After the year end break I am looking forward to the new rugby season to get underway. On the weekend the Lions played their first game of the Lions Challenge and I was really impressed with how they played given it was their first outing of the season.
The Lions without their stars are still formiddable and should win most of their challenge games.
This weekend the Lions tackle the Cheetahs, who are usually likened to finish in the last 3 before the superseason begins. This year is no exception. With the bookies only rating the Kings and the Force chances worse then the Cheetahs’s.
According to news from Bloem is that the Cheetahs will field a very weakened team on the weekend. The following players will sit out Boks Coenie Oosthuizen, Johan Goosen, Juan Smith and Heinrich Brussow, along with Andries Ferreira, Martin Muller, Phillip van der Walt, Pieter Labuschagne, new recruit Johan Sadie, utility Willie Le Roux and Sevens Bok Rayno Benjamin.
The Stormers and Sharks are the favourites from South Africa while the Bulls will finish mid table according to the bookies.
The Stormers look like a terrifying prospect this year with a possible starting 15 looking a bit like this: Stephen Kitshoff, Tiaan Liebenberg, Schalk Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Schalk Burger, Duanne Vermeulen, Dewaldt Duvenhage, Elton Jantjies, Brian Habana, Jean Div, Juan De Jongh, Gio Aplon, Jaco Taute. Leaving guys on the bench like Deon Fourie, Peter Grant, Joe Pietersen to name a few. They will be one of the favourites to win this year no doubt.
The Sharks are also a strong unit with a possible line up like this: Beast, Bismarck (when fit)/ Burden, Jannie, Anton Bresler, Franco van der Merwe, Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts, Ryan Kankowski/Daniel, Reinach/Mcleod, Pat Lambie, Mvovo, Frans Steyn, Jordaan/Whitehead, Pietersen, Ludik. The Sharks have plenty of depth just like the stormers and should be one of the favourites too.
The Bulls will be a strong team, but with the retirement/movement and loss of form of most of their stars their strenght has diminished somewhat. they would still have a good team probably looking like this: Greyling, Rallapele, Kruger/Van der Merwe, Flip/Willemse, Juandre Kruger (if he is avaliable)/Steenkamp, Arno Botha, Jacques Potgieter, Dewald Potgieter/Pierre Spies, Hougaard, Steyn, Ndugane, Wynand Olivier, Engelbrecht, Basson, Kirchner. The Bulls are still a very strong team and can make the playoffs if the majority of the team stay fit. The Bulls will mis CJ Stander who was a big cog in their team last year and with the loss of Morne Steyn’s form they will have a few headache’s.
The Cheetahs, well I say this every year, they are capable of getting to the playoffs and this year they have their strongest squad to date. The Cheetahs has depth this year and could well be a suprise package if they play the gameplan that suits them and not try to play a different “kicking” gameplan at the start of the year that is usual. The Cheetahs line up may look like this: Nyakane, Strauss, Coenie, Ferreira, Martin Muller, Heinrich Brüssouw, Lappies Labushagne/Frans Viljoen, Van der Walt, Van Zyl, Goosen, Le Roux, Ebersohn, Sadie, Rhule, Daniller. The Cheetahs has a backline to rip teams apart and if they can fix their defence they might get to the playoffs and with the possible return of Juan Smith it could bode well for the central team.
The Kings, well their first season of supeRugby. As they could not even get into the Currie cup last year they will get a big shock in their first game. The Kings are wooden spoon contenders for sure and realistically should be setting their sights on winning one or two games. The Kings team could look like this: Jaco Engles, Bandise Maku, Ross Geldenhuys, Sykes, Bulbring, Oosthuizen,Leonardi, Watson, Vergallo, Catrakillis, Sampson, Andries Strauss, Ronnie Cooke, Michael Killian, SP Marais.
Maybe 2013 the final log will look like this.