Super Rugby 2019: Round one preview

Super Rugby is upon us again, but this year feels a little different.

Aside from the high probability of a Crusaders three-peat, there are plenty of unanswered questions to ponder.

Is Ma'a Nonu still good? Can the Blues win under Leon MacDonald? Are the Hurricanes forward pack the worst in the competition? Can the Chiefs win without Sam Cane?

Newshub rugbyheads John Day and Ross Karl have taken a look at the first round matchups, and asked more questions than they answered, but one thing they both agree on - the Crusaders are title favourites.

"It's gotta be on the cards," said Day. "The resting of All Blacks is going to be crucial this season, but the Crusaders definitely start this season as favourites.

"In behind that, it's very interesting, because the other squads have changed so much, with some new coaches, so we don't know what to expect from these other sides."

One player to look out for in 2019 is Chiefs winger Etene Nanai-Seturo. The former Junior Warrior is set to be unleashed in the round one clash with the Highlanders.

"He's a guy to look out for," Ross Karl noted. "He comes with a lot of hype.

"He had the break-up with the Warriors, then success with the sevens team.

"Everyone is talking about this kid. Nineteen years of age, but we haven't seen him play 15's at the highest level yet.

"Hopefully, he is one of the guys that just explode onto the scene this year."

And what about the Blues? Pretenders? Contenders?

Well, let's just wait and see when the 80 minutes is done and dusted against the Crusaders on Saturday night.

"Leon MacDonald is a smart operator," said Day. "He hates losing and he now has that experience with [Ma'a] Nonu at centre.

"He has bolstered up that forward pack, which it needed, and Akira Ioane is a year older and hopefully a year wiser, with plenty to prove in World Cup year.

"You can't say they are the real deal yet until you see them play, but this hype seems more real than it has in the past."

"It's a massive litmus test for a side that hasn't beaten the Crusaders in five years, since Benji Marshall came off the bench for them.

"But they have pushed them in recent times and they have left their All Blacks on the bench. This will be close, but you have to back the Crusaders."

But Day's biggest questions surround the Hurricanes. No Brad Shields nor Blade Thompson has left their forward pack with serious questions.

Can they compete with a Wallaby stacked Waratahs pack?

"For me, the Hurricanes forward pack is powder puff," he said. "It is the worst forward pack in New Zealand.

"They don't have the grunt up front, but what they do have is a superstar back-line.

"Jordie Barrett, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam and Matt Proctor, with Fletcher Smith at first-five - that's some quality.

"Smith has been around a few years at the Highlanders and was the player of the year for Waikato. I think he will run things well, with Laumape outside him and TJ Perenara inside him.

"It's all about that service though for me."

Watch the video above for more.

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