The 2019 Super Rugby competition gave us plenty of news; good and bad, so it’s just appropriate to wrap it all up right here.
Scott Robertson deserves a massive bonus for stepping into the big job in Christchurch three years ago and winning all three finals he’s led his team to in that time. “Razor” has proved to be a big hit so congratulations to him and his Crusaders team - now the 10-time champions. What will become of their name though, and some of their traditions - following the terrible events that played out in a Christchurch mosque earlier this year - remain to be seen.
Also, well done to the Jaguares for making it all the way to the final where, if they’d taken their chances, they could well have been sipping from the trophy still today. It was a terrific effort to reach the final, and deservedly so, even if former Wallaby Phil Kearns said it was “unfair” that the Jaguares were playing in a provincial competition because they’re “a national team”. It would have perhaps been best for Kearns to look inward and rather criticise the limp efforts of the Aussie sides than point fingers elsewhere.
Disappointingly, the Sunwolves failed to stand up yet again, winning just two of 16 games and they’ll no longer be part of the competition in 2021.
Some of the officiating was also disappointing, to say the least, with not only on-field referees making errors, but more worrying, assistants on the touchline and the TMOs sitting in the stands. The “forward-pass” was debated, discussed and dissected at length ... and on a positive note, hopefully, everyone now knows what is forward and what isn’t. I’m not holding my breath.
Crusaders flier Sevu Reece was the stand-out star for me, and isn’t it amazing how the New Zealanders (or is that Fiji, Tonga and Samoa) continue to find such classy wingers? Handre Pollard, I believe, was this country’s best performer, while scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies was the break-out star of 2019.
The player most talked about though was probably Sharks man Curwin Bosch, who had to stand back to Rob du Preez for a chance at No 10 even when the coach’s son wasn’t in any sort of form to warrant a start. It became such an issue that head coach Robert du Preez couldn’t handle the criticism and he opted to attack the media by calling them “cockroaches”.
Another coach who allegedly couldn’t deal with the pressures of the job this year was Lions boss Swys de Bruin. He apparently had a nervous breakdown while on tour in New Zealand with his team and flew home to seek medical intervention. He is believed to be doing better now.
The unluckiest man of 2019, and someone I truly feel for, is Warren Whiteley. The regular Lions No 8 and former Springbok captain can’t get a break; he had all sorts of injuries in 2018 and this year only played four matches, because of other problems. I fear his best playing days are behind him.
Akker van der Merwe and Schalk Brits win the prize for “fight of the year” while the award for the new player with the best name goes to the Hurricanes’ Du’Plessis Kirifi.@jacq_west