Super Rugby is just one week away so lets take a look at the teams and players who will be in action over the next few months and who I think will rock Super Rugby in the new decade. First up we are looking at the South African conference.
BULLS – 2019 2nd in SA – Knocked out in Quarterfinal
The rotating door policy has been in full flow in the Bulls camp for the new Super Rugby season. Head coach Pote Human has certainly not been bored and has had his recruitment work cut out for him during the offseason, losing close to his full squad. Many massive international quality names are part of that list, Schalk Brits, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Duane Vermeulen, Handre Pollard and Jesse Kriel all taking the World Cup winners medals and hoping on a plane. There’s no point looking back remembering the glory days for Bulls fans, after plenty of positives last season this is a side that needs to prove the doubters wrong yet again.
The Bulls have picked up a small chunk of experience to join their side. Former Lion (and Hurricane for a couple of weeks) Andries Ferreira finds a home as a leader in the second row and bearded Scotsman and former Sale Shark, Josh Strauss will sit behind him in the pack. You talk about experience, the name Morne Steyn is definitely one to run with that title. It does concern me the style of play they will bring if Steyn is at the helm, we would love to see this backline get the ball. Manie Libbok, who featured fleetingly last season, has to get a good shot at that ten shirt first with Embrose Papier inside. Former Crusader Nafi Tuitavake joins an already stacked backline and with one Kriel out, Richard Kriel comes in.
I hope the Bulls play expansive rugby past the fly half, especially with the talent in this backline, so we can see the best of guys like Rosko Specman, Warrick Gelant and Jade Stighling. Lastly for Human, I just hope he trusts his young talent and gives them game time, its one lesson South African coaches struggle to embrace.
Predicted finish: 4th
Warrick Gelant, Cornal Hendricks, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Johnny Kôtze, Richard Kriel, Manie Libbok, Franco Naudé, Burger Odendaal, Embrose Papier, Marnus Potgieter, Divan Rossouw, Dylan Sage, Chris Smith, Rosko Specman, Morné Steyn, Jade Stighling, Nafi Tuitavake, Ivan van Zyl
Tim Agaba, Corniel Els, Andries Ferreira, Lizo Gqoboka, Johan Grobbelaar, Ian Groenewald, Wiehahn Herbst, Juandré Kruger, Simphiwe Matanzima, Abongile Nonkontwana, Ruan Nortjé, Trevor Nyakane, Ryno Pieterse, Jeandré Rudolph, Gerhard Steenkamp, Ruan Steenkamp, Josh Strauss, Muller Uys, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Louis van der Westhuizen, Marco van Staden, Jaco Visagie, Wian Vosloo
JAGUARES – 2019 1st in SA – Losing Finalist
They may have lost the final last season but this Jaguares side has left no illusions how good they are. They were the highlights of 2019, from the passionate hype train entering the field to the dazzling backline in the games. These guys are the real deal! When looking through their transfers leading into this season, the one thing that impresses me the most is how well they have retained the best parts of this team and only one name will go down as a huge loss, Pablo Matera.
The Jaguares have shown in past seasons that they are incredibly good at identifying talent to this level very early on. It was only a year ago I remember talking about their issues at fly half without Nicolas Sanchez to run the show, now we know full well how capable Joaquin Diaz Bonilla and Domingo Miotti are in that role. There will be more similar cases this season as well, with four of the eight new additions coming from the Jaguares XV side in the Currie Cup. The departure of Tomas Lavanini will seriously dent their yellow card count this season but otherwise they seem very well covered in every position. With talk continuously about the travel for the Argentinian side, they get a gift of a start to their season. Three home games to kick it off and then off they go to South Africa. Home form crucial as always.
With Gonzalo Quesada still in charge and those standout backs like Emiliano Boffelli, Sebastian Cancelliere and Matias Moroni still leaving scorch marks away from defenders off the back of a pack with the evergreen Agustin Creevy, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Matias Alemanno, Guido Petti and Tomas Lezana (phew), we should expect that same exciting style of rugby from the Jaguares.
Predicted finish: 2nd
Tomás Albornoz, Gonzalo Bertranou, Emiliano Boffelli, Sebastián Cancelliere, Mateo Carreras, Santiago Carreras, Juan Pablo Castro, Santiago Chocobares, Tomás Cubelli, Jerónimo de la Fuente, Bautista Delguy, Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, Felipe Ezcurra, Juan Cruz Mallía, Lucas Mensa, Domingo Miotti, Matías Moroni, Matías Orlando, Joaquín Tuculet
Matías Alemanno, Rodrigo Bruni, Ignacio Calas, Agustín Creevy, Javier Díaz, Francisco Gorrissen, Santiago Grondona, Marcos Kremer, Tomás Lezana, Santiago Medrano, Santiago Montagner, Julián Montoya, Javier Ortega Desio, Lucas Paulos, Juan Bautista Pedemonte, Guido Petti, Joel Sclavi, Santiago Socino, Lucio Sordoni, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Mayco Vivas, Juan Pablo Zeiss
LIONS – 4th is SA – Failed to make playoffs
What a story this Lions team is. Or is it a nightmare? Their story over the last six seasons can only be described as fascinating. Lets not dwell too much on the past, but I do fear the future wont hold much hope for Lions fans either. The list of names from those successful Lions days gets shorter by the season and this one is no different. Time to say bye-bye to Malcolm Marx, Stephan Lewies, Kwagga Smith, Warren Whiteley, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Ruan Combrinck and Sylvian Mahuza. Do we mention Aphiwe Dyantyi? Well yes, he’s been a naughty boy, but by looking at this side on paper, he might be happy he’s forced out for the season.
So they have lost the identity of this squad, their solution? Sign Jannie Du Plessis! The Lions are a side who have prided themselves of developing from the Currie Cup Lions, which leaves me even more disappointed to see they have ventured nearly anywhere but for players. Roelof Smit, Andre Warner, Duncan Matthews and Jamba Ulengo have all come from the Bulls. Dan Kriel (from the Stormers) and Ulengo do have some exciting potential about them. Swys de Bruin has also jumped the sinking ship, running away to the mighty Southern Kings in the Pro 14, leaving former strength & conditioning coach Ivan van Rooyen to take the helm. Interesting.
Looking at what is left, I deeply fear to the mental health of Elton Jantjies in this side. A man who has coped a fair bit from fans for his inability to command clutch moments for the Lions, will be under more pressure than usual in 2020 and it begs the question how long he and others like Courtnall Skosan and Andries Coetzee will stick around watching their stocks severely drop. It may be a long one Lions fans.
Predicted finish: 5th
Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronjé, Tyrone Green, Elton Jantjies, Dan Kriel, Gianni Lombard, Duncan Matthews, James Mollentze, Stean Pienaar, Mannie Rass, Shaun Reynolds, Wandisile Simelane, Courtnall Skosan, Dillon Smit, Tiaan Swanepoel, Jamba Ulengo, Louritz van der Schyff, André Warner
Cyle Brink, Jan-Henning Campher, Hacjivah Dayimani, Jannie du Plessis, Rhyno Herbst, Marko Janse van Rensburg, Pieter Jansen, Johannes Jonker, Len Massyn, Nathan McBeth, Reinhard Nothnagel, Marvin Orie, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Carlü Sadie, Marnus Schoeman, Ruben Schoeman, Sti Sithole, Roelof Smit, Dylan Smith, Vincent Tshituka, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Frans van Wyk, Ruan Vermaak
SHARKS – 3rd in SA- Knocked out in Quarterfinal
The only trouble with previewing teams before any real action has unfolded. For a number of seasons now this Sharks side has looks top shelf in the South African conference and have frequently failed on its expectations. Sharks fans have been very vocal of their displeasure over former coach Robert du Preez and his family, so should be more content with all four of them gone and a new coach, Sean Everitt. Tendai Mtawarira leaves monster boots to fill, as does his front row buddies Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Akker van der Merwe. The move of Kobus van Wyk to the Hurricanes is still baffling and Leolin Zas still had a lot to offer this side, which I’m sure the Stormers will cash in on.
The Sharks need to be snappy in their style of play. They have a caged playmaker in Curwin Bosch who has been treated like trash in previous seasons and is desperate to explode as a regular starter. Their new captain, Lukhanyo Am and the original King and champion finisher himself, Makazole Mapimpi have stuck around. Add to that the rising talents of Cameron Wright, Madosh Tambwe and Aphelele Fassi and you have a backline fit for the kitchen, ready to slice and dice defences. The problem they may find is getting the platform from their pack. With eight second and back row players mostly heading to England, there’s a huge chance to unearth talent here for the Sharks. Let’s be fair, we know it exists in South Africa and the Sharks have dug into their own Currie Cup side to find it. That makes the step up natural.
Once again I find myself confident the Sharks can put together a strong season, but am fearful I will be frustrated by the side. Bosch hopefully running the show from ten and not fullback is encouraging but heading to NZ after just one round for their tour could easily have this side dropping the bottom lip sooner than we would like. Highlanders, Hurricanes, Rebels and Reds are rounds two to five, tour early or late? Top two inches will be massive for the Sharks season.
Predicted finish: 3rd
Taakhir Abrahams, Lukhanyo Am, Curwin Bosch, Jodan Chait, Boeta Chamberlain, André Esterhuizen, Aphelele Fassi, Murray Koster, Marius Louw, Makazole Mapimpi, Lwazi Mvovo, Sbu Nkosi, Sanele Nohamba, JP Pietersen, Louis Schreuder, Madosh Tambwe, Jeremy Ward, Grant Williams, Cameron Wright
Hyron Andrews, Craig Burden, Phepsi Buthelezi, Thomas du Toit, Celimpilo Gumede, Michael Kumbirai, Mzamo Majola, Fez Mbatha, Khutha Mchunu, John-Hubert Meyer, Tera Mtembu, Ox Nché, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Andisa Ntsila, Tyler Paul, Dylan Richardson, Le Roux Roets, Evan Roos, Juan Schoeman, Jordan Sesink-Clee, JJ van der Mescht, Emile van Heerden, Ruben van Heerden, Kerron van Vuuren, Henco Venter, James Venter
STORMERS – 5th in SA – Failed to make playoffs
The South African conference in 2019 was a little bit rough on some sides. The Stormers will agree. Yes, they finished last in the conference but only two (bonus) points behind the third placed Sharks. Or just six points behind the second placed Bulls. So don’t be too hasty to throw the Stormers out the window just yet. A number of things excite me for this Stormers team in 2020. Firstly let’s look at their outs, only three will be missed. Eben Etzebeth, Damian de Allende and the versatile SP Marais are quality first team guys.
The good side of those outs, is they have squad depth at a level that has naturally replace those guys already. No new locks have come in. The “Welsh de Allende”, Jamie Roberts fills the experience loss, with a number of Western Province graduates at his side. They have picked up a guy striving for game time in Leolin Zas from the Sharks who can be a game changer and fit well with guys like Dillyn Leyds and Seabelo Senatla. With 2020 being the final season at Newlands Stadium, this is the time for the Stormers to repay the local faithful for all those years of pain, what better way than to depart the iconic stadium than with the Super Rugby trophy. They kick off their season with two home games at Newlands. Final exciting change is a new coach. The old school way, from Western Province, like nine of his new signing for the season. Robbie Fleck is gone and John Dobson will take control, bringing up his own army of standouts from his Currie Cup campaign.
Pick your own starting lineup for a fully fit Stormers. I see a Springboks front row, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Bongi Mbonambi. World Player Of The Year second/back rower, Pieter-Steph du Toit. Inspirational leader Siya Kolisi to complete them. In the backs you have the South African golden boy of 2019, Herschel Jantjies at scrum half to partner up with either Damian Willemse or Jean-Luc du Plessis. There is a wealth of unknown at this level talent in the centers to learn off Roberts, so expect stars to be born here. Then let’s finish off with the excitement machines or Zas, Senatla, Leyds and Sergeal Petersen. I don’t know about you, but for me, that team rocks the sock in South Africa.
Predicted finish: 1st
Paul de Wet, Dan du Plessis, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Michal Haznar, Herschel Jantjies, David Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Tristan Leyds, Godlen Masimla, Matt Moore, Ruhan Nel, Sergeal Petersen, Rikus Pretorius, Jamie Roberts, Seabelo Senatla, Cornel Smit, Edwill van der Merwe, Damian Willemse, Leolin Zas
Juarno Augustus, Kwenzo Blose, Jaco Coetzee, Ben-Jason Dixon, Johan du Toit, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Schalk Erasmus, Neethling Fouché, Dan Jooste, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi, Wilco Louw, Leon Lyons, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, David Meihuizen, Salmaan Moerat, Scarra Ntubeni, Sazi Sandi, JD Schickerling, Chad Solomon, Ernst van Rhyn, Chris van Zyl, Cobus Wiese, Nama Xaba
That is my thoughts on the five teams in the South African conference for Super Rugby in 2020. What are your thoughts about these sides? Who is your champion? Standout players? Or disappointments? Let me know in the comments and as always, thanks for stopping by, Behind The Posts.