Sharks to pack most bite?
Durban - For the second year running the Sharks will start the Super
Rugby season with a new coach and the mantle of South Africa's most
likely championship contenders.
Jake White led the side to top of
the South African conference in 2014 but not beyond the semi-finals as
they slipped to defeat against Crusaders in Canterbury.
resigned late last year and has been replaced in Durban by former
Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold, who has looked overseas for
additions to the squad.
In have come two South African-born former
England internationals, prop Matt Stevens and lock Mouritz Botha, as
well as New Zealand-born wing Jack Wilson, all from English club
Scrumhalf Conrad Hoffmann and centre Lionel Cronjé
arrive after spending last season with the Brumbies. The side is packed
with Springboks and look the best balanced of the South African
The Stormers are already sweating over injuries with
forwards Ruan Botha, Frans Malherbe, Nizaam Carr and Siya Kolisi, as
well as utility back Damian de Allende all playing no part in
Experienced centre Jean de Villiers will miss the
entire campaign through injury, while fullback Jaco Taute sits out six
weeks with a knee complaint.
They have more worries at lock with
Eben Etzebeth and Manuel Carizza also carrying injuries, and Gerbrandt
Grobler serving a two-year drug ban.
The loss of Gio Aplon, Deon
Fourie, Peter Grant and Tiaan Libenberg will further weaken a squad that
looks to be full of promise but lacking experience.
coach Allister Coetzee has already said this will be his sixth and final
season with the side before departing for Japan.
The Bulls have
loose forward Pierre Spies back as their captain after he missed last
season in its entirety with a torn bicep and the most of the year before
They have also recruited experienced Springboks hooker
Adriaan Strauss from the Cheetahs and have live-wire flyhalf Handre
Pollard to fill the number 10 jersey.
With a draw that sees them play four of their first five matches at home at Loftus Versfeld, early momentum will be key.
Cheetahs struggled all last season and there is nothing to suggest much
will change in Bloemfontein, while the Lions will do well to repeat the
seven wins they managed in last year's competition.