Super 15 Rugby returns this weekend with two matches in South Africa and finishes in the first weekend in August meaning that there will be rugby heaven for fans in the upcoming months, but who are you picking to lift the title in 2014?
Unfortunately the same teams have dominated Super Rugby in recent times creating an almost two tiered-competition.
Last season it was great to see the emergence of two good young teams in the Brumbies and Cheetahs to change things up a little, but expect to see the usual suspects like the Chiefs, Crusaders, Reds, Stormers and Sharks still playing deep into the competition.
Super Rugby 2014 Outright Winner odds courtesy of www.tab.co.nz
1 Chiefs 4.50
2 Crusaders 4.50
3 Brumbies 9.00
4 Bulls 14.00
5 Stormers 11.00
6 Blues 12.00
7 Sharks 7.50
8 Waratahs 11.00
9 Hurricanes 15.00
10 Highlanders 20.00
11 Reds 18.00
12 Cheetahs 25.00
13 Force 100.00
14 Rebels 100.00
15 Lions 100.00
The New Zealand Conference
The Chiefs have exceeded themselves in winning the last two Super Rugby titles with a relatively limited squad, but have done wonderfully thanks to their amazing teamwork, a sprinkling of stars and a great coaching team. The Crusaders will always be a threat, but have been more of a top six team rather than a title contender in recent years. The Blues and Hurricanes are two dark horses this season, although the depth of the Blues looks questionable, while the Hurricanes young tight five needs to stand up! The Blues and Hurricanes will play entertaining footy though with their exciting ball running players. The Highlanders will be playing for pride and on paper, they are by far the weakest New Zealand team.
This conference is the weakest with the Force and Rebels not even given a starter’s chance at winning the title. It will be interesting to see how the Brumbies go without Jake White, because they were a revelation in 2013. Their squad is young and exciting and is the shortest odds Australian team at the NZ bookies. The Reds are paying some great money to win the title and are the third ranked Australian team. Plenty will depend on Quade Cooper and Will Genia if the Reds are going to do well. Could 2014 be the year of the Waratahs? They are always tough to beat at home, but this season they look to have the personnel to actually score some tries and threaten to win the Australian conference. The Force ad Rebels will be playing for pride. Despite their lack of depth, these two teams are potential banana skins for visiting teams.
South African Conference
I am not going to lie, I hate the staggered start to Super Rugby which means that the first two Super Rugby 2014 matches are in South Africa this season, while there is a break for the June Internationals later on in the season. The Sharks are my pick out of the South African sides. They usually come right when the play-offs are on. The Stormers look to be the other threat out of South Africa. It will be interesting to see how the Bulls go without Morne Steyn and with big Victor Matfield back. They have some amazing young talent in the inside backs which will see them and the Cheetahs challenge for the third spot in the South African conference. The Lions will be the whipping boys unfortunately, although I am hoping they win some games to keep the other South African teams on their toes.
My picks Super Rugby 2014
It is difficult to predict the winner of Super Rugby 2014 so far in advance, but here is my finishing order based on points.
Who are you picking to win Super Rugby 2014?
It will be hard to go past the Chiefs again, but the Sharks, Brumbies, Stormers and Crusaders will be other contenders. The Waratahs, Blues, Reds, Cheetahs, Hurricanes and Bulls have a good shot at making the top six play-offs, while the Highlanders, Rebels, Force and Lions will struggle!