Super Rugby Preview Round 2 What To Watch For Former Reds star Will Genia suits up against former side


Round 2 of Super Rugby brings with it a full slate of games as the competition kicks off across the Australian and New Zealand conferences.

The tournament has reverted to being a 15-team, three-conference format with a full set of home-and-away local derbies restored to the draw. However, when the competition last ran in that format in 2011, the Western Force were part of the Australian conference and the Cheetahs were playing in South Africa.

When the competition expanded in 2016, the Kings, Sunwolves [Japan] and Jaguares [Argentina] were all added to an eight-team South Africa group. Unfortunately for the Kings, they were also given their marching orders to follow the Cheetahs and Force out of Super Rugby.

And so the 2018 Super Rugby competition kicked off last week, the Stormers and Lions defeating the Jaguares and Sharks respectively.

But what should you be on the lookout for across the second week of competition?



Kurtley Beale insists he’s lost his sparkle and will act more as a game manager in 2018.

Australian conference

It’s hard to imagine Will Genia in any Australian provincial jersey other than Queensland Reds‘ given his deeds in their title-winning run of 2011 and the distinguished fashion in which he always represented the franchise in a glittering nine-year career.

But after two years at Stade Francais, and a Ballymore contract bungling, that’s exactly what will transpire on Friday night when Genia not only dons the Melbourne Rebels‘ navy blue but also lines up against his former franchise.

The Wallabies halfback might be a little underdone given his lack of preseason minutes but there is absolutely no doubting his quality and what he might be able to do for last year’s Super Rugby cellar-dwellers. And what may be even more interesting could be his combination with Rebels fly-half Jack Debreczeni.

Tipped as a future Wallabies No.10 a couple of seasons ago, Debreczeni went right off the boil in 2017 as he and the Rebels struggled with injury. But with Genia’s service among the best in the world, the Melbourne playmaker should have the time and space he needs while he won’t have to try to overplay his hand as was the case at times over the past two years.

On playing with Genia, Debreceni said: “Will’s a world-class player and he does a lot of controlling on the field so I can just play footy and it’s been really fun the last few weeks training with him. His communication is unreal — always lets me know what he needs more of from me and demands more and I think that makes me better.”

Match Centre: Melbourne Rebels vs. Queensland Reds

Match Centre: Sunwolves vs. Brumbies

Match Centre: Waratahs vs. Stormers

New Zealand conference

After dominating the competition from fullback over the last two years, Damian McKenzie moves into the Chiefs‘ front line on Saturday. The 22-year-old flyer topped the competition for line breaks and tackle busts in 2017 but the question is: Can he be as devastating within increased defensive traffic?

McKenzie is not being shuffled into the playmaking hotseat on a whim, as he played much of his schoolboy rugby at No.10 and has also turned out there for Waikato in the Mitre 10 Cup. He will certainly be a different style of playmaker to Aaron Cruden, the Chiefs’ long-time first five whose poise and control suggested he often had an extra few moments on the ball compared with his Super Rugby colleagues.

The biggest challenge for McKenzie will likely be the overall control match control. At fullback, he was often presented with a fractured chasing line and the automatic instinct was to attack — to crank his diminutive frame into overdrive and shred defences at will.

He will have opportunities to do that at fly-half, but they will be nowhere near as frequent as when he wore the No. 15 jersey. In Johnny Faauli and Anton Lienert-Brown, McKenzie has a dynamic centre pairing to work with while Brad Weber is a livewire No.9, a player cut from the same mould as McKenzie himself.

What makes McKenzie’s first outing at No. 10 all the more tantalising is the fact that it comes against Crusaders star Richie Mo’unga. With the Highlanders’ Lima Sopoaga confirming a move overseas to Wasps later this year, Mo’unga is within striking distance of becoming the All Blacks’ back-up at No.10, perhaps as early as June this year.

Saturday evening’s game in Christchurch is one not to be missed.

Match Centre: Highlanders vs. Blues

Match Centre: Crusaders vs. Chiefs

African Conference

South African rugby seems to be desperate to unearth new tighthead props. So much so, that they could possibly be destroying the careers of many talented looseheads.

Sharks ‘hard man’ Thomas du Toit is the latest prop swopping the No. 1 jersey for a No. 3, but ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ was derailed by the Lions’ looseheads in their opening Super Rugby match in Round 1.

Springboks props Trevor Nyakane and Coenie Oosthuizen are some of the high-profile front-rowers who have made the switch from loosehead to tighthead in the past few years. Oosthuizen was forced to switch after a neck injury, and after a few miserable years he actually performed well in that position in 2017. Nyakane, though, will start the Bulls’ opening Super Rugby match at loosehead after struggling to cope with the tighthead position. Hopefully, whoever is in charge of the Springboks will let him concentrate on the No. 1 position.

South Africa does have a lot of quality looseheads, but there are also enough quality No. 3s coming through who are able to hold their own at Super Rugby and Test level. There is no need to destroy promising careers just yet.

Match Centre: Lions vs. Jaguares

Match Centre: Bulls vs. Hurricanes

It’s a big week for … Jono Lance

The well-travelled Lance is back in Queensland colours after time at the Waratahs, Force and, briefly, the Rebels. Reds coach Brad Thorn banished Quade Cooper despite the veteran playmaker still being contracted, the All Blacks great pinning his hopes on either Lance or rookie Hamish Stewart.

Lance has been given the first crack against the Rebels this week, slotting back into a position he filled at the Force but not previously at the Reds. Lance last played for the Reds in 2013 after starting at fullback when they beat the Crusaders in the 2011 final. The fly-half on that occasion? Cooper.

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