DURBAN – Independent Media sports writer Mike Greenaway weighs in on the 2018 Super Rugby which kicks off this weekend with two appetising local derbies.
1 My pick as champions
The Crusaders are a good bet to retain their title. Let’s be frank, there are no genuine contenders in Australia while no SA team is at the height of its power. Good things are happening at our franchises but this is a season too soon. In New Zealand there is not a lot between the Hurricanes, Chiefs and Crusaders but it is likely to be a case of Crusaders coach Razor Robertson repeating his fantastic breakdance set come the end of the final.
2 Why you must watch this guy this year
In 2017, Makazole Mapimpi scored a staggering total of 28 tries — 11 for the Kings in Super rugby, seven for the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup and then 10 for the same team in PRO14 rugby. The 27 year old wanted to play Super Rugby this year and the Cheetahs generously allowed him to depart for the Sharks. An introvert off the field, he is a master entertainer on it and we are likely to see a series of those hilarious celebratory dances.
3 Flop of the year
It is quite likely to be the Australian challenge. They were terrible in general in last year’s Super Rugby, with an example being the unfashionable Kings beating fallen giants in the Waratahs in Sydney. There were plenty of examples of Aussies teams suffering shock losses. It culminated in November last year when Scotland put 50 points past the Wallabies at Murrayfield. Rugby in Australia is very much Down Under. It looks likely it will be the case again in 2018.
4 What I'd like to see more of
South African teams playing the situation in front of them rather than sticking to “paint by numbers” game plans. Jeepers, our Sevens team every tournament show their countrymen in the 15-man code how to do it. Enough of this antiquated “right to go wide” stuff that means bashing away until it is deemed ok to spread the ball wide. Our teams must open their minds and have a crack when the space materialises, wherever that might be on the field.
5 What I’d like to see less of
The infernal intervention of the TMOs, plus referees not having the conviction to make calls on incidents that have happened before their eyes. How often last year did we see TMOs halting the game for minutes while they deliberated over camera angles and then made the WRONG decision! The idea of using technology to determine matters such as the legitimacy of tries is sound, but the process is too complicated an amateurishly conducted.