Super 15: It's make or break with sprint to playoffs

By Cameron McMillan

Cameron McMillan ponders the options as Fantasy players move to dump their Australians.

Ma'a Nonu was first class against the French but has struggled to score Fantasy points. Photo / Getty Images
Ma'a Nonu was first class against the French but has struggled to score Fantasy points. Photo / Getty Images

Late season changes

Kiwis usually prefer the business end of a tournament to be sans Aussies and the Super 15 will be just that - for at least the next two rounds. Unfortunately the lack of Australians may cause havoc for some Fantasy teams, especially those who went Oz-heavy for round 17. It should go without saying but use all your transfers to stack up on New Zealand and South African players while also keeping an eye on the final round when the Australian teams return.

Best options

The Bulls host the woeful Kings on Sunday, a team who most likely will be thinking more about the end of the season as opposed to their picking up their fourth win. The Bulls won this fixture 34-0 in round 10 and that was on the road so expect much of the same, or even more points, this time around. Seven Bulls players topped 16+ points that day so you can't go wrong with having as many of the South African Conference leaders in your team as possible.

Slow returns

Most teams playing this week have had four weeks off, while the Chiefs and Sharks have had five, after also having the bye in round 16. That means the Chiefs last played on May 24, which seems like an age ago. They face the Hurricanes tonight, a team they edged by five points in round 16. Tanerau Latimer had a season-best 29 points that night while rival loose forward Victor Vito managed just three. It's hard to say whether or not one extra week off will make a difference but don't be surprised if players who weren't getting regular time on the field (like Latimer) in the last three weeks take a while to get back to normal Fantasy value in the next few weeks. The interesting move ahead of this game is Sam Cane being named on the bench. Cane is the seventh highest scorer in Fantasy with 216 points in 12 games. It's hard, but not impossible, to score decent points off the bench. He's worth a rest this week.

Has anything changed?

Ma'a Nonu, Aaron Smith and Ben Smith were all standout performers for the All Blacks but does that mean they'll carry that form on to the final three games for the Highlanders? Aaron Smith won't have the All Blacks pack in front of him that's for sure, but he did benefit from going back to basics the last three weeks. Nonu and Ben Smith were world class against the French but Nonu especially (51 points from eight games) has struggled to score decent Fantasy points. They face a tough fixture against the Crusaders tomorrow. The Crusaders enjoyed a 24-8 win over the Highlanders in round 10 but high-scoring flanker Matt Todd managed 15 points, his lowest in his previous nine outings. My advice - leave it a week to see if the rest of the Highlanders didn't pack it in during the break.

Road to nowhere?

The Blues are in South Africa for the next two weeks and Sunday's encounter is a must-win against the Sharks. The Sharks have one of the best defensive records in the competition having conceded just 254 points - the lowest of all 15 teams. But the Blues have picked up a four-try bonus point on six occasions so don't rule out top try scorer Frank Halai (138 points, 13 games).

On the defensive

Another fixture which could lack tries is the Stormers-Cheetahs clash in Cape Town. The Stormers have conceded just 17 tries this season, seven less than the next most stingy defence (Sharks). The Cheetahs' loose forwards however are always a good pick with Pieter Labuschagne and Philip van der Walt leading the way the first 16 rounds.

- NZ Herald

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