Well that’s it folks. You can plan to have your wedding on June 9 now, because the weekend of the Super 15 final sure as heck ain’t going to be a weekend to celebrate South African rugby. The Stormers’ loss this weekend is the early signal that the trophy cabinets will be empty this year.
The format of the competition gives South Africa one freebie in the post-season. By virtue of the conference system one South African team has to go through. And that will be about it. It doesn’t look likely that any South African team will be good enough to earn a home advantage for the business end of the post-season. And that will kill you.
Here’s why it will be a trophy-less Super 15 for the teams from the Republic:
Lions and Cheetahs: both teams used to be part of the old Cats franchise. And they still play like it. Despite promising starts to the season, they let you down each week with atrocious defence and an inability to grind out close games. Clearly both teams have been implementing Dick Muir’s patented “Red Sea” defence. Here’s a clue: when Kobus Wiese introduces your team as likely to be involved in an exciting match because they are “great on attack” you know it’s just a euphemism for having crap defence. Next to that defence, anything looks “great”.
Bulls: Heyneke’s influence is over and the structures he put in place are no longer supporting the new management team. When your play is based on the simple premise of stuffing up everyone up front and grinding them into the dirt it’s hard to win when your squad is made up retired bridge players and little old ladies from the church fund-raiser. This team is old, old, old.
Sharks: A win over the ship going down known as the Brumbies doesn’t save the Sharkies I am afraid. A poor overseas tour left them with a lot of hard work to do and this isn’t the same Sharks squad of a few years ago that could pull the late season comeback off. There’s no young John Smit charging up the middle of the park and no Francois Steyn banging over drop goals from the parking lot of the Shoprite-Checkers outside Kings Park stadium.
Stormers: Despite whatever Kool-Aid other SA rugby outlets were drinking, the Stormers were the best bet to bring home the title for South Africa. However, this weekend’s loss against the Crusaders exposes a cruel truth. They just don’t have a pack capable of domination. Yes, having the flash of Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie will get you through the mid-table games against the Aussies, but if you want to compete against the Blues and the Crusaders you need to have some serious uglies in your front row. The Stormers have hookers, but their props are more interested in looking flash in the backline then they are in doing the hard work. Here’s a clue that you have a totally shit front row: Supersport commentators glow about how much work your props get done “around the paddock”. In other words, they aren’t scumming or mauling – they’re just looking pretty hanging out on the wing.
That’s all folks. Your June 9 weekend should open up for a round of 18 or that wedding you need to go to.