- Jun 18, 2010
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With the 2013 Super Rugby season to start soon, TRF_darwin, TRF_nickdnz and TRF_Ezequiel are trying to break down the strengths and weaknesses of the 15 teams. Today, TRF_Ezequiel takes care of the South African conference.
The Kings will make their Super Rugby debut this year
Many things have been said about the inclusion of the Kings at the expense of the Lions. Contrary to what it looks like, people don't really disagree with the Kings getting a shot but with the way things were handled by SARU. This year will be do or die for the brand new franchise and finishing bottom of the South African conference will mean a play-off with the earlier mentioned Lions to determine who will be playing Super Rugby in 2014. It's been a long time coming for the Kings, who first tried to get included in 2006, as the Southern Spears. In January of 2009, the Kings franchise was formed and the first match was against the British and Irish Lions that same year. In 2011 the Kings participated in the IRB Nations Cup, beating Georgia, Romania and Portugal, resulting in winning the tournament. When the participation to this Super Rugby season was confirmed last August, Kings management started recruiting players. Time will tell if it was enough to form a team being able to perform immediately. A lot will depend on captain Luke Watson who has played over 80 Super Rugby matches in his career for the Sharks and Stormers.
Additions / losses:
The Kings signed a couple of players from Europe, most noticable being NicolÃ¡s Vergallo. The Argentine scrum-half brings Test experience to the team and he has played at the highest level in Europe, representing Toulouse for the last 2 years. Hooker Virgile Lacombe is another experienced player joining from Toulouse. He has played over 150 matches in the French Top 14 and Heineken Cup. Super Rugby experience will have to come from guys like lock Steven Sykes who grew up in the region and has played for the Sharks, center Waylon Murray and hooker Bandise Maku who both played for the Lions until last year and center Andries Strauss who beat the Eastern Province Kings in the Currie Cup promotion/relegation play-offs when still contracted to the Sharks at the end of 2012. Demetri Catrakilis (Western Province) and Hadleigh Parkes (Auckland, New Zealand) don't have a lot of Super Rugby experience but have play-off experience at provincial level.
- Nothing to lose.
- A Currie Cup winning fly-half and a French champion scrum-half.
- Lack of depth in all positions
- Lack of experience.
- History shows new teams always finish last in their debut year.
- The Kings can only field 2 foreigners at once, leaving them with a tough choice every week.
Props: Kevin Buys, Jaco Engels, Schalk Ferreira, Grant Kemp
Hookers: Virgile Lacombe, Bandise Maku, Edgar Marutlulle, Hannes Franklin
Locks: Rynier Bernardo, David Bulbring, Darron Nell, Steven Sykes
Loose forwards: Daniel Adongo, Jacques Engelbrecht, TomÃ¡s Leonardi, Mpho Mbiyozo, Devin Oosthuizen, Wimpie van der Walt, Luke Watson Â©
Halfbacks: NicolÃ¡s Vergallo, Shaun Venter, Johan Herbst
First-five eighths: Demetri Catrakilis, George Whitehead
Centres: Ronnie Cooke, Waylon Murray, Andries Strauss
Wingers: Siyanda Grey, Michael Killian, Sergeal Petersen, Marcello Sampson
Fullbacks: Hadleigh Parkes, SP Marais, Elric van Vuuren
Top XV: 1. Jaco Engels, 2. Bandise Maku, 3. Schalk Ferreira, 4. Steven Sykes, 5. Darron Nell, 6. Devin Oosthuizen, 7. Wimpie van der Walt, 8. Luke Watson (c), 9. NicolÃ¡s Vergallo, 10. Demetri Catrakilis, 11. Siyanda Grey, 12. Andries Strauss, 13. Waylon Murray, 14. Michael Killian, 15. Hadleigh Parkes
The bottom line:
A new team always struggles. Despite having some experience in the team, the Kings failed to sign some really big names. Guys like Sykes, Strauss, Murray and Maku do have Super Rugby experience but are not among the elite in the country. Having to settle for less, might make the quest even harder than it already was. However, young players like Adongo, Catrakilis and Marais could give the team some spark and who knows... they might be able to sneak a win once or twice. The Rebels beat the Brumbies in their first season, the Force kept the Crusaders to a draw in '06. Predicted finish: 15[sup]th[/sup]
2012 Record: 10 Wins, 6 losses (59 points) – 5[SUP]th[/SUP] Overall
Having won the Super Rugby competition 3 times, the Bulls know what it takes. The question is if they can do it again this year. They are the only South African team to have ever won the trophy but since the departure of their big 5 (Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw and Gurthro Steenkamp) they used last year to rebuild. They did make the play-offs but lost to the Crusaders. This year, the Bulls will be trying to go all out again. The biggest question is if Morne Steyn will play or if coach Frans Ludeke will pick the younger Louis FouchÃ©. Steyn, the top point scorer in Bulls history, has been struggling with his kicking and it even cost him his spot in the national team, where Patrick Lambie and Johan Goosen took over last November. Ludeke has a tough decision to make at scrum-half as well. Francois Hougaard seems to be preferred on the wing by Bok-coach Heyneke Meyer which could mean Jano Vermaak will be the scrum-half this season with Hougaard taking care of the runs on the wing together with Bjorn Basson. A lot of puzzling for Ludeke this year.
Additions / losses:
The Bulls have not lost a lot of important players like they did last year. Only CJ Stander, who moved to Munster in Ireland, was considered a starter or close to being one. Other players who left include Gerrit-Jan van Velze who signed for Northampton Saints, following Juandre Kruger's example, Johann Sadie signed with the Cheetahs, Rayno Gerber now plays for Rivogo in Italy and Daniel Adongo moved to Counties Manukau in New Zealand but showed up with the Kings for this years Super Rugby season. Prop Rossouw de Klerk moves to the Cheetahs and fly-half Lionel Cronje moves to Jo'burg to play for the Lions.
When we take a look at the additions, the list is longer. With the Lions not in the competition anymore, the Bulls took the liberty to acquire the services of Callie Visagie and Lionel Mapoe who both joined the Bulls on loan. They will return once the season ends. Talented Lions forwards Grant Hattingh and Paul Willemse signed with the Bulls long-term and Ludeke sees them as the cornerstones of the new Bulls team he is building now. The youngster Handre Pollard joins from Western Province. The 18-year old fly-half replaced Johan Goosen at the Junior World Championship and was one of the reasons the Baby Boks won the tournament. He is not likely to play a lot for the Bulls this season but he is surely one to watch for the future. The Bulls management has also added some home-grown talent to the squad. Centers Ulrich Beyers, William Small-Smith and Jan Serfontein will try to crack the line-up at the expense of Wynand Olivier who enjoyed a stint in Japan but returned in time to again play for his beloved Bulls team. Marcel van der Merwe joins the Bulls from the Cheetahs.
- Good depth in key positions.
- The gameplan seems to work in Pretoria.
- With Visagie and Mapoe the Bulls strengthened their weak spots.
- Being a young team, can they handle the pressure?
- The Bulls rely on that 1 type of rugby. Can they switch if necessary?
- They concede too many penalties, especially the loose forwards
Props: Dean Greyling, Marcel van der Merwe, Frik Kirsten, Werner Kruger, Morne Mellett
Hookers: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Callie Visagie, Willie Wepener, Bongi Mbonambi
Locks: Juandre Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Paul Willemse
Loose forwards: Pierre Spies Â©, Arno Botha, Grant Hattingh, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Potgieter, Deon Stegmann
Halfbacks: Jano Vermaak, Rudy Paige
First-five eighths: Morne Steyn, Louis FouchÃ©, Handre Pollard
Centres: Wynand Olivier, Ulrich Beyers, Lionel Mapoe, William Small-Smith, Jan Serfontein, Francois Venter
Wingers: Francois Hougaard, Bjorn Basson, Akona Ndungane, Sampie Mastriet, JJ Engelbrecht
Fullbacks: Zane Kirchner, Jurgen Visser
Top XV: 1. Marcel van der Merwe, 2. Callie Visagie, 3. Werner Kruger, 4. Flip van der Merwe, 5. Juandre Kruger, 6. Arno Botha, 7. Jacques Potgieter, 8. Pierre Spies Â©, 9. Jano Vermaak, 10. Morne Steyn, 11. Francois Hougaard, 12. Wynand Olivier, 13. Lionel Mapoe, 14. Bjorn Basson, 15. Zane Kirchner
The bottom line:
The Bulls will always rely on that kicking game which works for them. As long as it keeps bringing the points home, the fans are happy. The question is if they can win enough matches to get to the play-offs and have something left in the tank to win those crucial games. The Bulls started out very strong in 2012 but imploded near the end, almost missing out on the play-offs alltogether. If they get the back-line involved, the attacking game looks to bring that extra dimension they need. Despite having a lot of talent, they miss the experience to pull through in tight games. Predicted finish: 9[sup]th[/sup]
2012 Record: 5 Wins, 11 losses (38 points) – 10[SUP]th[/SUP] Overall
The Cheetahs are the sympathy team to many rugby fans. The free-flowing style of rugby bring an excitement to the games which a lot of people love. Attack comes first for the Cheetahs. Even when they lose, they manage to stay close, resulting in 7 losing bonus points last year. Finishing 10th was the best result for the Bloemfontein team so far since they seperated from the Lions in 2006. This year they will be looking to improve defensively though, since there were only 2 teams who conceded more points (Rebels and Lions). This year, the Cheetahs miss out on both the Crusaders and Brumbies, two matches they lost last year. With both being strong conference contenders, missing out on these could be a small advantage for the Cheetahs. This year, Cheetahs fans will be hoping for less injuries. Those injuries posed some puzzling challenges for coach Naka Drotske. Goosen and Brussow missed a several matches and captain Juan Smith didn't play at all last year. Smith announced his retirement this week. Can the Cheetahs recover from this?
Additions / losses:
Several players have moved on after last season. WP Nel and Izak van der Westhuizen moved to Edinburgh (Scotland), Ashley Johnson now plays for London Wasps, Sias Ebersohn moved east to the Force and will be be hosting his former team-mates in Round 6, Andries Strauss now plays for the Kings and promising prop Marcel van der Merwe moved North to play for the Bulls. George Earle is now playing for Scarlets in Wales and Philip Snyman switched to Sevens Rugby. Justin Downey, Cameron Jacobs, Dusty Noble, Nico Scheepers and Waltie Vermeulen were not selected for the squad.
To fill these holes, the Cheetahs selected a couple of players from franchise-partner Griquas. Openside flanker Marnus Schoeman is the most exciting prospect among them. The youngster was one of the finds of the Currie Cup season last year and is putting pressure on Heinrich Brussow. Lock Ligtoring Landman and fly-half Francois Brummer will also look to make their Cheetahs debut in Super Rugby. Brummer previously played 5 matches for the Bulls in 2010 and 2011. 2 other players return after a stint abroad. Flanker Frans Viljoen enjoyed his time at Aironi in Italy but is back with the Cheetahs now after 2 years while scrum-half Sarel Pretorius returns after a year with the Waratahs in Australia. Johann Sadie couldn't crack the line-up with the Bulls and joins the Cheetahs this year. In the prop-department there are also 2 new faces. Caylib Oosthuizen (Lions) and Rossouw de Klerk Bulls will replace the previously mentioned Nel and van der Merwe. Also added to the squad is the young winger Raymond Rhule who won the Junior World Championship with the Baby Boks last year and was called up to tour with the Springboks to Europe last November.
- On attack, probably one of the best backlines in Super Rugby.
- Johan Goosen is one of the biggest talents and is getting better and better.
- In Marnus Schoeman and Heinrich Brussow, the Cheetahs have two quality fetchers.
- Lack of depth in all positions.
- Defensively it remains to be seen if they can improve.
- Losing their captain Juan Smith can have a big impact.
Props: Lourens Adriaanse, Rossouw de Klerk, Trevor Nyakane, Caylib Oosthuizen, Coenie Oosthuizen
Hookers: Adriaan Strauss Â©, Ryno Barnes, Hercu Liebenberg
Locks: Lood de Jager, Andries Ferreira, Ligtoring Landman, Francois Uys
Loose forwards: Heinrich Brussow, Marnus Schoeman, Lappies Labuschagne, Boom Prinsloo, Davon Raubenheimer, Philip van der Walt, Frans Viljoen
Halfbacks: Piet van Zyl, Sarel Pretorius, Tewis de Bruyn
First-five eighths: Johan Goosen, Francois Brummer, Elgar Watts
Centres: Robert Ebersohn, Barry Geel, Johann Sadie
Wingers: Rayno Benjamin, Hansie Graaff, Rocco Jansen, Raymond Rhule
Fullbacks: Willie le Roux, Riaan Smit, Hennie Daniller
Top XV: 1. Coenie Oosthuizen, 2. Adriaan Strauss Â©, 3. Caylib Oosthuizen, 4. Ligtoring Landman, 5. Francois Uys, 6. Heinrich Brussow, 7. Lappies Labuschagne, 8. Boom Prinsloo, 9. Sarel Pretorius, 10. Johan Goosen, 11. Rayno Benjamin, 12. Barry Geel, 13. Robert Ebersohn, 14. Raymond Rhule, 15. Willie le Roux
The bottom line:
The Cheetahs have lost some good players in key positions and while they managed to aquire some replacements, the team doesn't look good enough to go further than last year. The loss of Marcel van der Merwe and WP Nel in the front-row will be difficult to overcome despite having Coenie Oosthuizen still there. A lot will also depend on Johan Goosen. Can he stay injury-free in 2013? And what about the choice at scrum-half? Will Sarel Pretorius start or will Piet van Zyl, who is a more distributing scrum-half, get his chance? The Cheetahs will cause some upsets and give us some entertaining matches. No doubt they will score some magnificent tries but defensively they are just not up to it yet. Predicted finish: 11[sup]th[/sup]
2012 Record: 14 Wins, 2 losses (66 points) – 1[SUP]st[/SUP] Overall
The Stormers have been the most consistent team in the last 3 years of Super Rugby, only losing 10 of their 45 regular season matches. They have topped the South African conference two seasons in a row and last season they topped the overall log as well. The Stormers still don't have anything to show for it though. No Super Rugby trophy in Cape Town yet. To make that happen, they need to stay focussed and make home ground advantage count. In 2010 the Crusaders beat the Stormers at Newlands and last year the Sharks eliminated their chances (both in the semi final). The Stormers have some very talented Boks to rely on in Duane Vermeulen, Juan de Jongh (who scored the only try for Western Province in the Currie Cup final) and Eben Etzebeth. Captain Schalk Burger still hasn't fully recovered from a knee injury. Jean de Villiers will take over the captaincy for the time being. The Springbok captain still needs some success at club level.
Additions / losses:
The Stormers have said goodbye to a number of players. Canadian international Jebb Sinclair returns to London Irish after his loan deal expired at the end of 2012. 4 home-grown talents have also moved to Europe. Flanker Nick Fenton-Wells was excited to join London-based Saracens and become part of the big South African family there. Nick Koster moved to Bath in October and scored his first try for his new team soon after. Quinn Roux is a victim of the position he plays in. Being a lock, he has to compete with Andries Bekker and Eben Etzebeth. He is now playing for Leinster after signing a 1-year deal. The 5th player who left is winger Danie Poolman who joined Connacht and has already scored a couple of tries in his first few months.
The Stormers have signed 6 players. All of them formerly contracted to the Lions. Hooker Martin Bezuidenhout brings some depth with Deon Fourie rumoured to leave and injuries causing Tiaan Liebenberg and Scarra Ntubeni to sit out the first couple of weeks of Super Rugby. Another front-row addition is Patric Cilliers. The prop, who previously also played for the Sharks, can play on both sides of the scrum and made his Bok debut last year. Lock Ruan Botha and flanker Michael Rhodes will try to earn a spot in the starting XV but it will be hard with the fierce competition for both positions. The last 2 additions are the most famous ones. Fly-half Elton Jantjies will try to stay on the radar of Bok coach Heyneke Meyer. He can now finally play on a team which wins more than they lose. Will this affect his performance? With Jaco Taute behind him at full-back he will have a buddy to fall back on. Taute is also a very promising player who, like Jantjies, made his Bok debut last year.
- Defensively the best team in recent years.
- The additions actually make the team stronger where it was needed.
- The Stormers have massive depth in almost every position.
- Not one single match last year where they scored 4 tries. Can they improve on attack?
- The Stormers choke when it counts most, the play offs. They need to fix that.
- Injuries haunt the team. 5 players already are out and the season still has to start.
Props: Deon Carstens, Patric Cilliers, Brok Harris, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe
Hookers: Martin Bezuidenhout, Deon Fourie, Tiaan Liebenberg, Scarra Ntubeni
Locks: Eben Etzebeth, Andries Bekker, De Kock Steenkamp, Ruan Botha
Loose forwards: Schalk Burger Â©, Don Armand, Nizaam Carr, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Michael Rhodes, Duane Vermeulen
Halfbacks: Dewaldt Duvenhage, Nic Groom, Louis Schreuder
First-five eighths: Elton Jantjies, Peter Grant, Kurt Coleman
Centres: Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende, Marcel Brache
Wingers: Gio Aplon, Bryan Habana, Gerhard van den Heever
Fullbacks: Jaco Taute, Joe Pietersen
Top XV: 1. Steven Kitshoff, 2. Martin Bezuidenhout, 3. Patric Cilliers, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Andries Bekker, 6. Siya Kolisi, 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 9. Dewaldt Duvenhage, 10. Elton Jantjies, 11. Bryan Habana, 12. Jean de Villiers Â©, 13. Juan de Jongh, 14. Gio Aplon, 15. Jaco Taute
The bottom line:
The South African conference will be a close finish with the Sharks and Stormers both having quality squads. The Stormers have improved the depth in their squad with the addition of 6 Lions players. Is it enough to go 1 further and lift the trophy though? Well, it does help when you have a bit more to show for on attack. The 28 tries last season were the lowest by any team, yet they topped the log. Either their defense has to hold up or they have to improve on attack to at least repeat last years performance. We think they will fall short at the end. Predicted finish: 4[sup]th[/sup]
2012 Record: 10 Wins, 6 losses (59 points) – 6[SUP]th[/SUP] Overall
Last year was a year of ups and down for the Sharks. It was a year in which they made it all the way through to the final but yet they were not up for the challenge and never stood a chance in that same final against the Chiefs. Injuries prevented the Sharks from having a good start to the season. Louis Ludik, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Willem Alberts and Patrick Lambie all missed several matches and when you want to be a cup contender, you need to be at full strength. The Sharks making the final was a miracle in itself. Travelling through 36 timezones in 2 weeks time did not stop them from beating the Reds in Brisbane and the Stormers in Cape Town. This year will be the year where they make the play-offs and securing that vital top position to make sure you play at home. The last time the Sharks played a Super Rugby play-off match at home they thrashed the Blues before losing in a nail-biter to the Bulls a week later. That was 6 years ago already! The Sharks will have to start the season without their top forward Bismarck du Plessis, who is still recovering from a nasty knee-injury he suffered in the Rugby Championship in August. Keegan Daniel and Tim Whitehead also look to be out of the starting weeks of Super Rugby. Luckily for the Sharks, they both play in positions which are well covered. Francois Steyn will take over the captaincy while Daniel is recovering
Additions / losses:
The Sharks will be without Frederic Michalak for 2013. The French fly-half moved back to France to play for Toulon. This does open up the door for Patrick Lambie to stake his claim at the no. 10 jersey for the Sharks and the Boks. The other 3 players who left the Sharks are all locks. Alistair Hargreaves is now playing for Saracens in England, Ross Skeate moved to Agen (France) and long-time servant Steven Sykes is now playing for the Kings in Port Elizabeth.
In Durban there are also two new players. World Cup-winning fly-half Butch James was released from is contract by the Lions and signed for 6 months with the Sharks where he wants to end his career. He will be a valuable back-up to Patrick Lambie and maybe he can teach the young lad a trick or two. Franco van der Merwe is the other new player. Van der Merwe joins the Sharks on loan, similar to Lionel Mapoe and Callie Visagie with he Bulls, and will return after the Super Rugby season is over. The Sharks management has also promoted some talented youngsters from the U21 team. Most noticeable will be scrum-half Cobus Reinach. Cobus, the son of late Springbok Jaco Reinach (who played all 4 Tests against the New Zealand Cavaliers in 1986), has shown what he can do during the Currie Cup and will now try to step up and compete with Charl McLeod for the no. 9 jersey. Prop Allan Dell made his debut for the provincial side last year and can play both sides of the scrum, giving the Sharks a good option with two Bok props who might need a rest once in a while. Hooker Monde Hadebe and loose forward Tera Mtembu are the other two youngsters who might get their chance this year.
- They know how to get to the Super Rugby final.
- The team has experience in every line.
- The back-row has massive depth with 5 Springboks.
- They don't know how to win a Super Rugby final.
- The Sharks are known as slow starters and always play catch-up later on.
- Injuries already cause problems, same issue as the Stormers.
Props: Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis, Dale Chadwick, Wiehahn Herbst, Allan Dell
Hookers: Bismarck du Plessis, Craig Burden, Kyle Cooper, Monde Hadebe
Locks: Anton Bresler, Peet Marais, Jandre Marais, Franco van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit
Loose forwards: Keegan Daniel Â©, Jacques Botes, Jean Deysel, Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts, Ryan Kankowski, Tera Mtembu
Halfbacks: Charl McLeod, Cobus Reinach
First-five eighths: Patrick Lambie, Butch James
Centres: Francois Steyn, Tim Whitehead, Paul Jordaan, Marius Joubert, Meyer Bosman
Wingers: JP Pietersen, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, Sibusiso Sithole
Fullbacks: Louis Ludik, Riaan Viljoen
Top XV: 1. Tendai Mtawarira, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 4. Anton Bresler, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 6. Keegan Daniel Â©, 7. Marcell Coetzee, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 9. Cobus Reinach, 10. Patrick Lambie, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 12. Francois Steyn, 13. Paul Jordaan, 14. JP Pietersen, 15. Louis Ludik
The bottom line:
The Sharks have come a long way but now have to win the competition. They have the firepower up front and the talent in the back to make that happen. They will try to come out full throttle and rack up some wins as they go along before the trip overseas. The Sharks have shown they can beat anyone on a given day. The only team they will really struggle with is the Crusaders. With the Lions out of Super Rugby, the Sharks lose their bogey team. It's looking good for the Sharks and with that incredible backline, the Sharks have the edge over the Stormers and bonus points will be the difference between the two. Predicted finish: 2[sup]nd[/sup]
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