PRETORIA – Independent Media’s rugby writer Vata Ngobeni shares his predictions on this year’s Super Rugby tournament which kicks off with two appetising local derbies this weekend.
1 My pick as champions
The Crusaders will in all probability successfully defend their title. The New Zealanders ability to win the title away from home tells of a team that will continue to grow in belief and performances on the field. History talks of previous Crusaders dominance coming in batches of two. And with the astute Scott Robinson still in charge and with hardly any players leaving them, it will come as no surprise that the side from Christchurch flex their muscles very early in the competition.
2 Why you must watch this guy this year
Warrick Gelant. He is far from the finished product and already his name was on the lips of many rugby mad South Africans. It’s a pity that his short international career has been on the wing but he is the Springboks long term solution at fullback. His sudden injection of speed, ability to create and exploit space and his racking boot will make him a star in this year’s Super Rugby competition and the man to revive the Bulls.
3 Flop of the year
Australian rugby will continue to be a liability to the opinion that Super Rugby is the strongest club competition in the world. The Aussie franchises were poor, to say the least, last year and it doesn’t seem like they will be any different this year. Even without the Western Force in the competition, former champions the Waratahs, Brumbies and Queensland Reds look like a shadow of themselves while the Melbourne Rebels have never really gotten out of first gear.
4 What I’d like to see more of
Can South African franchises stand up and produce the same sort of pulsating, heart-stopping and epic derbies that happen amongst the New Zealand teams. Last year we saw the Lions and Sharks produce two memorable encounters at Ellis Park. That should be the norm and so too the intent to entertain the paying fans. Sport is a form of entertainment and if the game of rugby is going to deny fans tries and big hits then we will continue to see dwindling numbers at stadiums.
5 What I’d like to see less of
Aimless kicking and a negative approach to the game. May this year see an end to the aimless ping pong aerial battles we see with the creatively challenged sides in Super Rugby. Not only is it disrespectful to those watching but it is a bad marketing display for such a beautiful game. Give the ball some air through the hands and give spectators and those rugby purists a reason to watch the game. Away with the negative rugby and please give us the try fests we are dying for.