Author: Ryan D
February 24 - South African rugby has undergone more change in the last few
months than it has for many years. Household names of the last ten or so years
including Victor Matfield and John Smit have retired or moved overseas, and we
have a new Bok coach in the impressive Heyneke Meyer.
The Super Rugby tournament will be more exciting than ever before, partly due
the to exciting local talent that will be on display, but the fact that the most
of the teams in each of the three conferences are matched closely this year.
Our Editor, Ryan, will provide weekly previews of all the games, with the
Ryan's tipping success ratio in 2011: 72%
Friday 24 February: Blues (-2) v Crusaders (+2) - Auckland
The first round kicks off with one of the biggest local derbies in the
competition. The Crusaders have not won the tournament since 2008 and will be
without Richie McCaw and Dan Carter for a number of weeks. The Blues on the
other hand have recruited well to add to their impressive roster, especially in
the backs with the likes of Piri Weepu and Ma'a Nonu moving to Auckland.
I think that this will be the Blues' year. They often start well and fizzle
out towards the latter half of the tournament, but they have the depth and
experience this year to go all the way.
Margin Tip: Blues by less than 5 at 3/1
Prediction: Blues by a whisker
Friday, 24 February: Brumbies (-5) v Force (+5),
South African fans will no doubt keep a keen eye on the Brumbies this year
with Jake White steering the ship in Canberra. He has a young squad with many
unknown names who will struggle with the pace of Super Rugby. The Brumbies will
fight it out with the Rebels for the bottom spot in the Aussie conference. We
expect them to come out firing at home and sheer energy will take them to
victory in Round 1.
Margin Tip: Brumbies by 6-10 at 3/1
Prediction: Brumbies more than 7
Friday, 24 February: Bulls (-2) v Sharks (+2),
Blood, guts and even tears. That is what we have become used to with this
encounter of decades. The Bulls have lost about a million caps and enough has
been written about the departure of the big names. I am very excited about their
youngsters who started to look good towards the end of the 2011 Currie Cup.
Plays like Johann Sadie and Derek Hougaard will have the faithful out of their
seats and look out for the likes of CJ Stander.
The Sharks have finally recruited a real midfield, and with Lambie at 10, the
Durban fans will feel they are onto a winner.
This game is hard to call but I feel the Bulls will surprise this year and do
better than expected.
Margin Tip: Bulls by 1-5 at 3/1
Prediction: Bulls by less than a try
Saturday, 25 February: Chiefs (-7) v Highlanders (+7),
Cracking encounter with lots to look out for including Sonny Bill Williams in
Chiefs colors and the debut of Pom James Haskell for the Clan. Home ground
advantage will be the only real difference here.
Margin Tip: Chiefs by 6-10 at 3/1
Saturday, 25 February: Waratahs (-2) v Reds (+2),
Another cracking derby that could well play a big role in determining the
eventual winner of the Aussie conference. The Waratahs once again have major
injury issues before the season even starts, having lost both their first choice
wingers for most of the season, and the fitness of Captain Rocky Elsom still an
unknown. The Reds are without the annoyingly good Quade Cooper, but they have a
familiar looking squad. We back the Tahs at home though. They will be a well
coached side this year and Sarel Pretorius will give them the zing they have
lacked in the past.
Margin Tip: Tahs by 1-5 at 3/1
Prediction: Tahs by 3
Saturday, 25 February: Stormers (-12) v Hurricanes(+12), Cape Town
The Stormers need to start their season well. Their inability to score enough
points against good sides is what cost them last year when they simply could not
break down the Reds defense in the semi final. They meet a rebuilding Hurricanes
in round 1 and will be hoping to get early momentum. I can't wait to see new
young players like Eben Etzebeth in Super Rugby.
Margin Tip: Stormers by 11-15 at 11/2
Prediction: Stormers by 12
Saturday, 25 February: Lions (-4) v Cheetahs (+4), Johannesburg
With inevitable relegation at stake to make way for the Kings next year, this
match has more significance than any other in this round. Wit their amazing
Currie Cup win last year you just have to back the Lions who could push many of
the top teams to the wire this year. Despite the excitement in Bloem with you
Goosen at 10, and the return of Heinrich Brussow, the Cheetahs are likely going
to be playing Vodacom Rugby next year.
Margin Tip: Lions by 6-10 at 3/1
Prediction: Lions by 9
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