And seemingly just like that, it’s Pat
Lambie v Johan Goosen, Duane Vermeulen v Pierre Spies, Elton Jantjies v
Morne Steyn and Robert Ebersohn taking on Francois Steyn!
I can actually picture Gordon Bray, one of
the greatest commentators the world has ever seen, shedding tears of sheer
passion as he goes through his “Mate against mate, state against state”
introduction to the weekend...
This is Super Rugby people - the greatest
tournament on Earth... Well, if you took away the dreadful Aussie derbies and
the fact that the top three in each Conference are guaranteed a prime spot in
the appallingly named “Finals series”...
OK, so this is the Currie Cup of old, and
that was a pretty damn good spectacle. Add to it the cross conference matches,
even though each team loses out on one of those via drawing names out the hat,
and it remains a worthwhile watch, if slightly convoluted and brutally long.
Already the injury list is longer the pet
tapeworm Kate Moss keeps in her intestines, but sport scientists predicted that
2013 would be the year of pain given that 2011 saw no end of year tours after
the World Cup. That delivered fresher players in 2012, but with only two weeks
off between the 2012 and 2013 seasons for the top players, we are now seeing the
destruction being inflicted on our players by this torturous season structure.
The human body, no matter how hard we train
or how many supplements we enhance our urine with, was just not built to endure
such a physical battering. It’s a bit like asking someone to do the Dakar Rally
in a Smart car.
As such I do not think any of the SANZAR
countries has enough player stock to staff five franchise teams, hence the
tournament always having three or four teams that hobble around as walking
The Kiwis, perhaps through their judicious
use of the tough as teak Pacific Islanders, seem to have better player depth
than the rest. They of course, also choose not to select players plying their
trade outside of New Zealand for the All Blacks, and that keeps a good few
players in Super Rugby.
The Australians, given their small
population and diverse range of sports like Rugby League and Aussie Rules -
which are more popular than Rugby Union, quite literally do not have enough
people to stock their teams.
While here in SA we are happy to select
players earning Euro or Yen, which sees plenty of our top talent moving to the
much less physically demanding European or Japanese leagues, and perhaps more
importantly, by trying to keep both the Lions and Kings alive, we are actually
trying to stock not five, which is tricky enough, but six franchises!
Throw in the laughable (yet properly
unfunny) circumstances which sees the Kings getting just a year to prove
themselves in Super Rugby - after being told about their inclusion a few months
before the tournament, and I see a tragedy being played out in front of
desperate Nelson Mandela Bay eyes. No wonder we get trodden on in the SANZAR
The Cheetahs will cause an upset or two,
but not have the depth to sustain a season long effort, the Bulls are our dark
horse and could very well be contenders come July, but I think our national
flag will be carried by the Stormers and Sharks this year, with the latter
installed as favourites at very short odds.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt …
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