New Zealand and Australia had their turn at Super Rugby, but now it’s the turn of the world champs. The Crusaders came out victorious in their Aotearoa version of Super Rugby, and the Brumbies won the Australian Super Rugby season. And as the months rolled on, South African rugby fans must have been wondering when we would see our boys on the field again.
The wait is finally over as Super Rugby begins on Friday evening at 7pm with the Sharks taking on the Lions in the season opener; a game that promises to be an exciting tussle. Both teams coming off losses in their Super Fan Saturday fixtures will be looking to bounce back and start the competition on the front foot.
The Lions looked good against the Stormers in patches and will rely heavily on their captain Elton Jantjies for inspiration while the Sharks have a more youthful approach. The Sharks have had several significant injuries and departures in the backline department and getting hammered by the Bulls in Super Fan Saturday didn’t help their cause either. However, I expect the Sharks to bounce back on Friday and get the win. Before lockdown, the Sharks were top of the old Super Rugby log and looking a good shout to at the very least challenge for a title. Things were different then, and the world has since changed.
The Bulls signed Jake White, former World Cup winner and made a few shroud player signings as well. After their resounding victory over the Sharks, they look as if they might be contenders once again.
The Stormers looked as strong as they did pre lockdown and will also consider themselves contenders for the Super Rugby Unlocked crown. Adding spice to the tournament is the fact the four Super Rugby stalwarts will be joined by the Cheetahs, Pumas and Griquas respectively.
The three teams in the competition will be eager to prove that they are not just there to make up numbers so expect one or two upsets, especially in the early weeks of the competition. The Super Rugby points will also be added to the Currie Cup standings as well so we could well have two different winners at the end of this rugby season.
It will be interesting to see if teams play the long game or go in guns blazing to win Super Rugby Unlocked first and worry about the Currie Cup when we get there either way, it will be the fans that reap the benefits.
If the last two weeks of rugby has shown anything, it is that despite South Africa losing several players overseas there is still strength and depth within our borders, and Super Rugby will only further prove that fact.
In my opinion, the Stormers have what it takes to lift the trophy when its all said and done and while any Super Rugby competition this season has an asterisk next to it just the fact that we are getting to see our boys on the field again is enough for me. Corona took away sports for so long and now finally here in SA we have some sport to look forward to, and while I know there are more important things in life, I believe sport plays an integral role in the psyche of most South Africans. For us, it’s more than a game. It’s braaing with mates and arguing about the game, it’s coming together with family to support your team, and it is very much a way of life for a lot of us!