Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Both the Sharks and Stormers will be forceful contenders again for the Super Rugby title in 2013, but the latter team need to place a bigger emphasis on creating try-scoring opportunities, renowned critic Nick Mallett has said.
The successful former Springbok coach and now acclaimed television pundit writes these thoughts in the swansong edition (February) of Sports Illustrated magazine, which has been a feature of the local publishing landscape since the mid-1980s.
“The Stormers (2012 conference winners) and Sharks (eventual losing finalists) both possess two key elements of a serious Super Rugby title contender: depth and balance,” he said.
“The standout thing for me is the fact that both of them have young enough teams – in other words, they are not at the end of a cycle, but rather still developing their respective cycles.
“South Africa’s best hopes are still going to be those two. It will be particularly interesting for the Stormers to see how (flyhalves) Elton Jantjies and Peter Grant will be used and whether there will be a decent rotation policy, which I think is vital for success in this competition.
“It’s also vital for our Springbok players who need to be rested. It will be good to have guys like Jean de Villiers, and Jannie du Plessis at the Sharks, not playing every game of the season.
“The Sharks are almost the complete Super Rugby team, because they have incredible quality and depth in most positions, they play an attack-minded game, and they have great balance.
“They look to score tries, which is the biggest difference between them and the Stormers, (who were) the best defensive team in the competition last year, but ranked almost nowhere on attack.
“If you have that mindset, you cannot seriously expect to win this competition. In the end, Super Rugby is about entertainment and you’re not going to get fans excited with that kind of strategy.
“They need to create try-scoring opportunities, and they need to do that by using their backs – the encouraging thing is that there were very positive signs of that in WP’s (winning) Currie Cup campaign.”
Mallett also expects the Bulls to “push a bit harder than they did last year”, as they increasingly get over the mass exodus of senior icons two years ago.
In a separate exercise from Mallett’s preview, the magazine suggests these as the six sides making the playoffs cut: 1. Stormers; 2. Crusaders; 3. Sharks; 4. Highlanders; 5. Bulls; 6. Brumbies.
That, by extension, would mean the Stormers topping the SA Conference, the Crusaders the New Zealand one, and the Brumbies the Australian group (which would, under the tournament’s controversial rules, push Jake White’s charges to third-placed finish on the overall log).*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwingHAVE YOUR SAY:
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