So we’re lumping together backrow and number 8 for our next positional review. By now you should get the idea, and probably already have at least one or two players who can cover at least flanker, if you’ve heeded our advice already.
Unlike Fox where backrow is very much a premium position, in Rugby Magazine it’s pretty much like most other positions – 30 points per game is the dream, but most are somewhere in the 20s. Flanker is pretty well covered, number 8 a bit more of a challenge, especially with the wrecking ball that is Amanaki Mafi unavailable until his assault case is resolved – no update on that as we stand.
All that said, let’s look at 2018 and the points:
Link and summary of points.
Akira – the former sevens beast is really getting into his grove at 8 in Super Rugby. No surprise that he led his position in attacking points, run metres, defenders beaten. He’s $295k, but with Mafi and Mostert missing this season one of the few guarantees. Given the Blues will typically be playing from behind most games and getting this guy involved out wide expect a similar performance from him this year, and I’m sure all us fantasy managers will be crossing our fingers that he doesn’t get too much ABs attention. FL and 8 gives some flexibility.
Ardie – was not quite his destructive, power running self last season, and didn’t quite seem to break free as much as we’ve seen him, but still racked up the 5th highest average score. Pretty pricey at $324k, and there’s plenty of other options for less, but Ardie probably has a little more upside given he wasn’t at his best last season. Just be cautious as he can only play flanker, so make sure you’ve got plenty of cover with other players.
Duane – the big man’s back from France. The bulls are expected to go well this year, and I’m sure this guy will be a large part of that. $398k is a RICH price tag, and more than likely the choice is going to be between taking Duane and not taking Ardie or Akira. I’ll be honest, as Duane can only cover 8, I’d take either of the guys above. I’m close to putting this guy in the pocock camp (see below) – but he has the ability to be a hugely destructive running in broken play, so I think he’s a marginally better gamble than pocock, but he is a gamble.
So we’ve already covered some great value picks in our positional review on lock. Hemopo, Himeno, Pieter-Steph and Dan Du Preez as a flier can all cover at least one of flanker / 8 as well as lock, so if a coin flip, I take the players who have more flexibility. However, there’s plenty of value at both flanker and number 8, with players that don’t have lock as an option:
Warren Whiteley – Again, another player who wasn’t quite up to his best last season, and going into this season in a Lions team that has lost quality players – Mostert, Kriel, RJvR. However, always active in the loose, often found out wide, and usually good for a few tries. I think you pick him based on how you think the Lions come out of the gate. $244k is reasonable and he’s got upside considering he only played 6 games last year but still averaged 25.
Kwagga – seemed like he’d played too much rugby about halfway through the Super Rugby season. We know what this guys capable of, and at $198k I probably take him over Whiteley, even though he only average 22 pts last year. He can cover flank and 8, and if he’s back at anywhere near his best should be in the high 20s per game this year. BUT, it’s dependent on the Lions playing to the same standard and bossing the SA conference.
Van Der Walt – it’s a real shame that this guy isn’t also listed at lock as he’d be a steal. As it is he can cover flank and 8, and in an injury hit season last season notched up 23 points per game. At $155k he’s pretty cheap and we’ve seen him be more dominant than he was last season. One to stash on the bench, or even start with the Sharks having 4 easier games across their opening 5.
Sowakula – I’ll be honest, with the depth across flanker and 8 you don’t really need a wildcard, but I’m really taking a reach with this one. This winger turned loose forward flashed a glimpse of what he can do last year with an incredible 50 yard gallop. I’m pretty sure he’s not going to start for the Chiefs, but if they start struggling with injuries and this guy gets some time, watch out, he can bust some teams open.
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Pocock – so Pocock was very good last year – only played 10 games, but the 4th highest average points with 28.9 per game, and no surprises a large part of that was turnovers, I think he’s probably the only other person in world rugby as dangerous as Marx over the ball. However, he’s just TOO expensive at $424k. As you can see from the above, you can basically get two quality value flankers or 8s for that money, who will probably get you at least 25 points per game. For pocock to justify his price he would have to be out of this world this season and averaging nearly 40, and not even Marx or McKenzie managed that.
It goes without saying that with Mafi out and not return date, and JL Du Preez injured for at leas some of the season, avoid these two standout performers from last season. Mostert and Kriel have also disappeared to Gloucester and followed Ackerman, so the position has taken a hit this year.