Sharks for home semi again!

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Bulls, Cheetahs, In the news, Lions, Sharks, Stormers, Super 14 on 10 Feb 2008 at 10:25

This year’s Vodacom Super 14 competition kicks off next weekend. Rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen of analyses the South African teams and finds it’s going to be another big challenge for the local coaches.

Blue Bulls

Last year: champions (2nd on log)

Home ground: Loftus Versfeld

Coach: Frans Ludeke

Captain: Fourie du Preez

Pros: They’ll be confident after going all the way last year and making it into the last four for three years in a row. There’s good depth in the squad and their pack again looks a formidable force, even without the likes of Victor Matfield and Gary Botha. They’ve got a favourable draw with three out of their first four games at Loftus and only four games abroad. Loftus will be an ally.

Cons: The absence of Heyneke Meyer will be telling. So, too, the non-availability of Johan Roets, Gary Botha and Victor Matfield, while no one is quite sure when Pierre Spies will be ready to play.

Players to watch: Bryan Habana, of course, but also Gurthro Steenkamp, Wikus van Heerden and Chiliboy Ralepelle, if he’s fit. Former Griquas star Zane Kirchner could be a revelation.

Previous record: 1996 (semifinals) 1997 (8th) 1998 (11th) 1999 (12th) 2000 (11th) 2001 (12th) 2002 (12th) 2003 (6th) 2004 (6th) 2005 (semifinals) 2006 (semifinals) 2007 (champions)

Prediction: 4th


Last year: 11th

Home ground: Vodacom Park

Coach: Naka Drotske

Captain: Juan Smith

Pros: They’re a close-knit bunch in Bloemfontein and their victory in last year’s Currie Cup final will serve as a massive confidence booster. There’s more experience in the side now than last year and with Naka Drotske in charge they’re sure to be a powerful unit up front.

Cons: They’re going to miss stalwarts such as Corniel van Zyl and Jannie du Plessis and even Marius Joubert and Philip Burger (both overseas) while a few injuries in crucial positions could see them come horribly unstuck. But more than anything, they’re going to miss No 10 Willem de Waal.

Players to watch: Duanne Vermeulen, Heinrich Brussow and Richardt Strauss should make a step up from last season, while Meyer Bosman will be key in the backline.

Previous record: 1997 (7th as Free State) 2006 (10th) 2007 (11th)

Prediction: 10th


Last year: 12th

Home ground: Ellis Park

Coach: Eugene Eloff

Captain: Ernst Joubert

Pros: They’re a gutsy side with good team spirit and they’ll be buoyed by reaching the Currie Cup final last season. They’re an unpredictable bunch which makes them dangerous, while the return of Joe van Niekerk will hopefully boost the pack. There are not too many stars in the team, but the Lions rely on the sum total of the parts.

Cons: Andre Pretorius’ injury is a big setback, so too the absence of Jacques Cronje, who’s overseas, while injuries to key men like Jaque Fourie and Willem Alberts is concerning. There’s not a lot of experience beyond the best XV.

Players to watch: Jano Vermaak is an excellent scrumhalf, but look out for big performances from Heinke van der Merwe, Willie Wepener, Cobus Grobbelaar, Jaco Pretorius and Thabang Molefe.

Previous record: 1996 (10th) 1997 (5th) 1998 (12th) 1999 (11th) 2000 (semifinals) 2001 (semifinals) 2002 (11th) 2003 (12th) 2004 (12th) 2005 (11th) 2006 (13th) 2007 (12th)

Prediction: 11th


Last year: runners-up (1st on log)

Home ground: Absa Stadium

Coach: Dick Muir

Captain: Johann Muller

Pros: An excellently coached unit, with good depth and plenty of experience and youthful flair. They’re good travellers, don’t fear anyone, anywhere and have built up a reputation as a side that’s tough to get the better of. They’ll want to go one better than last year after losing in the dying moments of the final in Durban.

Cons: No Butch James and no Percy Montgomery … they’re going to miss these guys immensely. And John Smit is also no longer around to fulfil the calming role he’s become so well known for.

Players to watch: Frederic Michalak could be great (or a big disappointment), and keep an eye on Frans Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Brad Barritt and Waylon Murray. Also, the Du Plessis brothers, as well as Ryan Kankowski.

Previous record: 1996 (runners-up) 1997 (semifinals) 1998 (semifinals) 1999 (7th) 2000 (12th) 2001 (runners-up) 2002 (10th) 2003 (11th) 2004 (8th) 2005 (12th) 2006 (5th) 2007 (runners-up)

Prediction: 2nd


Last year: 10th

Home ground: Newlands

Coach: Rassie Erasmus

Captain: Jean de Villiers

Pros: They’ve got a new coach in Rassie Erasmus and we all know how innovative and positive he can be for a rugby team, so hopefully he’s able to weave his magic at the perennial under-achievers too. The Cape side have some superb individuals who can rip apart defensive walls and there seems to be a bit more depth in the ranks this year.

Cons: The pressure on the Stormers to produce the goods week-in, week-out will be tough to deal with, while a few dodgy performances in the opening rounds will have the critics questioning everything from the coach to the players to the tight-five. They look vulnerable in the front row, but hopefully new man Brian Mujati can alleviate those fears.

Players to watch: Brian Mujati for sure, also Ross Skeate, Ricky Januarie and Peter Grant. Conrad Jantjes and Tonderai Chavhanga need a big season.

Previous record: 1996 (11th) 1998 (9th) 1999 (semifinals) 2000 (5th) 2001 (7th) 2002 (7th) 2003 (9th) 2004 (semifinals) 2005 (9th) 2006 (11th) 2007 (10th)

Prediction: 7th


  • Not seeing the Bulls finishing fourth, given the chaos in their coaching ranks

  • Comment 1, posted at 10.02.08 15:56:47 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • The Sharks better get their act together quick. Names on paper mean nothing (take it from a Stormers supporter) between the four lines and the Doep bros & AJ better get their ill dissipline in check. I rate them to finish 1st, but they must start from zip like all the others!

  • Comment 2, posted at 10.02.08 16:04:25 by PaarlBok Reply

  • Rob, read Gavin Rich’s prediction on Superrugby. Doesn’t give the Sharks any chance. You should keep all the predictions and see how good / accurate they were at the end of the tournament.

  • Comment 3, posted at 10.02.08 16:29:15 by hellbent Reply

  • Good plan, HB

  • Comment 4, posted at 10.02.08 16:33:03 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Can then gauge exactly how “expert” these journos are!

  • Comment 5, posted at 10.02.08 16:36:48 by hellbent Reply


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