Super Rugby 2018 is about to kick off and we look at the composition of the South African squads for the new, reduced competition.
Although the South African participation has been reduced from six to four teams, no huge difference can be expected. SA Rugby continuing to support the Cheetahs and the Kings via the PRO14 has not had the desired affect yet.
John Mitchell’s first Bulls squad will have the Loftus faithful hoping that this is the turnaround of fortunes they have been hoping for. Mitchell is sure to bring a lot of structure to the Bulls pattern of play, along with well defined roles. The big question will be how Mitchell will fit into the culture and traditions which are part of living and playing rugby in Pretoria.
When we take a look at their squad, we can make the following conclusions:
The Bulls will have a strong lineout and their outside backs will have the ability to play some really entertaining rugby.
There are two areas that will have Mitchell searching for solutions. Their resources at prop are probably the least impressive of the four South African teams and scrum time could be a real challenge for them. Expect them to try and clear scrum ball very quickly. The other position that might be of concern is scrumhalf — not dissimilar to most South African teams. The trio of Papier, Van Zyl and Warner are undoubtedly talented, but mostly unproven at Super Rugby level. The Bull’s most experienced scrumhalf was Rudi Paige, who Mitchell has regarded as surplus to requirements.
The Bulls will do a lot better than they did in 2017, but are a work in progress with a new coach at the helm. They are unlikely to feature in the playoffs.
Props: Matthys Basson; Lizo Gqoboka; Trevor Nyakane; Pierre Schoeman; Conraad van Vuuren; Frans van Wyk
Hookers: Edgar Marutlulle; Adriaan Strauss; Jaco Visagie
Locks: Lood de Jager; Aston Fortuin; Jason Jenkins; RG Snyman; Ruben van Heerden
Loose forwards: Tim Agaba; Nic de Jager (c); Jannes Kirsten; Hanro Liebenberg; Roelof Smit; Hendré Stassen; Ruan Steenkamp
Scrum-halves: Embrose Papier; Ivan van Zyl; André Warner
Fly-halves: Marnitz Boshoff; Manie Libbok; Handré Pollard
Centres: Francois Brummer; JT Jackson; Johnny Kôtze; Jesse Kriel; Burger Odendaal (c)
Outside backs: Warrick Gelant; Travis Ismaiel; Duncan Matthews; Divan Rossouw; Jade Stighling; Jamba Ulengo
Cell C Sharks
On paper, the Sharks have assembled an impressive squad, with depth in most positions. Coach Robert du Preez will also be more experienced at this level and has high expectations of himself and his team.
The Sharks resources at both front row and in the outside backs will be the envy of most teams competing in Super Rugby 2018. There is real strength in both areas, as well as depth. Selecting the starting front row as well as wings would be difficult for Du Preez in terms of who to leave out and not who to select.
The areas that will keep the Sharks coaching staff on their toes will be at lock and at scrumhalf. At scrumhalf, they have the ageing Michael Claassens (35) and Louis Schreuder (currently carrying a hamstring injury). They are backed up by the inexperienced duo of Grant Williams and Cameron Wright.
Depth at lock may be concern for the Sharks. Injuries to the likes of Ruan Botha and Stephan Lewies would put them under serious pressure. Loose forward Tyler Paul has been used as a lock in the Currie Cup, but is not a natural second rower.
Don’t be surprised if the Sharks end up at the sharp end of the competition, presenting an enterprising style of play at the same time. Expect the addition of Dick Muir to the coaching team to add an attacking edge to their impressive backline talent.
Props: Thomas du Toit; Ross Geldenhuys; Mzamo Majola; Khuta Mchunu; John-Hubert Meyer; Tendai Mtawarira; Coenie Oosthuizen; Juan Schoeman
Hookers: Franco Marais; Chiliboy Ralepelle; Akker van der Merwe; Kerron van Vuuren
Locks: Hyron Andrews; Ruan Botha (c); Jean Droste; Gideon Koegelenberg; Stephan Lewies
Loose Forwards: Keegan Daniel; Dan du Preez; Jean-Luc du Preez; Tera Mtembu; Tyler Paul; Philip van der Walt; Jacques Vermeulen; Wian Vosloo
Scrum-halves: Michael Claassens; Louis Schreuder; Grant Williams; Cameron Wright
Fly-halves: Garth April; Curwin Bosch; Robert du Preez
Centres: Lukhanyo Am; Tristan Blewett; Johan Deysel; André Esterhuizen; Marius Louw; Jeremy Ward
Wingers: Makazole Mapimpi; Lwazi Mvovo; S’busiso Nkosi; Kobus van Wyk; Leolin Zas
Fullbacks: Rhyno Smith; Courtney Winnaar
The Stormers have a reasonably good squad at their disposal, despite some unusual recruiting in the off season. The pack is looking stronger than in 2017, with additions such as Steven Kitshoff, Salmaan Moerat and Juarno Augustus sure to make a difference. The jury is still out if Robbie Fleck is the coach to lead them to glory.
The Stormers pack should prove to be very competitive, especially when Eben Etzebeth returns from injury. The addition of a number of young players such as Moerat and Augustus is a vote of confidence in both those young players as well as the franchise.
As with all the South African teams, the Stormers do not have a scrumhalf that would walk into a top ten Test team. There is also a serious concern about the quality of their fly-half stocks. Jean-Luc du Plessis showed flashes of brilliance last year, but has yet to prove himself at Super Rugby level. Damian Willemse is listed as a fly-half, but was more comfortable at fullback Currie Cup level in 2017. Losing Robert du Preez to the Sharks was a significant blow to the Stormers.
The Stormers should do reasonably well in Super Rugby 2018, but will probably not qualify for the playoffs. They continue with an inexperienced coach, Robbie Fleck, who was thrown into the position after the Eddie Jones appointment fell flat after two weeks. When recruiting new players, defensively ineffectual players such as Raymond Rhule and Sergeal Petersen were signed.
Props: Neethling Fouché; JC Janse van Rensburg; Steven Kitshoff; Wilco Louw; Frans Malherbe; Caylib Oosthuizen; Carlü Sadie; Alistair Vermaak
Hookers: Bongi Mbonambi; Dean Muir; Scarra Ntubeni; Ramone Samuels
Locks: Jan de Klerk; Johan du Toit; Pieter-Steph du Toit; Eben Etzebeth; Salmaan Moerat; JD Schickerling; Chris van Zyl; Eduard Zandberg
Loose Forwards: Juarno Augustus; Nizaam Carr; Jaco Coetzee; Stephan de Wit; Siya Kolisi (c); Sikhumbuzo Notshe; Kobus van Dyk; Cobus Wiese
Scrum-halves: Paul de Wet; Dewaldt Duvenage; Justin Phillips; Jano Vermaak
Fly-halves: Jean-Luc du Plessis; Joshua Stander; George Whitehead; Damian Willemse
Centres: Damian de Allende; Daniël du Plessis; JJ Engelbrecht; Dan Kriel
Wingers: Dillyn Leyds; Sergeal Petersen; Raymond Rhule; Seabelo Senatla
Fullbacks: Craig Barry; SP Marais; EW Viljoen
The Lions have been South Africa’s leading light in Super Rugby in the recent past. Their coaching setup was lead by the fire of the now departed Johan Ackerman and the people manager that is Swys de Bruin. Aside from losing Ackerman to Gloucester, they have also lost defense coach JP Ferreira to Munster. It remains to be seen if De Bruin and co can maintain the momentum they have built over the last three seasons and land that elusive Super Rugby title.
The Lions strength is built on feeding their sides from inside their own structures. Each new member of their Super Rugby 2018 squad has already been exposed to the ethos of the team. Their stocks at centre will also be the envy of many competing sides.
At lock, the Lions might struggle a little with quality in depth. At scrumhalf, they also have concerns regarding the dearth of world class talent. Their top scrumhalf is Ross Cronje, who was asked to play a game plan he was not accustomed to under Springbok coach Alister Coetzee. He will need to get back to top form right from the start of the tournament. At flyhalf, there is a heavy load on Elton Jantjies’ shoulders. Any injury and there is not a lot of experience behind him on the bench.
Barring injuries to key players such a Whiteley, Jantjies and Cronje, the Lions will be at the sharp end of the competition.
Props: Jacobie Adriaanse; Ruan Dreyer; Corné Fourie; Johannes Jonker; Sti Sithole; Dylan Smith; Jacques van Rooyen
Hookers: Robbie Coetzee; Malcolm Marx
Locks: Lourens Erasmus; Andries Ferreira; Rhyno Herbst; Robert Kruger; Franco Mostert; Africa Marvin Orie
Loose Forwards: Cyle Brink; Hacjivah Dayimani; Willie Engelbrecht; Jaco Kriel; Len Massyn; Marnus Schoeman; Kwagga Smith; Warren Whiteley (c)
Scrum-halves: Ross Cronjé; Marco Jansen van Vuuren; Christiaan Meyer; Dillon Smit
Fly-halves: Ashlon Davids; Elton Jantjies; Shaun Reynolds
Centers: Rohan Janse van Rensburg; Lionel Mapoe; Howard Mnisi; Harold Vorster
Wingers: Ruan Combrinck; Aphiwe Dyantyi; Courtnall Skosan; Madosh Tambwe
Fullbacks: Andries Coetzee; Sylvian Mahuza
Super Rugby 2018 will be an important year for South African rugby. The game has been in the doldrums for two years and some level of success is desperately needed in the build up to 2019 and the next Rugby World Cup.
For a full list of fixtures, you can find it here.
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