Super 14: SA team preview

Tank Lanning

It seems I am not alone in my optimism regarding the chances of the SA sides in this year's Super 14, which gets going tomorrow.

Several coaches, players and scribes have shared their thoughts on the positive state of rugby in the country at the moment. Which is just pretty damn dandy given the troughs we have been dragged through in recent times. So who am I to rock the boat?

Nope, I am also of the opinion that a few of the SA sides have as good a chance as any of lifting the silverware come May 30, 2009. Especially given that our Antipodean title contenders have lost the likes of Dan Carter, Nick Evans, Rocky Elsom and Jerry Collins, all game breakers in my book.

So without further ado, a look at how I see the SA sides doing in the Super 14 this season.


They will have a good enough run-on XV to surprise a few sides, but again it is the lack of depth in the squad that will lead to them coming unstuck. I have said before that I do not believe South Africa has the depth to carry five franchises in the Super 14, the Cheetahs and Lions performances to date being proof. They were seriously unlucky last year, though – as their eight bonus points for losing within seven points attests to. A hammer blow to lose CJ van der Linde, but the boys from Bloem have a habit of churning out great props, and none of the props in the tournament will be looking forward to their clashes with either Wian de Preez or Cobus Calldo. Amazing that a province with a school like Grey College and a university like Shimlas as their main feeders have so often been the bridesmaids of SA rugby. Their first six matches are away, and having not been great tourists to date, they might find themselves with a lot of work to do in the final half of the tournament. Love the fact that they will be rotating Heinrich Brussow and Hendro Scholtz as true fetchers, and in tandem with world class flanker, Juan Smith, this should make for great viewing.
Prediction: Potential for a top half of the log finish, but will probably end 9th


Certainly no lack of confidence. Jaque Fourie was quoted in The Star newspaper on Wednesday saying that he thought the Lions had the best backline in the country. And with Henno Mentz and Ashwin Willemse, together with Jano Vermaak and Louis Ludik, the backline does not look bad. But best in the country? I think not. Fourie is an all time great, that cannot be disputed, but what do they say about swallows and summers? The Lions also have a massive weakness at tighthead prop. New boy Gert Muller will be in the hotseat on Friday, but there is not a lot of pressure coming from other tightheads in the squad, Ross Geldenhuys or Lawrence Sephaka! Which is a shame, because in Heinke van der Merwe and Willie Wepener, they have the best scrummaging hooker and loosehead in the country. Another side to be playing a true fetcher in the form of the ubber-talented Cobus Grobbelaar, and that will aid their cause. It will be interesting to see how the retreaded Jannes Labuschagne and USA import Todd Clever go in the real world they call Super 14 …
Prediction: Again the potential to be top half, but a realistic 11th place finish


These guys really hacked with the ELVs last year, and Frans Ludeke looked to be completely out of his depth. Tenth on the log does them a little disrespect though, as they looked to be a much better side towards the end of the tournament. They also showed in the Currie Cup the kind of rugby they can play. Of course, talisman skipper, Victor Matfield is back in the mix this year, and together with Bakkies Botha and Pierre Spies, he should provide the fire needed to ignite the Bulls' belly. Jaco Pretorius is one of the signings of the year I reckon, and he will add massive value to a backline that would do justice to most international sides. A misnomer though, is that the Bulls have an all conquering and powerful front row. Gurthro Steenkamp is great round the park, but not destructive come scrum time. Chiliboy Ralepelle still has a lot to prove while Derick Kuun is more of a fourth loose forward than a scrummager. And Rayno Gerber is a true journeyman. The Bulls will be hoping for a big season from relative newboy to the number three jersey, Werner Kruger. And while a lot of Pretoria will miss being able to belt out “Liefling” at Loftus, I reckon this will make for a stronger Bulls side. Morne Steyn is a flyhalf more in tune with the game under the ELVs, and I am pretty sure Messers Bryan Habana and Akona Ndungane will agree. They might actually get some ball …
Prediction: Losing semi finalists


Rassie Erasmus loves his trickery, and sometimes so much so that it is to his undoing. Last year it was Luke Watson and Schalk Brits at No 8, neither of which worked, and led to players like Justin Melck and Robbie Diack leaving the province. This year it is Nick Koster to wing, Schalk Ferreira to hooker and Hilton Lobberts to lock. The latter two calls have great potential, especially given the lack of depth at lock, and the fact that Ferreira was not going to make it as a prop. But I am yet to be convinced about the Koster move. He is an exceptional talent and a fantastic eighthman. Let him mature with a few starts off the bench, I say. I am told that Rassie is not enjoying the politics that swirl in the Western Cape, and perhaps moves like this smack of anti-establishmentism. That said, there is certainly enough talent in this squad for them to make a Super 14 final. Key combinations, so vital in rugby, include Adriaan Fondse and Andries Bekker, Ricky Januarie and Peter Grant, and Gcobani Bobo and Jean de Villiers, all of which are world class. Duane Vermeulen is a great addition to the loose forward clan, and I really think he should play at No 8. Question marks come in the form of the Watson issues (I would need another page to go into all of them) and how that will be handled, whether Schalk Burger will be played as a fetcher, whether Brits will step up to the plate when the going gets tough, and how a front row with a few question marks hanging over it will fare.
Prediction: Losing semi finalists


SA’s Super 14 glory boys, and deservedly so. Sensational playmakers like Ryan Kankowski, Rory Kockott, Ruan Pienaar, Frans Steyn, Adi Jacobs and JP Pietersen have seen the Durban franchise produce some of the best rugby seen from an SA side. And together with the up front grunt from the likes of 'Beast' Mtawarira, John Smit, Bismarck du Plessis, Johan Muller and the up and coming Steven Sykes and Jean Deysel, they are without doubt contenders for a spot in the final. Three key factors will decide their fate … How they handle the Smit v Du Plessis fight for the No 2 jumper, how Pienaar will go at flyhalf, and how Steyn will go at his now designated spot that is inside centre. I think Steyn has tried to do too much in recent times, and thus come unstuck. If he realises that the other 14 people on the field also deserve to be there, he could flourish again. Pienaar will be sensational at flyhalf and this leaves the talented and aggressive Kockott at scrumhalf. It is tricky to play hooker one week and tighthead the next, though, and while Smit proved that he can more than hold his own in the No 3 jersey on the Bok tour, I still think he is the best hooker in the country. Playing him at hooker, with Bismarck on the bench, and Jannie du Plessis at tighthead, rounds off this very able and talented Sharks side to my mind…
Prediction: Winners
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