Super Rugby 2013 Team Preview – BluesAuthor: Nick | Filed under: Team Previews
Come the end of last season the Blues lay firmly at the bottom of the New Zealand conference with Pat Lam running the circus. And as if things couldn’t get any worse, things got worse. The Blues had their armory smashed open and looted in the off-season, backline players Benson Stanley, Rudi Wulf, Isaia Toeava, Lachie Munro and Ma’a Nonu have all been pillaged. That’s a lot of ammo to try and replace and I haven’t even mentioned the loss of All Black forwards Jerome Kaino, Daniel Braid and Tony Woodcock.
There is some hope on the horizon for the Auckland faithful. Pat Lam has since been replaced by a couple of Sirs in John Kirwin (coach) and Graham Henry (technical advisor). While the playing squad has been devastated its hard to believe the 2 Rugby World Cup winners won’t make a positive impact in Auckland. The New Zealand rugby legends have been busy recruiting young players from the junior All Black ranks. It will no doubt be called a rebuilding phase which is a euphemism saying “yeah, we know we’re rubbish”. The Blues will cause a few upsets but let’s just say they’ll be doing a lot of “rebuilding” this year.
In the forwards, Sir John has spotted some young talent lying around the place in the form of Beauden’s brother Kane Barrett(Taranaki), Brodie’s cousin Culum Retallick(Highlanders) and Brendan O’Connor and Quentin MacDonald (both from the Crusaders).
In the scrumhalf position the Blues lost Alby Mathewson to the Force and 10kgs of Piri Weepu to the shitter and brought in two young guns in the form of Jamison Gibson-Park (from Taranaki) and Bryn Hall (from North Harbour). The youngsters inexperience and the loss of Mathewson should see the new, light-weight Weepu guarantee a starting berth and hopefully regain some form for the Blues.
In the backline, where the real damage was done, the Blues managed to secure the services of both fly-half Chris Noakes(Highlanders) and centre Jackson Willison(Chiefs). Willison only missed out on starting berths for the Champions last season due to playing third fiddle to the mighty Richard Kahui and Sonny Bill Williams and now that he is assured of starts he should be a one to watch, especially when teamed up with a certain Rene Ranger.
Players to watch:
Piri Weepu (8.5m.) was a joke last year and Alby Mathewson vying for the halfback spot made Weepu overweight and over-priced. This year Mathewson has gone to an even worse team (The Force) and Weepu is down to 8.5m in the fantasy game (from 10m last year). With more consistent game time and a good eating plan the All-black scrummie could be a tidy bargain bench-warmer.
Luke Braid (8m.): with Jerome Kaino and brother Daniel departing the ranks Luke will need to shoulder a lot of the responsibility in the back row. The flanker has been getting better each season and was the chief ball-winner for the Blues last year. While the best players aren’t necessarily the ones scoring tries Braid did cross 3 times last year and we expect him to improve on that in 2013.
Ali Williams (7m.) has taken over the captaincy so expect lots of game time from the big All Black lock. Williams, along with Callum Retallick and Anthony Boric are a imposing trio of locks that will pose problems for opposition lineouts.
Jackson Willison (8m.) stood in the shadows of giants at the Chiefs last year and with a chance to shine this year could be one to watch, granted he won’t be playing with 14 Chiefs players this time round.
Rene Ranger (9.5m.) is always in the points and loves scoring tries, unfortunately 9.5m is a lot to pay for somebody who’ll spend most of the season on the losing team.
12th overall with only 4 wins and bottom of the New Zealand conference.
Last year was poor but Aucklanders know as well as anyone how quickly things can change. It wasn’t so long ago (2011) they made the semi-finals. Sorry, no semi again this year due to “rebuilding” but they could sneak a top 10 finish (only just) courtesy of some ugly wins.
The Bookies have 17 to 1 odds on the Blues winning the Super 15. At those odds don’t bother, you would have a better chance catching Santa Claus coming down the chimney. If you are are planning on having a few cheeky punts this season the guys at Bet365 are running a promotion - click here to register and get a 100% bonus on your first deposit.
Tags: ali williams, auckland blues, blues, bryn hall, Fantasy Rugby, fantasy rugby tips, jamison gibson-park, luke braid, piri weepu, Preview, rene ranger, Super 15 2013, Super 15 rugby, Super Rugby, Super Rugby Preview