Warrick Gelant spots a gap in the Western Province defence during a 2017 Currie Cup ,atch. Photo: Johan Rynners/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG - With Super Rugby kicking off on Saturday with two appetising local derbies, Independent Media rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen has taken a personal and offbeat look at the season ahead.

My pick as champions

They’re old news now, and they’re boring (because they’ve won more titles than anyone can remember), and they lost to the Hurricanes (another hot favourite for the title in 2018) just a few days ago, so why would I pick the Crusaders? Duh ... they’re just too damn good and will go all the way, again! They’ve got a great squad, they’ve got the experience and the history, and will kick on from last year’s triumph. They also play the best rugby, duh!

Why you must watch this guy this year

Okay, it would be easy to pick a number of those big-muscled good-looking men in the backlines of the five New Zealand teams, but I’m going local here. If he stays fit and the Bulls are able to play an attack-minded, ball-in-hand approach, where fear is thrown out the window, keep an eye out for Warrick Gelant. The fullback showed last year already he is a player for the future and with a little more experience behind him now, he’s going to rock, and run defences ragged.

Flop of the year

Super Rugby might have gotten rid of three teams – because the organisers felt they would never challenge for top honours and were simply making up the numbers – well, the Sunwolves are exactly that, too. Yet, they seem to be entrenched in the competition. The men from Japan might have the “testicles” to play with everything they’ve got, and there might be some big money doing the rounds to ensure their continued participation in the competition, but they’re simply not good enough to be part of Super Rugby.

What I'd like to see more of

South African rugby fans have been excited by the post-match musings – again – of Wits Varsity Cup captain Constant Beckerling. He says it like it is – and how refreshing is that? More of this please from the Super Rugby boys, and that includes the coaches. Enough of the rehearsed, drab, dull and boring pre-match and after-match speak. Come on, where’s the next Nick “Honey Badger” Cummins. Life’s hard enough for there not to be some fun in our rugby.

What I’d like to see less of

I’ve just about had enough of the unnecessary criticism of certain players after one or two bad games. And, for whatever reason some players cop it pretty badly, and far worse, than others, and it’s about bloody time it stops. Everyone is allowed an off-day, maybe even two or three; not everyone can produce a match-winning performance every weekend, be the All-Star every time they run out there! Let’s be a little nicer to our own players and back them, even when times are tough.

IOL Sport

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter