Is SA actually taking the Super Rugby title drought seriously enough?
And more importantly, is it still realistic to expect a local franchise to win the title again given the economic climate?
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A new year is all about embarking on new beginnings.
Or is it?
Many of us make new year’s resolutions, but very few of us stick to them, mostly because we set goals a little beyond our reach.
It was therefore interesting to hear Bulls star and former Sharks prop Wiehahn Herbst, speaking during a television interview this week, claiming there is no use in playing in the Super Rugby competition this year if they were not in it to win it.
With the fun-filled Super Hero action taking place on Sunday, all local teams will be hoping to kick the season off on a brisk note as they chase big dreams in an attempt to break the SA teams’ 10-year trophy drought.
Realistically, however, do any of the Bulls, Stormers, Sharks or Lions have a fighting chance for the title?
I do have serious doubts, but I would like to be proved wrong.
The Bulls were the top local team last year, and together with the Sharks they were the only South African sides in the playoffs, where they failed to make it past the quarter-final stage.
But having had to travel, it was always going to be a tough ask to reach the semifinals.
For the Stormers and the Lions it was a tough season which was mostly confined to building their depth for the 2020 campaign.
The Bulls and the Stormers will need to overcome the loss of a host of quality players in the off-season, though the Stormers have managed to keep the majority of their World Cup stars and could at least on paper boast the strongest squad, despite missing the likes of Eben Etzebeth and Damian de Allende.
The Lions, meanwhile, will need to juggle the task of developing their younger players while recruiting some old hands.
And with three of the SA teams boasting new head coaches – the Bulls still have Pote Human in charge – one can see potential growing pains, at least at first.
While John Dobson at the Stormers, Sean Everitt at the Sharks and Cash van Rooyen at the Lions will obviously use the building blocks that departing coaches have put in place, they will no doubt also have ideas of their own and will want to introduce new ideas.
For instance, how will Van Rooyen’s approach differ to that of Swys de Bruin?
Will the Stormers score more tries with Dobson than they did under Robbie Fleck?
And will Everitt focus the Sharks’ campaign on more than just a forward-based abrasive approach like the one Robert du Preez put in place?
Whatever the case, let’s hope the SA teams make a fist of 2020.
Rudolph Jacos is The Citizen’s chief rugby writer.
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