Rugby Championship Fantasy - Who to pick in your forward pack
With the start of the Rugby Championship this weekend brings a new edition of Fantasy Rugby with RugbyPass. With a salary cap of $150 million to spend on a squad of 25 players, here are some of the best buys and undercover value picks.
In Part 1 we will build the perfect pack for Fantasy followed by the backs in Part II.
The foundation of your team will be the front row, but don’t expect massive hauls of points from them. Look for steady and reliable earners who will play long minutes and have a track record of staying healthy.
Whilst Wallaby sensation Taniela Tupou ($5.3m) is known for scoring amazing tries and is a dynamic force in hand in Super Rugby, he will probably be used as an impact player on the bench. Same goes for Waratahs prop Tom Robertson ($5.1m) who would otherwise be a great buy but only received minimal minutes from the bench in last year’s Rugby Championship. Keep these two on your radar if the Wallabies have any front row injuries.
Steven Kitsoff ($4.5m) is a dark horse who started only once last year but still managed to play 216 minutes coming off the bench, not much less than starter Tendai Mtawarira (263 mins).
South Africa – Tendai Mtawarira (5 starts), Coenraad Ooshuizen (3 starts)
All Blacks – Ofa Tuungafasi (6 starts), Nepo Laulala (5 starts)
Wallabies – Scott Sio (6 starts), Sekope Kepu (4 starts)
Argentina – Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Enrique Pieretto Heilan
The premiere ‘buy’ will be Malcolm Marx ($6.5m) who is an undoubted freak of nature likely to rack up points across the board in positional categories (scrummaging and lineouts) but also attacking stats like tries and clean breaks.
Marx is the perfect hooker for a Rugby Championship Fantasy team and should be the cornerstone of your front row. Only injury could de-rail this pick.
The Sharks Akker van der Merwe ($4.3m) is the kind of player you want to keep in reserves as Marx insurance. He won’t see much game time unless Marx goes down, but if he does van der Merwe will end up a very valuable pick.
Last year’s Wallaby hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau started four games but spent two behind the now-retired Stephen Moore. He looms as the primary option for Cheika but with the emergence of Brendon Paenga-Amosa, the Wallabies situation is unclear and worth staying away from until teams are named.
Argentina’s captain Agustin Creevy is sure to be a reliable option but with Marx available, you couldn’t pass on him for Creevy.
South Africa – Malcolm Marx (6 starts)
All Blacks – Dane Coles (5 starts), Codie Taylor (1 start)
Wallabies – Tatafu Polota-Nau (4 starts), Stephen Moore (2 starts)
Argentina – Agustin Creevy (6 starts)
Sam Whitelock ($7.1m) is coming off a tremendous season with the Crusaders but Brodie Retallick ($6.8m) is a cheaper option who may provide more value. Retallick proved more in attack with more offloading and tackle busts whilst Whitelock hammered out 33% more tackles in defence.
Retallick also proved to be a more frequent lineout target in last year’s Rugby Championship. Both are quality players, but Retallick gives more bang for your buck here. The All Blacks will rest both at some stage, with Scott Barrett to benefit with a couple of starts. You will need to keep another starting lock in reserves to prepare for that.
With Eben Etzebeth ($7.1m) supposedly making a return to the Springbok fold, you can’t go past him. The South African is central to the lineout and is sure to receive a heap of carries off 9. He won’t be cheap but will provide consistent performances throughout the tournament.
If you need to save cap room, opt for the cheaper Argentinian pair of Guido Petti or Matias Alemanno.
South Africa – Eben Etzebeth (6 starts), Franco Mostert (4 starts), Lodewyk De jager (1 start), Pieter-Steph du Toit (2 starts)
All Blacks – Brodie Reallick (4 starts), Sam Whitelock (4 starts), Scott Barrett (2 starts), Luke Romano (2 starts)
Wallabies – Adam Coleman (5 starts), Rory Arnold (3 starts), Izack Rodda (2 starts), Rob Simmons (2 starts)
Argentina – Guido Petti (4 starts), Matias Alemanno (4 starts), Tomas Lavanini (3 starts), Marcos Kremer (1 start)
Big names in the flanker department could well deliver small fantasy rugby performances. Michael Hooper ($8m) and David Pocock ($8.5m) will give you consistent starts but won’t score as many fantasy points as some of the other available flankers. Siya Kolisi ($7.0m) is also overpriced and should be avoided.
The best strategy is to target dynamic flankers that possess X-factor in attack, and keep a rotating stable of loosies. Pick these guys up when they get a start – Ardie Savea ($6.4m), Shannon Frizell ($5.5m) and Jean Luc Du Preez ($5m).
Frizell and Du Preez, in particular, could end up being the buys of the season if they get at least 3-4 starts. With only Warren Whiteley as a specialist Number 8 in the Springbok squad, and Duane Vermuelen unavailable, Du Preez could potentially spend time at the back of the scrum.
If you can’t find a dynamic flanker starting, Pocock and Sam Cane ($6.8m) will offer reliable performances.
Pablo Matera ($6.3m) is an undervalued pickup for someone who started all 6 games for the Pumas last year and can anchor your second row. He ended up sixth in carries, fifth in offloads and fourth in tackles in the tournament last year and is a high value buy. Javier Desio if starting is a big part of the Pumas lineout, and could be a versatile flanker option if in the lineup.
South Africa – Siya Kolisi (6 starts), Jean-Luc Du Preez (1 start), Francois Louw (2 starts)
New Zealand – Sam Cane (4 starts), Liam Squire (4 starts), Ardie Savea (1 start), Matt Todd (1 start), Vaea Fifita (2 starts)
Australia – Michael Hooper (6 starts), Jack Dempsey (2 starts), Ned Hanigan (4 starts), Sean McMahon (6 starts)
Argentina – Pablo Matera (6 starts), Javier Desio (3 starts), Juan Manuel Leguizamon (3 starts)
Kieran Read ($8m) is a big money spend like Malcolm Marx, is a must-have.
The All Blacks captain is strong in every area of the game as well as being the All Blacks most targeted lineout jumper last season by some margin. If he can stay fit and play all six games again, he will be well worth shelling out for.
The Wallabies double-openside arrangement in the back row makes looking for an Australian Number 8 a bad option. Caleb Timu is listed as a flanker, while available options Lukhan Tui and Pete Samu may only spend time on the bench. If Samu gets a start, he could be a valuable quick flip for one week.
If you can’t afford Read, your only other option is Warren Whiteley ($7.0m) or newcomer Rodrigo Bruni ($5.3m) for a regular starter.
South Africa – Uzair Cassiem (5 starts)
New Zealand – Kieran Read (6 starts)
Australia – Sean McMahon (6 starts)
Argentina – Tomas Lezana (5 starts), Benjamin Macone (1 start), Leonardo Senatore (1 start), Juan Manuel Leguizamon (2 starts)
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