5 things we'd like to see in Super Rugby 2019
Cape Town - There's now less than a month to go until the start of Super Rugby 2019.
It is obviously a big year, with the Rugby World Cup getting under way in Japan in September, and this Super Rugby season will provide a platform for those players on the fringes to convince Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus that they should be one of 31 men tasked with winning a third World Cup for South Africa.
Because this is a World Cup year, there will be no international break in June, meaning that Super Rugby will be able to run through uninterrupted to its conclusion.
Super Rugby has been in the firing line over the past couple of seasons, with several issues blighting the tournament, from dwindling crowds to refereeing inconsistencies resulting in some heavy criticism directed at the competition.
Here, we look at FIVE things from a South African perspective that we would like to see in this year's competition.
1. Support for the local derbies
Super-hero jerseys or not, the four South African franchises are desperate for crowds to return to their stadiums. The local derbies have far more riding on them this season with it being a World Cup year, so there could be some potentially explosive altercations. On some level, SA Rugby must be applauded for at least trying to mix things up with a super-hero theme geared at attracting a younger audience, but in the end, it is the rugby itself that will sell the product. The Bulls host the Stormers in week one, and anything less than a near full house will not be a good sign.
2. Referees getting it right
It's tough out there for the match officials given that there are so many grey areas in interpretation, but hopefully in 2019 SANZAAR has all the referees on the same page. All sides ask for is consistency, and last year there was none. We would also like to see the role of the TMO limited, as the new change in law suggests it will be. The referee is the one in charge and has now been tasked with making the final call, but there is still the possibility of the TMO coming into play too often, which slows the game down in infuriating fashion.
3. SA sides need to peak
The Lions have made the final for the last three years, but they need support from their three local rivals this year. The Sharks look a well-settled unit and one capable of ruffling a few feathers in 2019. Because of the Conference system, not all the South African sides can progress to the play-offs. A few wins in New Zealand and Australia and a generally competitive brand of South African rugby, however, would certainly go down well with a World Cup just months away.
4. Look after the Springboks
We do not need the likes of Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen being run into the ground by their Super Rugby coaches in 2019. There MUST be alignment between Erasmus and the franchises this year, and the Boks and their World Cup charge must be made the priority. This includes playing players in positions where Erasmus sees them featuring for the national side, while it must also ensure that the Bok players are rested regularly.
5. New, young South African talent
Last year we had the likes of Damian Willemse and Aphiwe Dyantyi setting the competition alight and launching themselves onto the international stage. That is always one of the most exciting elements of the competition. This year, watch out for the likes of Hacjivah Dayimani (Lions), Aphelele Fassi (Sharks) and Juarno Augustus (Stormers).