Johannesburg – Can you believe we’re only days away from kick-off in this year’s Super Rugby competition? It feels like just the other day that the 2012 edition wrapped up and the Lions found themselves fifth of the SA teams and in danger of being relegated from the 2013 competition.
And so it proved a few weeks later, when the Lions were replaced by the Southern Kings. Plenty has happened since then, with the Lions organising a string of games to keep themselves busy while Super Rugby is going on, while the Kings have been working hard, trying to get ready for kick-off and the challenges that lie ahead.
Also, because of the Lions’ situation, South Africa’s three big guns, the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers, have benefited hugely by either signing out-of-contract Lions players on a permanent basis or taking players on loan for the duration of the competition.
So, what we have is the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers being stronger than before, with unbelievable depth, while the Cheetahs have to soldier on with a bunch of youngsters who no doubt in a few years time will be plying their trade at a franchise with more money – because Naka Drotske’s team will again struggle to make an impression, while individuals will continue to catch the eye.
And while the Kings have managed to lure a few decent players to Port Elizabeth, they will struggle from the off. They don’t have the depth, the class or the experience to be a factor. So, as much as I feel for the Lions, their players and the fans who won’t enjoy Super Rugby in Joburg this year, I feel just as much for the Kings, and especially the players, who never asked to be dumped in the position they find themselves.
The majority of players in the Kings franchise know they’re not ready or up to Super Rugby, yet the politicians and administrators have dealt them this hand and they’ve got no option but to talk up their chances and give it their best. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get nasty.
I believe the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers will be among the leading teams in the competition this year and all three have the quality to reach the playoffs – in fact, I believe one of these teams will win the title this year.
Because of the British and Irish Lions’ tour to Australia this year, the Aussie teams kick off their challenges this weekend, followed by the rest next week. So with Super Rugby now just about under way rugby fans really will have a feast over which to salivate in the coming weeks.
Super Rugby, Vodacom Cup rugby, the Six Nations, Varsity Cup, the Community Cup, some Sevens … and, of course, the Lions’ Challenge series. Enjoy! – The Star