LOOK: The Super Rugby Tipping and Betting Guide 2012 can be found here.
Now with extra Super, provincial rugby returns to the Southern Hemisphere with an extra team and more games providing more opportunities to whinge about scrum resets, pedantic refereeing and the plight of the game in Australia. How will your team fare this year and are they worth a punt?...
The Bulls' website features tweets from their players. Included in all the usual 'hard day training' rubbish are these gems from thespian and literary giant Dewald Potgieter: Hey guys, been a while since I tweeted, just thought I'd avoid the tendency sum people hav 2 tweet a load of shit. Happy 2011, make memories; "Theres a difference btween gettin ur ass kickd havin sum dancing singing sprite fool u wit trickery & then strike ur throat" #vincevaughn. If the Bulls can win competitions with geniuses like this on board it's no wonder they're hard to beat.
How much of your hard earned?: $2. Hope they lose a couple of early games and their odds blow out before taking a punt.
Player's name to giggle at: Fudge Mabeta
Cheerleader rating: 10/10. The Bulls Babes have a dedicated webpage, and a calendar insert in the 'Blou Inhoud' magazine featuring the girls in bikinis.And if Amor Kruger is any indication they're also extremely flexible.
The Crusaders annual charity cricket match was held in December. The Crusaders defeated Todd Blackadders's All Stars by 30 runs with Andy Ellis stranded on 99 not out. These are poor omens for the once mighty team as it looks towards recapturing a crown not held since 2008. Expect them to struggle against teams they should be thrashing and not supporting each other when it gets down to the wire.
How much of your hard earned?: $10.00. They are semi-final certainties so some value then it's anyone's guess.
Player's name to giggle at: Jonathan Poff
Cheerleader rating: 7/10. The Paul Kelly Motor Company Dancers may have the least sexy name in the business and their profiles are bland to say the least, but they are available!
The Sharks new doctor is a former gymnast who represented South Africa.He was selected for the Commonwealth Games in 2006 but due to injury ended up as a reserve. In 2002 he was the Bulls mascot. These are poor omens for the Sharks. Expect them to show great promise this season before injuries cruel their progress and the Bulls see them as a bit of fun.
How much of your hard earned?: $5.00. Reasonable odds for the Currie Cup champions but the last Super 14 season was pretty ordinary.
Player's name to giggle at: Rory Kockott
Cheerleader rating: 9/10. Despite this downloadable wallpaper image, no evidence exists on the Shark's website that they even have cheerleaders. Excellent wallpaper though. Will look great on the bedroom walls. Breaking news: What the Sharks Flasher girls lack for online presence they make up for with their field presence.
The Stormers did win something in 2010. Their "I am a Stormer" marketing and social media campaign was recognised in late November when it was awarded Best Social Media Campaign at the 2010 Bookmarks Awards. The "I am a Stormer" campaign is also on the finalists list for Best Use of Digital Communication in Sport at the Virgin Active Sports Industry Awards, whilst the Stormers are up for Sports Team/Business of the Year. Maybe in 2011 they'll concentrate more on their on-field performance than their on-line performance.
How much of your hard earned?: $20.00. Ran the Bulls close last year and are improving year-to-year so may be good value.
Player's name to giggle at: Wicus Blaauw
Cheerleader rating: 6/10. There aren't any on the official website, not even a stupid looking mascot, but the Vodababes do exist.
Brumby pre-season training involved four weeks of boxing lessons, including rounds against a professional boxer and each other. Some of them were quote good, landing punches and one even achieved a standing eight-count. What this has to do with Rugby isn't really explained by the Brumbies website except for some vague reference to footwork. No mention of better punching skills strangely enough.
How much of your hard earned?: $5. 2010 was forgettable for the Brumbies. The same personnel aren't expected to be much better, unless Mat Giteau remembers how to play the game. Unlikely.
Player's name to giggle at: Dan Palmer
Cheerleader rating: 1/10. A horse-shaped mascot is as good as it gets. At least the Crusaders have a real horse.
For the second year the Hurricanes are playing a pre-season match on a farm next door to the brewery that sponsors the team. Not only that but entry includes a free beer. Children are charged at the same price which makes you wonder if their parents would just buy extra adult tickets to claim the free beers. The Hurricanes may not win the inaugural Super Rugby competition but it's great to see the spirit of Rugby lives on in the drunken supporters of the Hurricanes.
How much of your hard earned?: $2. Don't waste your beer money on them. Put it towards the next pre-season.
Player's name to giggle at: Andrew Hore
Cheerleader rating: 7/10. The City Fitness Cheerleaders may have a webpage but some of them don't have profiles. This is unacceptable and their web content manager should be sacked immediately.
Tatafu Polota-Nau has promised not to cut his already impressive afro haircut until his club Parramatta win a match in any grade. Last year they won none. It's likely that by the end of the season the 'fro will be so large that each time a scrum is packed all viewers will see will be a black blur. This is no bad thing as far as Australian ascrums are concerned.
How much of your hard earned?: $10. Last year's semi-finalists somehow made the semi-finals despite themselves. If they ever click they could be dangerous. But to who?
Player's name to giggle at: Rob Horne. Unfortunately Henrik Roodt was dropped from the squad.
Cheerleader rating: 1/10. Tah Man may have lots of curves but they're not the kind to interest the Rolling Maul.
The Blues may not be good Rugby players these days but they sure know how to fish. Check this out. There's another video on the Blues' website where they cook. Whether they play Rugby or not is a mystery. Judging by recent efforts the jury is still out on that one and there's nothing about this year's team to encourage any optimism.
How much of your hard earned?: $5 Poor odds for such underperformers. Even a 6-team final series probably won't help them.
Player's name to giggle at: Tony Woodcock
Cheerleader rating: 5/10. No mention on the team website but they do exist if you know where to look.
The Waikato Times is reporting that a number of All Blacks are Gridiron tragics. About a dozen of them attended a match at Wembley between the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers in replica jerseys. They even fantasise about which position they'd play if they ever got a chance in the NFL. This year expect the Chiefs to be penalised for shepparding, not using arms in tackles and for illegally large shoulder pads. And expect them not to place the ball over the tryline.
How much of your hard earned?: $10. You just never know which Chiefs team will turn up, so might be wise to hedge.
Player's name to giggle at: Culum Retallick
Cheerleader rating: 9/10. Full marks to the Chiefs for dedicating a news item to their "Dance Squad". While the website is skinny on pictures (so minus one point there) it does promise "The girls will be keeping an e-diary of their training expereinces". Let's hope the girls are better spellers than their news editor.
With all of Queensland flooded will the Queensland Reds be forced to adjust their normal expansive playing style into a typical English mud-loving bash and barge style? Or will they simply purchase some canoes and float downstream past their doggie paddling opponents before placing the ball over the cross bar and watch it float away? In the realm of Shakespearean omens these floods and storms are bad portents.
How much of your hard earned?: $17. Just as likely to win the comp as come last. Think of them as the best of the roughies.
Player's name to giggle at: Scott Higginbotham
Cheerleader rating: 0/10. Their mascot is a koala. Cute? Yes. Cuddly? Yes. Menacing or alluring? No. Move along. Nothing to see here.
Where old washed-up Rugby players go to get their pension or where the best of the rest cash in while they can? Or both? Depending on your point of view the Rebels will either be the saviours or the last desperate dying gasp of Australian Rugby. The Rolling Maul views it as a win-win. Either Australia get a new and potent Rugby force to take on the world and shake up a stagnant Australian Rugby system or all the other teams get a new whipping boy and easy points in Super Rugby.
How much of your hard earned?: $2. The Brumbies were the exception rather than the rule. New teams always struggle in their first couple of years. Look at the Force.
Player's name to giggle at: Hugh Pyle
Cheerleader rating: 0/10. Must be too cold in Melbourne to wear a short skirt.
Just when you thought the mongrel dickhead aspect to life in Perth had calmed down with the departure of Matt Henjak and Scott Fava a couple of years ago comes news that Cameron Shepard has kept the spirit alive by being done for drink driving whilst on a suspended drivers licence. What impact will this have on the team? None. With or without dickheads the Force have always struggled as a mid-table moderate team capable of the occasional big performance. At least with the dickheads though they are more fun to write about!
How much of your hard earned?: $10. You never know. Avoid injuries and recruit some more dickheads and this team could go places.
Player's name to giggle at: David Smith. Just kidding. Try Phoenix Battye.
Cheerleader rating: 0.5/10. At least they have an online game called 'Nudge Ramington's Brute Force'.
The (don't call us Otago) Highlanders' trophy cabinet is about as empty as the streets of Dunedin at 10pm on a wintery weekday evening. Fortunately things heat up in every sense of the word except climatically on the weekend thanks to the big student population there. What it means is that each year a new bunch of recruits troop down to watch the Highlanders in complete ignorance of their appalling track record (except against the Waratahs). Sure they're jaded by season's end but Rugby in Dunedin is not about Rugby. Fortunately for the Highlanders.
How much of your hard earned?: $1. They do spring the occasional upset, but anything more than a buck you might as well burn your cash, at least it will provide some warmth.
Player's name to giggle at: Shaun Treeby (players from this part of the world aren't particularly giggle-worthy it seems)
Cheerleader rating: 8/10. You'd think it would be too cold to prance around in a mini in Dunedin, but maybe that just makes the girls, err, perkier.
It's hard to know what to say about a team that posts all their news in Afrikaans. I thought the Google translator may help, but under the news item title "Cheetahs positive on bail" were these gems: "The Cheetahs sponsorship debacle could present a major step in the right direction when giving a potential major sponsor in Johannesburg gathered" and "It hums in the region since the Cheetahs about a month before the start of the Super15 rugby series is not a main sponsor them." As far as I can tell the team is sponsorless. You'd think they'd change their website from www.vodacomcheetahs.co.za then. This is a time in trouble.
How much of your hard earned? None. Not at any odds.
Player's names to giggle at: Ryno Barnes and Ryno Benjamin
Cheerleader rating: 2/10. Seems they probably exist but the Cheetahs mascot, creatively named 'Cheetah', not only has a higher profile but is available for kids parties.
John Mitchell is coaching the Lions. Mitchell is the Greg Chappell of the Rugby World. Poison. A guarantee that within two years your team will be embroiled within coaching dramas and player walkouts. They'll also have moderate success and show great promise but never really deliver. Still, that's an improvement for the Lions.
How much of your hard earned?: $5. Reputably had the fastest back line on the planet last year and pulled off a couple of surprise victories. But compared to the Cheetahs they are organised, disciplined and just as successful.
Player's name to giggle at: Shandre Frolick
Cheerleader rating: 8/10: "Everyone knows them. Young girls want to be them." So says the Lions website of the FeLions. It also says they "leave us speechless with their daring antics and moves" but auditions are "open to men and women". Enlightening? Yes. Pointless? Yup.