Reasons for Hope
After the 2015 World Cup, plenty of seasoned campaigners have moved on and teams have taken the opportunity to refresh their squads. Let me see if I can find that silver lining for you, as well as trying to work out what teams are actually in what conference.
Africa 1 Conference
Reason for Hope
|After a slow start getting organised (World Cup 2015 hangover maybe) The Sunwolves have announced former All Black Mark Hammett as head coach. The team is made up predominantly of local Japanese players, 15 of these have national representative honors. the rest of the team is made up of a smattering of players from several pacific Rim nations, USA, Australia, Samoa and Fiji.Their greatest asset may not be on the field, but in the stands. If they can play an exciting and committed brand of Rugby, as they did under Eddie Jones, the local population will rival their South African counterparts for fanaticism.It’s a crowded sporting market in Japan, but they have the population to support a strong Rugby team.|
|They came 3rd as the highest ranked South African team, last year before the finals but were knocked out by the ACT Brumbies. While they had a winning season in 2015 and were the only South African team in the finals, they have opted for a new Head Coach in Robbie Fleck.They have a fairly horrible finals record, only making the final once from 6 Semi final appearances, of which they lost. Like the previously hapless Waratahs you would think they are due.Their one true hope is this bloke – Eben Etzebeth. They need him to fire.|
|You can put The Cheetahs in the same shallow pool as the Lions and Kings of the Africa 2 conference. They will probably win a handful of games this year at home in Bloemfontein but will post little threat to the Bulls or Stormers. There will not be many in the Sunwolves who have traveled to the high-veld before so they may pick up important conference points there.Strangely their team boasts more Namibian national caps than Springbok caps. Its great to see that two Namibian front rowers are going to be exposed to a high level of competition week in week out.|
|They are the most successful super Rugby team from South Africa and pose a threat more often than not. They know how to play winning football to make the semi-finals. A couple of lean years in 2014 and 2015 saw them finish 9th after making the finals the two years before.I’m picking them with the Sunwolves to battle it out for the guaranteed conference ‘spot’. If the Bulls do not guarantee their finals spot they will probably pick up the South African group spot over their conference mates the Stormers and group counterpart the Sharks. They might just scrape through due to the fact that the 3 lowest South African teams are so poor.Bulls vs the Cheetahs/Lions/Kings could look like this.|