SA’s Su­per long shots

Lo­cal rugby teams are up against the odds, but they may yet cap­ture our hearts

CityPress - - Sport - LOUIS DE VIL­LIERS sports@city­press.co.za

The mood is som­bre in our rugby: there’s trou­ble among our ad­min­is­tra­tors, no Spring­bok coach yet, rugby in the East­ern Cape is on the brink of col­lapse and then there are the New Zealan­ders...

Maybe it’s just the right back­ground for a South African team to seize the coun­try’s imag­i­na­tion in the Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion.

(I swear I heard some­one roar­ing with laugh­ter.)

But it is not so far-fetched. There’s room for three teams from the two Africa con­fer­ences in the quar­ter­fi­nals. The Jaguares from Ar­gentina were the favourites – they are al­most a test team – but they ran into a lot of trou­ble at New­lands last week­end.

The Storm­ers were South Africa’s lead­ing team last year, but col­lapsed dis­mally in their first knock­out match ... but they still have a for­mi­da­ble pack of for­wards and fast backs.

The big­gest prob­lem is that, once again, there is lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence among the half­backs, which is al­most a na­tion­wide prob­lem.

Due to in­juries, the Bulls have to do with­out Han­dré Pol­lard and the Sharks with­out Pat Lam­bie.

So the ta­ble is set for the Lions’ El­ton Jan­tjies. He has never com­pletely ful­filled his prom­ise, but took a big step in that di­rec­tion last sea­son and was un­lucky to be over­looked for the World Cup squad.

Jan­tjies is a player with the right in­stincts and who does not fear the ad­van­tage line; in ad­di­tion, in Jo­han Ack­er­mann he has one of the few South African coaches who can trust his play­ers’ de­ci­sion mak­ing. The Lions, Cur­rie Cup cham­pi­ons and a thor­oughly pol­ished unit, are the most bal­anced South African team.

They are, how­ever, with the Sharks, the Jaguares and Kings, in the tough­est Africa con­fer­ence.

Not only are the Ar­gen­tini­ans clearly more dif­fi­cult op­po­nents than the Ja­panese Sun­wolves, this con­fer­ence will also play against the strong New Zealand group. Prob­a­bly, only one team from this group will ad­vance to the knock­outs.

The Bulls, the Storm­ers and the Chee­tahs play a dou­ble round be­tween them­selves and sin­gle rounds against an­other African con­fer­ence and Aus­tralia – mak­ing it eas­ier to col­lect league points.

Pol­lard’s loss will be hard to bear, but Rudy Paige is a quick de­ci­sion maker at scrum half and can bring re­lief for the Bulls.

Their match at New­lands on Satur­day will set the tone for both teams.

The Storm­ers’ pack is, on pa­per, one of the best in the tour­na­ment, but Damian de Al­lende’s in­jury will de­prive the backs of much dy­na­mite.

The Sharks’ pre­sea­son tour to France would have given fans much to cheer about. Though you can’t read too much into th­ese games, away vic­to­ries over Toulon and Toulouse are not to be sneezed at.

The Chee­tahs have caused shocks in this tour­na­ment and can cer­tainly do so again, but they and the Kings look too green to up­set many cards.

With Su­per Rugby you never can tell. A few in­juries, a few rot­ten ref­er­ees, and you’re out. How­ever, with the right mo­men­tum at the right time, you can go all the way.

– Rap­port

Botha

Play­ers out:

Wentzel

Last sea­son:

Pre­dic­tion:

11th The Sharks should do bet­ter than last sea­son, but will still strug­gle to make the play-offs.

Chee­tahs Coach: Cap­tain: Star player: Play­ers in:

Franco Smith Fran­cois Ven­ter Lood de Jager Aranos Coetzee, Neil Raut­en­bach, Uzair Cassiem, Tier Schoe­man, Sias Eber­sohn, Fred Zeilinga, Wil­liam Small-Smith

Martin Bezuiden­hout, Coe­nie Oosthuizen, Caylib Oosthuizen, Steven Sykes, Carel Gre­eff, Hein­rich Brüs­sow, Jean Cook, Sarel Pre­to­rius, Fran­cois Brum­mer, Wil­lie du Plessis, Joe Pi­etersen, El­gar Watts, Jo­hann Sadie, Cor­nal Hen­dricks, Wil­lie le Roux

12th Can pro­vide sev­eral sur­prises in the group phase and a place among the top 10 is a re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tion.

Play­ers out:

Last sea­son: Pre­dic­tion: Kings Coach: Cap­tain: Star player: Play­ers in: Play­ers out: Last sea­son: Pre­dic­tion:

Deon Davids Steven Sykes (prob­a­bly)

Shane Gates A new team – last played Su­per Rugby two years ago Lost sev­eral play­ers due to the union’s fi­nan­cial prob­lems Didn’t play Could pos­si­bly cause an up­set or two early in the sea­son, but will have to show ex­cep­tional form to avoid the wooden spoon.

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