- SA Rugby's preparation matches have put the onus on the eight teams to make it worthwhile for fans, since there are no stakes in the nameless tournament.
- It’s unclear whether the Bok captain will play right away, but a Siya Kolisi-Sikhumbuzo Notshe reunion would be something to savour.
- How about a Damian Willemse "wildcard" pick at No 12? Yes, please.
SA Rugby putting a tournament together with no name and no silverware is a sure-fire way to remove all possible sex appeal.
So, the onus is upon the eight teams participating in the preparation matches to make it worthwhile for the fans.
Here’s a wish list of five things the fans would love to see in the games starting this weekend:
Positive, enterprising approach play
The two tournaments after rugby’s restart following the coronavirus outbreak forced South African teams to return to the mean - reverting to the conservative style of rugby they know.
The lack of a proper conditioning pre-season after a five-month hiatus meant players were rushed back to the field to get any sort of rugby played.
While that was better than nothing, inevitable grumblings about the quality on display ensued during Super Rugby Unlocked and were dialled up during the Currie Cup.
The preparation tournament is a chance to remove all the shackles and for coaches to go with a more positive approach and enterprising game play in their attack.
As there is no prize at the end of it, the fans can only find joy in the entertainment.
A Siya Kolisi-Sikhumbuzo Notshe reunion
It’s unclear at the time of writing whether new Sharks blockbuster recruit Siya Kolisi will be in adequate shape to kit up for the preparation tournament.
The Sharks have also not indicated yet whether head coach Sean Everitt intends throwing the Springbok captain into the deep end.
But it would warm the heart to see former Stormers back-row duo Kolisi and Sikhumbuzo Notshe packing down together again.
Since Notshe left Cape Town for Durban at the end of 2019, he has grown as a No 8 and enhanced his chances for inclusion in Bok squads this year.
Playing with his old mate Kolisi might give him an added boost for his national team prospects, as he will once again play in tandem with the Bok skipper.
Embrose Papier playing like a Springbok again
One of the things Covid-19 stole from fans was the chance to see Embrose Papier rise like a phoenix in 2020, after his 2019 disappointment of missing out on Rugby World Cup selection.
The scrumhalf was on a good wicket in the couple of weeks before the world shut down due to the pandemic.
Papier was looking invigorated, especially in the games he started in Super Rugby last year, against the Jaguares, Highlanders and Reds.
He delivered customary quick ball and was an ever-present try-scoring threat.
It’s highly likely he will gobble up the minutes in this preparation tournament, but the hope is that he seizes them and reminds everyone why he’s a Springbok.
Commentators pronouncing people’s names correctly
There’s no need to call them out by name, but various SuperSport commentators have let themselves down in falsely pronouncing some rugby players’ names.
This is not a slight on fellow media professionals but it’s disheartening to have to hear a player’s name butchered at an almost weekly basis.
A Jamba Ulengo will become "Ulenga", a Godlen Masimla becomes "Golden Masimla", Vincent Tshituka is incorrectly said as "Vincent Tshikuta" to some and there’s a player called "Luther Orie" that no one has ever heard of.
While the suits in the studios might overlook such tongue "slips", the gaffes actually wind viewers up.
The preparation tournament would be a good time for them, too, to properly prepare themselves to pronounce the players’ names right.
Yes, it doesn’t apply to all the fine commentators but it’s worth cleaning up.
A Damian Willemse 'wildcard' pick at No 12
Springbok World Cup hero Cheslin Kolbe recently said in a Sport24 exclusive interview that his French club Toulouse was using him as a "wildcard" in the No 10 position.
It being Kolbe, he has excelled at flyhalf as well, making the experimental move from wing and fullback look effortless.
Western Province’s prodigious talent Damian Willemse will not like to be messed about from one position to another more than he has done already in his short career.
But it would be gratifying to see the talented former Paul Roos pupil being given a run in what could be the position to truly unlock his gifts.
A player blessed with his athleticism, speed, panache, and keen sense for weakness in opposition defences should really be close to the action.
But he has not worked out as planned at flyhalf. He can do a job at fullback but that isn’t enough, is it?
A transition to 12 for a temporary period, in a no-stakes "competition" could free Willemse up to express himself and maybe even entertain his myriad admirers (the writer being one of them) again.