Super Rugby Tipping and Betting Guide 2014 - Part 1 - The Also-Rans

With the cricket out of the way it can mean only one thing. Rugby season has begun. No longer will we have to longingly scan the TV guide just looking for something to watch all weekend, giving up and talking to our partners knowing that at least it could mean extra leave passes once the Rugby season begins. And it's an extra long season now that the National Rugby Championship has been tacked onto the already bulging Rugby calendar. But to paraphrase Roy and HG - too much Rugby is barely enough.

First cab off the rank is Super Rugby. Yet again there is great promise and hope in Australian Rugby, smug contentedness in New Zealand Rugby and arrogant over confidence in South African Rugby. But would you dare put your money where your mouth is or even tip where your mouth is? Consult this guide and you can't go wrong! (although actually this is only part 1 - the also-rans - so you could go seriously badly)...

*The Rolling Maul supports responsible and successful gambling and will accept commissions.

WESTERN FORCE (Australia)
Last season  13th
Hyphens  2 (Dane Haylett-Petty, Chris Tuatara-Morrison)
Who?  Marcel Brache
Website rating  5/10 - no changes from last year and no cheerleaders
Odds  $151 (win) $21 (semis)
Should you bother?  They come, they go. Be it coaches or players, the Force must own some sort of record for player and coach turnover (maybe not coaches - that would be the Waratahs). Each season they score a few morale boosting wins and the odd upset (oddly, the Crusaders are their bunnies) but never set the world on fire and 2014 is set to be more of the same. If only they had secured James O'Connor then they might have some star power to elevate them to the semis, instead they've settled on an aged former Springbok (Wilhelm Steenkamp) and a potential future one (Sias Ebersohn). Coach Michael Foley has secured another season (so far). Stability might be a reasonable goal. The semis aren't.
Prediction  7th

LIONS (South Africa)
Last season  Didn't compete (in every sense of the word)
Multi-surnames  11 (Schalk van der Merwe, Chris van Zyl, Dylan des Fountain etc...)
Who?  Adriaan Engelbrecht
Website rating  0/10 - "Oops! Google Chrome could not connect to www.lionsrugby.co.za"
Odds  $151, $21
Should you bother?  The Kings, the Lions, the Kings, the Lions. Really, why bother? One upset win a season, two if you're lucky then a play-off to see if you're not even good enough to keep your place in the competition. How's that supposed to inspire loyalty and team morale? You wouldn't bet on this team but you would bet on the fact that no one in the team has more than a one-year contract. That goes a long way to explain that unless you're intimately involved in South African Rugby you will have never heard of any of their players bar maybe one, two at a stretch (Elton Jantjies - their only Springbok and Franco van der Merwe who's made the Springbok squad a few times). It would be tempting to think it was a conspiracy to field a team this unknown, but that would be giving too much credit to South African Rugby.
Prediction  7th

REBELS (Australia)
Last season  12th
Hyphens and apostrophes  2 (Cruze Ah-Nau, Colby Fainga'a)
Who?  Jack Debreczeni
Website rating 7/10 - Fresh new modern look and easy to navigate. No cheerleaders. Not even a fan zone.
Odds  $101, $13
Should you bother?  James O'Connor. Gone. Kurtley Beale. Gone. But inspirational Scott Higginbotham is there and let's face it, the team played better the more unknowns were on the paddock. There was some attacking flair too out wide - Woodward and English were great finds and Luke Burgess and Tom Kingston are clever signings. You know what? there's potential here. Here's a great chance to show how clever you are and put a few lazy bucks or tips their way.
Prediction  7th

HIGHLANDERS (New Zealand)
Last season  14th
Apostrophes  1 (Ma'afu Fia)
Who?  Hayden Parker
Website rating  8/10 - So the site isn't much to look at, but The Zoo has it's own webpage.
Odds  $41, $6
Should you bother?  The perennial never achievers of New Zealand Rugby. It doesn't matter who they recruit, be it Ma'a Nonu or Brad Thorn, they still tend to prop up the other New Zealand teams. Now, the Rolling Maul isn't one to say "I told you so" but here's a quote from last year's guide "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." Brad Thorn did nothing for them either, and at 38 he's back to do nothing for them again.
Prediction  7th

CHEETAHS (South Africa)
Last season  6th
Multi surnames  6 (De Bruyn, De Jager, De Klerk, Van der Walt, Van Jaarsveld, Van Zyl)
Who?  Ligtoring Landman
Website rating  6/10  Bonus points for the Cheetah Girls and lose points for having each player listed 5 times.
Odds  $26, $4
Should you bother?  The Cheetahs certainly aren't the bookies favourite. Despite making the semis in 2013, if you believed the odds then they will be safely ensconced in the bottom half of the log (to use the South African name for the ladder). It's hard to work out why that might be the case. All their top Boks are back - especially Heinrich Brussow and Adriaan Strauss plus plenty of other recognisable names. Maybe it's because Brussow is out injured for the early part of the season, or maybe they really are that crap.
Prediction  7th

HURRICANES (New Zealand)
Last season  11th
Hyphens and apostrophes  3 (Nehe Milner-Skudder, Jeff Toomaga-Allen, Motu Matu’u)
Who?  Brendon Edmonds
Website rating  6/10   Nothing particularly exciting but the player pages are excellent. No cheerleaders though.
Odds  $21, $3
Should you bother?    2013 was the season that wasn't for The 'Canes. They threatened for much of the season but ultimately were flat and disappointing and it's difficult to see why. Despite losing their last 5 matches (their last win was on May 10), the team is crammed full of All Blacks, and not just your common or garden variety either but some greats and potential greats like Ben Franks, Julian Savea, Victor Vito and Conrad Smith. This really is flick of the coin stuff, so if two-up is your thing then go for it.
Prediction  7th

Funnily enough, that's it for Part 1. Next on the list of bookies least favourite is the Reds, and for that, you'll have to visit Part 2 - The Contenders.

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