Welcome Back! That is the best reaction, as Super Rugby returns to action….well, mostly. For those fans who have pined for their weekly fix, then in selected regions, the game rebounds back into life.
The forecast action will include those sides who did not participate in the round contested on June 2-3. Back then, Australian and New Zealand teams took to the field. Sides from Japan, Argentina and South Africa rested, and prepared for their representative football. Now that their campaigns are complete, those conference sides return to action.
In fact, the completion of round 15 will provide some leading sides a chance to gain somewhat of an edge, as their New Zealand counterparts stay idle for a further two weeks. So considering that, here is your conference points table standings as Super Rugby returns to action;
— scott hornell (@scotthornell73) June 30, 2017
Super Rugby Round 15 Forecast
After the ten New Zealand and Australian conference teams played their matches, this weekend four games will revive the appeal of Super Rugby in the republic and in South America.
Friday June 30
A rare double, as two South African sides run out on a Friday night. It will surely awaken the passion and awareness of many, many fans. Most have enjoyed the representative brand, but not much compares to the action-packed Super product.
A Sharks v Bulls clash is bound to be brutal. The local derby is well anticipated, and many of the stars of the Springboks will be happy to feel the applause of home fans again. The Durban crowd will want their men to take advantage of the visitors, as it hasn’t been the best year for the Bulls.
Garth April wins selection at first-five, as Curwin Bosch will run the cutter from fullback. That may lead to some great running, however, they will be eye-to-eye against the Springbok midfield. It might be a game where it is ‘won up front’ and the backs fight it out among themselves. Either way, the fans will reap the rewards.
Springbok midfield pairing Jan Serfontein & Jesse Kriel will start for the Bulls at the Sharks with Tony Jantjies at flyhalf #SuperRugby
— SuperSport Blitz (@SuperSportBlitz) June 28, 2017
Over in Buenos Aires, two of the newer franchises carry on their history. For the young teams, the brief histories may not hold the pedigree of above, but their are important bragging rights. Part of the Africa Two conference, with the recent success that the Southern Kings enjoyed, they could hold an advantage.
The mental side is always a test for South American teams; the Jaguares losing far too many in 2017, to now be a finals challenger. Those slips could either undermine their confidence, or it might motivate them.
Argentina Internationals Look for Positives as Super Rugby Returns
How the local men stand-up will be crucial. After the Los Pumas dispatched Georgia, those returning players must fire up their team mates. Nicolas Sanchez and Joaquin Tuculet and Pablo Matera being just a few. And while August Creevy is missing, Two of the six remaining South African derbies for the Super Rugby regular season get underway this weekend, Julian Montoya is an able replacement.
— Super Rugby (@SuperRugby) June 29, 2017
This game is the least predictable, with either side still wanting to prove much, as Super Rugby restarts.
Saturday July 1
In the opening game, the Cheetahs open up Toyota Park to the Stormers. Each side is out of contention, but these derby games are still hellacious occasions. The Western Cape v the central plains, the contrasts are both extreme but also with similar hopes to rebuild some troubled form.
While many find the Cheetahs inconsistent, with others believing they all too often bomb fine chances. So if this is one, to take the Stormers while they are down, they ‘its now or never’. But with few headline players, the opportunities might be limited. The visiting side hold most of the cards here. The forecast is for the Cape Town team to ‘roll the dice’ on the Cheetahs.
— DHL STORMERS (@THESTORMERS) June 29, 2017
And that leads us to the fourth, and final match of Round 15. While it might have been spread out, the wait was worth it. The excitement that each team brings, will make the Lions v Sunwolves clash one to relish. And while fans might expect as much, the Lions will not want to be too free and easy.
Lions Need to Secure Win, and Win Well
With captain Warren Whiteley injured, Jaco Kriel takes a hold of the reins. He will want to both ‘hold back’ some of their freedom, to be sure of the maximum points. Retaining some structure is a real factor, as the Sunwolves appear to be easy to control, they do throw a lot of points around. They often steal points–in terms of winning bonus points–so the home side have to win, and win well.
Home fan favourites like Ruan Combrinck (see main photo), Malcolm Marx and the electric Kwagga Smith. Each has the potential to break open the game, but only once the visiting Sunwolves have been repressed. And it is all assisting the Johannesburg side to lead others into the finals series. But unlike 2016, they must hold their target, not loss in potential points gained–otherwise they may lose some of that all important self confidence.
Some might presume an easy win. Nothing is easy, as Super Rugby returns to action. Barring injury, the Filo Tiatia team might just want to be sure they do not upset the hosts. It could bring out the worst; or very certainly, the best, in the home side.
Super Rugby Returns to Action
Round 15: Sharks v Bulls | Jaguares v Kings | Cheetahs v Stormers | Lions v Sunwolves
Two of the six remaining South African derbies for the Super Rugby regular season get underway this weekend. That may encourage sides like the Bulls to cast the form book aside. And that would be a bonus for the game, but also for sides still resting.
The four New Zealand teams, and one Australian conference winner will all follow these results. From the Highlanders, who might be the unfortunate one who needs to travel farthest, to the Crusaders, who hope their nearest opponent the Lions, make a fatal slip.
So Round 15 is not only a continuation of a full schedule, but the fixtures can seal the fate of many teams. So as the action rebounds, so too does the intrigue. And that is what Last Word on Rugby missed the most.
“Main photo credit”