Brumbies - $3.50 The only Super 12 team which could be competitive in the NRL. In fact, if the Brumbies DID join the NRL then everyone would be better off - rugby league would have all it's best players and coaches back and rugby union would be free of the Brumbies style of play which is sadly creeping into international teams - especially England. ANYWAY - after winning the title in '01 I suppose they deserve the favourites tag but personally I can't see them winning this year. Butt-slapper Gregan is getting older and most Brumbies players continue to get shown up by their Reds counterparts in nearly every position in the Wallabies. Will probably make the top 4, but I can't see the Brumbies going back-to-back this year.
Crusaders - $5.50 This team is a real shot at the title this year. Even a Wellingtonian must admit that potentially the Crusaders could make up almost the entire All Black starting XV. What can I say? The Crusaders will have plenty of skilled, experienced players in both the fowards and backs. Some of this year's Crusaders have already experienced three Super 12 premierships before so they know how to win the important matches. Player depth is such that Ben Blair, real All Black material especially once Cullen hangs up his boots, will find himself on the sidelines. Why he doesn't pack up and move to Auckland or Dunedin where he could hold down the fullback spot without breaking a sweat is beyond me. The Crusaders are a certainty to make the top 4 at the very least.
Sharks $8.00 12th in 2000, 2nd in 2001, probably mid-table this year. Why? They're a South African Super 12 team. Enough said. Seriously though - the Sharks at 3rd favourites?! Only made the final last year because they only had to beat another South African team to get there. Once they were at the final they got well and truely done 36-6. Jappies have never won the Super 12 and that's the way it's gonna stay.
Blues - $9.00 All Auckland bashing aside now people - why are the Blues so high up on the favouritism? What have they done to deserve it? I can think of only two possible reasons why the Blues have been installed as 4th= favourites to win the Super 12 - one reason is that they have won the competition twice before, the other is that two Blues NPC sides made last years NPC playoffs. I regard the first reason as ancient history, and the second as not incredibly important seeing as both Auckland and Harbour were knocked out at the semi-finals by Canterbury and Otago with relative ease. Last year the Blues finished 11th. That will probably improve somewhat but not to the stage of a third title. Not this year anyway.
Reds - $9.00 My heart may say the Hurricanes but the head says the Reds will win this year. Why? Firstly you'd have to say that their back three of Chris Latham, Ben Tune and Wendell Sailor looks potentially miles better or at least an equal to the famous Hurricanes back three - Cullen, Lomu and Fleming. Complementing that the Reds have more world class players in Daniel Herbert, Toutai Kefu and others. Their tight five will sorely miss Mike Foley and John Eales, but I think that they'll be okay. My pick to win the Super 12 this year.
Waratahs - $9.00 Whenever I tell anyone that I don't think the Waratahs will do well this year the response is ALWAYS the same - "I dunno Nathe, the Waratahs have got Matt Burke!" Yes, but really, who ELSE do they have besides Burkey? No-one. That's who. I'm afraid that $9.00 flatters the Waratahs. The Waratahs are not quite in the Chiefs and Bulls camp, but they're too close to be considered top-4 or title prospects.
Highlanders - $10 I get the feeling the Highlanders are either going to have a really great or a really bad year in 2002. Either home semifinalists or cellar dwellars with the Bulls. The Highlanders team is a very different prospect this year than in 2001 - new coach, loss of players like Brendon Laney, Kees Meuws, Pita Alatini, the fall from grace of Jeff Wilson, Taine Randell and Tony Brown, etc... My gut feeling says it will be a bad year for the men down south. That said, if they get off to a fair start they'll be real contenders. My advice: wait a game or two if you're thinking of betting on the Highlanders.
Cats - $15 Ugh. Another South African Super 12 side that managed to make the top 4 somehow. Don't expect a repeat, that's all I can say. Even the TAB agrees - putting them at only 8th= favourites shows you'd be pretty stup... Uh, I mean BRAVE to back the Cats this year.
Hurricanes - $15 The Hurricanes on their day will beat any team you care to name - the British Lions, Canterbury, the Blues, South Africa... on their day the Hurricanes would thrash them all. The trouble is that 'their day' isn't often enough and when it isn't their day the Hurricanes would lose to most Div III NPC sides. No other Super 12 side will ever have three backs like Lomu, Cullen and Umaga all at once ever again so it will be a crying shame if the Hurricanes can't capitalise for at least one Super 12 title. Like the Highlanders, it might be worth waiting a few games into the competition before mortgaging your house on the Hurricanes' back.
Chiefs - $18 Chiefs fans keep saying what a good season the Chiefs had. That just shows how low the Chiefs fans set their standards. They didn't make the top-4 and they didn't win the title so how on Earth can they be considered as having a successful season?! Just as unlikely to win this year as ever, and don't expect any heroics now that John Mitchells gone either (like beating the Blues or Hurricanes).
Stormers - $20 I'm picking this team to make the top 4. Why? You always get a dark horse in sport - it could well be the Stormers! They've got several Springboks and 6 home games and didn't have a too bad a season last year. Probably won't win due to the fact they're South African but hell, you'll get pretty good odds if you go for the "top 4" betting option.
Bulls - $150 The Bulls' best player, Joost van der Vestheizen (sorry about the spelling Joost) is 30 or so years old which says a lot about the team's player depth. Very similar to the Waratahs in that both have legendary players like Matt Burke and J.v.d.V playing alongside players so incredibly inferior to themselves you almost feel sorry for them. Despite all this the odds of $150 are an absolute joke. Surely it's not THAT unlikely! Less likely than the first stoppage in a rugby match being a drop goal? Less likely than Southland winning the NPC? It might be worth putting a few bucks on the Bulls just in case. Don't get me wrong - the Bulls will almost certainly be the holders of the wooden spoon...AGAIN. It's just a little surprising it's by so much.
Well there you have it. Reading back on it this article seems pretty negative for most teams - but then again only one team can win!