How will SuperRugby work out? I spoke to some former players who gave their views on what shape the various franchises are in and what they need to work on …
Butch James (2007 World Cup winner, former Sharks & Lions flyhalf)
I always hope the Sharks do well and hopefully they can go one step further this year. It will be interesting to see Pieter-Steph du Toit back and I think he’ll have a big season.
I think when Pat Lambie spoke about not worrying about scoring tries, he was playing it down because everyone seems to be on that course. So he’s trying to take the pressure off the team, but if they can put some tries on the scoreboard then they have a good chance of winning the competition. They’re not going to play a kicking game. Every team will try and score tries, the Bulls also want to do that.
The Sharks have brilliant forwards, a great pack, but I see some difficulties in the backs. I hope numbers nine-to-15 stay injury free this year because that’s what let us down last season.
Marius Hurter (1995 World Cup winner, former Bulls & Lions prop)
In our conference I’m backing the Sharks and Bulls to do well. The Bulls are due some luck, they’ve been through some hard times but I think Frans Ludeke is getting the squad fired up this year.
The Sharks are always a good outfit and they’re consistent as well.
The Bulls’ scrum is a worry, us Bulls always pride ourselves on that and I hope they sort it out. It’s just little things, but the scrum gives you a tactical advantage and it has a psychological effect as well. If you’re doing badly in the scrums then all your plays, all your attack, defence, is on the back foot. That piles up and it has a snowball effect. Lineouts, scrums, rucks is what Bulls rugby is about, and they just need to adapt to the laws and the referees.
But the Bulls have got the squad, it’s just a few technical things to sort out and gelling as a team.
John Slade (played over a hundred games for the Sharks at lock during the halcyon 1990s)
John Smit has brought something different to the Sharks and made some really good changes, so I’m very positive about their chances. Even last year they were very good, but then stumbled at the last hurdle in a very tough competition.
Gary Gold is a very good coach, Brendan Venter is a master craftsman, so the structure’s in place, they have the players and they’ve brought some extra players in like Mouritz Botha, Jean Deysel and Michael Claassens because what you need is depth.
It’s also a very happy squad and that flows on to the field and winning comes naturally. It’s very important that there’s no discontent, because that leads to trouble.
Joel Stransky (1995 World Cup winner, former Northern Transvaal, Sharks & Western Province flyhalf)
The Bulls have got some injured players back and they’ve said up front that they want to play with more freedom, but can they sustain that in pressure situations? The way they play has been a bit disappointing in the past and hopefully they use the ball a bit more this season.
The Sharks have a blend of youth and experience and they’re going to be a real force, while the Stormers tend to be hot and cold, they need to be more consistent. The Cheetahs are by far our weakest franchise, while the Lions are an unknown quantity. They have no real stars, but a wonderful game plan, they give it a full go, they’re committed and gutsy. But how long can they sustain that? In the end injuries will decide whether they have a mixed bag of results or not.