Garrin Lambley

7 bold rugby predictions for 2017

2017-01-19 11:50
Garrin Lambley (File)

Coming off, results-wise, the worst year in Springbok history, nothing should really come as a shock in 2017.

While some may argue things simply can't get any worse, we're entering the unknown this year.

Below, 7 predictions you can bank on happening over the course of the next 12 months...

1. Allister Coetzee will keep his Springbok job

Ok, nothing 'bold' or shocking about that. SA Rugby simply don't have the R13 million to get rid of Coetzee after his 8 defeats from 12 Tests in 2016, a "record" that would literally have seen every other coach in every other sport sacked.

SA Rugby now sit with the proverbial egg on their faces after failing to include a performance clause in 'Toetie's contract.

It's hard not to like Coetzee as a person, but his friendly manner is also his biggest failing as his insistence on talking himself in circles and contradicting himself regarding selections has left supporters baffled.

Coetzee is around to stay. Through indabas and emails he's managed to talk his way into another year in the job.

2. The Sharks will top the Lions in the Africa 2 Conference

The Lions were South Africa's shining light in Super Rugby last season, but will suffer from 'second season syndrome' this time around.

Forget the fact that the Sharks and Lions will face Australian teams this season - the Stormers/Bulls/Cheetahs will all attest to it being no easier as they all found a way to finish behind the Lions in 2016.

Gary Gold has left the Sharks and Robert du Preez is by all accounts doing fabulous things on the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

Some key signings will have the Kings Park faithful smiling come playoff time...

3. Stormers/Bulls/Cheetahs in 3-way battle for Africa 1 honours

Difficult to pick a winner is what promises to be a dire group. To make matters even tougher, they'll all be up against the might of the New Zealand Conference this season.

The Stormers are the defending Africa 1 winners, but life at WPRU HQ is a shambles at present with the union actually celebrating liquidation late last year!

The five new faces confirmed to run out at Newlands this season will hardly have opponents quaking in their boots.

Dan Kriel isn't even the best player in his family, SP Marais wasn't wanted by the Kings, Sharks and Bulls, and who even knew Pieter-Steph du Toit had a brother called Johan? What Ramone Samuels and Stephan de Wit will offer remains to be seen.

(Breaking news, De Wit broke his ankle in training and faces life on the sidelines)

The Bulls have their own woes, but do have Handre Pollard back in the mix and surely will end up better than their ninth-place finish in 2016.

Admittedly the Cheetahs are rank outsiders, but they are the defending Currie Cup champions and coach Franco Smith is the flavour of the month. Can he make Bloemfontein something of a fortress?

Winners? Bulls (narrowly)

4. Kings will be better, but still embarrassing

On the field, the Kings were appalling in 2016. Off the field, they were the shambolic.

The conceded a staggering 684 points in 15 matches (average 45.6) and 95 tries (average 6.3).

While their squad for 2017 does on paper appear stronger, they resemble a Barbarians-type mob who will play well as individuals rather than as a collective unit.

Their only realistic chance for success will once again come against the Sunwolves and the Force.

5. France will beat the Boks in mid-year

A depleted Ireland side could consider themselves unlucky at losing their three-Test series to the Boks last year, but there'll be no such escape this time around.

Coetzee went to great lengths to use his (late) April appointment as a reason the Boks struggled against the Irish, but truth of the matter is he'll have exactly the same amount of time (training camps) ahead of the June clashes against the French.

Guy Noves' side will head to SA on the back of the Six Nations and spirited performances (albeit defeats) against the Wallabies and All Blacks late last year.

Series result: France 2-1

6. Boks will battle for Rugby Championship wooden spoon

No prizes for guessing the All Blacks will defend their Rugby Championship title, with an improved Wallaby side finishing as runners-up.

The Boks and Argentina, as was the case last year, will duel it out for the third and fourth spots, with little to choose from.

Nothing to suggest the Boks will win in Argentina so it will come down to bonus points and a sneaky win against Australia perhaps.

7. Blitzboks to be South Africa's shining light - again

Neil Powell's men currently top the standings after two of the 10 tournaments.

No country takes Sevens as seriously as South Africa does, but this season it will pay off with the overall series title - despite a few key injuries and players lost to Super Rugby.

BONUS PREDICTION!

8. Lightning won't strike twice, Boks WILL beat Italy!

The Boks will get the chance to avenge last year's horror defeat to lowly Italy on their 2017 end of year tour.

Coetzee's men crashed to a first-ever loss (20-18) against the Italians in Florence last year.

It was a dark day for rugby in the country, rivalled only by the defeat to Japan at the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

But the good news is the Boks will beat Italy this time around.

Sadly, I'm not so confident about their other year end Tests against Ireland and France...

Keen to make any other rugby predictions for 2017? If so, email us at mysport@sport24.co.za

Read more on:    garrin lambley  |  rugby
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