Super Rugby 2019 preview - can anyone prevent a Crusaders hat-trick?

No 10 Josh Ioane's ability to mix up his running game with good tactical decisions will be key for the Highlanders

No 10 Josh Ioane's ability to mix up his running game with good tactical decisions will be key for the Highlanders

Head coach Tony Brown will not be guiding his charges tonight owing to commitments with the Japanese national team.

For that reason, the shortened competition - uninterupted by the usual break for June test matches - will lack star power, making it more hard to stop fast-waning fan support.

Super Rugby's live and television audiences have plunged in recent seasons with the expansion and contraction of the tournament and the continuation of a confusing conference system. Tui is joined by Ed Quirk, one of the few players to be entering his fourth season with the Sunwolves, and Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco.

"I'm older. I hope I still have the wisdom upstairs and the physicality as well to play in Super Rugby because it's really intense", the twice World Cup victor said.

The coaches of the ACT Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels, New South Wales Waratahs and Queensland Reds have indicated they would be comfortable with such an arrangement.

"Scott Hansen in his capacity as the Sunwolves acting head coach will be leading the team in Singapore this week for Round 1 against the Sharks", Sunwolves CEO Yuji Watase said. "It's just not physically possible to play your main players for 80 minutes through (a stretch of eight games)".

SANZAAR, Super Rugby's governing body, will meet in March to plan the competition's future from 2021 with suggestions the Sunwolves may be dumped if the number of teams is reduced.

"The conditions are always interesting in Singapore with the high humidity, but it is a challenge we love", said Millar. "We also want to keep the people entertained, to play for our fans and for each other".

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He spoke about meeting and chatting and we were fine. "There are no bad vibes", she said. But we have obviously met recently and it was extremely normal".

It is on the bench where there is a proper injection of youth with Kerron van Vuuren (hooker)‚ Khuthazani Mchunu (prop) and Phendulani Buthelezi (loose forward) all set to make their Super Rugby bows from the bench. "We know we're in for an awesome battle".

"But I've really thoroughly enjoyed the pre-season, and look forward to the season kicking off".

The remainder of the foreign-born contingent comprises three from Australia, two from South Africa, two Tongan-born Japan internationals, a Georgian, a Fijian and one New Zealander eligible to play for Italy and Fiji.

The former All Blacks flyhalf, who assisted Joseph at the Otago Highlanders before he succeeded his former team mate in Dunedin, brings a swathe of experience to a team that includes numerous Japanese players who will be at the World Cup.

The Crusaders open their campaign away from home against the Blues at Eden Park this Saturday, February 16.

Featuring for New Zealand in their title defence in the 2019 World Cup is all in Ma'a Nonu's mind as he aims to revive his All Blacks career.

The season starts with derby matches between the Hamilton-based Chiefs and Dunedin-based Highlanders, the Crusaders and Blues and the Brumbies and Rebels.

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