Connect to share and comment

RugbyU: South African Super 15 team penpix

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Penpix of South African teams playing in this season's Super 15 series, which starts on Friday.

CENTRAL CHEETAHS

Coach: Naka Drotske

Captain: Adriaan Strauss

Stadium: Free State, Bloemfontein

Best finish: 10th (2006, 2010, 2012)

Often the most entertaining South African side as they favour keeping the ball in hand and have elusive runners, but a sometimes non-existent defence means they consistently finish in the bottom half of the table.

They boast a superb goal-kicker in young Springbok Johan Goosen, who was the leading points scorer in 2012 until a mid-season shoulder injury sidelined him for the rest of the competition.

Giant Ghana-born left-wing Raymond Rhule is set to make his debut after an outstanding first season in the domestic Currie Cup, scoring numerous tries through pace and power.

Hooker Adriaan Strauss and utility prop Coenie Oosthuizen are the pick of a pack that has lost veteran No. 8 Juan Smith, who retired this week after being crocked just two games into a comeback from a two-year injury absence.

COASTAL SHARKS

Coach: John Plumtree (NZL)

Captain: Keegan Daniel

Stadium: Kings Park, Durban

Best finish: Runners-up (2001, 2007, 2012)

The Sharks scraped into the play-offs last season and then eliminated defending champions Queensland Reds in Brisbane and Western Stormers in Cape Town before travel fatigue caught up with them in a heavy final loss at Waikato Chiefs.

Hopes of another good run have taken a few early blows with injuries sidelining captain and No. 8 Keegan Daniel and centre Tim Whitehead for a minimum of four rounds.

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis is another star who must watch the early matches from the stand, leaving Craig Burden to deputise between Springbok props Tendai "The Beast" Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis.

The pressure will be on fly-half and goal-kicker Patrick Lambie, as he slugs it out with Goosen for the Springbok No. 10 shirt, while centre Francois Steyn can put the ball between the posts from inside his own half.

NORTHERN BULLS

Coach: Frans Ludeke

Captain: Pierre Spies

Stadium: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Best finish: Champions (2007, 2009, 2010)

Made the play-offs last season with a transitional team after the loss of legends such as retired Victor Matfield and transferred Bakkies Botha and Fourie du Preez, but were found wanting away to Canterbury Crusaders.

The lure of the euro will further deplete the Bulls' stocks at the end of the 2013 campaign with fly-half Morne Steyn and lock Juandre Kruger off to France on lucrative contracts.

Much is expected of centre Jan Serfontein, captain of the 2012 Junior World Cup-winning team while scrum-half Francois Hougaard needs to recapture the form shown as an impact player at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

While a fourth title would appear to be beyond the Bulls, they hope Steyn regains the world-class goal-kicking form that deserted him last year, and a top-six finish and a place in the play-offs is a realistic expectation.

SOUTHERN KINGS

Coach: Matt Sexton (NZL)

Captain: Luke Watson

Stadium: Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth

Best finish: First appearance

No one is giving the controversial debutants a chance of survival and the dice are certainly loaded against the eastern Cape team and New Zealand-born coach Matt Sexton.

After many years of unfulfilled promises to elevate the Kings and boost the sport in the area of the country with the most black rugby players, they had a "boardroom" promotion at the expense of bottom 2012 team Golden Lions.

But if the doom-and-gloom merchants are to be believed and a Kings side short of stars and depth finish last in the South African conference, they will face a play-off with the Lions for a 2014 place.

Captain and loose forward Luke Watson has plenty of Super experience with Western Stormers, and a kind draw which sees them start at home to Australian strugglers Western Force might provide some desperately needed momentum.

WESTERN STORMERS

Coach: Allister Coetzee

Captain: Schalk Burger

Stadium: Newlands, Cape Town

Best finish: Runners-up (2010)

An outstanding defence helped get them to the semi-finals last year, but a shock home loss to Coastal Sharks meant another knockout disappointment for a team expected to be among the title challengers yet again this season.

They have gained from the demotion of the Golden Lions with fly-half Elton Jantjies and full-back/centre Jaco Taute moving south to Cape Town from Johannesburg for the Super 15 campaign.

Jantjies, whose limited game time with the Springboks last season triggered media and public criticism of coach Heyneke Meyer, faces stiff competition for the No. 10 shirt from Peter Grant, with both excellent goal-kickers.

The return of veteran flank Schalk Burger after a season on the sidelines is a huge boost although the injury curse has struck again with young lock Eben Etzebeth not expected to play for two months because of torn ankle ligaments.

dl/jw

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130214/rugbyu-south-african-super-15-team-penpix