Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Super 15 Rugby 2014 Final Preview - Who Will Win?

There are only two teams left in Super 15 Rugby 2014 with the Waratahs hosting the Crusaders at the bigger ANZ Stadium in Sydney.  It is great to see the best teams in the competition in the final what makes this final great is that it is hard to separate these teams at the bookies.  The Waratahs are slight favourites at most agencies, although the Crusaders have had more money put on them which shows that this match could go either way and is tougher to pick than a broken nose.  

Both the Waratahs and Crusaders posted convincing wins in their semi-finals, eliminating the Brumbies and Sharks respectively.  The margins of victory made it obvious that the best two teams are in the final.

A win for the Waratahs at home, will not only give the Waratahs their first Super Rugby title, but it will also give their Wallabies team confidence.  The Wallabies are stacked with Waratahs and this could give them the belief to beat the All Blacks in 2014. 

For managers of Super Rugby teams, you may have to chance your arm if you are to catch your rivals.  It is therefore important to take some risks, although there are some obvious selections like the two goal kickers, Bernard Foley and Dan Carter, while in most other positions there are established high points scoring players.  Who are you picking as your outside backs?  Nemani Nadolo, Alofa Alofa, Kurtley Beale and Israel Folau are all options.  

For Super Rugby Playoffs Team Lists go to

Waratahs vs Crusaders

The Waratahs have the home advantage for this match, although it will be interesting to see if the shift of ground affects their home advantage.  They have been sensational this season and have won all nine home games this season and could set a record of winning all ten home games in a season and ten matches in a row, which is what they would do with victory here.  

The Waratahs have discovered the offensive game to support their defence in 2014 under coach Michael Chieka, but they haven’t play the Crusaders this season.  They have scored 41 tries this season and secured nine bonus points for scoring four tries in nine matches.

What a final this is going to be.  The Crusaders have the best away record in Super Rugby 2014, only losing two regular season games away from home and have actually lost more at home than away in 2014.  They have experienced international stars like Kieran Read, Richie McCaw, Kieran Read and Sam Whitelock.  The Crusaders have won their last 11 matches against the Waratahs, including four times in Sydney and they have beaten the Waratahs in a Super Rugby final in 2008, but I like to think that the Waratahs have improved this season, so it is hard to know how much to read into past results between these teams.

My pick: Waratahs by 3 points

See who the people are picking down the right hand side of the website .

Who will win Super Rugby Final this weekend?

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Super 15 Rugby Starting Teams Named

The Super Rugby 2014 Final - Waratahs vs Crusaders
Waratahs: Israel Folau, Alofa Alofa, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Kurtley Beale, Rob Horne, Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper (capt), Stephen Hoiles, Jacques Potgieter, Kane Douglas, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson. Res: Tola Latu, Paddy Ryan, Jeremy Tilse, Will Skelton, Mitch Chapman, Pat McCutcheon, Brendan McKibbon, Matt Carraro, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Peter Betham (two to be omitted).

Crusaders: Israel Dagg, Kieron Fonotia, Ryan Crotty, Dan Carter, Nemani Nadolo, Colin Slade, Andy Ellis, Kieran Read (captain), Matt Todd, Richie McCaw, Dominic Bird, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett. Reserves: Ben Funnell, Nepo Laulala, Jimmy Tupou, Jordan Taufua, Willi Heinz, Tom Taylor, Johnny McNicholl.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How To Fix The Wellington Sevens?

The debate continues over what to do with the Wellington Rugby Sevens tournament held annually in February at Westpac Stadium in Wellington. The tournament has become more famous for the drunk behaviour of fans in costumes than the actual rugby performances on the field. The latest talk is about banning alcohol together, while other thoughts are to go the other way and make it an R18 event. Ticket sales have started to drop as people have become sick of crowd behaviour and the novelty has worn off.

The organisers need to go one of three ways and ban alcohol, making it a family event where the actual rugby remains the main focus of the day, or turn it into an R18 event, making it the equivalent of a nightclub or the third way is stopping the event now. This last option of stopping it could simply be having it less often, like every second year or something.

The main problems I see with the Wellington Sevens event is the drunken and anti-social behaviour of a small proportion of the crowd causing trouble. The rest of the people are there for a good time, although to be honest, by the end of it, it is quite tiring being surrounded by drunk people all day for two days.

The other issue I have is with the prices. It costs over $200 just for the two day entry ticket. There are also prices of travel to Wellington if you are from out of town, overpriced food and drink at the stadium and of course, the price of making or buying an amazing and original costume for the event. This all adds up and when you consider that people begrudge paying for Sky Television, you could actually pay for a subscription to Sky for several months for the same price.

The Auckland Rugby League Nines in Auckland was well run and could mean that the Wellington Sevens is no longer the best festival oval ball tournament in New Zealand anymore.  

I went to the first Wellington Sevens and there were no costumes or parties and so it seems that the thing that has made the Wellington Sevens big, could also be ruining it!
What do you think should happen to the Wellington Sevens?

Southland Stags ITM Cup 2014 Squad - 12 New Faces

Will we see a return to the good old days?

The Southland Stags ITM Cup Squad 2014 has been named by new Stags coach Brad Mooar and features 12 new faces.  The new faces are mainly young players from other provinces who have come south for opportunities.  

This Stags team will rely heavily on the experienced core of Southland forwards like Jamie Mackintosh, Jason Rutledge, Josh Bekhuis, John Hardie, Elliot Dixon and Tim Boys, while the backline will rely on star signing Lima Sopoaga.  Bryan Milne is the only other experienced campaigner in the backline.  

There is an element of excitement about some of the young players who have moved to Southland from bigger provinces like Auckland and Canterbury.  

The Stags now need to blood these young players so that they can flourish at this level and gain experience.  It will be interesting to see who makes the final squad, but it will be great to see some exciting young talent, especially in the backline where the Stags traditionally struggle.  

It looks like there are only three players covering halfback and first five eighth, so it seems that there may have been space for Jimmy Cowan afterall.  Maybe there is another signing on the cards?

The Stags will be missing players like Robbie Robinson and Marty McKenzie who could cover fullback and first five eighth.

What do you think of the Southland Stags ITM Cup 2014 squad?

How will this Southland Stags team go in ITM Cup 2014?  It will be tough in the ITM Cup Championship with Hawkes Bay especially active in the transfer market.

Jamie Mackintosh, Tony Keresoma, Talemaitoga Tuapati, Jason Rutledge, Dillon Halaholo, Juan (JP) Koen, Morgan Mitchell, Michael Fatialofa, Josh Bekhuis, Craig Smith, John Hardie, Tim Boys, Mike Stewart, Brenton Howden, Alex Taylor, Elliot Dixon, Bill Fukofuka, Scott Eade, Tayler Adams, Lima Sopoaga, Willis Halaholo, Cardiff Vaega, Keanu Kahukura, Bryan Milne, Mark Jackman, Lolohea Loco, Junior Ngaluafe, Warrick Lynn, Otulea Katoa, Jamie Verran.

Monday, July 28, 2014

New Zealand Rugby World XV - Agree or Disagree?

New Zealand Rugby World Magazine Facebook page has come up with a World XV featuring thirteen All Blacks and only Manu Tuilagi and Bismarck du Plessis.  As this is a New Zealand publication then it is obviously New Zealanders who read and voted for this team, but the non selection of unlucky players like Israel Folau, Thierry Dusatoir, George North and Michael Hooper leaves you wondering how accurate this team is.  Mind you, the All Blacks are the best team in the world at the moment, so you can't necessarily discount these players.

Who would you pick in the World XV, do you agree with NZ Rugby World Magazine?

15: Ben Smith [NZ]
14: Cory Jane [NZ]
13: Manu Tuilagi [ENG]
12: Sonny Bill Williams [NZ]
11: Julian Savea [NZ]
10: Daniel Carter [NZ]
9: Aaron Smith [NZ]
8: Kieran Read [NZ]
7: Lord Richie of McCaw [NZ]
6: Jerome Kaino [NZ]
5: Sam Whitelock [NZ]
4: Brodie Retallick [NZ]
3: Owen Franks [NZ]
2: Bismarck du Plessis [SA]
1: Tony Woodcock [NZ]

Prince Harry Photobombs New Zealand Rugby Sevens Coach Gordon Tietjens Selfie

Source :

Prince Harry Photobombs New Zealand Rugby Sevens Coach Sir Gordon Tietjens' Selfie at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Former All Blacks and Wallabies To Play For Pacific Islands

Anthony Tuitavake could end up playing against the All Blacks

A change in eligibility laws, put in place due to the inclusion of rugby sevens at the Olympics, will allow players who have played test rugby at any level for one nation, to represent another if they hold that nation's passport.

This is great for the game of rugby and would also add depth and competitiveness to the Pacific Island nations teams.  It would also be interesting if a player from a major nation but playing overseas then becomes eligible for his home country.  I assume he can go back and play for them having represented another country. 

It is hard to know if this is simply a way of still playing test match rugby for some of these players and if their hearts will be in it or not?  Could this simply be a way to get to another Rugby World Cup?
Providing they haven't played an international in 18 months, they can participate in the Sevens World Series or designated Regional Olympic Qualification Tournaments and become eligible to play for that same nation in all forms of rugby.
Former All Blacks like Anthony Tuitavake, Sam Tuitupou and ex-Wallabies Mark Gerrard and Sitaleki Timani will most likely play for Tonga under Regulation 8 in the IRB Handbook.  Former Wallabies legend George Smith will also be eligible for Tonga. 
Others like former All Blacks Sevens representatives Alando Soakai, Lifeimi Mafi and Roy Kinikinilau could represent Tonga, while Tim Nanai-Williams has confirmed his intentions to play for Manu Samoa.

Other former All Blacks who could make the switch include Casey Laulala, Chris Masoe, Lelia Masaga and Mose Tuiali'i who are of Samoan heritage while cousins Joe Rokocoko and Sitiveni Sivivatu were born in Fiji.

What do you think of this IRB law change allowing for players to return to another eligible country to play in the Olympics and/or Rugby World Cup?

Super Rugby Chiefs Sign Cameron Skelton The Baby Brother Of Will Skelton

The Chiefs have signed NSW and Samoan Under 20 player Cameron Skelton who is the bigger baby brother of Wallabies cult hero Will Skelton.  

The younger Skelton weighs a massive 145kg and is 2.05 metres tall and will no doubt cause some problems for opponents in Super Rugby 2015.

Skelton impressed for the Samoan Under 20 team at the recent Junior World Cup.

Is Skelton a good signing for the Chiefs?  Hopefully the coaching staff at the Chiefs can get the best out of the massive player who will need to learn how to make the most of his size.

This signing means that there won't be the chance for the NSW Waratahs to start with a monster middle row of Skeltons.  It is probably a good thing.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Should The New Zealand Rugby Sevens Team Use 15-A-Side Stars?

The Commonwealth Games is over and New Zealand took the silver medal behind an impressive and speedy BlitzBokke South Africa who used a sprinkling of Super Rugby and former Springboks to help take them to the gold medal at Glasgow 2014. New Zealand have won the first four Commonwealth Games since Rugby Sevens was introduced, but you have to wonder if there actually is room for teams to include some exciting players from the 15-a side game, even though both Rugby Sevens and XVs are totally different games?

New Zealand really missed some players with speed like Frank Halai, Charles Piutau, Ben Smith and Julian Savea who would have given them a great chance at winning the gold medal at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. New Zealand made it to the final before losing 17-12 with a bunch of Rugby Sevens specialists, although they were far from convincing during the tournament, the fact that they made the final and only narrowly lost is some comfort, but it leaves you wondering if those Rugby Sevens specialists will be enough to get the gold medal at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016?

The problem is that Sevens Rugby clashes with Super Rugby and International Rugby and requires specialist training, hence why only fringe Blues player Peter Ahki was the only Super Rugby player included by coach Gordon Tietjens. The other thing is that in the past there have been plenty of quality 15-a side players that return to Rugby Sevens, but don't make the intended impact. I remember attending the Wellington Sevens in the early days and greats of the game like Christian Cullen and Jonah Lomu made a limited impact on the game despite originally playing sevens in their younger days, but being out of it for about five years.

Who would you include in the New Zealand Sevens team for Rio 2016?

Ideally, you want a core of experienced sevens players to be the glue of the team and then stars like Ben Smith, Frank Halai, Charles Piutau and Julian Savea add the spark. There are also some other players who would probably be keen, but you don't want the team to lose their edge by having too many new faces. Some more leftfield options would beKieran Read, Hosea Gear, Rene Ranger, Sonny Bill Williams, Cory Jane, Liam Mesam, Tim Nanai-Williams, Benji Marshall and Shaun Johnson from rugby league fame.

South African Youth Player Kicks 80 Metre Goal

Cheetahs Under 19 player Gerrie Labuschagne launches a huge kick at Shimla Park stadium, Bloemfontein. I don't know about the rest of his game, but this guy should be signed by an NFL team! Blomfontein is at an altitude of around 1400 metres which will help.