The return of Super Rugby to our screens means there’s rugby on tap morning noon and night.
Here in the northern hemisphere, we’ve emerged from the gloom of Winter. Spring is here and brings with it Super Rugby which has some of the most exciting players and brands of rugby on show in the world.
If you can commit to some early morning starts, then here are five players to keep an eye on in the upcoming season.
Matt Faddes (Highlanders)
The Highlander made his first Super Rugby appearance off the bench for the southern New Zealand franchise last season. The 25-year-old is extremely versatile, capable of playing in the back three and at outside centre. Despite spending most of his rugby career for Otago on the wing, Faddes’ performances in the N0.13 jersey were so impressive he shifted All Black Malakai Fekitoa out of his preferred position and into the No.12 slot.The Highlander scored 10 tries in 16 appearances for the Dunedin franchise, making him second behind Israel Folau on the try scoring charts.
The Highlander scored 10 tries in 16 appearances for the Dunedin franchise, making him second behind Israel Folau on the try scoring charts. Faddes runs terrific lines, brings defensive solidity and creativity to the midfield.
If Faddes can continue on from last season’s form he will be very close to earning himself international honours.
Handre Pollard (Bulls)
It’s hard to believe the South African international is still only 22 years old.
While recovering from a knee injury, Pollard suffered a complication during shoulder surgery which almost led to his arm being amputated.
These injuries mean Pollard last played 16 months ago in the 2015 Rugby World Cup and has been sorely missed both for the Bulls and the Springboks.
Although the Bulls captain has been capped 20 times for his country, his recent return from injury will feel like a new signing to the Pretoria franchise.
Amanaki Mafi (NTT Shining Arcs)
The powerful Japanese bow-rower has been busy since his incredible world cup displays.
The No.8 had a brief but “sensational” spell at Bath where he scored four tries in four consecutive games before controversy led to a mutual agreement to leave the club. After his departure from the Rec, Mafi returned to Japan’s Top League and packed down with NTT Shining Arcs.
In August 2016 he signed for the Melbourne Rebels to add some ball carrying ability which has been needed since the departure of Luke Jones to Bordeaux.
The Japanese international makes his Super Rugby debut on Thursday and will no doubt be punching holes in the Sanzar franchises on a now weekly basis.
Keep an eye out on the platform Mafi provides for an exciting Rebels backline.
Scott Barrett (Crusaders)
The New Zealander has just been capped in the Autumn and will look to push for further international honours with strong and consistent performances for the Crusaders this season.Firmly behind the world-class pairing of Retallick and Whitelock, Barrett needs to secure a starting berth alongside Whitelock in that Crusaders engine room if he is to continue on internationally this season.
Firmly behind the world-class pairing of Retallick and Whitelock, Barrett needs to secure a starting berth alongside Whitelock in that Crusaders engine room if he is to continue on internationally this season.Barrett, who is only 23, already possess the physical attributes of
Barrett, who is only 23, already possess the physical attributes of an experienced lock weighing in at 112kg.
Unlikely to grab limelight akin to his try-scoring display at Soldier Field but will be instrumental in providing a platform for the Crusaders to impress off of.
Blake Gibson (Blues)
The Auckland openside burst onto the scene last season with an incredible performance against the Highlanders. However, injuries interrupted his season and restricted him to just five more starts throughout the season. The N0.7 has
The N0.7 has pace to burn which comes in handy at the side of the scrum and packs a ballast in the tackle to tie it off.
The 21-year-old also possesses a big fend on the offensive and will look to solidify himself in the Auckland Blue’s backrow.
Keep an eye out for somreturning establisheded stars too. Sonny Bill Williams, Quade Cooper, Tim Nani Williams and Scott Higginbotham all return to Super Rugby this season after spells away.