Super Rugby 2019 is fast approaching and the warm up games are a thing of the past. Last Word on Rugby takes a look at the South African teams.
Super Rugby 2019
As this year is a Rugby World Cup year, Super Rugby 2019 will be a pivotal competition for many players. Some will try to catch the eye of Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus. For the younger players who miss out on selection for the Rugby World Cup in 2019, we are likely to see a few more talented players leaving home shores to ply their trade in colder climates in the hope of earning a call up for either one of the Six Nations teams or a second tier nation. The players who are closer to the end of their career will be on the same flights out to earn that final and probably deserved pay day.
Michelle van Eyden, Vodacom’s Executive Head of Sponsorship, highlighted the importance of giving back.
“Besides the innovation and excitement we will be seeing during Super Rugby in 2019, Vodacom is also extremely proud to be associating itself with CHOC.
Every Super Rugby season, Vodacom partners with an organisation that is in need of support, and with the Marvel partnership, we feel there is a perfect fit between the rugby super heroes we’ll see doing battle every weekend on the field and the little super heroes of CHOC who fight a far larger battle every day.”
We take a look at the early prospects of the South African franchises in Super Rugby 2019. The one concern that keeps on raising its head is one of quality coaching. The appointment of Head Coaches appears to haphazard, with little to no succession planning in place.
Cell C Sharks
The Sharks squad remains fairly static. Their biggest loss will the retirement of stalwart loose forward Keegan Daniel. On paper, the Sharks squad is a strong one. Their third place in the South African Conference and eighth overall was certainly not what they were aiming for in 2018.
A lot has been said of the influence of Head Coach Robert du Preez and his sons. Many felt that Du Preez was living on borrowed time and it was only due to the fact that the Sharks won the Currie Cup title in 2018 that he retained his position. Although there is no fact behind the statement, there were further comments that the Du Preez name was too dominant in the change room, with the coach and his three sons ruling the roost, causing discontent in the squad.
Whatever the reasons, the Sharks did not deliver the results that would be expected of a squad of that quality. If Du Preez does not deliver a strong result in Super Rugby 2019, it would be hard to see him staying on for another season.
The Stormers have retained the quality in their squad from 2018. If we take a look at the players the Stormers have at their disposal, this is another team that did not deliver the result in 2018 that we would have expected. The question is, what will be different in 2019? They ended fourth in the South African Conference, with the Bulls beating them to the wooden spoon by virtue of points difference
Once again, we find ourselves looking at the coaching structure. Robbie Fleck cut his coaching teeth at age group level at Western Province. He was suddenly elevated to the position of Head Coach at the Stormers after Eddie Jones filled the role for what must have been the shortest tenure in professional rugby of just two weeks.
The playing resources at Newlands are surely better than what has been delivered during Fleck’s time at the helm?
There have been rumours of a palace revolt at the Stormers recently, which the Western Province Rugby Union (the Franchise holders) originally tried to deny. This is unnecessary ‘noise’ around the team which they do not need in the lead up to Super Rugby 2019 competition. More regarding the the difficulties that the Western Province Rugby Union and Stormers face can be found here.
We can’t argue too much about a team that have been finalists in the last three seasons. Super Rugby 2019 might be more of a challenge though. They face the New Zealand conference this year, which is more competitive than the Australian conference they faced in 2018. This would no have been a major issue if they had not been subjected to a significant loss of playing resources. Below, a sample of who they have lost ahead of the 2019 edition of the tournament:
Ruan Dreyer (Gloucester), Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Sale Sharks), Marco Jansen van Vuuren (RSA Sevens). Jaco Kriel (Gloucester), Franco Mostert (Gloucester), Jacques van Rooyen (Bath)
Their most significant arrival will be former Sharks and one-Test Springbok lock Stephan Lewies.
This is one franchise we do not have to question the credentials of the Head Coach. Swys de Bruin has a long history of coaching in South Africa and is an assistant to Springbok Coach Rassie Erasmus.
The Bulls have done some decent recruiting before Super Rugby 2019.
Incoming players include:
Schalk Brits (Saracens), Stedman Gans (RSA Sevens), Cornal Hendricks (not contracted),
Dylan Sage (RSA Sevens), Paul Schoeman (Cheetahs), Rosko Specman (RSA Sevens),
Duane Vermeulen (Toulon)
The most significant outgoing player is former captain Adriaan Strauss.
The biggest issue facing the Bulls will be how their new coaching team moves their squad forward after losing Head Coach John Mitchell to the England Rugby setup. Their coaching appointments seem to be aimed more at staff that the management structure are comfortable with than those that will set the tournament alight. As one wag on social media hinted, the Bulls have been digging in the bargain bin for coaches.
New Head Coach Pote Human is a solid rugby man, but does not inspire the confidence needed to believe that he is the man to turn this Bulls squad into the tournament winning team of their golden years. Pine Pienaar, who was retrenched at the Bulls in 2017, makes a sudden re-appearance at Defense Coach. Another returning coach is Anton Leonard, who will be looking after the lineout.
Two appointments that might help to balance out this coaching set-up are Chris Roussouw as Backline and Attack Coach and Hayden Groepes retains his position as Skills and Kicking Coach.
Super Rugby 2019: The First Round
The Cell C Sharks kick off the South African conference with an away game against the Sunwolves. That is followed by a South African derby, with the Vodacom Bulls hosting the DHL Stormers. The weekend’s fixtures are concluded with the Jaguares hosting the Emirates Lions.