Sean Holley’s Fantasy Rugby players to look out for

Rich Dore
14 February 2020

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Only the wiliest of Fantasy players used their Guinness PRO14 expertise and refocused on their league positions as the Six Nations has taken centre stage in the past few weeks. Two South African derbies may have slipped under the radar for the average Fantasy regular but for the diehards these games were an opportunity to pick up some valuable points whilst the rest of us watched the International teams slug it out.

The Toyota Cheetahs gained a useful double over their counterparts the Isuzu Southern Kings, the first match up by a narrow one-point margin in Port Elizabeth, but then an impressive 45-0 demolition on the return in Bloemfontein. If the Cheetahs are the team of your choice for defence then the last result is certainly one to consider for the Round 11 matches. But it’s the emphatic seven-try attacking column that really makes you stand up and take note as the Cheetahs now find themselves lying third in Conference A and seven points clear of Glasgow Warriors.

Rhyno Smith grabbed another try to lift him to ten for the season and out in front as the Championship’s top try scorer. Hooker Joseph Dweba continues his fine form with more tries and now has seven in total for the campaign. Smyth is also still the top metre maker and there was an impressive performance last time out from Junior Pokemela with 14 tackles and useful yardage made and two lineout steals. This week however the Cheetahs travel to Conference A leaders Leinster in what will be a tough game. Casting the mind back to Round 10 and Leinster fielded some players now involved with the Guinness Six Nations. It will be interesting to see who the international coaches release for some valuable game time but in Leinster’s Round 10 victory over Connacht back rower Max Deegan chipped in with two tries and three try assists, with 17 points from out-half Ciaran Frawley.

Also, in Conference A, Glasgow will look to close the gap on the top three as they entertain the improving Zebre at Scotstoun. A big away win at Benetton in Round 10 will give them confidence and in that game there were some useful performances from non-internationals. Kyle Steyn made 100 running metres, beat five defenders and assisted in two Glasgow tries. George Horne grabbed two tries with one for brother Peter, and centre Sam Johnson made five clean breaks. In the overall statistics though its still worth noting that Zebre’s Giovanni Licata is still top of the carries chart with 116 and winger Mattia Bellini has beaten an impressive 27 defenders. Zebre’s resounding Round 10 win over the Cheetahs – 41-13 – shows that they are not to be taken lightly with two tries in that match from another winger Charlie Walker.

The lowly Ospreys welcome Ulster to the Liberty Stadium with the Ulstermen buoyed by the news that Andy Farrell has released Billy Burns, Stuart McCloskey, Tom O’Toole and Jack McGrath from Irish duty to play this week. Ulster have scored 42 tries so far this season with the Ospreys conceding 34. McCloskey beat four defenders last time out in the win over Munster with two offloads and a try. For the Ospreys, a last gasp defeat to the Dragons at Rodney Parade continued their poor run of form although there were tries for George North and young centre Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, with the only player statistic of note the four defenders beaten by hooker Scott Otten.

The Dragons are up to fifth in Conference A and will fancy a home win against Benetton. Debutant winger Rio Dyer impressed in the win over rivals Ospreys with a try and six defenders beaten. Sam Davies is in a rich vein of form and lies second in the overall points scoring with flanker Taine Basham, recently called into Wayne Pivac’s Welsh squad registering five tries this season.

Conference B is proving a tight affair and leaders Edinburgh soared to the top with a barnstorming eight-try win over the Kings at BT Murrayfield last time out. There were eight different try scorers, but the impressive performers from a Fantasy League point of view proved to be Matt Scott who topped Round 10 with metres made and three try assists. He was joined by Jaco van der Walt with seven conversions and Eroni Sau who bagged a try, 5 clean breaks and 114 metres. Duhan van der Merwe only has Rhyno Smith above him for metres made this season. Edinburgh travel this week to nearest rivals the Scarlets in a top of the table clash. Both teams will be shorn of Internationals making this an intriguing game that could well decide who tops this Conference. Uzair Casseim has carried more than any other Scarlet so far this term and in the absence of Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies, Kieran Hardy’s five tries along with winger Steff Evans’ six may catch Fantasy players eyes.

Munster have lost their last two Guinness PRO14 matches but will surely get back on track at Thomond Park against the Kings this week, but very few Munster players feature in the top statistical charts as opposed to other teams – JJ Hanrahan their top points scorer. They have won the three times they’ve played the Kings however, scoring 17 tries so it may be time to get behind the Munstermen.

The remaining game in Conference B sees fourth play fifth in Galway as Connacht welcome the Cardiff Blues. Connacht have been on the end of three heavy defeats in their last three matches all against Irish opposition. They shipped over 50 points at Leinster in Round 10 with their only try coming from replacement hooker Tom McCartney. Paul Boyle had to make 27 tackles that day with Gavin Thornbury 26. This will be a worrying fixture for Andy Friend as the Blues have some dangerous attackers. Round 10’s best offloader was Hallam Amos with six and he also beat the most defenders. Centre Rey Lee-lo is renowned for his offloads and try assists and the Blues are one of the hardest teams over the ball in the tournament – Olly Robinson and Shane Lewis-Hughes with seven turnovers apiece.

Tough games to call this week and a difficult selection for our Fantasy players mid Six Nations. We could see some separation in our Leagues this week and I’m sure there be some ins and outs, changes of mind and fingers crossed ahead of the weekend’s games. Good luck! You might need it this week.

Sean Holley

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