Who to pick from each Vodacom Super Rugby team, courtesy of long-time fantasy rugby enthusiasts ALEX TARR and ADAM WAKEFIELD.
As 15 February looms ever closer, Super Rugby fans across the globe are dusting off their team jerseys, clearing space on the PVR, and preparing a list of excuses for getting out of family commitments inexplicably scheduled for Saturday.
Super Rugby is a bug, and once it bites, it has you for life. However, there is one particular group of Super Rugby fans for whom the competition is more than just a past-time or a hobby: Fantasy fanatics.
Anyone who’s played fantasy rugby will know the thrill of their captain scoring a try, the vindication of an unknown rookie – who you’ve tracked since he pulled on the U16 Grey PE jersey – doubling in price, and the inevitable frustration of being the only person in your league who doesn’t own Damian McKenzie because ‘he’s overrated’ (some lessons just have to be learned the hard way).
The saying goes, ‘Plan to fail if you fail to plan’, so with so much on the line and seeking to avoid the humiliation of last year’s season, preparation is key.
With this in mind, we have supplied a comprehensive fantasy rugby cheat sheet of who to pick from each team, courtesy of a complete non-expert with a healthy obsession for fantasy rugby.
Gold: Rieko Ioane – Look no further than the best wing in the world playing in his preferred position for a change.
Silver: Akira Ioane – Hugely productive ball-carrier on a mission to be selected by the All Blacks, with a habit of coming off the back of the scrum when the tryline is in sight.
Bronze: Stephen Perofeta – Should have the starting berth locked down, for better or for worse.
Wildcard: Ma’a Nonu – Legend of the game, but does he still have what it takes?
Gold: David Pocock – Probably the best openside flank in the world, and if he can stay fit, he’ll be the bedrock of the Canberra-based side.
Silver: Christian Lealifano – The silky distributor will be at the heart of anything positive coming from the backline.
Bronze: Tom Banks – Can he replicate his impressive breakout season?
Wildcard: Toni Pulu – Has crossed the ditch to stake his claim for a Wallabies World Cup spot. If given the right ball, could bring in the riches for a discerning manager.
Gold: Handré Pollard – The Springbok pivot will need to have a strong season to avoid another debate over form, and will look to build for the World Cup. Pleasingly, looks to have rediscovered the running part of this game.
Silver: Duane Vermeulen – He’s back in Super Rugby, and he’s going to be looking to make an impact.
Bronze: Lood de Jager – Named as captain for the season, so we can expect new heights of productivity and a guaranteed starting berth.
Wildcard: Embrose Papier – Had a mixed year in 2018, with very little game time for his franchise. But Rassie has spoken, and we should see a lot more of him now.
Gold: Damian McKenzie – The man sweats fantasy points. Runs, kicks and creates gaps for his teammates.
Silver: Brodie Retallick – Peerless in his position, and bags the odd try too. Unflappable engine for 80 minutes.
Bronze: Anton Lienert-Brown – The All Blacks are yet to establish their centre pairing, and ‘ALB’ will want to put the debate to rest.
Wildcard: Shaun Stevenson – A revelation at age-group level, but yet to make a dent as a senior player. Should see more game time this year with Pulu heading to Australia.
Gold: Richie Mo’unga – Seems to pick up an injury every season, but if he’s playing, he’s scoring. Arguably the best 10 in the competition.
Silver: Jack Goodhue – Hasn’t slowed down since bursting on to the scene a couple of years ago. Will benefit from the work of those on his inside.
Bronze: George Bridge – Prolific try-scorer, and seems to have solidified his role in the Super Rugby championship team.
Wildcard: Whetu Douglas – One of only a few players in the team yet to be capped at Test level, but has been earmarked for big things.
Gold: Waisake Naholo – His star may be fading slightly at national level, but he remains one of the best finishers around and still has a lot to give.
Silver: Ben Smith – He isn’t going to be your top-scorer, but the points he does get will seem effortless. Mr Consistency.
Bronze: Liam Squire – If the big man can stay fit, you can expect him to make a lot of tackles and be a crash-ball merchant to soften up the opposition.
Wildcard: Bryn Gatland – There’s a changing of the guard in Dunedin, and the former Blues pivot will be looking to make the most of this opportunity with Lima Sopoaga now plying his trade overseas.
Gold: Beauden Barrett – A runner-up for World Rugby Player of the Year, which by his standards is underachieving. It could be his last year in New Zealand, so he’ll want to leave an impression.
Silver: Ngani Laumape – Known as the Minibus, and if you’re from Cape Town you know that probably means he’ll be getting a lot more metres than he’s probably entitled to.
Bronze: Ben Lam – He led the try-scoring list last year, but was overlooked for higher honours. Will this spur him on or discourage him? Will be a marked man this season.
Wildcard: Jordie Barrett – He shouldn’t be a risk, but we saw a dip in form in 2018. He closed the year off with four Test tries in a single game, so the question is: which Jordie do we see this year?
Gold: Agustín Creevy – The Argentinian battle-horse is a known entity in fantasy rugby and over the course of a season is all but guaranteed to yield results. The 2018 season was quiet by his standards, so he is set for a big 2019 with the World Cup on the horizon.
Silver: Pablo Matera – Somewhat injury-prone, but if fit, will undoubtedly make an impact. Loves the tryline, running past weak arms and offloading to teammates. Captain Fantastic.
Bronze: Emiliano Boffelli – It’s not yet clear what position the prolific try-scorer will be in this year, but it shouldn’t make a difference. He will cross the whitewash.
Wildcard: Tomas Cubelli – He sat out 2018 with an injury, but before that was favoured to start for franchise and country. Hopefully back to his best.
Gold: Malcolm Marx – A fantasy juggernaut and in real life too. A top performer usually guaranteed to start every game, but may be rested in the run-up to the World Cup. Maul + Marx = tries.
Silver: Kwagga Smith – Everyone’s favourite openside has a big upside, as he favours the looser role and has a habit of making big plays.
Bronze: Aphiwe Dyantyi – He set Super Rugby on fire in his breakthrough season, and will be keen to maintain those levels of performance throughout the World Cup year after a relatively quiet end-of-year tour.
Wildcard: Ruan Combrinck – Will he be at wing or fullback? Is he even going to be fit? Nobody knows, but if he does play, you’ll want him in your team.
Gold: Will Genia – A standout in his position, giving you a big differential over opponents.
Silver: Isi Naisarani – It’s doubtful that he’ll be able to replicate the efforts of the departed Amanaki Mafi, but that’s not going to stop him from trying. Will be a carry machine.
Bronze: Jack Maddocks – Already being discussed as a mainstay in the Wallabies lineup. His natural athleticism and eye for the gap are valuable assets.
Wildcard: Quade Cooper – Yeah, that’s right, he’s back and he’s got a point to prove. Sends teammates into gaps at will on his day, and with Genia besides him, who knows what he’s capable of.
Gold: Samu Kerevi – A true pig among guinea pigs, he will inevitably be found in the top 10 point-scorers overall, come year end.
Silver: Taniela Tupou – The Tongan Thor is deadly in the set piece, but it’s his work with ball in hand that will have you scrambling to draft him into your side.
Bronze: Scott Higginbotham – Struggles with discipline and injury at times, but if he’s on the field he’ll never be far from the action.
Wildcard: Filipo Daugunu – If he’s able to nail down a starting berth he can usually be relied on for a try or two.
Gold: Jean-Luc du Preez – You’ll need to be patient on this one as he starts the season with an injury, but once he’s back you’d better get him before it’s too late.
Silver: S’bu Nkosi – The deadly Springbok winger has developed a reputation for scoring under unlikely circumstances. A very good footballer.
Bronze: Rob du Preez – He won’t win your league, but he’ll help you not to lose it with his accurate boot (mostly).
Wildcard: Curwin Bosch – Maybe the ultimate wildcard pick, as he’s as likely to score a blinding solo effort as he is to miss a try-saving tackle.
Gold: Damian Willemse – By all rights a player his age should be considered a wildcard pick, but he’s shown himself to be the most exciting thing in Cape rugby. Will step many a defender and depending on SP Marais, might have kicking duties too.
Silver: Pieter-Steph du Toit – The only worry with this workhorse is that he’s going to run out of energy at some point, or simply break, or be rested ahead of the World Cup. But it’s worth having him until then, given the number of carries and tackles he makes in a game.
Bronze: Eben Etzebeth – He missed much of the 2018 season with an injury, but was back to his imposing best in the Tests.
Wildcard: Ruhan Nel – The former sevens star has already made waves with his call-up to the Springbok squad, but he’s yet to show his worth in the 15-man code.
Gold: Michael Little – Named as squad captain, the talismanic centre turned more than a few heads and even broke a few hearts with his storming performances last year.
Silver: Hosea Saumaki – Injuries marred an otherwise breathtaking debut season, and if he stays fit he’ll challenge the try-scoring leaderboards. We mean it.
Bronze: Craig Millar – Often overlooked, but the front-row co-captain is an undercover points machine, based on a high work rate.
Wildcard: Rene Ranger – An undisputed member of the Fantasy Rugby Hall of Fame, but that was a long time ago. Is Ranger Danger still a threat?
Gold: Israel Folau – Death, taxes, and Israel Folau scoring big in fantasy.
Silver: Michael Hooper – An injury broke his incredible run of games played for the club, a streak which he’ll be dying to reinstate.
Bronze: Bernard Foley – The Iceman didn’t have the best time in a canary yellow jumper last year, but powder blue brings out his eyes, and hopefully his form.
Wildcard: Karmichael Hunt – The poor man’s Quade Cooper is back in town, and he’s looking for a redemption story (again) that will make even Brad Thorn weep.
If you’re looking for a platform to test out these and other fantasy tips, look no further than the following competitive websites, each with their own unique take on Fantasy Rugby:
- Draft Rugby (draftrugby.com)
- Fantasy Rugby Draft (fantasyrugbydraft.com)
- The Rugby Magazine (therugbymagazine.com)
- Superbru (superbru.com)
The Elite Rugby Banter podcast is available on Soundcloud, iTunes and acast with weekly rugby content. The above Fantasy tips are not scientific, or possibly even logical, and neither ERB nor SARugbymag.co.za can be held responsible for your final log position.