Published on Monday, 27 February 2012 12:38
Written by Michael McLaggan
With summer drawing to a close, the southern hemisphere begins to prepare itself for the 2012 rugby season, kicking off with its premier domestic tournament: the Super XV.
2011 saw the Reds triumph to become the first Australian team since the Brumbies to take the title. With a fairly dismal showing last season for South African teams, the new year hopefully heralds a new opportunity to re-establish their dominance. How will our local teams fare in the season ahead?
The Stormers were undoubtedly the pick of the local sides as they topped the SA conference and finished second overall but disappointingly bowed out in the semis. Though proven to be a strong side in recent times, they seem to lack the killer instinct that is present in championship winning teams; a vital attribute needed to win key games. Going on recent form and their performances in the last few years, it’s only a matter of time before the boys from Cape Town pull it together and take home some silverware. The question is: will it be this year?
The Sharks, while one of the better faring teams in past seasons, have been carrying around a “chokers” tag for a long time now. They are a side that assemble what seems to be a well-oiled machine early on in the season only for the wheels to come off at critical junctures. While having a fantastic squad and quality coaching staff they are a side that often snatches defeat from the jaws of victory (remember the 2007 final against the Bulls). Currie Cup Champions in 2010 and runners-up last year, they will be determined to get this monkey off their back this year and prove that they are indeed capable of taking the Super Rugby title home.
The Bulls are undoubtedly the most successful SA team in Super Rugby, with 3 titles to their name. Failing to qualify for the play-offs in 2011, they will be looking to make up for their abysmal title defence with a class showing this season. Their prestige has been dealt a blow recently but as they have proven in times gone past, if anyone can bounce back from a set-back the Bulls can. A tough team both physically and psychologically, they will always have shout of winning.
There were many who reckoned that it was going to snow in the Highveld when the Lions won the Currie Cup last year. From a side that was dubbed the “worst ever Super Rugby team” in 2010, to provincial champions in 2011; they are a team that have come a long way in a short space of time. While probably not yet at the stage where they can be considered to be serious title contenders, they should be able to put in a decent showing and begin to erase completely their “losing legacy”. In 2012, big things are to be expected from the Lions.
The Cheetahs are probably the most unpredictable team in the tournament. On many occasions last year they were denied victory in the dying seconds, pulled off some spectacular wins and also received some big defeats. While lacklustre at times, they are capable of very exciting and enterprising play and were aptly named “Giant Killers” after.