” he said.

“Everybody I have spoken to about playing there, for Tigers or an away team, say it’s the one stadium that is on another level.”

Pollard will link up with his new Leicester Tigers team-mates at the conclusion of international commitments ahead of the 2022/23 season.

Continue Reading

Super Rugby

Larkham To Return To Brumbies

Published

on

Picture Credit: Brumbies Rugby

Brumbies legend Stephen Larkham will return to the club as head coach for the 2023 and 2024 Super Rugby Pacific seasons.

Brumby 13, Larkham played 116 times in ACT colours from 1996 to 2007, winning two Super Rugby titles, and joined the club’s coaching staff in 2011.

Larkham began his first stint as head coach in 2014 alongside current assistant coach Laurie Fisher, becoming head coach in 2015 before departing after the 2017 season to take up a full-time role with the Wallabies.

The Rugby World Cup winner will continue in his coaching role at Munster in Ireland for the remainder of their season and will return to the Brumbies in July with Dan McKellar joining the Wallabies full-time at the end of the 2022 season.

Brumby 13, Stephen Larkham said: “It’s exciting to know I’ll be returning home to the Brumbies and to Canberra with my family after finishing up my time in Ireland.”

“Playing for the Brumbies as a Canberra local was obviously a special time in my life and the club were very supportive in my transition into coaching so I want to thank Phil (Thomson, CEO) and the Brumbies board for giving me this opportunity to come back and represent the club again as head coach.

“I’ve developed and learnt a lot both as a person and as a coach in these past couple of years, and I’m looking forward to bringing that experience back to the Brumbies to ensure their continued success.

“Moving forward for this season, I’ll be supporting the Brumbies as always from here in Ireland but my only focus now is on finishing off my time with Munster on a high.”

Brumbies CEO, Phil Thomson said: “This is a very good appointment for the Brumbies, and we’re delighted to be able to bring Stephen home to the club which he has served so well as a player and as a coach.”

“Stephen has been integral in the Brumbies history and while it will be difficult to replace Dan, having Stephen re-join to continue on his exceptional work over these past four seasons, five at the end of 2022, is fantastic for the team and the club.

“Through the recruitment process, Stephen proved to be the strongest candidate, and his appointment gives us an opportunity to continue the progress we have made on the field, and what we can add to that in 2022.

“Making this appointment now puts us in a position where we have certainty for the players, and it is also important that we have continuity and stability for our existing staff and the organisation moving forward.

“With this process now completed, the team and organisation can now fully focus on the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season.”

Source – Super Rugby

Continue Reading

Rugby Championship

Fijian Drua confirm coach and initial signings

Published

on

Former All Blacks assistant coach Mick Byrne will be the first head coach for Fijian Drua in next season’s Super Rugby competition.

Byrne, who was part of the All Blacks’ World Cup-winning coaching team in 2011-15, specialised in kicking and taking of high kicks for the side. But he also worked as a skills coach for the Wallabies, Japan and Scotland, and he was an assistant coach with the Blues in 2012-14.

His appointment is for two-years.

Byrne said: “I have followed and admired the way Fijian teams play the game over my coaching career. It’s a style of play that puts the joy of rugby at its core, and I’m very excited to help our club showcase this to the world when the new Super Rugby season starts.

“None of us are under any illusions that it will be easy. We understand the challenges ahead of us in this first season based away from home.

“But within that challenge likes the opportunity to grow stronger as a team and club. It will allow us to be patient with our players, help them find their way and naturally grow into the game we want to play.

“It will be that brand of exciting Fijian rugby that our players and fans love, but with clinical aspects to it in both attack and defence. It will be hard work in our first two seasons but the journey will be rewarding and enjoyable,” he said.

Fijian Drua interim chief executive Brian Thorburn was delighted to secure Byrne.

“He is a seasoned professional and shone through the intensive selection process by displaying real passion for the club and Fijian rugby, and by outlining solid plans for success both on and off the field.

“Mick prioritises maintaining a respectful and cordial relationship with players, staff and partners, which is particularly important for us.”

Also confirmed in the coaching unit is Fiji’s Sevens sides strength and conditioning coach Nacanieli Cawanibuka who will be the head of athletic performance.

“His work ethic, discipline and commitment is world-class,” Thorburn said.

Cawanibuka shared in Fiji’s two Olympic gold medal Sevens wins and several World Sevens titles.

On the playing side Olympic gold medalist Ratu Meli Derenalagi, a former Fiji Sevens captain, has signed with the side along with wing Vinaya Habosi, prop Meli Tuni, utility back Serepepeli Vularika and Tasman Mako forward Te Ahiwaru Cirikidaveta.

They join five players named in the initial signings: Olympic gold medalist and utility back Napolioni Bolaca, hooker Tevita Ikanivere, wing Onisi Ratave, who is playing for Bay of Plenty in the Bunnings NPC, loose forward Nemani Negusa and halfback Simione Kuruvoli, who played for Fiji against the All Blacks in the July Steinlager series.

Source – All Blacks Rugby

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Trending