Super Rugby Tipping and Betting Guide 2014 - Part 2 - The Contenders

Every team in every sport claims to be a chance of making the semi finals, but mathematically that simply can't happen. All sports have their winners and losers. Most teams are there to make up the numbers and fill up the TV schedule so that the teams with the biggest drawing power and revenue base can increase their ever-growing on and off field power. It's the reality. Consider it checked and live with it.

In Part 1 of this guide, we looked at the Super Rugby also-rans, those teams which never fail to over promise and under deliver. Now in Part 2 we examine which teams are a realistic chance of doing something to get their supporters, punters, tipsters and the TV executives excited...

REDS (Australia)
Last season  5th (lost qualifying finals)
Hyphens and Apostrophes  3 (Chris Feauai-Sautia, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, Ed O'Donoghue)
Who?  David McDuling
Website rating  4/10  Seriously dull and not a cheerleader in sight.
Odds  $17 (win), $2.15 (make the finals)
Should you bother?  The elephant who used to bark orders from the sideline is now the elephant in the room up Queensland way. So we'll only whisper it - Ewen McKenzie has gone. So how will Richard Graham cope when he couldn't cope at the Force? It's one thing to be the sorcerer's apprentice and enough thing entirely to be the sorcerer, especially when the sorcerer's key magic tricks are in the shape of Quade Cooper, Will Genia, James Horwill and a few other fringe Wallabies. Cooper in particular never responded well to Robbie Deans, so Graham may have his work cut out getting into Cooper's head. Then again, there's probably plenty of space up there! The uncertainty has certainly concerned the bookies, so if you're going to get on them then get on them early.
Prediction  7th

BULLS ( South Africa)
Last season  2nd (lost home semi-final to Brumbies)
Multi Surnames  3 (Jacques Du Plessis, Marcel Van Der Merwe, Piet Van Zyl)
Who?  Clayton Blommetjies
Website rating  8/10 courtesy of the Bulls Babes and some flash new graphics and navigation but lose points because of the time it takes to load pages. Speaking of Bulls Babes, how does CJ Jonck get to keep her job when her favourite player is Dan Carter?
Odds  $17, $2.15
Should you bother?  No idea. Came second last season but are likely to miss the semis altogether if you believe the bookies. Maybe The Rolling Maul should start paying more attention to the comings and goings of South African Rugby but the reality is we can't be bothered. If you really want to know what's happening in South African Rugby then try a South African Rugby blog.
Prediction  7th

BLUES (New Zealand)
Last season  10th
Hyphens and Apostrophes  5 (Jamison Gibson-Park, Ma’a Nonu, Angus Ta’avao, Brendon O'Connor, Ofa Tu’ungafasi)
Who?  Tevita Li
Website rating  7/10  Still the best player search and stats engine in the business but the site hasn't changed in 3 years.
Odds  $17, $2.15
Should you bother? Interest in the Blues this season isn't going to be so much how the team performs but how a couple of prize recruits go. Ma'a Nonu is Super Rugby poison. Everywhere he goes (and he's been everywhere man) has led to disappointment, including when he last played at the Blues. Indeed his legacy tends to outlive him, and those teams struggle even after he leaves (just look at the Blues even now,  the Highlanders - still languishing, and his original team the Hurricanes who are still rebuilding). Meanwhile Benji Marshall has no Rugby history at all (since he was at school anyway). Still plenty of Leaguies have made a great run of Rugby (Folau, Tuquiri, Thorn etc). Plenty of others less so (Tahu, Sailor, err, others less memorable). Benji is no spring chicken though (his knees are held together with chicken wire) so while getting on the park will be an achievement, staying there will be a miracle.
Prediction  7th

WARATAHS (Australia)
Last season  9th
Hyphens and Multi Surnames  2 (Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tatafu Polota Nau)
Who?  Alofa Alofa
Website rating  2/10. Same old same old, no cheerleaders and the media section is out of date - just how does a mild mannered blogger get a media pass these days?
Odds  $10, $1.50
Should you bother? If you can look past the Volvo logo on the jersey (prove if ever it was needed that the Waratahs are intricately linked to a particular Sydney North Shore demographic and have no real interest in the great unwashed of the Western Suburbs) then there's a lot to like about the Waratahs. There's even real reason to be overconfident. Coach Michael Cheika is the type of hard nut (or 'cunt' as some refer to him) that can shake up the team, the administration and ultimately the fans. Coaches like Cheika know what they want and won't take 'piss off' for an answer. It pays dividends for two or three years as everyone rallies around the cause. But the hard arsed approach only lasts so long. Give it another year and the tables will turn, the moaning will begin and the backstabbing will go public. But until then, enjoy the ride.
Prediction  7th

STORMERS (South Africa)
Last season  7th
Hyphens and Multi Surnames  Unknown! What hope is there for a team that still hasn't publicly released its playing roster less than two weeks out from the start of the season?
Who?  Exactly
Website rating  1/10  Not only is there no playing roster but most of the pages take forever load up and the Fanzone is mostly just wallpapers. So forget about looking for cheerleaders.
Odds  $10.00, $1.50
Should you bother?  No. They don't deserve you.
Prediction  7th

SHARKS (South Africa)
Last season  8th
Hyphens, Apostrphes and Multi Surnames  6 (Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter–Steph du Toit, S’bura Sithole, Jaco van Tonder)
Who?  Fred Zeilinga
Website rating  2/10  Where are the Sharks Flasher Girls? Let's face it, that's the only reason we even watch this team!
Odds  $8.00, $1.40
Should you bother?  The biggest Australian off-season Rugby news was Jake White leaving the Brumbies once it became apparent that his dreams of coaching the Wallabies were never to be fulfilled. It's this kind of narcissistic pig-headed arrogance which makes White such a great coach and why he'll be missed at the Brumbies. Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher may be effective coaching tackling drills and scrum technicalities but they're just too nice. The Sharks meanwhile are the perfect place for a bastard like White. For one thing, their website features a whole page on the 'brand' with White's ugly mug in the banner header. Coaches like White (and Michael Cheika for that matter) are just what a team needs to get blood boiling and develop an 'us and them' culture, for  a couple of years anyway until you get groups of them amongst us and it all goes to shit.
Prediction  7th

BRUMBIES (Australia)
Last season  3rd (lost final)
Hyphens and Multi Surnames  3 (Stephan Van Der Walt, Joshua Mann-Rea, Jean-Pierre Smith)
Who?  Allan Alaalatoa
Website rating  2/10  Yawn
Odds $7.50, $1.40
Should you bother?  The Brumbies get bookies favouritism for the simple fact they have were the most successful team in Australia last year and bookies, by definition, don't like to take risks. But this is a year of considerable unknowns for the Brumbies. Jake White is gone (see Sharks) and he was instrumental in getting the team winning again. Ben Mowen is going, David Pocock is back, George Smith has gone, Scott Fardy is 'found', Jesse Mogg's been found out. With so much guesswork involved it would be a brave punter to take short odds on the Brumbies.
Prediction  7th

CRUSADERS (New Zealand)
Last season  4th (lost semi-finals)
Hyphens and Whitelocks  5 (Rey Lee-Lo, Adam Whitelock, George Whitelock, Luke Whitelock, Samuel Whitelock)
Who?  Nemani Nadolo
Website rating   3/10  Meh
Odds  $5.00  $1.25
Should you bother?  By Crusaders standards, 2013 was an utter disaster. One as big as 2012. Both years they failed to make the final. They did though win 5 straight at the end of 2013 before losing to eventual champions the Chiefs by 1 point in their semi-final. So the perennial favourites are almost favourites this year too, only the Chiefs are more favoured and that's only because bookies are cowards. But any team strong enough to retain talent such as Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Israel Dagg, Andy Ellis and Kieran Read and 4 Whitelocks deserves a hedge punt. Surely they couldn't miss out on the final 3 years in a row?
Prediction  7th

CHIEFS (New Zealand)
Last season  1st
Hyphens  3 (Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Tim Nanai-Williams, Anton Lienert-Brown)
Who? Liam Squire
Website rating  1/10.  Talk about minimalist. All the tabs are a single page of text plus maybe one image and some links. And most of the players don't even have photos. How hard can it be to find a photo of Mils Muliaina or Robbie Freuan? You'd think the team that won the last two comps could afford to invest some of their winnings on one of their primary marketing tools. Must be that Sonny Bill-Williams has sucked up all the budget, for this year and next.
Odds  $4.50, $1.20
Should you bother?  No. We're not talking Black Caviar here. The Chiefs may have won the last 2 but you'd think that would make them less likely to win a third than more. And even if they are deserved favourites (and they aren't) then there's simply no value in putting any of your hard earned on them. It's not funny, but it is the truth (who said The Rolling Maul was always full of shit - oh yeah - everyone).