Tank Lanning

Six into five doesn't go!

2013-02-21 09:41
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
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 bonus points.

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 boardroom.

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

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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