Like an old dog shaking itself off after a long sleep next to the fire, this blog reawakens from a rugby slumber.
It’s 2012 and as we head towards the end of January the Super 15 looms large for most of this year. It seems ridiculous that we will have a round of matches, then a tour of international teams and then the knock-out round of the Super 15. I have a sneaking suspicion that by the time it gets to the semi-finals fans will be turning off in droves and baying for more internationals in the expanded Tri-nations.
Just another case of administrator’s greed triumphing over any sort of plan for the good of the sport? We’ll see.
This blog is about rugby and not about the IRB, so let’s look at the South African franchises and see how their chances shape up this year…
2011 finish: semi-finalist
Stormers looked set for a final place throughout the season only losing to the Reds in a bad-tempered affair that saw the Stormers lose their cool as Jaco Peyper failed to penalize the Reds forwards’ for shirt tugs, pushes, trips and other nonsense and the Crusaders, where they were thoroughly outclassed on the day.
They then lost their key enforcer Duan Vermeulen before the semi against the Crusaders and paid the price.
This year brings the loss of some key players as well some of their youth coming through. Massive holes have been left by Francois “Flo” Louw and Jacques “Bigbum” Fourie. Johan Sadie and JJ Engelbrecht, 2 rising stars, have been poached by the Bulls as well.
In the General’s tent, Rassie Erasmus and defense coach Neinaber have also gone.
The good news is that the 2 youth academies based in the Cape have started producing a factory line of incredible youth talent. This year should see the blooding of Eben Etsebeth, Siya Kolisi and Marcel Brache amongst others.
This is the year where people stop asking “What has Alistair Coetzee ever done?” and start to say “Rassie clearly had nothing to do with Stormers success”. Both are unfair and untrue.
It’s going to be tough to unseat the Reds or the Crusaders, but the Stormers are in the best position of any SA team to do it. This year will see the coming of age of Schalla as a captain, Bekker as a line out general, De Jongh as a dangerous centre and maybe even Gerard v d Heever will learn how to tackle.
2012 finish: semi again