The competition is back — on and off the field

It is that time of year and we are kicking off Super Rugby tomorrow night with the Chiefs and the Crusaders, last years’ finalists.

Can’t believe they’ve scheduled this game to go up against the New Zealand and Aussie 20/20 game — they should have got yours truly to do the draw!!

Nevertheless the Allied Press regional titles are all over it like a "rash". We have four picking comps going in Wanaka, Dunedin, Gore and Invercargill in the SunStarEnsign and Express, respectively. Our advertisers will be competing locally and we’ll name an overall champion area where the true rugby brains lie. We have a slight change to the format so our contestants have to pick a winner, and a margin (12- or 13+). Points will be allocated like this: 2 points for picking winner, one point for margin, or 3 points for the draw

In the Express, we have seven advertisers returning from last year’s NPC competition. Carpets & Drapes Fiordland, Invercargill Hunting & Fishing, GJ Gardner, GWD’s, Deep South Glass and Collingwood Foodcentre. They are joined by Shoe Clinic Invercargill. Reece Rodgers, of RDR Builders, won the NPC comp last year and Dan Fisher, of Deep South Glass, and our old mate Simon Culhane, of GJ’s, tied for second in last year’s Super comp. I’m picking a wild card to top the Super standings this year in In’gill’s best grocer Richard Thwaites, of Collingwood Foodcentre. Good luck to all competitors.

So what will happen starting tomorrow night, and remember I’m not often wrong!! I think the Chiefs (12-) go in as slight favourites against the Crusaders unbelievably. In Richie “we trust” Mo’unga is gone, Welsh Wizard Halfpenny and Will Jordan have season ending injuries and "Razor" has got a job elsewhere apparently. The Chiefs, even without Retallick, look a menace across the park so they just win.

The Rebels are broke and rudderless, the Brumbies (13+) in a canter. The Force host the Hurricanes (12-) and boys from the capital haven’t had a great pre-season but the Force, really!! Hurricanes win. The Blues (13+) are playing up north but are genuine title contenders, even without big Patrick Tuipulotu, so should be too strong first up for the Fijian Drua. Don’t write off the Drua, their squad looks stronger this year and they are near unbeatable in “Fortress” Fiji so they will make the playoffs.

The Highlanders (13+) were “underdone” last year to say the least but there are signs they are on the rise and went unbeaten in pre-season – and I know it doesn’t count for much but there looks to be some “steel” in the pack and they’ve got some powerful finishers out wide in Nareki, Kneepkens and Tavatavanawai. They account for Moana Pasifika comfortably at the Greenhouse. The Reds (12-) host the Waratahs at home and do we really care?? The home team just. Best of luck on the rugby punt.

 - By Paul Dwyer