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New Zealand Conference Preview 2018

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BYE WEEKS
Round 3: Bulls, Rebels
Round 4: Force, Stormers
Round 5: Chiefs, Hurricanes
Round 6: Brumbies, Jaguares, Kings, Sunwolves
Round 7: Cheetahs, Crusaders, Lions, Rebels
Round 8: Force, Highlanders, Sharks, Waratahs
Round 9: Blues, Reds
Round 10: Bulls, Hurricanes
Round 11: Brumbies, Kings
Round 12: Chiefs, Stormers, Sunwolves, Waratahs
Round 13: Jaguares, Reds
Round 16: Blues, Crusaders, Highlanders
Round 16: Cheetahs, Lions, Sharks
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Let’s face it, this is where the action’s at. Well, that’s my preconception, but looking back at the 2017 stats only 14 of the top scoring 50 were playing for Kiwi sides. I was a little surprised by that, and maybe why I got pipped by my fellow writers last year. Maybe it’s down to the exodus of talent, or maybe because the SA sides had much easier schedules. Either way there’s still plenty of fantasy talent across the board. These picks are based on a season long view. Clearly take into consideration near term run of games.

Fantasy bread and butter due to the expansive way they throw the ball about and pre-season favourites with some, because of the relative stability of their player base. (full disclosure, I had a boner for the Hurricanes if that hasn’t already been made blatantly obvious)

Image result for 5 stars no backgroundArdie Savea – I’m picking Ardie to be the highest scoring ‘cane. Mainly because Jordie is missing a few, I think teams will get better about not letting Laumape run over them, and there’s a ? over where Beauden will play. He’s also a bargain. Even if he’s only top 50 that’s still great value at $315k and quite rightly he’s the most picked person in the game.

Image result for 4 stars no background– Beauden Barrett – missing the first game, so be careful, but might be playing more full back this year. That’s music to a fantasy managers ears in terms of his broken field running. Will be be kicking ? If he plays FB all year he could blow it out the park. From a FH perspective, he’s expensive at $475k and I think I take Foley or Mo’Unga over him, who both averaged much higher.

Image result for 4 stars no background– Laumape – breakout year last year. Strong runner, solid Top 50 pick. Expensive at $418k and is a toss up between him or Ioane, Kerevi.

Image result for 4 stars no background– Jordie Barret – another who had a breakout year. Missing a handful of games at the start of the season, so might struggle to get as many total points as last year, but will probably be good for his average of about 40.

Image result for 4 stars no background– Julian Savea – can’t really remember him doing anything that special last year, apart from catching the ball more than the previous season. Still averaged just under 40 pts. Good value at $285k

Image result for 3 stars – There’s then a load of Hurricanes that fall into the good value bucket, and it really depends who’s starts to win out in certain positions. West might have a shot at winning the FH spot and could be great value at $214k. Similarly at hooker, if Ricciteli is a starting hooker at $200k that’s a nice bench spot.

Asafo Aumua is the  . This guy is like the second coming of Dane Coles. Keep a sharp eye on him and if he gets the starting nod, ship him in immediately.

Outside of that Fifita is pretty good value at backrow for $255k. Similarly Aso at $275k, although I pretty SBW over him. Proctor, Goosen, Jonah Lowe could be steals if they start. I also like Toby Smith at prop – great pick up for the ‘canes – but also traditionally one of the higher scoring props and only $165k

The Highlanders are the 4th favourite kiwi team to win the comp. Traditionally a great team, defensively solid, without too many star players. That’s not that helpful for the Fantasy manager. They also have a start of 4 kiwi teams in 5 games. Tough.

Image result for 5 stars no backgroundWaisake Naholo – incredible finisher. One of the really consistent ‘landers, and quite rightly up in the premium OBK bracket. If only he stopped pulling his hammy so often.

Image result for 4 stars no background– Ben Smith – this guy probably feels like he’s got something to prove having taken a little time off. I think he’s probably 3.5 stars, but I can’t find a graphic for that, so I’ve given him 4. With one of their big players in Fekitoa leaving, someone needs to step up. This is the guy.

Image result for 3 stars– Lima Sopoaga – last season with the ‘landers and a bargain at $175k. They don’t have much cover at FH, and whilst he picked up a knock in pre-season, should be a good value bench play. Hard to over look both SA FH’s from week 1 – Willemse, Du Preez – though as they’re probably bankers in the short term to return some cash.

Image result for 3 stars– There’s then a handful of other squad players, Luke Whitelock, Matt Faddes (Hatrick pre-season, but I never seem to pick him the week he explodes), Liam Squire, Coltman, Buckan, who are pretty good value at their positions and should be around the Top 100. I struggle to get too excited about these guys.

 There’s a couple of potential wildcard’s in Hemopo at lock and Walden at centre. Cheap options, worth sticking on the watch-list.

Image result for chiefs rugby
The Chiefs seem to be a little on the decline. Not that’s a relative decline versus their Kiwi peers, they were still 3rd place points scorers last season. However, they’ve been hit hard with big name departures in the off-season; Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Aaron Cruden, James Lowe, Michael Leitch and Hika Elliot all leaving. Throw in a new coach and there’s a lot of question mark. However, what the chiefs are great at is unearthing new talent. The question is who?

Image result for 5 stars no backgroundDamian McKenzie – no surprise right. Amazing player. Last years highest total points scorer. and highest average points per game. Playing 10 this year. I think that means he drops down the rankings, maybe even out of the Top ten, but he’s still got plenty of potential to score, and will be pivotal to the Chiefs being competitive.

Image result for 4 stars no background– Brodie – best lock in world rugby. Was superb last year. He’s pricey at $295k, but out of the premium locks – Mostert, Pieter-Steph, Eben – I’d take him everyday.

Image result for 3 stars– Most of the rest of the chiefs fall into the 3 star bucket. Leinart-Brown and Pulu did well last year, but at $326k and $305k are relatively expensive versus other options. You also have the challenge with the Chiefs that they spread the scoring out.

I think there is a lot of potential of bargains to be picked up though. Stevenson at FB will be much more interesting that playing wing and is only $220k. Harris is a cheaper starting hooker to keep on the bench, and I think Seu has the potential to be another Fafita, it depends if he can get it together. It then really depends what back line they settle with and how DMck plays. They open with 2 tough ones and then a bye before the bulls and sunwolves, so you’ve got 2 games to see who’s starting and maybe pick up some Kiwi bargains.

Image result Defending champs. Favourites to win it again in most places. And plenty of Fantasy studs.

Image result for 5 stars no backgroundRichie Mo’unga – missed some time last season, but had the 2nd highest points average per game. It’s a flip up between him and Foley for starting 10, but from a points perspective should be a lock for a top 20 spot baring injury.

Image result for 5 stars no backgroundSeta Tamanivalu – I’d love to see this guy actually playing centre as his listed in Fox. However at wing he averaged more points than Ioane and is cheaper at $400k.

Image result for 4 stars no backgroundHavili – excellent last year, and full backs behind good teams do well. I think he’s a little too pricey for my likes now at $427k, but no doubt he’ll be up there in points scoring again.

Image result for 3 stars– Plenty to chose from here. Some expensive, like Goodhue ($380k) and Macilai-Tore ($328k) due to their late season form, and a few more reasonable. Whitelock at $200k is pretty good value, and Bridge, Dagg (when back) are mid $200ks. Codie Taylor is a solid starting hooker not in the premium bracket.

Braydon Ennor. Depends if he can win out on the other wing to Seta, but has some serious wheels.Image resultThe bad news for the Blues, they have more Kiwi derbies. The good news for Blues fantasy managers, they have more Kiwi derbies. That means they’ll likely be playing from behind more and have to throw it around. That’s good news.

Image result for 5 stars no backgroundReiko Ioane – superb player. Managed to translate his 7s success to 15s last year. Expensive at $467k, when you consider Kerevi, Laumape, Seta all averaged higher than him. I figure the Blues will use him more than last year, but he’s got a tougher time up against more Kiwi teams. Should still be a Top 20 scorer.

 

Image result for 3 stars– Some solid performers here. If you want a premium SH then it’s a choice between Pulu and TJ. You’d think with Pulu as captain he’d be on the field more, but maybe temper his play ? Should still be a top 3 SH. SBW should make a different for the Blues and I like his price at $262k. Kaino is usually pretty solid (injured pre-season so be careful)

 Then there’s a bucket of wild cards. Moala is a try machine, but can drift in and out of games and I take SBW over him given there’s not much price difference. Nanai is looking like he might start a full back. That’s good news from a fantasy perspective as he’s an illusive counter attack runner, terrible for the Blues as I’m not sure he knows how to tackle. Duffie can get in the points and will Akira Ioane finally come good ? All have huge upside. However, the Blues schedule is just tough, tough, tough. I don’t take any of the above unless I see some consistency from them. The only real run of games I like is week 16,17 for them …..

However, where I do like to shop is at prop. Given they way they play, everyone gets involved and that bodes well for Manu and Tu-ungafasi who are pretty well priced. Tuipolotu is a beast on his day as well and at $211k he’s firmly in the mid-range lock bucket with some good upside.

If you think we’re missing anyone throw them in the comments and we’ll give you our “considered” opinion.

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