With the 2015 Super Rugby season almost upon us we take a look at 11 reasons why everyone around the world needs to make sure they don’t miss it…
Karmichael Hunt at the Queensland Reds and the return of Sonny Bill Williams to the Chiefs are two of the big headlines for 2015. Now we’re all obviously aware of what Williams can do, however it will be interesting to see if another sting in league has developed his play further.
Possibly even more exciting is cross-coder Hunt who follows in the steps of Israel Folau having tried his hand in both the NRL and AFL before joining Super Rugby. If he turns out to be half the player Folau has then Aussie fans can get excited, the question is can he adapt in time for the World Cup?
2.Big Name Signings
Whilst most of the big name signings have simply been a case of players moving from one Super Rugby side to another, there are still plenty of moves to get fans excited this season. The return of Ma’a Nonu to the Highlanders will definitely be one to watch.
Elsewhere the signings of Trevor Nyakane and Adriaan Strauss should get Bulls fans hoping for a strong season. Meanwhile at the Rebels, fans can look to the acquisitions of Mike Harris and Cam Crawford as a positive step forward in the teams development.
3.The Young Guns
This could be a huge season for a number of young players in Super Rugby who are hoping to establish themselves in their respective Super Rugby sides before making a play for their international sides. Many like Will Skelton and Ardie Savea will be hoping to push on their claims this year.
Slightly further down the scale, but possibly more exciting is the emergence of some very young talent. The Reds signing of Taniela Tupou (The Tongan Thor) looks an exciting acquisition, whilst at the Waratahs can look forward to seeing how Sam Lousi develops.
4.World Cup Quandries
With the World Cup less than a year away, there’s no doubting that this is a huge year for those in or around their national sides as players push for inclusion in the final 31-man squads. This should hopefully add a bit of bite to proceedings as players look to make a statement prior to selection announcements.
There is the obvious risk that players may start to ease off later in the season to avoid picking up injuries before the World Cup, however this looks set to be one of the most competitive Super Rugby seasons to date so it’s unlikely this should be too much of an issue.
It’s been a tough couple of years for Aussie rugby with various scandals and financial issues being compounded by the Wallabies struggling on the pitch. It looks like this year could be just as tough, however it will be interesting to see if the Wallabies pull together or are torn apart.
One of the key points to watch will be how Michael Cheika balances his role as Wallabies Head Coach whilst still trying to help the Waratahs retain their Super Rugby crown. There will also be pressure on the Reds to make up for a disappoint turn-out last year.
6.The Return of Wayward Sons
This year will see the return to Super Rugby of a number of key players who are all desperate to break into their respective sides World Cup squads. In Australia the return of James O’Connor should be an interesting one as he tries to find out where he fits in.
Elsewhere Hosea Gear returns to the Chiefs alongside Sonny Bill Williams, whilst Super Rugby eagerly awaits the return of Nick Cummins. All of these guys will be desperate to slot straight back in and ensure they make the plane to England later this year.
7.The Badge is Back
This is the kind of news that will delight fans across the world. The return of Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins is one to ensure that Super Rugby should be as exciting off the pitch as it is on it as he brings his unique spin on proceedings.
It was a huge loss to the game when he was forced to move to Japan last year, however his return should be heralded for more than just his marketability. The Wallabies haven’t exactly been flush with wingers recently so he helps strengthen their options out wide in the build up to the World Cup.
8.A Kiwi Backlash?
Last season must be considered a disappointing one for New Zealand’s Super Rugby sides, with several failing to fire properly. The Crusaders made a decent hash of things but ultimately fell short at the final hurdle despite looking strong in the final run-in.
The Chiefs will be absolutely gagging to get back playing having failed to live up to the hype last time around. With the return of a number of key players, and others with a point to prove they should be absolutely desperate to atone for last seasons disappointment.
Let’s face it, Super Rugby has a reputation for an exciting, open brand of rugby and with good reason. Yes it may not all be glitz and glamour ties, but for the most part you can look forward to some incredible rugby thanks in part to drier conditions and the condensed nature of the competition.
As a league, Super Rugby has everything, from the powerful forward driven approach of the likes of the Sharks to a Reds backline that is bursting at the seams with attacking talent. Make sure you don’t miss Super Rugby in 2015.
10.It’s The Last Ever Super 15
This will be the last ever Super Rugby season in its current form. As of 2016 Super Rugby will be expanding to 18 teams as another South African side joins the fold alongside teams from Japan and Argentina in a slightly altered format.
Whilst it will be fantastic to see new sides entering the competition to represent emerging rugby nations, it will also change the dynamics of the competition somewhat. Therefore make sure you tune into the final edition of Super 15 as it promises to be a great one.
11.The Final Bow
The 2015 Super Rugby competition will be the final bow for a number of key players as they prepare to move onto Europe post-World Cup. For this reason you need to make sure you keep an eye on Super Rugby this year to ensure you don’t miss out seeing some of the best players in the world.
The likes of Dan Carter, Will Genia, Ma’a Nonu and Duane Vermeulen amongst others look set to depart at the end of the current season. Whilst they’re set to be replaced by a host of new talent, it will be hard to see players matching up to the likes of Carter anytime soon.
Will you be watching Super Rugby in 2015?