Happy New Year!
In just a couple of weeks, rugby’s most hipster competition returns. Super Rugby has changed formats so often, you’d need a psychologist to make sense of its identity. To help all you sensible rugby loving folk out, we’ll give you the rundown of each of the three conferences in a 1-per-week format. First up: the South African conference.
With the Cheetahs and Kings now in the PRO12 PRO14, the Saffie teams left in the competition are the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers. They are joined in their conference by the one, the only…. Jaguardo. Oh, and the Jaguares, they only come as a combined package. The winner of the conference automatically secures a home play-off. The others could possibly progress to the knockouts via a wild-card spot on the overall log. Considering their recent performance, we’re probably looking at 2 or 3 play-off spots for this conference. Now, let’s have a look at the contenders (or feeding grounds if you’re a French club owner).
The Lions, aka Ackermann’s Jealous Ex-Girlfriend.
They used to be minnows, now they’re coming off a second final in as many seasons. Based purely on that, they’ll be most people’s favourite to claim this conference. Blood and Mud isn’t most people though (we’ve got significantly worse prognostic powers). Both their head coach and their defensive coach have left, as have important squad players Faf de Klerk, Akker van der Merwe and Ruan Ackermann. Losing players to overseas money is par for the course in Super Rugby, but the coaching brain drain might cost them their conference title.
Key player: Malcolm Marx. You couldn’t have a better heavy-traffic runner if you strapped the ball to a tractor. With Whiteley and Kriel injured, he’ll be integral to his pack’s carrying and turnover rate.
Spotter’s badge: Elton Jantjies is GOOD all season, then turns to SHIT for the Lions’ last match of the year.
The Stormers, aka The Western Cape(d) Crusaders.
It’s kinda interesting to wonder how their last two seasons would have turned out if Eddie Jones had stayed with them. It’s also pointless, so let’s move on. The boys in blue have impressed at times under Robbie Fleck, but have seen a lot of players go in the off-season. Losing Huw Jones and Cheslin Kolbe in particular will break them up on offence. Their pack will go toe-to-toe with most opposition, but losing key players in almost every position in the backs is a mighty bloodletting. If they do make it past the main season, they’ll probably continue their streak of play-off defeats.
Key player: Dillyn Leyds. After the loss of so many creative players, a lot of responsibility on attack will fall with Leyds. His offload against the Chiefs last season was pure porn.
Spotter’s badge: Pursuant to the above, Dillyn will be forced to play with gloves when the Stormers visit the Sunwolves in Japan. Censorship of the best bits and all that.
The Sharks, aka The Boringly Competent Family Affair
They were one monster penalty away from knocking out the no. 1 seeded Lions in the quarter finals last year. They’ve got the most typical (read: brutal) of all South African packs and a decent smack of talent in the backs. They’ve lost some important players though, including the settled half-back pairing of Reinach and Lambie. The Sharks season will depend in large parts on their replacements Schreuder and Robert Du Preez Junior, who completes the father, son and gi-normous twins quartet in Durban. The Sharks have arguably the most lethal finishers in the conference waiting on the wings. If the pack can set the platform and the new 9-10 axis can provide enough ball, I can see them reaching the play-offs and who-knows-what after that.
Key player: Curwin Bosch. Du Preez’s arrival means the Sharks’ golden boy will be able to cause plenty of havoc from his preferred fullback position. Trying to tackle him is like trying to catch an eel with your bare hands and he’s a great kicker to boot (pun intended).
Spotter’s badge: Commentators praise The Beast’s longevity and leadership, right before he coughs up a penalty and gets into a tussle with the opposition locks.
The Jaguares, aka JAGUARDOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!
I could pretend to be able to say something sensible about them, but that’d be wasting my and your time. Will they be able to go two matches without copping a card? Who knows! Will they beat a play-off team one week and lose to the Sunwolves the next? Sure, why the fuck not!? Will we be entertained by them? You bet your hairy (or perfectly shaved and bleached) arsehole they will! And shit, even that prediction might be thrown off the bus by this team, as they’ve brought in hard-ass scrum enthusiast extraordinaire Mario Ledesma to be their new head coach.
Key player: Agustín Creevy. Yeah, yeah, sue me for picking the obvious choice. With his front-row partners Herrera and Paz packing their bags to go onto better (and more lucrative) things, he’ll once again lead the charge for the Jaguares’ pack.
Spotter’s badge: Jaguardo is caught doing cocaine of the asses of half a dozen supermodels, but we all forgive him, because….. I mean c’mon…… he’s Jaguardo, right?
The Bulls, aka The Blue Balled Fallen Giants
It might be that Victor Matfield, Fourie Du Preez and Bryan Habana still played for this franchise last time you watched them. If that’s the case, please look away. There isn’t a single world class player left in Pretoria. Judging by the many empty seats in Loftus last season, it seems the fans have joined in with the exodus. If anything sums up this team, it’s last season’s moment when Warrick Gelant booted the ball up Jan Serfontein’s arse. Go watch this if it somehow eluded you, it’s a lot funnier than this team has been in ages. Will they turn their lot around under new head coach John Mitchell? Time (or a better analyst) will tell.
Key player: Handré Pollard. He was injured for most of last season and the lack of direction was noticeable on the field. It will be absolutely crucial for the Bulls to keep him fit this year.
Spotter’s badge: Johan, aka Mr Blue Bulls.
This year we’ll be running a fantasy pool for Super Rugby on Superbru! Fancy a bit of friendly, free week-by-week fun? You find us on Superbru by searching for our pool code: lotsdose. Something Funny’s Ardent Albatrosses look forward to receiving you at the Jaguardo Party Dome!