Super Rugby AU is back on Friday, starting with the Reds hosting the Waratahs in Brisbane, before the Force play the reigning champions Brumbies in Perth.
There’s plenty of exciting players to come out of every squad, but if we had to narrow it down, here’s five players to look out for throughout the campaign ahead.
Fullback, New South Wales Waratahs
There are plenty of exciting players in the Waratahs squad this season, young players too which bodes well for the Wallabies going forward, but Maddocks has plenty to prove in 2021.
He was a consistent performer in Super Rugby AU last season, proving reliable at the back while recording some impressive stats. According to ESPN, in round one last year, he ran for 139 metres off 16 carries, which included a brilliant try through the heart of the Reds defence – running a superb line.
We all know that Maddocks has the talent, and that he can do it on the big stage. But he still didn’t get a chance to run out in the green and gold last year despite being named in the squad.
But I wouldn’t quite say that the doors shut on him making the Wallabies fullback spot his own. Nobody has locked down that jersey yet, so with an impressive campaign, maybe he can get there.
Still he’s a very exciting player who can changed a game with individual brilliance. He’s just that kind of player.
Also look out for the halves combination of Jake Gordon and Will Harrison.
Fullback/Flyhalf, Western Force
McGregor is one player who I’m really excited to see in 2021.
The schoolboy sensation had an impressive breakout Super Rugby campaign with the Force last year, starring mainly at fullback but he did start at flyhalf in one match.
But what his role this year looks like is still unknown. The Force have brought in plenty of experience for the season ahead, including Ireland legend Rob Kearney, who could challenge McGregor for the fullback spot.
“Personally, having a guy like Rob come in especially, he’s one of the most decorated players. It’s been brilliant for me,” McGregor told RugbyPass earlier this month.
“It’s an opportunity for me to learn and get better myself, and just pick his brain at certain things.
“Bringing in the international guys have obviously increased the standard of training and competition for spots so they’ve drive high standard and expected a lot from the other players which is good.”
The 23-year-old offers plenty in attack, and it’ll be interesting to see how his game develops this season.
“Savea is more than just a player now. He’s moved into that phase of his career where his words and actions reflect on New Zealand Rugby as well.”
– Hamish Bidwell on the responsibility resting on the Hurricanes’ new captain. https://t.co/a40KZq8kta
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 16, 2021
Another player to watch at the Force has to be Byron Ralston, who was impressive on the wing last year. Watching Ralston link up McGregor again this season will be great to see.
Midfield, ACT Brumbies
Len Ikitau was impressive in his cameos off the bench for the Brumbies last season, but nobody would have expected the centre to have been named in Dave Rennie’s first 44-man squad.
The 22-year-old has impressed in the past for Brisbane Boys’ College in Queensland’s GPS competition, and the Canberra Vikings in the NRC.
But with the Brumbies last year, he played five matches in Super Rugby AU, all off the bench – and wasn’t involved in the grand final matchday side.
That being said, with Tevita Kuridrani having left the Brumbies, Ikitau has an opportunity to make the No. 13 jersey his own for the years to come.
He offers plenty in attack, and is a promising defender as well – finishing the Super AU season last year with an 83.33 percent tackle completion.
The Wallabies named him the squad last year for a reason, and now Ikitau has his chance to show everyone why that was as he takes his game to the next level.
Wing, Queensland Reds
Suliasi Vunivalu is arguably the player with the most to prove in Super Rugby AU this year, as he makes his highly anticipated switch from rugby league.
Vunivalu was called into Wallabies camp in November, months before he’d even have the chance to make his competitive Reds debut.
While his involvement in the squad during the Tri Nations was a surprise, it just goes to show, there’s plenty expected of him in the year ahead.
The 25-year-old had a decorated career with the Melbourne Storm in the 13-man code, rounding if off with a Premiership in last year’s NRL grand final. Having already established himself as a proven try scorer, he managed to cross for a four-pointer in the big dance.
High-profile Queensland Reds recruit Suliasi Vunivalu has been dropped from what would have been his Super Rugby AU debut for allegedly pushing a security guard in a Brisbane pub.https://t.co/SCgobVEVlr
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 16, 2021
But, less than a week out from a potential Super Rugby debut, it was announced on Tuesday that he wouldn’t be available for round one after alleged incident involving a security guard.
The Reds host the Rebels in round two though, so expect to see Vunivalu joining a Reds backline which has incredible talent then.
Lock, Melbourne Rebels
Having had a taste of what it’s like to be in a Wallabies squad last year, another strong season with the Rebels might just see Trevor Hosea earn his first test cap.
Hosea was a revelation for the Rebels last season, well and truly cementing his spot in the starting side alongside Wallaby Matt Philip. But with Philip having put pen to paper with French side Pau, it might just be up to Hosea to steer the Rebels at the set-piece this season.
The 21-year-old was played well beyond his years last season, seamlessly slotting into the Rebels set piece while holding his own against some of Australia’s best.
Standing at 203cm, he used his big frame to his advantage, especially at the lineout and in defence, where he made 54 of his 58 tackle attempts in Super Rugby AU – a 93 percent tackle completion.
Once again there’s an opportunity for an Australian lock to earn his test stripes, and I can’t see why that won’t be Hosea.
Also, Joe Powell deserves an honourable mention here. It’ll be very interesting to see what the scrumhalf can bring to the Rebels, having shown in years gone by that on his day, he’s one of if not the best nine in Australian rugby.
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