Super Rugby 2012: Preview and Predictions – Round 1, part 1
Ahh Supe Rugby, how I have missed you. It has been far too long!
You are like that old friend that you haven’t seen in years but then when you do, it is like you were never apart and soon you are drunk together in some random pub talking of times past.
Except this year Supe Rugby is from Feb to August with a small break in June for the Incoming Tours…. Whaaaat? Yes I know… glorious.
So actually Supe Rugby may end up being like that friend that arrives after living overseas and it is sheer quality to see them again but then your girlfriend starts complaining because he was only meant to stay for a little while but now he is sleeping on your couch and eating all your food and leaving hairs in the shower…
With this being the longest Supe Rugby tourney to date, how teams fair will depend largely on squad depth and toit back up personnel in key positions, making development of up and coming talent even more important.
For South Africa, the future looks bright, thanks largely due to the Varsity Cup, which has already produced quality players, like Springbok Juan De Jongh and Lions skipper Josh manbeard Strauss. Every year the standards increase and this gives South Africa a prop sized advantage when it comes to identifying new talent, also the stands are full of Varsity chicks. Bonus!
If you have yet to check it out, click here for full fixtures and be sure to catch the action adventures every Monday night.
Alright, moving on, ok maybe one more look up…now back to me.
Let’s check out the first 3 Supe Rugby 2012 matchups.
Fri 24th February 2012
Blues vs Crusaders
The Crusaders and Blues are both All Black laden sides and traditional power houses of Super Rugby. The Saders did incredibly well last year to reach the final after the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, imagine what they can do this year now that they have a home stadium! They are still without Ritchie captain charming McCaw and Dan Carter though, which will give the Blues some confidence. They do have the likes of Ben Franks, Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read and Israel Dagg in their ranks and are once again favourites this year.
The Blues will rely on Kevin Mealamu, Ali Williams and Jerome Kaino for inspiration and indeed go-forward ball. Kaino had his best season last year and the New Zealand Player of the Year will look to continue his smash you in the face and run over you form. Coach Pat Lamb has benched new recruit, Piri Weepu and word has it, they only had to slightly reinforce and widen the bench to accomodate him.
Venue: Eden Park, Auckland
Kick-Off: 8:35am (SA Time)
Prediction: Saders by less than 7
Brumbies vs Force
The Brumbies are in a rebuilding phase after falling to pieces last year. They have lost a host of experienced players and despite having potential and being coached by a respected and admired rugby brain in Jake White, may well take some time to embrace a new playing style and find their rhythm as a team. Depth in Canberra is a problem though and Jake has been trying to recruit players from SA’s universities. Thumbs down, buddy.
The Force have lost Drew Mitchel and James O’ Connor but have retained experienced players, Nathan Sharpe and David ball stealer PoCOCK, who is the new captain. They have had a surprisingly okay pre-season and should have kick-start their campaign off with a good away win.
Venue: Canberra Stadium, Canberra
Prediction: Force by 5-10
Bulls vs Sharks
The Bulls recently smashed the Cheetahs in a pre-season game and looked slick on attack, showed good ball retention and kicked well with conversion machine Morne Steyn not missing a kick all night. They have probably been hit hardest with peeps leaving their ranks though and the Matfield, Botha, Rossouw, du Preez and Steenkamp not easily replaced.
Thankfully, for Bulls fans everywhere, they do have some very able replacements. Man mountain Pierre Spies is the new captain and with Chilliboy, Steyn, Hougaard, Basson and exciting new recruit Johann Sadie, in their ranks they are not going to be easy to beat, especially at fortress Loftus.
The Sharks have been touted as one of the pre-season favourites and with good reason. They did very well in the Currie Cup with a host of players out (due to the RWC2011) and now, with their Bokke back, barring Smit (retired) and Willem Alberts (injured) are looking like a very solid team.
In what could well prove to be an inspired move coach Plumtree has shifted JP Pietersen to centre, which gives him more options at wing and fullback. The Sharks mifield was average at best last year but with ex-Stormer Tim Whitehead slotting in with JP and Pat Flambie at flyhalf, they should be the SA team to beat this year.
Expect a stock standard, tear into each other like it is a final, type of SA derby game with big hits and a kicking aplenty, with the Sharks winning a close one.
Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Kick Off: 7:10pm
Prediction: Sharks by less than 7