For this year there are six teams that seem to have the edge – the Bulls and Crusaders with the joint favourites tag, the Blues and Brumbies just behind them and for the underdogs I have to go with the Hurricanes and Stormers. Both those teams have been knocking on the door last year but failed at the last hurdle.
From a South African perspective we would like to see good running rugby and impressive defence. That will please the Springbok coach. Also, if a few prop forwards can put their hands up that it will suit the Springboks fine as we struggled in the November internationals with scrums.
As for the Super 14 of 2010, we are looking at a very promising year. The Stormers want to have their best season ever, the Sharks eye the semi finals after their own destruction last year and the Blue Bulls would love to extend their record for a third time. It does seem that the Cheetahs might struggle and fight for the wooden spoon with the Queensland Reds. The Lions, under new director Jake White, have the surprise of a lot of new players that may lift the franchise. There are a few teams that are going to find it tough as they travel first and then play their home games. But key to Super 14 success is to win all your home games and see if you can get a few away wins. That will put you close to the top four spots.
This is going to be a good year for rugby and deliver one of the closest encounters we will see in super rugby for a long time. With all eyes on the World Cup next year a lot of the teams might not be at full strength but this will give a chance for some new talent to shine.
Blue Bulls: Pretoria
Stormers: Cape Town
The Super 14 starts on 12 February and doesn’t finish until 29 May, with games being played each week on Fridays and Saturdays over the three and a half months. A total of 94 games will be played between South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. The Super 14 is the only tournament in the world that is played across so many different time zones.
SA games in February:
Fri 12 Feb: Cheetahs v Bulls (Bloemfontein)
Sat 13 Feb: Lions v Stormers (Johannesburg)
Sat 13 Feb: Sharks v Chiefs (Durban)
Fri 19 Feb: Sharks v Cheetahs (Durban)
Fri 19 Feb: Lions v Chiefs (Johannesburg)
Sat 20 Feb: Bulls v Brumbies (Pretoria)
Sat 20 Feb: Stormers v Waratahs (Cape Town)
Fri 26 Feb: Crusaders v Sharks (Christchurch)
Fri 26 Feb: Stormers v Brumbies (Cape Town)
Sat 27 Feb: Hurricanes v Lions(Wellington)
Sat 27 Feb: Cheetahs v Highlanders (Bloemfontein)
Sat 27 Feb: Bulls v Waratahs (Pretoria)