There is just enough time left before the start of the Super 15 to look at the draw for each of of the South African teams, and the potential impact of this on their chances of winning the tournament.
The DHL Stormers’ 2013 Super Rugby fixtures:
All kick-off times local (SA time); home games in bold
Friday, February 22: vs Bulls, Pretoria – 19h10
Saturday, March 2: vs Sharks, Durban – 19h10
Saturday, March 9: vs Chiefs, DHL Newlands – 17h05
March 15/16/17 – BYE
Saturday, March 23: vs Brumbies, DHL Newlands – 19h10
Saturday, March 30: vs Crusaders, DHL Newlands – 19h10
Saturday, April 6: vs Cheetahs, Bloemfontein – 17h05
Saturday, April 13: vs Sharks, DHL Newlands – 17h05
April 19/20/21 – BYE
Friday, April 26: vs Hurricanes, Venue TBC – 09h35
Friday, May 3: vs Blues, Venue TBC – 09h35
Saturday, May 11: vs Waratahs, Sydney – 11h40
Friday, May 17: vs Rebels, Melbourne – 11h40
Saturday, May 25: vs Reds, DHL Newlands – 17h05
Saturday, June 1: vs Kings, DHL Newlands – 17h05
Saturday, June 29: vs Cheetahs, DHL Newlands – 19h10
Saturday, July 6: vs Kings, Port Elizabeth – 17h05
Saturday, July 13: vs Bulls, DHL Newlands – 19h10
Super Rugby Qualifiers:
Friday, Saturday, July 19/20
Super Rugby Semifinals:
Friday, Saturday, July 26/27
Super Rugby Finals:
Saturday, August 3
This certainly is no “gently easing into it” opening of the tournament, is it?
Facing the Bulls in the first week, and last year’s finalists in the following two weeks, is a daunting prospect.
After the past weekend’s warm up match against the Bulls, Naka Drotské commented, tongue in cheek, that there was something new at the Bulls: they kicked off to the right once, whereas in the past 10 years they only kicked off to the left. Other than that, it was pressure and smothering rugby, much like England on Saturday against Ireland.
We can expect all the usual suspects from overseas performing as expected, with the possible exception of the Blues, who will be intent not to repeat their poor showing of last year. The Crusaders are notoriously slow starters, and facing them at Newlands early in the tournament, must be a bonus.
Gavin Rich pointed out in an article this weekend that a good start is crucial for any team. The Stormers stayed at the top of the log, or thereabouts, last season, which always put pressure on their opponents as the tournament progressed, and injuries took its toll. The Sharks, again, started off badly, and despite playing their best rugby towards the end, found the hurdle too high in the final.
Playing the Kings twice in the final four matches must be seen as a bonus, and an opportunity to rest key players, should the Stormers be in contention for the knock-out stage of the competition.
I also note that Sanzar did away with the silly decision to award four points for a bye. All it did was to give the weaker teams an undeserved, false sense of achievement for a week.
Will the Stormers again head the SA contingent at the end of the scheduled matches? A good start will certainly enhance their chances, especially if they manage to win the first three.