G’day beloved readers, we are back in a new but familiar looking 15 team Super Rugby Competition in 2018 and we are keener than mustard to get stuck back in to both Super Rugby and Fantasy Super Rugby.
Super Rugby 2018 kicked off somewhat bizarrely in what we’re calling round 0, with matches starting a week earlier than in previous years and with there only being two matches, both in South Africa. For mine this is a real head scratcher and really isn’t very helpful for those trying to enjoy their Super Rugby. Whilst most traditional fantasy rugby leagues in Australia and New Zealand chose to simply ignore the first week and commence in week two, we didn’t shy away from SANZAAR’s challenge and no matter how blind it left us for our draft, we stuck to our guns and included this first round in a round 1 and 16 combined fantasy round (round 16 featuring a bye for the entire South African Conference). We could harp on about Super Rugby’s structure and the conference system for quite some time but rather lets just call this a step in the right direction, going back down to 15 teams and every team having to at least play some kiwis!
Now onto the weekend’s fixtures;
Pumas Jaguares (will that ever get old!), under new coach Mario Ledesma travelled to the Stormers fortress in Newlands and the Lions, also with a new coach, Swys de Bruin, played host to the Sharks in Joburg. I have to say after all the flack we give the South Africans for playing boring rugby both the matches proved highly entertaining and were extremely close fought affairs. The Stormers held out a formidable Jaguares second half effort, sealing a 28-20 victory with a Damian Willemse penalty goal on the final whistle. The Jaguares started off the year just as determined to top the yellow card count as ever, with newly appointed captain Joaquin Tuculet not passing go and being sent straight to the bin at the 35 minute mark for cynically slowing down play in the red zone. Not to be outdone though, the Stormers replacement hooker, Ramone Samuels then went for a 10 minute break himself, also receiving a yellow card for slowing down the Jaguares ball in the 65th minute. The Jaguares had been building some serious momentum in the second forty and then with the Stormers a man down, I was suprised the Jags didn’t come away with the result at the end of the game.
Damian Willemse leading the Stormers forward.
Apart from Tuculet’s indiscretion in the first, the Jaguares actually looked pretty composed and were able to retain possession and build phases on attack. The backrow of new captain Pablo Matera, Javier Ortega Desio and 8 Tomas Lezana excelled with high workrates and both some solid carries in offense and great cover in D. Tomas Lavanini had some great carries but looked absolutely gassed midway through the second. Their bigger fantasy stars had a very quiet first round, Augustin Creevy not getting as involved as usual, Ramiro Moyano just not seeing much ball on the wing and Martin Landajo only coming off the bench with 20 to spare. Whilst Creevy didn’t feature as per usual around the park, he was certainly part of the absolute demolition of the stormers scrum that took place in the second half. The big men up front were rewarded with a penalty try for their efforts and something I’m sure the Stormers will have a long hard look at next week. Emiliano Boffelli scored a great solo try through some confused and lacklustre Stormers defense.
The Stormers back three really gave fans something to get excited about with Seablo Senatla, Raymond Rhule on the wings and Dillyn Leyds combining well and showing some ligtning speed when they were given any space. Rhule ran in for a try, Senatla had a few excellent runs and Leyds was involved in just about everything. The real MVP for the stormers was the young blood, Damian Willemse. What a talent this young flyhalf is! He is quite the athlete with impressive pace and agility. He took it hard and fast to the line and really got his backs on the front foot, creating several opportunities from nothing. Look for him to be a big points earner in 2018. In the forwards it was the captain Siya Kolisi leading by example with a huge game, highlighted by an absolute beast of a carry through some traffic to dot it down under the posts. Kolisi and 8 Nizaam Carr were great around the paddock with both great carries and some bone crunching defense. The Stormers scrum definetely missed their Springbok second rowers Eben Etzebeth and Pieter Steph Du Toit who were out injured, and were absolutely dimantled by the Argentinian pack. Be sure to check out the Casualty Ward for all injury news! Despite the scrum failures, Steven Kisthoff was a very welcome return for the Stormers front row and had a great game back in South African rugby after a few years in France. Kisthoff made some barnstorming carries and if this one game is anything to go by he looks like he will both a) be one of the leading fantasy props in 2018 and b) walk back into the Springboks.
Aphiwe Dyanti’s Super Rugby debut was definetely a memorable one.
Both the Lions and Sharks had a good crack at it on the weekend and could walk off knowing they definetely left it all on the field. Atypically of South African rugby, neither team was interested in taking penalty goals, which made for plenty of running rugby. Ultimately only one score was the difference, the Lions holding out the Sharks with three five metre lineouts in the dying minutes and taking the game with a final scoreboard of four tries to the Sharks three, 26-19.
The Lions were without some of their biggest stars, Flanker Jaco Kriel and wingers Skosan and Combrinck but this didn’t seem to effect them in the slightest. Instead Kwagga Smith stepped up with a huge game for the Lions nabbing himself a score and Super Rugby also discovered the absolutely electric winger Aphiwe Dyanti who scored an incredible solo try down the left wing. Dyanti definetely is going to be one to watch and I suspect many fantasy rugby managers will be vying to pick him up this week. Otherwise Lionel Mapoe crossed under the sticks twice being rewarded for some direct running and the forward pack dominated come scrum time to set up a great platform for the backs to go to work. Captain Warren Whiteley and Malcom Marx, arguably the best hooker in the world (both in rugby and fantasy rugby) had a relatively quiet start to the fantasy season, making that extra pass rather than taking on the line themselves. Andries Coetzee was in good form at fullback and Pro Tip, he is actually listed as a flyhalf this year so if he hasn’t already been snapped up in your league then get onto it.
Robert Du Preez had a blinder in his first game for the Sharks and wasn’t intimidated at all by his opposite, the Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies. Du Preez ran right over the top of Jantjies to put the Sharks 7-0-up just a few minutes after the opening kickoff. He was sensational for the stormers last year when he wasn’t injured and should be settling in nicely at the sharks, particularly given he is playing with his two brothers Jean-Luc and Dan Du Preez and they are all being coached by their father, also Robert Du Preez. The new look Sharks back three showed some promise, wingers Makazole Mapimpi signed off the back of a great season with the Kings last year, where he demonstrated his incredible pace and young S’busiso Nkosi looks to be a bit of a beast on the right wing. Whilst the scrum didn’t go to plan, the sharks lineouts were on point, spearheaded by newly appointed captain Ruan Botha. Botha hasn’t been much of a fantasy points earner in recent years but lets see if his promotion brings out the best from him (like Kolisi). Philip van der Walt was immense as always, definetely with the highest workrate in the Sharks and is a consistent points scorer. Van Der Walt was one of those special fantasy players that was listed as a lock but playing backrow last year but unforunately this is not so again! We think he is still definetely worth a pickup though.
We didn’t see much point doing the Super Rugby Fantasy Team of the Week (TOTW) as there were only the four teams to take to the field on the weekend and we haven’t even got the full stats yet. So that’s me done for Super Rugby G(Round Zero) 2018. Look out for the first Stock Market of 2018 which should be posted tomorrow and discusses the fantasy values of players and who you should be looking at.
Play me out Nkosi;