JOHANNESBURG - With Super Rugby kicking off on Saturday with two appetising local derbies, Independent Media rugby writer Darryn Pollock has taken a personal and offbeat look at the season ahead.
My pick as Champions
To be frank, it would be great just to see anyone but a New Zealand team walking away with the trophy, although, that is going to be even harder this year. The Kiwis now have a numerical advantage over the South Africans and Australians, and the Japanese and Argentinians too, I suppose. But more than that, they are the only ones who really have teams that look like winners. I’d love it to the a South African team, especially the Lions seeing as they’ve been so close before.
Why you must watch this guy this year
Malcolm Marx. It is going to be a massive year for the 23-year-old star, he broke out like a beast unchained, but now has to follow that up with second solid season. He was the only real shining light for South African rugby over the last year, and he duly received the plaudits in the form of three big awards from SA Rugby. Now, he has to take all this skill and talent and build on it for the hopes of not only the Lions, but the Springboks too
Flop of the year
This year the Super Rugby tournament is going to be a lot poorer for not having the Cheetahs in it. Of course, it is sad for different reasons to see the Kings and Force go, the former an important rugby hub for black rugby players in the Eastern Cape and the latter a bastion of rugby for those situated in the far west of Australia. However, the Cheetahs, regardless of how well they did each year, guaranteed entertainment and innovation, and that is gone.
What I’d like to see more of
This may sound a bit boring, and would probably be rightly booed, but I want to see better defence. Perhaps see, or watch, is the wrong word, but I think the Southern Hemisphere’s premier rugby competition does need to bring defence a little higher up on the list of importance. It may be a bit more dull, but it is a key part of the game that the North is starting to catch up to the South on, and that is cause for concern.
What i’d like to see less of
On-field halftime player interviews. Enough with this now. I don’t want to see less of it, I don’t want to see it at all. These players are made to brutalise themselves for 40 minutes before a overly-dressed presenter trots up to them, asking the most redundant of questions, hoping for sparkling insight. Let's leave these guys to get on with what they know and are good at, it's pretty hard to string sentences together when you’ve been bludgeoned about the head for a half.