Super Rugby Tipping and Betting Guide 2013

Is is that time of year already? Yes it is. For those who like their Rugby season to never end, their wish has almost come true. Super Rugby in 2013 is kicking off a week earlier than 2012, to accommodate the Lions tour, which was earlier than the year before that and the year before that. Expect to spend your Christmas lunch in front of the TV following the Rugby anytime now.

So the Rugby will be hotter than ever, but that's really only a reference to the temperature. It's 45 degrees celsius outside as I write this and Australia's eastern seaboard is ringed by bushfires. Down the road at Moore Park, the Waratahs are having a training session which will come in really handy when they're playing in the slush and wind of New Zealand's South Island. 

But how will the other teams cope with the early start? Will the Lions tour prove to be a blessing or a curse for the Australian teams? And will Sonny-Bill Williams' departure lead to cheering or wailing (or whaling?) in the streets of wherever the Chiefs come from? All this and less is revealed in this year's tipping and betting guide...

KINGS (South Africa)
A concerted four-year campaign to gain entry to Super Rugby paid off when the South African Rugby Union decided to boot out the Lions (the South African version) and replace them with the Kings. While that might be great for the black and coloured communities of the Eastern and Western Capes, in terms of actual on-field performance, with a couple of exceptions, this team of no names will be under a lot of pressure. If you thought the Lions were bad just wait till you see the Kings go round. Kings supporters are probably already penciling in the post-2013 play-off match with the (South African) Lions for entry to the 2014 competition  as their best chance for a win.
Website rating  1/10: They don't have a website ( redirects here) and there are no cheerleaders or fun things on the redirected site (plenty of news though) 
Hard to pronounce player name   Lizo Gqoboka.  The official website that isn't doesn't even list a squad but the team that played the British and Irish Lions in 2009. Fortunately wikipedia to the rescue, which lists their 2013 training squad. 
Prediction   Last (even the Kings don't deserve the universal 7th place prediction)
Odds and Value  $501 (win), $34 (top 6).  Not at any price.

FORCE (Australia)
Michael Foley was the Waratahs coach who led them to ignominy last season. So he was a natural choice for the Force who were looking to replace Ben Graham who evacuated to the Reds mid-season. It's not clear what the Force were thinking, but given they also secured the services of former failed Waratah Sam Norton-Knight (another failed five-eighth), probably not much. He (they) probably came cheap. Nathan Sharpe has also retired and he's been replaced by 29 year old former Wallaby Hugh McMeniman. Well the Force aren't regarded as a nursing home just because all their players get injured every season.
Website rating  4/10: Same as last year (still no cheerleaders). The memorabilia features a bunch of 'firsts' photos and a signed jersey from 2007. Alas there's been nothing to celebrate since then.
Hard to pronounce player name  None. But Chris Alcock (another former Tah) and Kieran Longbottom are worth a guffaw.
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $126, $15.  If they couldn't make the finals with Nathan Sharpe, Matt Giteau and James O'Connor, how will they do it without them? Maybe throw a lazy dollar at it (for a place). 

CHEETAHS (South Africa)
The Rolling Maul watches a lot of Rugby and was pleasantly impressed that the Cheetahs made progress in 2012 even if it was at the expense of the Waratahs (the scars are deep). So it comes as somewhat of a surprise that there are all of about 5 players in the team list that are recognisable. How could they have lost a bunch of players and not picked up all those (OK, those few) accomplished Lions players who were suddenly without a Super Rugby contract? Interesting Rugby philosophy too. The team is Gaan Groot (Go Big) this year, so don't expect many flashy back line moves from fleet footed diminutive wingers.
Website Rating  8/10: Everything you'd want from a website (except half of it is in Afrikaans). News, entertainment, links, information, social media and the Cheetah Girls get their own page (Barba's seems to be the nightclub of choice if you're ever in the Free State (wherever that is).
Hard to pronounce player name  Ntabiseng Letutla (not strictly a player - she's a Cheetah Girl). Boon Prinsloo is guffaw worthy.
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $101, $13.  Great unknowns they may be but the great known is they can't win this comp. Pass.

REBELS (Australia)
It's hard to know what to make of the fact that the Rebels trained with their Rugby League 'rivals' the Melbourne Storm and also will share a trial game venue with them. For a city where both teams are minnows compared to the whale that is Aussie Rules (in Melbourne) you'd think they'd be doing everything they can to maximise knowledge of their individual codes rather than further confuse those potential fans who can't tell the difference. Certainly both teams have enough superstars (i.e. 'personalities') to willingly take on the publicity battle. But for the Rebels it boils down to no matter how loud Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor shout in the forest, will anyone in Melbourne be bothered to listen?  
Website Rating  3/10: Rehash of 2012 minus Stirling Mortlock's ugly mug dominating the home page, indeed as far as Super Rugby websites go this is about as ordinary as it gets design-wise, and it's stuffing up my browser!
Hard to pronounce player name  Eddie Aholelei (also worth a giggle - here's hoping his nickname is A-hole)
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $51, $6.  If Beale and O'Connor stay fit anything could happen. But it probably won't. Any more than $5 each way and you're giving it away.

BULLS (South Africa)
It took The Rolling Maul a while to work out why the Bulls get so much coverage and promotion from the BBC. Then it was realised that the Bulls are owned by the Blue Bulls Company. Well it's just as well they are getting coverage from somewhere because in 2012 they were the least memorable of all the Super Rugby teams; too good to be made fun of but not good enough to achieve much. Their playing stocks don't seem to have changed much in 2013 so chances of any publicity may rely on them being crap.
Website Rating  3/10:  And you thought the Rebels website was bad. The only saving grace is a link to the Bulls Babes but all it contains is a couple of group photos.
Hard to pronounce player name  Bongi Mbonambi
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $16, $2.50.  Good odds for a team that snuck into last years finals. Don't bet the mortgage though.

BLUES (New Zealand)
The Blues were the byword for underperformance in 2012. Despite a team full of champion All Blacks and an accomplished coach in Pat Lam the team spent most of the season so low on the ladder they were the bloke holding on to it to make sure no one else fell off. The good news for Blues fans is they have a new coach in All Black legend John Kirwan who would bleed blue if that marketing gimmick hadn't already been taken by the Bulls. They also have a bunch of new young raw talent willing to learn and please. The bad news is Kirwan did bugger-all for Japanese Rugby and they have a whole bunch of inexperienced players.
Website Rating  9/10:  Still the best designed website by far in Super Rugby. Speaking as a web nerd, it's easily navigable and user-friendly, even if there are no cheerleaders. Alas there is no correlation between website supremacy and on-field performance.
Hard to pronounce player name  Ofa Tu'ungafasi
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $15, $2.37.  Anything could happen but probably won't. Be afraid.

HURRICANES (New Zealand)
The 'Canes are on a winning streak. The finished 2012 in a burst of form, Thrashing the Rebels and the Waratahs (who didn't!?) and then beating the subsequent finalists the Crusaders and the Chiefs. They also had a bye in amongst that. Did them little good though as they still missed out on the finals, proving that the rest of their season was pretty lamentable. For mug punters and tipsters this makes for a tricky read. Best then to not bother.
Website Rating  4/10.  Average at best and to make it worse the Tua girls seem to have gone missing.
Hard to pronounce player name   Thomas Tekanapu Rawakata Perenara. No wonder everyone calls him 'TJ'.
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $13, $2.10.  Not convinced.

WARATAHS (Australia)
A new coach promising, well, the usual, and a new star signing with the usual hype. Business as usual in Waratah-land. The good news is that Michael Cheika (the coach) has a hard nosed no bullsh1t reputation, and like most coaches of his ilk will probably bring some immediate dramatic improvements in style and results. But with coaches like these, as necessary as they are to a team on the skids with wasted talent to burn (especially if it's Robbie Deans who's burning them out), the impact is temporary, and by season-end there tends to be player discontent and management rumblings. At least Robbie Deans should be free by next season.
Website Rating  5/10: Stock standard dull, but they do have Tah-Man (but not cheerleaders)
Hard to pronounce player name  None, but Ben Volavola has a great name for nicknames, not all of them to do with female anatomy (like 'Iced').
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $11, $2.00. Were reasonable value until a recent plunge. Still, nothing like playing dead one season to boost your odds the next.

BRUMBIES (Australia)
The best Brumbies teams are the ones that have a superiority complex and think the rest of the word hates them. It's not paranoia even if it looks that way because up until recently the rest of the world did hate them (or at least were their second most hated team after their traditional enemies). In 2012 things changed. A team of nobodies coached by Jake White made the world take notice and would have made the finals but for last minute stage fright. All that's done though is create some world-wide sympathy to their cause, and that's not how the Brumbies thrive. They need to turn things around quickly, start trash talking opponents and quickly get that chip back in its rightful place on their shoulders.
Website Rating  5/10: Nice simple layout but pretty standard fare. Like the news feed, not the lack of cheerleaders.
Hard to pronounce player name   Ruaidhri Murphy (his second season and it still looks wrong)
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $13, $2.10.  Gotta lose one to win one so they say. Well they haven't even lost one yet. Good chance of a place.

As predicted in last year's Tipping and Betting Guide, leaving Dunedin's House of Pain with its lashing rains and blizzards for the comfort and warmth of an indoor stadium was not the recipe the Highlanders needed for on-field success. The team won their first four matches, including over the Crusaders and the Chiefs but then fell apart. The team lost its edge once the comforts of the new stadium were realised. Visiting teams too realised that the home ground advantage had been nullified, even if the new stadium encouraged female students to take their tops off in ambush marketing efforts to promote local drinking establishments. While that might be great for fans and perverts, it does nothing for the Highlanders.
Website rating  5/10. Nothing special here. Move along.
Hard to pronounce player name  Buxton Popoalii (here's hoping his nickname is 'Boobs' as in Buxom Buxton)
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $11, $1.80  New signing Ma'a Nonu may be deflating the odds. He did nothing at the Blues.

REDS (Australia)
A new coach (sort of) and Genia and Cooper back (not that they really went away). Indeed it's almost the same squad as 2012 except for Scott Higginbotham who went to the Rebels. They're good omens for the only Australian team to make last year's finals and even then it was because the Brumbies choked in a way that would do Sam Stosur proud. With Ewen McKenzie pulling Richard Graham's strings, Robbie Deans being generous in selecting mostly Waratahs for the Wallabies, and a few less injuries this time round expect them to be near the top of the Aussie conference.
Website rating  6/10: All the Australian websites have the same OK format but at least the Reds' is full of stuff.
Hard to pronounce player name  Ulupano 'UJ' Seuteni (not sure what the J stands for but it's probably unpronounceable).
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $10, $1.80.  The best priced of the teams likely to take out the comp.

SHARKS (South Africa)
News out of Kwa-Zulu Natal is that Carlos Spencer is helping the Sharks prepare for the 2013 season. Wallaby fans remember Spencer as the player who threw Sterling Mortlock's intercept at the 2003 Rugby World Cup. He also had a shocking Mohawk at one stage. He was one of those slightly crazy and dumb players, like Quade Cooper who idolised him as a kid, known as 'mercurial', which roughly translates as "can be brilliant but is more often baffling and not in a good way". He was also John Mitchell's assistant at the (South African) Lions in 2012, so his track record isn't exactly outstanding. What were the Sharks thinking?
Website rating: 7/10  As far as websites go it's pretty good but the real action is on Facebook where the Sharks Flasher Girls have moved.
Hard to pronounce player name  Sibusiso Sitole (hard to pronounce and moderately amusing)
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $9.00, $1.45.   Despite the Spencer handicap still a gun team capable of taking out the comp. Good value of an each way bet.

STORMERS (South Africa)
Full credit to the Stormers for being the first team in 2013 to admit they're suffering an injury crisis. It takes a special team to get both their back-up hookers out of action before the season has even begun. The Waratahs usually wait until week 2 of the season to declare that injuries are the cause for their poor start. But wait, there's more. On January 11 the team issued a media release titled 'Injury report'. It lists 4 other players out injured and 8 players either just back from injury or returning to training. At this rate they won't be able to field 15 fit players when the season starts. They should just start making excuses now.
Website rating  5/10. Yawn.
Hard to pronounce player name  None, but De Kock Steenkamp is just a brilliant name.
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value $8.00, $1.35.  A risky bet with a pre-season casualty ward but that's why it's called gambling after all.

CHIEFS (New Zealand)
The Chiefs may have won last year's title but they did it tunelessly. Their post-match celebrations must have been eerily quiet and less than raucous without a song to sing with a beer in one hand and their pants around their ankles. So to rectify this appalling state of affairs, the Chiefs have asked their fans to submit "one-liners about what the Chiefs mean to you". It's a risky proposition and one likely to result in some choice comment from less than rusted on supporters (and opposition fans). 'Singer-songwriter' Pete Fountain has been given the dubious task of patching all the material together. 2013 may not be the Chief's most successful, but it could be their most tuneful.
Website rating  5/10. Nice layout but skinny on the info and no drop-down lists (sorry, more nerd-talk). And no cheerleaders.
Hard to pronounce player name Asaeli Tikoirotuma
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $6.00  $1.35.  Defending champs are always worth a punt, though no SBW this year.

CRUSADERS (New Zealand)
Being perennial favourites means that seasons such as last year's are determined by the faithful to be disappointments. If only the Waratahs could be similarly disappointed. Clearly there is something in the water in Christchurch that produces the world's best Rugby players. Now there's a marketing opportunity (Cue dream sequence - "Poor handling? Kicks going awry? Scrums going backwards? Step right up. Dr McCaw's Rugby Juice is pure distilled Christchurch water. This Rugby tonic is a  panacea to cure all your Rugby ills.") 20 tankers full for the Waratahs please...
Website rating  4/10. You'd think the perennial overachievers (or just achievers) of Super Rugby would spend more time, effort and money on their website. Then again, maybe they're just concentrating on results on the field. Strange concept but it could work.
Hard to pronounce player name  Richie McCaw (difficult to say through gritted teeth)
Prediction  7th
Odds and Value  $5.00, $1.20. Usual short odds. Lazy punters may be interested.


Anonymous said…
So everyone comes 7th except 1 team?
It's the only way to guarantee I get one right!
Anonymous said…
Something in the water? It must be EPO.
Anonymous said…
Dear rolling maul
Missed my tips this week, but pleasing to hear that the rebels beat the force. Not so pleasing is that the abc radio app won't let me listen to the reds brumbies game in sunny Poland.

I thought this recent article about big Jerry Y might be of interest.

Cricket blogger