For 25 years we’ve gotten up early to watch the “boys” in New Zealand or Australia. We made our way to local pubs for breakfast and then braaied later for the 5pm kick-off. The earliest memories I have of Super Rugby, are the 12 with the Cats when they were actually pretty good. I remember Super so fondly because without it I probably would never have played rugby. I guess you could say it was achieved in bringing new people to the game of rugby.
For the most part, looking back through the years South African teams have been perennial semi-finalists and finalists with only 3 trophies to write home about, and all 3 belong to the Blue Bulls. No one could argue that the Bulls team, when it comes to Super Rugby, are the best franchise. But when we look back at some of the teams that the SA franchises had you can’t help but feel disappointed. The Lions team that made the final 3 years in a row, the Stormers team coached by Allister Coetzee, the Sharks team captained by John Smith and the list can continue.
Our problem was always winning on our travels. Our franchises have a hopeless “away winning” percentage, and that, combined with the opposition able to snatch a win or two on South African soil, meant that for the most part semi-finals were played in Australia and New Zealand- That was always our Achilles heel!
Sadly, we say goodbye at a time where our rugby has never been as strong as it is now. Our franchises have been gutted by the Europeans, and yet most of our franchises still have current or former Springboks or some promising talent. The Super Rugby Unlocked competition has shown that South African rugby is well and truly at its peak in terms of strength and depth. The next generation of rugby players is as good, if not better than what we have at the moment and things are looking great for World Cup 2023.
Now Super Rugby as we know will continue although they should rename it in my opinion. I just don’t see how it can be ‘Super Rugby’ without the world champs? Life for SA Rugby fans is uncertain at the moment. We don’t know yet which of our franchises will be involved in the Pro14 extension competition. We also don’t know what will become of those left behind. The hope is that the powers that be may come up with a creative solution to these problems. Perhaps expanding the local rugby scene and broadening the talent pool might hold the key to continued success at franchise and national levels.
Many fans are unsure about the Pro14 expansion, and with COVID still well and truly with us, we just don’t know what the future holds in terms of sport being played but also getting back into stadiums to support the boys. All we can do for now is look back at our 25 year stint in Super Rugby and reminisce on what might have been.