I read with some confusion on certain media platforms how Super Rugby results so far is a bad thing for SA Rugby and continue to show our inferiority against (specifically) NZ teams.
It might be for the fact that results so far have not identified a clear favourite from the Republic to win the competition, but I personally think South Africans are simply not used to all five our franchises actually being competitive for once!
Sure, the Kings only won two games out of seven played so far, but for a franchises in their debut season who did not have a hope in hell they have always been competitive apart from one or two games and definitely exceeded everyone’s expectation. Add to that the Cheetahs’ amazing run of form which came to an end at Loftus this weekend making the South African conference an open race between four out of the five franchises (separated by 6 points on the log) and one could possibly understand the unfamiliar territory SA fans find themselves in.
The danger of this is that unlike previous years, there is little chance of two or three SA teams running away from the rest on the log ensuring a top six finish or play themselves into a home play-off based scenario, but this does not make the South African conference weak, in fact, far from it.
The Stormers who is currently in 4th position with 20 log points have beaten last years champions, the Chiefs, and also gave the best Australian team the Brumbies a bloody nose. The Sharks on the other hand might have had a bit of an off day against the Brumbies but then they manage to overcome the Crusaders at home. The Bulls will rue the fact that they let two games slip on tour they could easily have won and then of course, there is the Cheetahs who had an amazing 5-game winning streak which started on tour.
Also consider for a second the players that have impressed in the competition so far (add your own). Names like Jan Serfontein, Willie Le Roux, Robert Ebersohn, Lappies Labuschagne, Trevor Nyakane, Jacques Engelbrecht, Sergeal Pietersen, Kevin Buys, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Cobus Reinach, Wiehahn Herbst, Siya Kolisi are all players yet to earn a Bok cap but in some way or other made folks here and abroad sit up and take notice.
From where I sit, the only real problem in SA Rugby at the moment is that no franchise is guaranteed a win when they play each other! But that does not make us weaker, it makes us stronger. South Africa currently has two teams in the top six in the Sharks and the Cheetahs (with the Bulls on the same log points as the Cheetahs in 7th) and I don’t see that (number of teams in contention) change in the next two months.
Let me also just throw in a hugely successful launch of the new SA Club Championship and yet another exciting, if somewhat controversial, Varsity Cup and I reckon that SA Rugby for once is moving in the right direction, and I am helluva excited about it.