February the 12th and the start of the 2010 super 14 is almost upon us and some of the teams have already started their warm-up games, which have up to so far produced some interesting results. Now, we know that pre-season friendly results mean little but by taking a look over the squads of the 14 teams, it looks like most teams will have improved personnel and this bodes excitement for Southern hemisphere rugby fans.
With Dan Carter and Chris Jack returning to the Crusaders, that leaves them with ominous depth and a successful 2010 crusade is already on the cards, especially with arguably the kiwi find of the 2009 season, Zac Guilford, now operating out of Christchurch too. The Blues have also beefed up their resources, notably in the flyhalf department with Stephen Brett filling a postion which has proved to be problematic for the team for a few years now. The Hurricanes look strong on paper as usual, while the Chiefs have retained the bulk of their squad which made it to the final last season. As far as the most recent pre-season results go, the perennial underdog Highlanders managed to beat last years finalists the Chiefs by 31-24, definitely an upset in my books. The Blues also managed a narrow win by 19-17 over the Hurricanes. Could these upsets mean that the underperforming Highlanders and Blues may turn the corner in 2010? On paper, at least it’s possible.
Of the Australian franchises, the Brumbies have added two senior Wallabies in Matt Giteau and Rocky Elsom who could both prove to be invaluable to the team in terms of leadership and star quality they bring to the team. The Waratahs look as strong as ever on paper with Berrick Barnes being added to the team in the off-season, they would be disappointed if they were not in contention for the title come May. And if the recent result against the self-same Waratahs is anything to go by (Reds beat the ‘Tahs 26-24), the Reds may have turned the corner as well, with new coach Ewen McKenzie looking to make an impact in his first year as coach and possibly shaking things up in Queensland, much like Dick Muir did when he first came to the Sharks, in an effort to re-estabilish the Reds as a Super rugby force.
As far as the South African franchises go, the Stormers have been doing the most high-profile buying, adding Springbok backs Jaque Fourie and Bryan Habana to an already star-studded backline and will be looking to build on a much improved 2009 Currie Cup campaign. The Bulls again look strong on paper after an unprecedented 2009 season. The Cheetahs will also look to build on an impressive fightback in the Currie Cup and have even managed to keep hold of their star Bok assett in Heinrich Brussow. The Lions have a new coach who seems to be proving that a new broom sweeps clean, having got rid of many players and also brought many in, changes in the backroom staff may have the greatest effect though, either way, the Lions should do better than in previous years. The Sharks, as always, have a very strong squad on paper, especially if the aquisitions of Willem Alberts and Louis Ludik come off, while the excellent Sharks Academy should ensure quality back-up is available if needed and called upon.
So, what’s the point of all this? No, it’s not a rival to Original Pierre’s excellent preview articles (well done, bud!) but rather and expansion on my comment that the 2010 Super 14 could be prove to be one of the most tightly contested competitions in recent history with most, if not all, of the teams having improved at least on paper since the 2009 season.
All in all it makes for exciting times for rugby fans, and I for one cannot wait for the action to start while looking forward to watching as many games as my varsity schedule allows me to.Tweet