We’re into the final month of Super Rugby pre-season preparations and the team squads are slowly taking shape although no team has announced its final squad yet and the teams still have to play their warm up matches.
When one look at the provisional squad lists and taking what one know about the teams it is possible to do a provisional preview of the season. However, we know that pre-season previews tend to be fairly useless as injuries and form take a hand in during the season but it still is fun.
On paper the Sharks have the best squad, loaded with Springboks and experience and with only a few rookies looking likely to get much game time. The one position where the Sharks might be vulnerable is at lock where, apart from PSDT they don’t have any locks of real quality.
The internal battle for the flyhalf spot between Pat Lambie and Fred Zeilinga will be interesting to watch. Zeilinga was impressive during the Currie Cup while Lambie had a largely forgetable year last year.
Overall they have a solid and experienced forward pack but the depth at the back looks a bit brittle. However, they have enough talent available to finish top of the SA Conference in 2014.
Players to watch: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Frederik Zeilinga, Heimar Williams, SP Marais
SA Conference: 1
Prop: Tendai Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis, Lourens Adriaanse, Dale Chadwick,
Hooker: Kyle Cooper, Bismarck du Plessis,
Lock: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Peet Marais, Etienne Oosthuizen, Edwin Hewitt, Anton Bressler
Loose forward: Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Jean Deysel, Ryan Kankowski, Jacques Botes, Keegan Daniel, Tera Mtembu
Scrumhalf: Charl McLeod, Cobus Reinach, Tyler Fisher,
Flyhalf: Pat Lambie, Frederik Zeilinga
Centre: Frans Steyn, Heimar Williams,
Utility back: Paul Jordaan, Tim Swiel, Jaco van Tonder, Adriaan Esterhuizen,
Wing: Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen,
Fullback: SP Marais
Head coach: Jake White
After a good 2013 Super Rugby season but a poor Currie Cup for both partners, the Free State and Griquas, the Cheetahs will be able to field a settled and experienced squad of players. Once again their lock/loosies open play will be crucial to their campaign and to provide their potentially dangerous backs with quality ball.
In 2013 they played a much more balanced game than in the past and it will be interesting to see whether they can do it again this year. The presence of Robert Ebersohn in the midfield will be missed, both for his fetching and for his organisation of the backline defence.
The biggest issue for me as that their second choice players are distinctly inferior to their first choice players in most positions and they will hope that they have another year of limited injuries.
Players to watch: Lood de Jager, Shaun Venter, Johan Goosen, Howard Mnisi
SA Conference: 2
Prop: Coenie Oosthuizen, Trevor Nyakane, Caylib Oosthuizen, Rossouw de Klerk
Hooker: Adriaan Strauss, Hercú Liebenberg, Ryno Barnes
Lock: Lood de Jager, Waltie Vermeulen, Ligtoring Landman, Francois Uys
Loose Forwards: Heinrich Brüssow, Lappies Labuschagné, Boom Prinsloo, Philip van der Walt, Jean Cook
Scrumhalf: Sarel Pretorius, Shaun Venter, Kevin Luiters
Flyhalf: Johan Goosen, Elgar Watts, Francois Brummer
Centre: Johann Sadie, Francois Venter, Howard Mnisi,
Wing: Raymond Ruhle, Rayno Benjamin, Rocco Jansen, Cornal Hendricks
Fullback: Willie le Roux, Hennie Daniller, Riaan Smit
Head coach: Naka Drotske
The Stormers lost a few experienced players and gained very little. With Eben Etzebeth out for most of the season they look thin at lock and will depend on their two penalty machines, Rynhardt Elstadt and Michael Rhodes, to fill the gap while hoping they won’t get carded too often.
The Stormers’ forward strength is in the quality of their loose forwards.
At the back they are thin on quality scrumhalves and flyhalves, solid in the midfield while the lack of size on the wing could cost them on defence.
Unfortunately the Stormers will once again look to defend their way to the top and that’s not the way to win trophies. While Catrakilis is a quality flyhalf their biggest game breakers are out wide and unless Aplon and Kolbe get enough ball to play with they will merely be defensive liabilities.
I don’t see the Stormers having a better year than last year as overall the squad just looks unimpressive and they will probably fight it out with the Cheetahs for the #2 SA Conference spot.
Players to watch: Ruan Botha, Schalk Burger, Demetri Catrakilis, Cheslin Kolbe
SA Conference: 3
Prop: Pat Cilliers, Brok Harris, Oli Kebble, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Alistair Vermaak.
Hooker: Tiaan Liebenberg, Scarra Ntubeni
Hooker/flank: Deon Fourie
Lock: Ruan Botha, Manuel Carizza, Tazz Fuzani, Jean Kleyn, De Kock Steenkamp
Lock/flank: Rynhardt Elstadt, Michael Rhodes
Loose forward: Schalk Burger, Nizaam Carr, Siya Kolisi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Duane Vermeulen
Scrumhalf: Nic Groom, Godlen Masimla, Louis Schreuder
Flyhalf: Demetri Catrakilis, Kurt Coleman, Ryno Eksteen, Gary van Aswegen
Centre: Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Michael van der Spuy, Kobus van Wyk
Centre/Wing: Damian de Allende, Pat Howard
Fullback/Wing: Gio Aplon, Scott van Breda, Cheslin Kolbe
Fullback/Centre: Jaco Taute
Head coach: Allister Coetzee
Having lost a number of experienced players during 2013 the Bulls are a bit thin on experience and it’s only in the front row that they can field a set of experienced players, albeit mainly journeymen. Every other postion will feature rookies or near rookies and while their rookies were quality juniors they will have to make the step up to Super Rugby.
The biggest problem area for the Bulls is at flyhalf where they have no real quality with Louis Fouchè and Handrè Pollard as their first choice flyhalves and Tony Jantjies as a back up. The Bulls has some talented youngsters in the midfield and out wide but it remains to be seen whether their flyhalves can create enough opportunities for these players.
The Bulls have a tough year ahead of them and they will be hard-pressed not to finish bottom of the SA Conference. However, one can expect some of their youngsters to make the step up and this might just save them the embarrassment of finishing below the Lions.
Players to watch: Paul Willemse, Jacques du Plessis, Jan Serfontein, Clayton Blommetjies
SA Conference: 4
Props: Mornè Mellett, Dean Greyling, Frik Kirsten, Werner Kruger, Marcel van der Merwe
Hookers: Callie Visagie, Bandise Maku, Bongi Mbonambi
Locks: Flip van der Merwe, Paul Willemse, Grant Hattingh, David Bulbring
Loose Forwards: Deon Stegman, Wiaan Liebenberg, Arno Botha, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jacques du Plessis, Pierre Spies, Jono Ross
Scrumhalves: Francois Hougaard, Piet van Zyl, Rudy Paige
Flyhalves: Louis Fouchè, Handrè Pollard
Midfield: Jan Serfontein, Waylon Murray, JJ Engelbrecht, William Small-Smith
Outside backs: Bjorn Basson, Akona Ndungane, Sampie Mastriet, Travis Ismaiel, Jurgen Visser, Jesse Kriel, Clayton Blommetjies
Utility Backs: Ryan Nell, Ulrich Beyers
Head coach: Frans Ludeke
Coming out of the rugby wilderness of 2013 with only 12 players having played more than 10 Super Rugby games the Lions are in for a tough campaign, a campaign where their rookies and near-rookies have to step up and they will hope that injuries don’t derail them again as it did in 2012.
The Lions play an exciting brand of rugby but it is a brand where they tend to leak tries at crucial times and a lot will depend on whether they can limit the damage and pull off the wins when they get the opportunity rather than close losses.
The Lions will be in a battle with the Bulls for the bottom SA Conference spot and it will depend on which team’s rookies step up the best. Overall the Bulls rookies have a better pedigree and I expect the Bulls the pip the Lions to the post.
Players to watch: Ruan Dreyer, Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, Stokkies Hanekom
SA Conference: 5
Prop: Ruan Dreyer, Julian Redelinghuys, Bees Roux, Schalk van der Merwe, Jacques van Rooyen
Hooker: Willie Wepener, Robbie Coetzee, Francois van Wyk, Malcolm Marx
Lock: Franco van der Merwe, Franco Mostert, Chris van Zyl, Hugo Kloppers, Ruan Venter, Martin Muller
Loose Forwards: Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel, Willie Britz, Warren Whiteley, Warwick Tecklenburg, Lambert Groenewald
Scrumhalf: Michael Bondesio, Ross Cronje, Guy Cronje, Faf de Klerk
Flyhalf: Elton Jantjies, Marnitz Boshoff, Willie du Plessis
Centre: Alwyn Hollenbach, Stokkies Hanekom, Dylan Des Fountain, Robert de Bruyn, Lionel Mapoe
Wing: Anthony Volmink, Deon Helberg, Deon van Rensburg, Chrysander Botha,
Fullback: Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrink
Head coach: Johan Ackermann