The Super Rugby season kicks off for 2019 on February 15, and the competition will be fierce. Every Australian team looks stronger on paper than they did in 2018, and with spots in the World Cup squad on the line every player will be working their guts out to get a seat on the plane to Japan. With that said, how does your team look?
The Waratahs were the best Australian side last year, reaching the semi-finals before just slipping away on the South African Highveld. They will look to carry their form into 2019, with an absolutely lethal backline given some extra starch in defence with the signings of Adam Ashley-Cooper and Karmichael Hunt.
The return of Jack Dempsey from injury will help the Waratahs in tight, and they will have the flexibility with him in the side to play Ned Hannigan in the back row to help the line-out, or use Will Miller in a dual open-side role with Michel Hooper. Star playmakers Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley will also be hoping to put a forgettable international season behind them and regain their flair in the sky blue.
The Waratahs play their first game at Brookvale Oval on February 16 against the Hurricanes.
The Rebels just missed out on the finals in 2018, coming 9th on the ladder. They have, however, added to their stocks considerably with the signing of Quade Cooper and, later in the season, Matt Toomua. This should help shore up their weak point last year – poor linking between the backs and forwards.
With Cooper and Toomua, the Rebels will (like the Tahs) have the ability to field an all-Wallaby backline should they feel the need. Their forward pack is also formidable, and they will be serious contenders this year.
The Rebels first game is in Canberra at GIO Stadium against the Brumbies on February 15.
The Brumbies looked like the form Australian side at the end of the Super Rugby competition round robin last year, and they will most likely go back to what worked for them. Their side will be largely unchanged, with the only major addition being Wallabies prop James Slipper.
The Brumbies will have a very tough and physical forward pack, but there are question marks over whether or not their backline will be able to take advantage. They lack the flair, speed and killer instinct of the Waratah and Rebels inside backs, although they will be dangerous when they spread the ball wide.
The Brumbies first game is at home against the Rebels on February 15.
The Reds side will also be largely unchanged for 2019, although they have picked up a useful utility back in Bryce Hegarty. Without injury clouds over skipper Samu Kerevi they will have gained a lot from a disappointing 2018, and will look for a few more wins this year.