JOHANNESBURG - It was a year of highs and lows and 2019 promises to be just as enthralling.
The World Cup in Japan in the latter stages of next year promises to be the big highlight - but only if the Springboks do well, not so?
But then there is also the World Sevens series which will continue in the new year where the BlitzBoks are the defending champions, and one can only hope our Super Rugby teams do better in a competition that is desperate for some life.
Here then, in my final column for the year, is my wishlist for 2019.
Top of the agenda is a good showing by the Boks at the World Cup. A win would be fantastic, and should be the goal, and there is no reason why the team shouldn’t have a decent chance.
The Boks showed enough this year to believe that if they click for seven weeks in September and October they can go all the way. But then, any one of the top eight teams will feel they’re in with a shout - and how exciting is that? Never before has a World Cup been so open.
Let’s hope Rassie Erasmus and his coaching team can get the Boks in sync and playing at the same standard from one match to the next. A lack of consistency was their biggest problem this year, playing excellent rugby one week, but leaving much to be desired the next. Fix that and the Boks have a real chance.
In Super Rugby I hope the Bulls come good, and they should because they have a seriously impressive player group. For too long the Bulls have battled to be a factor and it’s time they became a global force again.
But also, the Stormers and Sharks - who have equally good depth - need to find consistency. The Lions, despite losing a number of key players, should still be the leading South African side because of their depth and the quality of youngsters coming through, but they cannot be this country’s sole challenger again in 2019.
I also desperately wish for the Cheetahs and Kings to be more competitive in the Pro14.
Springbok rugby can really only become the force we expect when the provincial and franchise teams are strong and challenging the best across the globe. It really is time now that our feeder teams delivered more.
Let’s also hope that the bosses in Cape Town are able to find the right structure and format to make the Currie Cup relevant and watched again. Viewer numbers were down badly this season and everything that can be done to save the Currie Cup must be done.
And, while discussing competition structures, Sanzaar must also come up with the right formula to save Super Rugby because it, too, has taken a knock in recent years. The conference-system, the length of the competition, and the same old teams and structure has left fans disengaged.
SARU face a challenging next 12 months. There are some major decisions that will have to be made for the good, sustainable future of the game, while at the same time everything should be thrown behind ensuring the Boks have their best chance of triumphing in Japan.
Rugby fans should also prepare themselves for a year where they will see their heroes for the last time in the colours of the Boks, Lions, Sharks, Stormers and Bulls, because post the World Cup there’s likely to be a major player exodus north ... with a new and challenging four-year cycle starting again after that.
Until next year.@jacq_west
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