CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA – For the last part of our Super 15 Rugby So Far Preview – the South Africa Conference – we find ourselves in the home town of RWU contributor Matt Turner. Although he plays for the England 7s side, MDT is actually 1/2 Saffa. How he was overlooked by Western Province and SA Rugby and allowed to represent England is a story for him to tell. For now, let’s get to the Preview:
The South Africa Conference is better than the Australian conference but not as good as New Zealand’s. Yet, it does posses 3 sides that could win the Super Rugby title. Let’s look at the sides.
1. Stormers: Possibly the best defence in all of Super Rugby, led by defensive coach and guru Jacques Nienaber. They can build around young talent like Springbok Eben Etzebeth and Stephen Kitshoff, who were part of the championship Currie Cup side. They have added more young talent from the relegated Lions – like Springboks Elton Jantjes and Pat Cilliers – to join current Springboks Jean De Villiers and Juan De Jongh. They have depth and really should be the easy victors of this conference.
2. Sharks: The Stormers also have Springboks Francois Steyn, Bismarck Du Plessis, Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and JP Pietersen, who are all back and fit. They proved that they are a dangerous proposition at home or away, as they defied the odds and made the final last year. John Plumtree offers great coaching and good leadership comes in Keegan Daniel. Add that to emerging talents Paul Jordaan and Dean Whitehead and they are one of the best teams in the competition.
3. Bulls: There is no doubt that they are a well structured and well drilled team. They possess Springboks Morne Steyn and Pierre Spies. They also have young recruits Handre Pollard and Jan Serontein, the 2012 Junior World Cup Player of the Tournament. However the team seems to be limited by their adherence to structure and an inability to chase a game. This will cost them matches and points in the long run and will hold them back this year.
4. Kings: This team is projected by many to finish last and they seem set-up for failure by the SARU, who have limited the number of foreign players allowed as a new franchise. A precedent was set by the Aussie Rugby Union for the Force and Rebels but the SARU seem to have disregarded this helping hand in favor of a stricter recruiting policy. This is not a mega-smart call on our part but there is a “Remember the Titans” feel about them. Led by a much maligned Luke Watson , son of franchise President Cheeky Watson (arguably the most hated man in SA rugby), they may surprise everyone. They have good enough players in Argentine Nicolas Vergallo, Demetri Catrakilis and Waylon Murray to win enough games in order to avoid relegation.
5. Cheetahs: The most dysfunctional franchise in all of rugby will finally fall on its face. The Cheetahs at the Currie Cup and Super Rugby level have still not moved into the professional era. They have lost legendary player Juan Smith, who hadn’t played in a couple of seasons due to injury. They have talented players in Coenie Oosthuizen, Johan Goosen, Heinrich Brussow, and Willie Le Roux. They even recruited Johann Sadie. However, with Naka Drotske at the helm, they lack the proper coaching and management. As a result they will earn the name “The Clown College.”
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