KSA Shark ©

Super 14 showing depth

Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :In the news, Super 14 on 8 Feb 2009 at 08:28

When he was asked this week which teams would be the Stormers’ biggest obstacle to success in the Super 14 that kicks off next week, Jean de Villiers came up with a surprising answer.

Gavin Rich writes in the Cape Argus that after years of mostly providing at best one challenger and then a whole lot of also-rans and whipping boys, the Stormers captain believes that 2009 will see a highly competitive showing from all of the South African teams.

And while it should not come as a shock that De Villiers fingers both the Sharks and Bulls, the finalists from two years ago, as likely challengers, it should be a mild surprise that he rates the Lions, who finished last in 2008 and who many overseas critics are predicting to do so again.

“I have been looking at the squads that all the franchises have available to them this year, and there is a lot of depth and quality that maybe wasn’t in evidence before,” said De Villiers.

“I really think that this could be a year where we see a big showing from all the local sides. The Sharks are always up there, the Bulls should be contenders again, and we made a lot of progress last year.

“Even the Cheetahs and the Lions, teams that may have struggled before, look quite well equipped now, but particularly the Lions. If you look at the players they have, they certainly shouldn’t be an easy team to beat, and I reckon they will knock some good teams over.”

If the Lions did cause a few shocks, it would not be the first time, and neither would it be the first time they have picked up some momentum in this most arduous of competitions.

In 2007 the Lions did the Sharks and Bulls a favour by knocking over the Crusaders in Johannesburg, and they also scored two rare wins in Australasia.

They ran out of momentum when they returned home after their tour, with the Stormers halting their charge in Cape Town on Easter Saturday, but De Villiers is right when he says they have greater depth this year.

Although they have lost Jaco Pretorius to the Bulls, this loss is off-set by the return to fitness of Jaque Fourie.

The first choice Springbok outside centre at the World Cup was out for most of last season with injury but started to make up ground on incumbent Adi Jacobs with some strong performances towards the end of the Currie Cup and on the overseas tour.

The departure of Joe van Niekerk overseas has also been well covered by the emergence of the promising and physically imposing No8 Willem Alberts and a smattering of other good loose-forwards looking to fit into the mix with Alberts and skipper Cobus Grobbelaar.

Coach Eugene Eloff is confident Jannes Labuschagne, back in rugby after two years in retirement, will regain the authority that made him a Springbok a few years ago.

If he does, he will add spine to an already big and authoritative tight five, with Lawrence Sephaka returning to add to an already impressive pool of props.

But it is the return of Ande Pretorius from his own injury problems that date back now to well before the 2007 World Cup that could transform the Lions from an average combination into a dangerous one.

Earl Rose, who made great progress last year at flyhalf, can just as easily be used at fullback, with Louis Ludik shifting to wing.

Eloff was encouraged by his team’s seven try to three thrashing of the Bulls in a warm-up game, but it needs to be recalled that the Bulls were fielding a second string team.

Realistically you wouldn’t expect the Lions to challenge for a semi-final place, but they could be in contention in the middle stages of the competition, and a strong showing from them will help the South African momentum ahead of the tour here by the British and Irish Lions immediately after the Super 14.

The Cheetahs beat the Bulls in Polokwane the other night to advertise their credentials, but as always the big question hovering over them is their depth, something that is crucial for a team to maintain a consistent challenge.

From a national viewpoint what is exciting about the Cheetahs, apart from the continuing good form of their fetcher Heinrich Brussow and the continuing progress of Jonghi Nokwe, is coach Naka Drotske’s decision to move Meyer Bosman from inside centre back to flyhalf.

It will be recalled that Bosman made his debut for the Springboks at flyhalf under Jake White in 2005 while still a green 21-year-old.

He was one of the best No12s in the country in last year’s Super 14, but with Jean de Villiers established in that position in the Bok team, Bosman might be the man to put pressure on Ruan Pienaar and presumably Bath based Butch James for the green and gold No10.

Pienaar’s performances at flyhalf, and coach John Plumtree’s decisiveness in making a call on which of Pienaar or Frans Steyn should play in that position, could hold the key to the Sharks’ chances of following up their strong challenges of the past few years by getting their hands on the trophy.

The Sharks management felt they broke through a barrier when they won the Currie Cup last year,breaking a 12-year drought in terms of silverware at King’s Park, and Plumtree has been pro-active in employing a fellow Kiwi as backline coach as well as bringing in former Australian league legend Andrew John for a couple of weeks.

The Sharks have lost Frederic Michalak, which is why flyhalf will be in the spotlight, but they do have depth in most areas, and they seem to play more pragmatic and structured rugby under Plumtree than under Dick Muir.

They will be a tough obstacle for the Stormers, who with the Bulls are also title contenders, at Newlands next Saturday.

The big question hovering over the Stormers is their depth at lock and maybe front-row and outside centre, but if they can remain relatively free of injury, they should again be the team that rivals the Sharks for the right to call themselves the South African flag-bearers in the competition.

The Bulls were champions two years ago and have Victor Matfield back, so while their inability to match the Sharks in last year’s Currie Cup final was disappointing, and they do miss the influence of Heyneke Meyer, they are now into their second season under Frans Ludeke.

Another reason they should be more settled this year is that they don’t have as many players absent through injury at the start of the season as in the corresponding stage of 2008, and the uncertainty created by the wrangling with Toulon over Bakkies Botha’s contract is now behind them.

Most significantly of all, the Bulls showed towards the end of last year’s competition that they were starting to adapt to the demands made on them by the hybrid ELVs, so they should not encounter the early setbacks they did in 2008, and the same should be said of the Stormers.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers was wrong when he predicted three SA teams in the Super 14 semi-finals last year, such a suggestion now might not come across as quite so laughable


  • not sure I agree with all of this

  • Comment 1, posted at 08.02.09 09:14:25 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 1) :
    this and the other article are both the type of articles that come out every year giving us all hope.

    Only for us to crash to earth a few weeks later.

  • Comment 2, posted at 08.02.09 10:21:32 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Lions have the worst backs in the comp… and no locks… would love for them (and Cheetahs) to beat the OS teams… can’t see it happening often at all…

  • Comment 3, posted at 08.02.09 10:41:56 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • @bryce_in_oz (Comment 3) :

    No locks!??!
    Moster and Senakal are only second best paring to Matfield and Botha….

    Plus we have a few capable back-ups…

  • Comment 4, posted at 08.02.09 15:25:03 by Hmmm Reply

  • @bryce_in_oz (Comment 3) :

    Agree about the back line though…but they have a better one than last year…and last year the dif in a few extra victories was having wings that can catch and fall…they lacked that in Benjamin and Noble…

  • Comment 5, posted at 08.02.09 15:28:22 by Hmmm Reply

  • @Hmmm (Comment 4) : Bru, are you seriaaas? Mostert is not bad but to claim your locking partnership as 2nd best behind the Bulle? Is jy mal??

  • Comment 6, posted at 08.02.09 15:32:06 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 6) :


    Which part is better!??!
    Bekker is good on his own (but has no decent partner…and the CC last year the LIONS stole balls at will against the WP lineout…
    Same with the Cheetahs (who most probably the thinest there)…
    Muller is steady but no stand out and the Sharks partn is steady but not dominant…

    And had it not been for Bakkies I’d back them best….

  • Comment 7, posted at 08.02.09 15:38:35 by Hmmm Reply

  • @Hmmm (Comment 7) : you’re on crack

  • Comment 8, posted at 08.02.09 15:39:41 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @wpw (Comment 6) :

    And yeh…Mostert is good as a all-round lock but only about 5 in the country…Senekal pretty much the same…but they are both good in the line-out and in the loose…

  • Comment 9, posted at 08.02.09 15:40:26 by Hmmm Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 8) :

    We’ll see…

    Don’t tell me that you rate the Sharks higher????

  • Comment 10, posted at 08.02.09 15:41:55 by Hmmm Reply

  • The only thing at this time would be for then both to be fit at one stage…and they only have steady at best cover in Van Zyl and Lab’s…

    If either do not play they fall to 4th best lock partn….

  • Comment 11, posted at 08.02.09 15:44:14 by Hmmm Reply

  • @Hmmm (Comment 10) : you know, I actually do. Senekal is a sharks cast-off. Couldn’t get close to our squad. Muller is far better than anything the Lions have and Sykes is also a far better player than most realise

  • Comment 12, posted at 08.02.09 15:54:53 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 12) :

    Muller is better than the LIONS best…but the LIONS have a few that are close…

    I guess you did not watch the CC last year when Senekal was playing!??! Sykes is steady..but he is off Mostert and Senekal’s pace…

    I guess Sharks did a Deysel on Senekal then!??!

  • Comment 13, posted at 08.02.09 16:17:57 by Hmmm Reply

  • Hmmm, the CC cannot be compared to the S14. I think the Sharks and Stormers have very good locks and if you actually watched the S14 last yr you would hav seen this. Fondse is a good lock and Bekker was one of the better locks on show. The same can be said of Muller and Sykes has really grown as a player in the last 18 months. The Lions dont come close imho.

  • Comment 14, posted at 08.02.09 16:56:51 by wpw Reply
  • Yeah Hmmm I don’t rate Sykes either… same as I don’t Senekal… Mostert needs to step up… here’s hoping all 3 do…

  • Comment 15, posted at 08.02.09 17:17:14 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • @wpw (Comment 14) : spot on, Wes. Fondse in particular has grown into a beast of a lock in a very short space of time. I rate him as the third best tight lock in the country, after Botha and Rossouw

  • Comment 16, posted at 08.02.09 17:17:26 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 16) :

    He cannot grow more brains though… he’s always come across as being a bit too ‘simple’…

    RSA needs those two Bulls youngsters that have since left…

  • Comment 17, posted at 08.02.09 17:40:41 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • Hey bryce! On a more serious note i hope you and your loved ones are not being affected by the raging fires in Oz. Just saw on the news about 750 homes destroyed so far…

  • Comment 18, posted at 08.02.09 17:44:27 by wpw Reply
  • Bakkies


    Not bad for a Bok side… not enough for 5 competitive S14 sides…

  • Comment 19, posted at 08.02.09 17:48:21 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • @wpw (Comment 18) :

    Yeah real hectic stuff… we were meant to be staying in Kinglakes next weekend… the entire country town and surrounding towns have been wiped off the map…

  • Comment 20, posted at 08.02.09 17:49:55 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • @bryce_in_oz (Comment 20) : Hectic! I have two aunts living in Victoria and another in Melbourne…

  • Comment 21, posted at 08.02.09 17:53:00 by wpw Reply
  • Yeah its around 1-2hrs out of Melbourne… country areas… a few months of 30 degrees, a week of 40 plus, no back-burning thanks to the Greenies protesting… and voila… 100km wide inferno’s… wiping out towns and more… some mental stories of volunteer fire-fighters helping out for hrs on end… only to return and their houses and families have been destroyed…

    Melbourne itself has cooled today… but the fires burn on in the country…

    Sick thing is… some of them were started by fire-bugs…

  • Comment 22, posted at 08.02.09 18:01:34 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • Where are your relatives… what areas?

  • Comment 23, posted at 08.02.09 18:03:27 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • Two of them in Leopold but not sure where in Melbourne the other one lives.

  • Comment 24, posted at 08.02.09 18:12:13 by wpw Reply
  • @bryce_in_oz (Comment 19) : stealing my thunder… about to do an article on the dearth of locking talent 🙂

  • Comment 25, posted at 08.02.09 18:14:55 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @wpw (Comment 24) :

    I think Leopold is near Geelong… West side of the bay… fires are 100’s miles away to the east in the touristy bushlands and nature reserves…

  • Comment 26, posted at 08.02.09 18:17:12 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 25) :

    Write away… 😉

  • Comment 27, posted at 08.02.09 18:18:16 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • @bryce_in_oz (Comment 27) : I’m going to. 🙂

  • Comment 28, posted at 08.02.09 18:25:11 by robdylan Reply
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