The Super Rugby season is just about half way done and as such, I felt like it was a good point to take stock of our SA teams and how they are fairing.
I’ll start by saying that Super Rugby has lost it’s mojo. For me, one of the most important dates in my calendar is Valentine’s Day because the hearts, roses and balloons in stores remind me that Super Rugby was around the corner.
I don’t feel the same anymore – something has changed and I the new truncated format isn’t helping.
But that’s a topic for another discussion.
What I really want to talk about right now is our 4 super rugby teams and how I feel they doing in the comp.
Early on in the season, I predicted that SA teams would end in the following order:
This is not going to come true – lets go through each team and find out why.
Rugby scribes all over SA (myself included, clearly) felt like they were our best shot at hardware during 2018 – I think that ship has sailed. The Sharks have easily been SA’s most inconsistent team to date. They have turned in unbelievable performances against teams like the Blues but then got walloped by the Rebels and the Bulls, recently. This weekend, they take on SA’s other inconsistent side – the Stormers – and it could go either way – depending on who is on this week. I personally think that the Sharks forward pack is soft. The pack is made up of too many Ruan Bothas and Tera Mtembus and too few Du Preez boys.
Best player: Andre Esterhuizen. I don’t always like how he runs into faces instead of spaces but he has the size to be a powerhouse for the Boks.
Worst player: Thomas Du Toit. Partly not his fault but playing the tank engine out of position has really stifled his season. Uncapped Bok so might get bleak and head overseas. That what we want?
What is it about the coast that breeds inconsistency? While I’ll admit that my prediction of the Stormers finishing second in SA was ambitious – I felt like their young side was loaded with talent and could surprise a few people. But then the tour happened. While they improved – under Fleck – it is almost as if the Stormers have given up on securing points overseas and have instead tried to keep the scoreboard in check. They have mostly failed in that regard and for a team who’s defence was once called the great wall of Cape Town – I think they are second on the log for leaked tries. Like the Sharks, their season is done and even if they make the playoffs – I don’t expect them to be difficult to beat – even at Newlands.
Best player: Damian Willemse. I don’t know if he is ready for international duty just yet but this kid is electric. I would certainly pick him ahead of Jantjies based on his tackle completion alone.
Worst player: SP Marais. I wanted SP to be a bok last year. However, he has went from champ to chump in my view and he needs to work a little harder at passing when it’s on.
I knew that the Lions were going to struggle with a new coach. Losing the enigmatic Johan Ackermann was always going to hurt the franchise and while it didn’t appear to initially, it eventually caught up with them with a poor run against the Blues, Sunwolves and then the Jaguares. They humped the Stormers – and that was great for their confidence but I also don’t get that bravado from the team anymore. I think they battle without their leader(s) and I don’t think they are a great SA hope for silverware this year. If you are looking for further proof for the point I just made – look at how vocal their fans are on Twitter. The answer? Not very.
Best player: Aphiwe Dyantyi is one name that is on everyone’s lips. A try scoring machine of the highest order – exactly what SA needs in a wing.
Worst player: Andries Coetzee. Ok, I will admit that he has probably not been their worst player but he hasn’t been great either.
I am steadfast in my belief that while you may win a few games – you will not win a noteworthy competition without a world class coach and Mitch, so far, is proof of this. I knew him coming to the union was going to be a game changer – I just didn’t think that the turn around would happen so quick. Mitchell has had a reputation in the past for how he has managed players – to such an extent that the Stormers had him lined up but didn’t pull the trigger because of player concerns after the Eddie Jones debacle. Players like Kriel, De Jager, and Strauss have underperformed for years but all 3 are now playing stellar rugby. Mitchell has nurtured the talent in the team as well as introducing some new flair and the Bulls are hitting their stride at the right time.
Best player: Adriaan Strauss. If you compare Strauss the Bok captain under Allister Coetzee to this guy – there in an undeniable chasm. I feel he deserves a Bok recall (on the bench, obviously)
Worst player: Pierre Schoeman. Only because of that nasty hit he got cited for early on in the season.
So if I had to pick how the teams are going to end again come July, It’d be the following:
Quite the reversal.
What’s your thoughts on the season so far? Who has stood out to you? Hit us with a tweet @leftbacks or a comment below – we love to hear from you.