Super 15 preview: SA conference

It’s that time of the year again.  Time to start skipping varsity lectures, updating your Superbru during work hours, and generally losing every bet you can because of your unreasonable faith in South African teams somehow being able to “pull of a surprise playing in Christchurch”.

STORMERS

Coach: Super Rugby’s cuddliest coach, Allister Coetzee, has a lot to prove after being passed over for the Bok coach.  His biggest problem?  A trophy cabinet as empty and hollow as the latest Maroon Five album.  If the cuddle monster can’t win trophy’s he won’t be putting on that Bok coaching jersey any time soon.

Captain: The man. The legend.  Terror of all you can eat buffet bars everywhere. Schalk Burger. Beautiful freak.

Man to watch: Andries Bekker. An 8 foot tall freak of a man, capable of two carrying basket balls in one hand (try that) while simultaneously running like a winger and calling in his stock market trades from his Bluetooth headset.  New Zealanders are in awe of him, girls love him, and fashionistas everywhere are horrified by his mullet.  With Big Vic finally leaving the Bok scene, this is Bekker’s year to shine.

Summary: Every year it is the same old story.  The Stormers look good in pre-season.  The local Cape Times and Argus report that Habana is “back to his best form” in the training facilities.  Unfortunately by that they mean his table tennis skills because they can’t possibly be referring to his rugby form can they?  Round about midway through the season the Stormers put on a display of rugby that is everything you ever want in a team.  They whip the Blues 65 to 0 in New Zealand.  People start fantasizing about a Newlands final.  Then they cock it up somehow when it really matters.  Everybody gets wasted at that really disgusting bar in the Grand Stand.  Don’t put me through that again, I just don’t think I can handle it.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune:  Your Own Worst Enemy.

BULLS

Coach: Frans Ludeke. What a career plan, follow on the coat tails of Heyneke Meyer.  Don’t change anything. Use the structures and players your predecessor put in place. Watch the trophies come rolling in.

Captain: Pierre Spies.  Underwear model.  Former hurdles champion.  The man your girlfriend really wants to have sex with when she pretends she’s into you.  But he hasn’t actually done anything remotely resembling a rugby play in the last 3 years.  But he does look good in a tight shirt. So there’s that.

Man to watch: Johann Sadie.  As is usually the case with players who transfer to the Bulls something about the setup brings out the best in them.  This promising backline player will be sorely missed by the Stormers.  Especially when they check Jean de Villiers ID document and discover that Jean is actually 82 years old.

Summary:  There’s one slight problem with Ludeke’s grand plan of not changing anything that Heyneke Meyer put in place, including allowing Victor Matfield to coach himself and be in charge of his own disciplinary hearings.  Eventually people get old and leave.  Then you’re royally screwed.  The Bulls starting line up this weekend is missing a host of the regulars.  No Bakkies, Du Preez or Matfield.   It doesn’t bode well for the season ahead.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune: Wages of Sin.  You just know big ol’ Vic gave them a talking to about getting right with the Right.

CHEETAHS

Coach: Naka Drotske has been honing his Tony Soprano impersonation all summer long.  A grizzled veteran with a face straight out of New Jersey and a trophy cabinet as empty as ….

Captain: Adrian Strauss– has more syllables in his name than caps…experience isn’t everything, is it?

Man to watch: Heinrich  Brussouw.  Big Daddy Rugby’s personal hero.  The Lobster Boy is everything you want in a loose forward. Intelligent, scrappy with an unbelievable ability to sneak turnovers out of nowhere.  If you were stuck in a Shawshank Redemption prison and badly needed a nail file, a box of playing cards and two nylon guitar strings for your escape, Heinrich “Scrounger” Brussouw would be your man.

Summary: The Cheetah’s are well and truly screwed this year as they are every year.  They are a talent farm for the rest of the country with the Sharks in particular waving big coastal money in the bright eyes of promising farm boys while Cheetah’s talent scouts look on helplessly.  They can’t retain the depth needed to be an effective team, so despite the flashiness of the odd upset, they are on their way out.  They’re not politically connected enough either to keep themselves from being replaced by the Kings next season.  Enjoy it while it lasts fellows.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune: I’m Goin’ Down

SHARKS

Coach: John Plumtree.  What is up with those ears John?  I can’t stop staring at them.

Captain: Keegan Daniel.  I got nothing here.  There’s not much to say about a captain who allows his coach to recruit Marius Joubert.   Marius Joubert.  Wasn’t he in his glory days before they invented the internet?

Player to watch:  Pat Lambie.  The man most rugby fans south of Pretoria want to dislodge Morne Steyn from the Green and Gold number 10 jersey.  If only he didn’t look like he just got done playing soccer for the Sweet Valley under 10s.  Maybe it’s the band-aid on his knee, or the fluffy do on his head.  He doesn’t exactly instil fear with his looks.  But he’s the closest thing South Africa have had to a complete flyhalf since the days I hacked by my Playstation and built that fake player on EA Sports Rugby.

Summary: The team known more for its cheerleaders and its slavish devotion to John Smit than for its trophy winning ability will again put out the best squad this year out of the Saffer franchises.  Oh, you meant the rugby team not the cheerleaders?  In that case, don’t get your hopes up just yet.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune: My Best Was Never Good Enough.  (That one’s for you Bismarck.)

LIONS

Coach: John Mitchell.  He is scary enough that you’d probably want to play your best so that he doesn’t give you “that look” in the dressing room after the game.

Captain: Josh Strauss.  Will he? Won’t he?  Shave his beard?  Release a new four track indie-folk record?  Lions management must love having this hippie folk rocker on their payroll.  He is Google gold-dust.

Player to watch: Elton Jantjies.  Webster himself.  Mini Carlos Spencer.  Except he can kick.

Summary:  For some reason it takes years between a South African rugby team winning the Currie Cup and becoming a decent Super Rugby team.  I’ve never quite figured that out.  Like the Cheetahs, depth is a problem.  It’s all very well winning domestic trophies while the Boks are away, but you get exposed at Super Rugby level if you don’t have enough quality players to call on.  Luckily for Lions there is far too much money sloshing around Ellis Park for them to ever be allowed to be relegated.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune: Don’t Look Back.  (Best sung as you’re bulletting straight out of Ellis Park.  Whatever you do.  Don’t. Look. Back.)

The cuddle monster wants a trophy so bad he can almost taste it.

Smokey the Bowler

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