Pretty soon it’s going to be the time when most South African men’s time will be dominated by red meat and fire, alcohol and rugby. The Super XV is almost upon us and the rugby starved nation is gearing up towards a plethora of matches under murderous conditions.
This is going to be a long season. It will not be a season for sissies and one where only the strong and extremely lucky will escaped unscathed. All the South African teams look good bar the Kings. All-in-all player depth seems strong bar the Kings.
Having a look at the teams, playing what would probably be their last warm up game, it seems like the strongest available sides have been picked. It makes sense. Build some momentum now to take into the competition. With that in mind I want to have a look at the teams and see how they might approach this new season.
15 Elric van Vuuren, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Wayne Stevens, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Siyanda Grey, 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Johan Herbst, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Mpho Mbiyozo, 6 Rynier Bernado, 5 Darron Nell (captain), 4 Tomas Leonardi, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Boetie Britz, 1 Lizo Gqoboko.
16 Dane van der Westhuizen, 17 Khwezi Mkhafu, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Daniel Adongo, 20 Thabo Mamojelle, 21 Scott Mathie, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Scott van Breda.
Alan Solomons has picked a young team (in experience terms)… and a number of players I have never heard of. Let’s face it, the Kings will be the Wooden Spoon winners and by a long way. Even the Lions are very likely to give them a thrashing this weekend. They might play with everything they have but it just is not enough. They will probably try be enterprising, and kudos to them, but in the end they will only serve as a very likely bonus point team for all the others. They have no real depth and injuries will only really see them get worse as the weeks drag on. The only positive I see is that the players will have had some valuable life lessons along the way.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Phillip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Frans Viljoen, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain) 1 Trevor Nyakane.
16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Ligtoring Landman, 19 Juan Smith, 20 Sarel Pretorius, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Hennie Daniller, 23 Hansie Graaff.
The team picked by Naka is almost a definite run-on team for their first Super XV match of the tourney. I’m sure a tweak will be made here and an adjustment there but in the end this will almost certainly be their first choice. One thing that I like about this squad is the return of some much needed experience and the acquisition of some much needed players. I’m not talking about Sadie so much but with the acquisitions that Griquas have made it has certainly helped the Cheetahs franchise’s depth for this tournament. They are still light in certain areas but at least the team has more depth than it has ever had before. Expect very enterprising play from them. With Ebersohn and Sadie as a centre pairing expect a lot of running rugby. Juan Smith is back and that is a huge boost for the Cheetahs and SA rugby in general. I don’t expect them to be as hot as a house on fire but they should come close in a lot of games and actually win more than usual.
15 Jürgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Jacques Potgieter, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Morné Mellett.
16 Callie Visagie, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Ulrich Beyers, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Wynand Olivier.
I’m sure Ludeke has also almost picked his first XV. I’m sure players like Mapoe, and Olivier will be first choice players but the team picked is a very good indication of who Ludeke favours. I’m sure now that the youngsters have settled after last year, the Bulls should be a stronger team. However I don’t see a big deviation in game plan with the boys up north. But then again with Morné seeing what is required besides kicks at post he might try and be a bit more expansive this year. All-in-all the Bulls have a strong squad with lots of youngsters coming through. Should be a very interesting opener for them when they face their nemesis in the form of the men down south, the Stormers. Should also give them a good indication of where they are.
15. Riaan Viljoen 14. Odwa Ndungane 13. Tim Whitehead 12. Francois Steyn (Captain) 11. Lwazi Mvovo 10. Patrick Lambie 9. Charl McLeod 8. Lubabalo Mtembu 7. Jean Deysel 6. Jacques Botes 5. Franco van der Merwe 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit 3. Wiehahn Herbst 2. Kyle Cooper 1. Allan Dell.
16. Craig Burden 17. Tendai Mtawarira 18. Jandré Marais 19. Anton Bressler 20. Keegan Daniel 21. Cobus Reinach 22. Meyer Bosman 23. Paul Jordaan 24. Louis Ludik.
In my opinion, Plumtree’s boys are the team to beat this year. They showed what they were capable of in the latter stages of the competition and with the players they have they should easily be able to maintain that style. Even with some new and young faces coming through there is still enough “old hands” on deck to keep the ship tip-top. Bar the Bulls, the Sharks have probably got some of the best centres in the tourney for SA teams. Having Frans Steyn back and with the likes of Whitehead and Jordaan I expect to see a lot of New Zealand style play. My only concern is Meyer Bosman. I have never rated him highly. Other than that the Sharks have a formidable squad and once again the team picked by Plumtree is a good indication of what his starting XV will probably look like.
15 Jaco Taute, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 Brok Harris, 19 De Kock Steenkamp, 20 Don Armand, 21 Nizaam Carr, 22 Nic Groom, 23 Louis Schreuder, 24 Pat Howard, 25 Gerhard van den Heever, 26 Joe Pietersen.
For all intense purposes this will most probably be the run on team for their first Super XV game against the Bulls. Schalk will probably be picked before Elstadt and Jantjies before Coleman but it is pretty much Coetzee’s final team. Last year they were conference winners but this year is a new year with new challenges. Stormers defence has always been great and I expect no different this year. Coetzee has called for more emphasis on attack but in picking his centre pairing for this game I feel he is going conservative. We all no Jean is no 13 and De Allende is an up and coming young player but they are both big strong ball carries that can’t step to beat a player. Sure there were slim pickings because De Jongh and JP du Plessis (who I rate very highly) are injured but I would rather have seen Pat Howard on Jean’s outside than Jean on Damian’s outside. Jean’s defence is suspect at 13 and rightly so. Plus he is the wrong side of 30. However the stormers do have a pretty good squad with lots of depth but I fear they might be light on the loose forwards.
All in all the I feel the conference will be won by the Sharks this year with a battle between the Bulls and the Stormers for second. I see the Cheetahs causing more upsets than ever before and the Kings being no more than canon fodder.
Here is to an interesting Super XV ahead… may it be full of fun!