NEW YORK, NY – With another season of great Super Rugby action around the corner, we review the progress of our Southern Hemisphere class of 2015 – just as we did for 2015 classes of USA, Canada and Europe. Without further adieu, let’s begin the review:
A big difference to our southern hemisphere rugby coverage from 2014 to 2015 was the addition of Jamie Wall to our staff. Mr. Wall created a list of the young players to watch during the 2015 Super Rugby season. So our Southern Hemisphere class for the three SANZAR nations focused on a few not-so young players to keep an eye on. And now it is time to begin our review:
Australia – Kurtley Beale (NSW Waratahs): After the Di Patson – Ewen McKenzie scandal and Beale revealed as key instigator in the matter, things were not looking good for Beale. He however, went on to bounce back playing at inside center for the Waratahs, helping them get to the Super Rugby semi-final. He then went on to make the Australian Rugby World Cup (RWC) squad. He played a vital role as utility back being used at wing, fullback and center as the Aussies went to the final. It seems all is forgiven and forgotten about as Beale re-signed until 2017 with the Waratahs.
New Zealand – Colin Slade (The Crusaders): Slade went on to have a solid year with the Crusaders, pushing regular All Black number 10 Dan Carter to inside center. Midway through the Super Rugby season, Slade announced that he had signed a massive two year contract with French club Pau. Slade’s Crusaders missed the playoffs but Slade still had a good year being a bench option for the All Blacks. He made the RWC squad and received a winner’s medal.
South Africa – Juan De Jongh (Sharks): De Jongh was surprisingly left out of the RWC squad. He bounced back to help lead the Stormers in Super Rugby to a first place finish in the South Africa conference before losing in the 1st round of the playoffs. He then went on to help Western Province make the Currie Cup final. Since then, he has joined South Africa 7s playing well and helping them remain the top 3 of the 2015/2016 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Argentina – Manual Montero (Club Pucara): The 6’4, and 220lbs, 23 year old winger, suffered his second knee ligament and cartilage injury in two years and faces a prolonged spell on the sidelines. So his 2016 return is murky but prior to the injury Montero was in good form and had agreed to terms to join the Buenos Aires based Super Rugby Franchise the Jaguares . Montero will likely return at some point in the 2016 Super Rugby competition.
Samoa – Henry Stowers (Wellington Lions): Stowers went from captaining the U-20 Samoa national team at the 2014 Junior World Cup (JWC). to being part of the 2015 JWC winning New Zealand Baby Blacks side. Stowers was part of the matchday 23, either starting or coming of the bench for the whole campaign. He remained a key member of the Wellington ITM team. He will hope to feature in the Super Rugby competition in 2016.
Fiji – Nathan Hughes (Wasps): Hughes seems destined to play international rugby. Unfortunately it will not be with Fiji but rather with England. Hughes has played impressively for Wasps in 2015 and and with another strong 2016, when he becomes eligible in 2017, he will represent England.
Tonga – Patelisio Oneone (Apifo’ou): Young Pat surprising moved to flanker for Tonga. He was a vice-captain of the 2015 Junior World Rugby Trophy side as well as the Oceania Rugby Junior Trophy. Tonga didn’t win either tournament but his role was still vital to the team.
Japan – Hendrik Tui (Queensland Reds): The 27-year-old, 27 test, New Zealand-born Japan international, survived a tough season with Super Rugby’s Queensland Reds, yet impressed enough to re-sign for the 2106 season. He also played in every game for Japan’s RWC campaign which was a great success.
Reds: The Reds had one of the worst seasons in their history. They finished 13th and looked like a very fractured side. Locker room arguments were seen between Adam Thomson and James O’Connor who both left the club. Marque signing Karmicheal Hunt missed games due a cocaine charge. On the field they were poor in every facet of the game. In short they were a dumpster fire.
NSW Waratahs: After head coach Michael Chieka, was name Australia coach at the start of the season, midway through the season Daryl Gibson was named new head coach. Gibson worked with Chieka and helped steer the Waratahs to the top of the Australia conference and second place overall on the table. The Waratahs bowed out in the semi-final. They seem primed for another solid run in 2016.
Eastern Province Kings: If the Reds are a dumpster fire then the Kings are landfill fire. The Kings had trouble finding a sponsor in the Currie Cup. They then had a financial shortcomings forcing them to not pay players for weeks. The players revolted and some signed elsewhere. The SARU got involved to save the team and help them sign enough players for the 2016 Super Rugby season but most recently the franchise just had to file for bankruptcy. We have no idea how they will do in 2016.
Tasman Makos: Tasman proved that 2014, their first year in the premiership where they made the Premiership final, losing by only four points, was not a fluke. In 2015, they finished third in the Premiership and lost in the semi-final. Back to back playoffs are nice and it shows they are truly developing to a consistently top level union. Another top four finish in 2016 is expected.
South Africa – Johan Ackermann (Lions): Ackermann lead the Lions to a second place finish in the South Africa Conference and eighth place overall. The team missed the playoffs but remain on positive track with Ackermann at the helm. There are rumors of Ackermann’s name being mentioned as new Springbok coach. It may be early for that but he is definitely in the reckoning in the next few years.
Australia –Richard Graham (Queensland Reds): The head coach of the dumpster fire that were the Reds. Somehow, Graham re-applied for the position and won it. It is amazing he still has a job. He is hands down one of the worst coaches in Super Rugby history and he has 2016 to plunge to new depths.
Australia – Michael Chieka (NSW Waratahs): He managed to step back from the Waratahs enough to help them make the Super Rugby semi-final. At his new full time position as Wallaby coach he helped them top the group of death and make the RWC final before losing to New Zealand. Impressive to say the least.
New Zealand – Colin Cooper (Taranaki): Cooper continued the NZ Maori unbeaten streak against foreign nations to 12 years and lead Taranaki to a fourth place finish in the ITM Cup Premiership, getting knocked out in the semi-finals. At some point, he will make a big money move but where that will be, no one knows.
Samoa Rugby Union: The situation in Samoa is still sad. The union still doesn’t seem to respect the contribution of the players. The national team final got the All Blacks to play a match and somehow despite the sellout crowd and those watching at home, the SRU claimed a loss. Samoa will always have players that will never short change the nation in their effort, it deserves a national union that cares to do the same.
Australia Rugby Union: The Wallabies made the RWC final which was a huge positive for the ARU. They actually defeated the All Blacks to make the Bledisloe Cup matter, though they lost in the end. The NRC had a very solid second year and seems to be growing. They were able to move a leg of the sevens series to Sydney and it is soldout. All in all it was a very positive season for the ARU.
Japan Rugby Football Union: The Men’s and Women’s 7s team qualified for the Olympics. We have to talk about the great RWC campaign the Men’s 15s team had. However the chaos surrounding the creation of the Super Rugby team which seems very late. Not having a major stadium ready for the 2019 RWC due to incompetence and politics. Plus the disconnect between the administrators and the players and coaches leading to lots of frustration as expressed by former head coach Eddie Jones as he left. The union came a long way but has much further to go.
That is it for now. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Jake Frechette, Scheenagh Harrington, Ronan Nelson, Kyle Phillips and Declan Yeats, respectively
And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.