Newshub Roundtable: The way-too-early Super Rugby preview

Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga and Aaron Smith.
Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Richie Mo'unga and Aaron Smith. Photo credit: Photosport

OPINION: Super Rugby is almost here! Crazy right?

Rugby in February is borderline ridiculous, but it is what it is and in a year that the All Blacks are looking to win a third straight William Webb Ellis trophy, our national sport will take on even more significance than usual.

With that in mind, we delved into the minds of our rugbyheads to flesh out some way-too-early Super Rugby predictions.

Which player are you most looking forward to watching?

Ross Karl (Newshub rugby editor): George Bridge

He was one of the best players in the country last year and his debut against Japan showed how much potential he has to be a test superstar.

Outside backs tend to have a period early in their careers, where everything goes their way and they are unstoppable. The Crusaders and All Blacks need to make the most of that to get their respective three-peats this season.

John Day (Newshub sport reporter): Jordan Taufua

A broken arm in the Super Rugby final cruelly robbed him of a chance to make his All Blacks debut in 2018 and with Liam Squire yet to lock down the number six jersey, Taufua will be ready to stake his claim.  

The 27-year-old wrecking ball's in the prime of his career and has been one of the Crusaders' best players for the past four seasons.

Taufua will go into full Beast Mode in 2019.

Andrew Gourdie (Newshub sport presenter): Ma'a Nonu

His return to NZ Rugby is intriguing on so many levels. Has he still got it?

We haven't heard boo from him since he arrived back in NZ, but if suggestions that he's in the shape of his life and gunning for a return to the black jersey are accurate, then he will certainly have my attention from the Blues opening game of the season.

Tom Bartlett (Newshub sport producer): George Bridge

Ollie Ritchie (Newshub sport reporter): George Bridge

Ma'a Nonu is returning to the Blues for the 2019 season.
Ma'a Nonu is returning to the Blues for the 2019 season. Photo credit: Photosport

Which player is under the microscope to perform?

TB: Aaron Smith

Almost lost his standing as the All Blacks' top number nine to TJ Perenara on the 2018 end-of-year tour.

While Smith's position in the national team isn't under threat, he needs a big campaign with the Highlanders to get himself into the kind of form the All Blacks need from him at the World Cup.

We need Smith firing like he was in 2015.

OR: Jordie Barrett

A continuation from above - Bridge is performing and Barrett isn't.

He had a shocking year in the black jersey last year, failing to take his chances when handed them, and he may find himself under pressure to get a spot in that World Cup squad.

He needs to have a standout year for the Canes at the back and he MUST stay away from the midfield.

I know he likes playing there, but it's not the spot for him.

RK: Anyone vying to be in the midfield for the World Cup

There is so much talent there and someone will have to miss out.

Jack Goodhue and SBW appear to be the top combo, if you looked at who was selected last year, but that could easily change through injury or one of Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty and Ngani Laumape having stunning seasons.

AG: Jordie Barrett

JD: Patrick Tuipulotu

Could we see another break dance celebration from Scott Robertson in 2019?
Could we see another break dance celebration from Scott Robertson in 2019? Photo credit: Photosport

A way-too-early Super Rugby prediction

OR: Richie Mo'unga will have another standout year behind that Rolls Royce pack and will pass Beauden Barrett to start against the Springboks, when the All Blacks get their World Cup campaign underway in Japan.

Oh, and the Crusaders will get the three-peat… wait, is that out there?

Not really, but it’ll happen. Sir Razor?

AG: The Blues won't finish bottom of NZ conference.

Granted, this is a take which may well come back haunt me, but I think we're seeing the first signs of a franchise that has hit rock bottom and is on the way up.

We're seeing some smart appointments made at board level and some smart decisions being made by smart people off the field that will inevitably lead to positive change on the field.

Whether it happens this season remains to be seen, but it's coming.

TB: Asafo Aumua to burst into the All Blacks match-day 23 by August, with 10 tries in 10 games for the Hurricanes - mostly from the bench.

RK: Crusaders will score three-peat.

JD: George Bridge as top try-scorer and cements starting right-wing spot for the All Blacks.


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