NEW YORK, NY – After we named our 2013 Southern Hemisphere Rugby Players To Watch , we promised to give you the 2013 Southern Hemisphere Clubs, Coaches & Administrator To Watch. In case you still don’t know why we do this or where we got the idea, we poached the idea from a Hip-Hop magazine that named its class of 2012 in 2011. Today though, lets get to our 2013 Clubs, Coaches & Management To Watch.
Highlanders: They have spent all the money and brought in big name after big name. Now it is time for them to live up to the hype. They say you can’t buy a championship, but this squad was pretty good before they added Ma’a Nonu, Tony Woodcock and Brad Thorn. If they keep a healthy fly-half and they will the Super 15 Champions.
Southern Kings: The most hated team in all of the Super 15. Somehow the incompetency of the SARU is their fault. The problem when you back a group of men into a corner and tell them its us against them is it can unite them beyond words. That is what the Kings have and they will fight, claw and scratch their way through every game and end up with a few victories.
The Lions: After being relegated out of the Super 15 and replaced by the Kings. The Johannesburg based franchise has had to do some soul searching. They have loaned out some players to other South African Super 15 sides while some have left altogether. They have managed to do an international tour of sorts, including two matches in the US and Canada. How this once great Rugby Union rebounds from this humiliation is the question. Change was needed and the drop brought that, but are they ready to be back in Super Rugby?
Ireland – Pat Lam (Connacht): Lam officially got this position a couple of months back but he won’t take over until this fall. Lam was maligned for his time at the Super 15 Blues for underachieving and not running a tight ship. However his work with Samoa as an assistant during the November tours saw his stock rise again. In a fresh setting, he will be able to rebuild his reputation and keep Connacht rugby going in a positive direction.
South Africa – Alan Solomons (Southern Kings): The man with the unenviable task of coaching the Kings. However, there are very few living legends in rugby coaching that are still coaching. More often than not the Kings will be outgunned this year, but they will not be out-coached or lack motivation.
Australia – Michael Cheika (NSW Waratahs): Its a dirty job but somebody’s gotta do it. New South Wales is arguably the home of rugby union in Australia. Yet with all the tradition, talent and clubs, they have underachieved massively. So here is Mr Cheika, who is a proven winner in rugby and one of its young brilliant minds. Year one will be tough for Cheika but if you watch closely, you will see his side show flashes of the greatness to come.
New Zealand – Sir John Kirwan (The Blues): Sir John (yes he has been knighted) is in a similar position to Mr. Cheika. The Blues franchise pulls from the Auckland area and has all the talented players available to them. However, the culture had gotten rotten and the man called in to save the day was our RWU Friend, Sir John. He has a young team with a few vets and he is changing the culture. His phrase for his team this year is “Better never stop.” The Blues will be better this year.
New Zealand Rugby Referee Society: They are going pink from head to toe as part of a new deal with home insulation company Pink Batts. Now beyond the giggles, this makes them one of the better funded referee societies in rugby. It will insure their recruitment and development of rugby refs and help keep up the standard of play in the ITM Cup and lower levels.
Fiji Rugby Union: The 7s program continues to be a success, which is a positive. However, the nature of their 15s program is shambolic to say the least. You also have young players strictly using the national team honor as a stepping stone to a pro contract then never appearing again. This is a result of the relationship with French rugby. Things have to get sorted and the national 15s program desperately needs direction.
Australia Rugby Union: They have just decided to make 7s a priority for both men and women. They have a new CEO in Bill Pulliver trying to replace the legendary John O’Neill and it appears he will look to make his name in the 7s game. Stay tuned.
South African Rugby Union: The fiasco regarding the promotion/relegation of the Kings is hanging over the SARU head. This issue won’t go away and they still have matters to deal with regarding player drain and over-playing of Springboks by franchise and provincial coaches.
That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter @RugbyWrapUp, @JunoirBlaber, @Declan Yeats, @Mathew Drew Turner and @Ebstide52, respectively. And until the next time… stay low and keep pumping those legs.