Sunday, 18 January 2009

2009 Super 14 Tipping and Betting Guide

A relatively quiet off season post international tours, with no major dummy spits, coaching changes or small furry marsupial assaulting, has meant that the Rolling Maul has been quiet of late. Indeed the only story of almost interest was the threatened player revolt against John Mitchell, which he has most likely been been working on in the background to coordinate (after all, if you'd just signed a three year contract extension you'd want to be sacked with a big payout too).

So with no further ado, the Rolling Maul is proud to present the 2009 edition of the Tipping and Betting Guide.

Crusaders
The perennial favourites and perennial champions, the Crusaders start the season with a new coach for the first time since forever. Unfortunately, given the Wallabies' results in 2008 which when you come right down to it weren't that much different to 2007, the influence of Robbie Deans is negligible, so expect the Crusaders to either the take the title again or struggle and prove that it was all Robbie Deans all along and the Rolling Maul doesn't have a clue (both equally likely).

Current odds: $4.00
Value for money: Long odds for the hot favourite. Worth a punt.
Unpronounceable player to watch: Kahn Fotuali'i
Prediction: 5th place

Hurricanes
A perennial underachiever of Super Rugby (the Reds of course being the other), the Hurricanes may have finally realised the error of their ways. After years of being known as a team of more apostrophes than Rugby talent, only Ma'a Nonu and Rodney So'oialo remain from the teams that terrorised commentators and linguists earlier this decade.

Current odds: $5.50
Value for money: Marginal. Maybe as a hedge bet only.
Unpronounceable player to watch: Faifili Levave
Prediction: 5th place

Sharks
The 2007 runners-up were losing finalists in 2008, so logic would suggest that the decline is set to continue and they will narrowly miss the finals in 2009. But logic has never had anything to do with Rugby, just look at Matt Dunning - he's still playing for the Wallabies, so anything could happen. The Sharks website reveals that they have just had a trial match in Abu Dhabi canceled, so evidently the team is in need of a sheik up (groan).

Current odds: $7.00
Value for money: Don't bother
Unpronounceable player to watch: Skholiwe Ndlovu
Prediction: 5th place

Blues
It's been a long time since the Blues were a force in Super Rugby, indeed the rise and rise of Robbie Deans pretty much corresponded with the fall and fall of the Blues. Now, with Robbie Deans gone, it's time for the Blues to step up and be worthy of the name that they stole from New South Wales many years ago, leaving them to be named after a flower.

Current odds: $8.00
Value for money: Keep your wallet in your pocket
Unpronounceable player to watch: Onosa'i Auva'a
Prediction: 5th place

Chiefs
The Chiefs are traditionally the anti-Waratahs, starting each season in complete disarray before charging home with upset on the road victories and finally falling just short of a finals spot. The Chiefs website reveals that coach Ian Foster has just returned from a fact finding tour of Europe. It's just a shame though that his opposition in the Super 14 are from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, countries evidently bereft of Rugby facts. Well here's one - the Chiefs won't make the finals, so nothing new there then.

Current odds: $11.00
Value for money: A sure thing - to lose your dough
Unpronounceable player to watch: Aled de Malmanche
Prediction: 5th place

Bulls
The 2007 Super 14 champions were duds last year. The star studded line up, including Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana, suffered second year blues. Still it's not all bad news; the Bulls website is still the best of all the Super 14 teams, featuring as it does the Bulls Babes. With distractions like that it's no wonder the players are struggling to keep their minds on the on field action.

Current odds: $13.00
Value for money: The more Bulls Babes action the better. Carn the Bulls. Have a punt.
Unpronounceable player to watch: Dries van Schalkwyk
Prediction: 5th place

Stormers
The Stormers will not be releasing their squad until the SANZAR deadline of 6 February and for this they must be punished. Not only that, but their website features no semi-clad women - and not even any fully clad women. At least the Sharks' website features their women's Rugby team. As a result, the Rolling Maul will be boycotting the Stormers this year.

Current odds: $13.00
Value for money: Do not put money on this team on principle
Unpronounceable player to watch: Who knows?
Prediction: Will not be made.

Waratahs
When Matt Dunning busted a ligament against the Barbarians no one was more distressed than the Rolling Maul - what the hell am I going to write about this year? OK, so maybe new coach Chris Hickey will also miss the Waratahs' favourite bench warmer, not to mention Dan Vickerman and Rocky Elsom. Kurtley Beale finally gets a chance to stake his claim for the Wallabies' spot that Matt Giteau has been keping warm for him.

Current odds: $13.00
Value for money: Good odds for last year's runners up. But then again, we are talking about the Waratahs here.
Unpronounceable player to watch: Ratu Nasiganiyavi
Prediction: 5th place

Brumbies
The Brumbies were so injury ravaged last year that even the ball boys were at one stage being measured up for jerseys. Yet all those players are a year more experienced now, some of them have even left school, and with the Brumbies jumping on the new coach bandwagon all the indications are that the Brumbies will return to their isolationist "us against them" ways. Hey, whatever works.

Current odds: $17.00
Value for money: Could be worth a lazy tenner.
Unpronounceable player to watch: Afusipa Taumoepeau
Prediction: 5th place

Force
More ructions and rumours out of Perth are suggesting that the player revolt that isn't (that is, everyone will deny it until it happens) will see the end of John Mitchell some time this season. It stands to reason. The team has been founded by some of the Brumbies' players that were immersed in that isolationist inferiority complex and a player culture that led to the demise of David Nucifora but also a title in the same year. Coupled with last seasons drunken antics the Force are only one player revolt away from a title.

Current odds: $51.00
Value for money: Great value at half the price
Unpronounceable player to watch: Pekahou Cowan
Prediction: 5th place

Highlanders
Who knows how the Highlanders will go in 2009? The Highlanders are the Queensland Reds of New Zealand Rugby. It must be something about the extreme weather. Dunedin cold or Brisbane heat, either way it does something to people who live there too long. Still there is hope. The Highlanders have selected a player with the best name ever in Rugby - Israel Dagg, no relation to Fred and not a sheep joke. Seriously, searching his name in Google produced 16,100 results. A Dagg to lead the Highlanders revival - one can dare to dream.

Current odds: $67.00
Value for money: Never ever
Unpronounceable player to watch: Pehi Te Whare
Prediction: 5th place

Reds
What do you call a one man team whose one man has retired (or gone to Japan or Europe - it's the same thing)? Do the maths. The Reds are now a no man team without Chris Latham. Sure he was injured for most of last season and Clinton Schifcofske (who would be this year's unpronounceable player if he hadn't gone too) was a reasonable back up, but when you call on another ex leaguie (Mark McLinden this time) you know things are getting desperate.

Current odds: $67.00
Value for money: Couldn't be worse than last year, or the year before that, or the year before that, or...
Unpronounceable player to watch: Brando Va'aulu
Prediction: 5th place

Cheetahs
What the Cheetah Girls and their website may lack in terms of pure unadulterated raunch they more than make up for with class. Sure the Bulls Babes get all the press but the Cheetah Girls are pretty new to this business and are still finding their feet in the competitive arena of South African cheerleading. 2008 was a tough year but with another year of experience under their skimpy belts the future is promising.

Current odds: $101.00
Value for money: They are available for private functions, so probably
Unpronounceable player to watch: Dineo (the brunette second fromt the left)
Prediction: 5th place

Lions
Last year's wooden spooners have been scheduled to play their arch rivals The Cheetahs in Round 1. Alas this was last year's battle for the spoon, and it's a poor indictment on a team where you're relying on the first match of the season to provide your best chance of an upset victory. Maybe they need some cheerleaders?

Current odds: $201.00
Value for money: Would be a brave bet
Unpronounceable player to watch: Doppies la Grange or Trompie Nontshinga - OK not so unpronounceable as hilarious (but not as good as Israel Dagg)
Prediction: 5th place