So, from the top, in the finishing order from last years conference:
The defending champs. There’s no reason to think much will change this season given there’s little change and if anything the squad is arguably stronger. They’ll still look to play open, running rugby from anywhere on the pitch. I think they’ll find it harder this season as they’ll have a target on their backs, but that won’t impact their fantasy studs
– Dane Coles – joint top points per game. Missed 5 games, and if he’d maintained his form he would have been up the top of the leader board with Damo McKenzie. Great nose for the line, and a burst of pace and step to put many backs to shame.
– Ardie Savea – he finished the super rugby season as the form 7 in world rugby. The leading backrow from last season. Incredible round the park, a nose for the line, and a turnover machine. Plus, he’s often attached to the back of the rolling maul. It will be hard to maintain the same high level, but even a drop off of 100 points will see him in the top 20.
– Beauden Barrett – reigning world play of the year. Only just crept into the top 20 last year at 19th highest scoring player last year, but he missed two games. 2nd highest scoring FH behind Mo’Unga last year. I think he’ll be 2nd again. A little up and down week to week, but worth riding the wave.
– Nehe Milner-Skudder – him of the magic feet. If he stays healthy he might push the top 20, but should safely top 400+ points which would put him there or there abouts for the top 50. Pretty good value as well at $369k
– Last year there were a few canes that crept into the top 100 – Fifita, Savea, Laumape and Jane. I’m not sure I fancy anyone as I think it’ll be a tougher year, aside from the guy below.
– Julian Savea – Hugely inconsistent last year, but seemed to be playing himself into form across the internationals. If he can recapture his best form he’s a steal at $275k. However, I for one will be waiting to see some signs of life before gambling week 1.
– Jordie Barrett – so this is a tough one for the canes, as most of the team have potential to get point, but I think Jordie is hugely overpriced. He’ll most likely come off the bench, unless he can lock down the FB spot. Whilst his game is VERY similar to his brother (Beauden not Scott), I’ll look to pick him up after a few games once his price drops and he’s on his way back up.
Like the hurricanes a relatively settled squad heading into the 2017 season.Should push the best of the Kiwis again.
– Waisake Naholo – different class. Only played 6 games last year, but a true finisher, with great pace and the Highlanders main weapon. Not badly priced at $415k.
– Malakai Fekitoa / Ben Smith – Both pushed the top 20 last year, and just outside. I don’t see much difference this year. Ben Smith is pure class and a little more reliable than Naholo, who has the better upside. Fekitoa hasn’t quite been as explosive on attack as he was 12-18 months ago, but in a league where centre is a challenge he’s a relative banker.
– There were a host of ‘Landers in this category last season, Osborne, Dixon (Ash and Elliot), Li, Faddes and Sopoaga. Sopoaga and Osborne were actually Top 50 but I don’t think they’ll be up there this season. They’re all reasonable picks but no-one stands out from a price perspective, aside from maybe Osborne as must of their upside is priced in.
– Aaron Smith / Marty Banks – Smith is a personal favourite. Up and down, but the best value for money scrummie. Banks has come in for the injured Parker, and if Sopoaga or Smith go down might get some game time and take some kicks.
– Siate Tokolahi – Should be an impact prop. If he can lock down the starting spot, the way the ‘Landers play could really benefit his game. However, can be a penalty magnet.
I love the way the chiefs play, but boy are they frustrating from a fantasy perspective because of the way they share out the tries across the team.
– Damian McKenzie – This one’s not rocket science. Last year’s player of the season. I don’t think he’ll quite hit last season’s heights but he’ll still be Top 20. With Cruden announcing his move to France McKenzie might continue to see his far share of kicking this season as well which helps to even out those quiet games.
– James Lowe, Aaron Cruden, Sam Cane – Lowe was actually Top 20 last season, but I don’t think he’ll make it this season. These three are solid fantasy options in what is always an attacking Chiefs team. Charlie Ngatai deserves an honourable mention here. When he played last season he was unstoppable. Definitely a Top 50 player, although as he stands a little over priced. However, that said, we all hope he manages to recover from his head knock so he can get on the field again.
– Liam Messam / Anton Lienart-Brown – For me Lienart-Brown flew under the radar from a fantasy perspective, having a quietly efficient season – often over-shadowed by the more physical Tamanivalu. However, what an Autumn he had playing for the ABs. He should be a solid player this year, but I think there are centres with better upside in a similar price range. Messam was fantasy gold two to three years back. He should still squeak into the top 100 if he can play consistently this season, but at the same price as Cane, I’d take his captain everyday.
– Stephen Donald / Kerr-Barlow / Shaun Stevenson– The chiefs could be rich pickings for bargains. With poor Brad Weber out for the season the value of Kerr-Barlow is through the roof at $112k. A lot of people are talking Stevenson ($137k) up as the next McKenzie, but it’s still to be seen. Also, with Cruden off at the end of the season, and always liable to miss a few games Donald is keenly price at $138k. Kerr-Barlow’s my fav here.
– Tim Nanai-Williams– Love this guy. If he nails down a stating spot, be it centre or wing, then he should get somewhere in the 3 to 4 star range. Not cheap, but a great super rugby pedigree.
The crusaders were good last year, better than some expected, but just ran out of steam up at Ellis Park. They’ll always be good up front, but can they replace the game turner that was Nadolo. For me I’m still to be convinced and will wait to see how they fair in their first couple of tough games.
– Codie Taylor – Hookers are always good for points, but especially so those that a) have a strong line out (check) and b) are good around the park (check). Taylor’s all around game is much better, and he’s pushing Coles hard for that AB jersey.
– Israel Dagg / Richie Mo’Unga – What a debut season from Richie last year. I think teams will give him less space this year and he won’t quite hit Top 20, but he’ll stick rack up the kicking points, and if he can make a few points, and nab the occasional try, he’ll safely be top 50. Dagg had the 9th highest average points last season, and is fresh off of committing his future to NZ rugby. He was superb last season and he’ll still be good this one, just not Top 20 good. Kieran Read is usually good for fantasy points, but given he’s out for a few weeks, might struggle. That might open the door for Jordan Taufua to repeat his points total from last year with his all action performances.
– new signing Seta Tamanivalu should safely find the Top 100, but is quite pricey at $387k. He might push the Top 50 if the Crusaders get it together and it will be interesting to see how him Ryan Crotty gel. Crotty should be another 3* lock. Matt Todd should also do well in Read’s absence, and I’ll be interested to see what that Backrow looks like for the ‘saders, as there’s some good value in whoever is replacing Read for a few weeks.
– Any prop that isn’t Joe Moody – The crusaders pack is traditionally strong, and I don’t see that being any different this year. Everyone aside from Moody is less than $119k. Keep an eye on that week one team sheet.
– Digby Ioane – Has he still got it – that is the million dollar question. Used to be a fantasy beast and he looked good at the Brisbane tens. Time will tell.
I don’t see anything to suggest that the Blues won’t be worst performing Kiwi side unfortunately, despite a strong last two games last season. Always talented, but invariably lacking direction, and 9/10 has been a real problem for them the last few years. This severely handicaps some of their players from a fantasy perspective.
– None – last year Luatua was 19th in total points and Nanai 21st after an insane finish to the season. I don’t think they’ll be any Blues player in the Top 20 this year.
– Steve Luatua & Jerome Kaino will still be a big part of the blues game, and given how much tackling the team will have to do, they should both be solid all season. But, with both priced at close to $500k, a little steep, and I’m looking elsewhere. James Parsons should squeeze into the Top 50 as well.
– I think this is a relatively large bucket of Blues players to pick from, with a bunch of upside IF the blues can sort their game out. Moala is a try machine, Tuipulotu is fantastic around the park, Rieko Ioane could be the next big thing, but where does he play ? Ranger probably still has something left, and assuming Ihai West sees out the season at 10 he’ll get points.
– Faumuina / Tu’ungafasi – Both good ball playing props. If the Blues scrum is solid, whilst these guys are cheap cheap cheap, good value..
– Melanie Nanai– I just don’t but it. He’s not the 2nd best player in Super Rugby. Buyer beware – he’ll be $300k by round 5 when the Blues have a good looking couple of home games. I like Pulu as a buy for the Blues, I’ll be keeping an eye on his as my backup Blues Wildcard for games 5/6.