Mallett: SA must learn from Lions, WP
Johannesburg - Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett hopes that the rugby produced late last season by the Lions and Western Province will take hold in this season’s Super Rugby tournament, which begins this weekend.
He also expects South Africa’s teams to do far better than in 2014 when SA franchises occupied four of the last seven places on the overall log.
“I feel positive about the Sharks, who will be very competitive because of (coaches) Brendan Venter and Gary Gold,” Mallett said via a press statement on Thursday. “The Stormers have a far better draw than in 2014 and ought to gain good momentum.”
The Bulls, Mallett feels, are a changed side and will be difficult to beat in Pretoria, but they need to sort out their travel issues.
Mallett, nowadays a pundit on SuperSport, believes the Lions will continue to build on last season’s good form, but doubts the Cheetahs will be able to overcome losing captain Adriaan Strauss, plus Trevor Nyakane.
“The brand of rugby South Africa plays is always physical and confrontational. If we can maintain our strengths - set pieces and aggressive defence and ball-carrying loose forwards - and get more variety from our backs I will be very encouraged,” said Mallett.
“We’ll become less predictable and harder to defend against. The real benefit of the Currie Cup was that Western Province and the Lions mixed it up and played a good brand of rugby. Hopefully SA teams learn from that and take it into Super Rugby.”
He doesn’t anticipate the impending World Cup having a huge bearing on the 2015 tournament, saying that the solid body of the Springbok team will have already been picked by coach Heyneke Meyer. “He probably has 15-20 guys already secure in his mind. He’ll use Super Rugby to probably look at the last 10 spots.”
As for the overseas teams, Mallett isn’t looking beyond the traditional powerhouses.
“Sonny Bill Williams will be back at the Chiefs, which will make them good again. And then it’s the usual like the Crusaders and the Waratahs, who play very good rugby and will have coach Michael Cheika back again. I expect the Brumbies will be next best in the Australian conference.”
Mallett says he enjoys his current role as a rugby analyst.
“I love the television work,” said Mallett. There’s some fantastic rugby to come and I’ll be watching it all on SuperSport.”
The weekend action sets the scene for a marathon 125-game season that culminates with the final on July 4.