Super Rugby 2019: Once again the Kiwis leave us floundering
New Zealand franchises have already announced their player rosters for next year’s tournament. And SA? Nope
An overused cliché is that failing to prepare means preparing to fail. But in the SA rugby context it cannot be truer, especially with 2019 being a World Cup year.
That means Super Rugby – yes, that monstrosity of a regional tournament that’s fighting for relevance – will start earlier than normal on February 15. It gives all the teams less time to prepare, but already the SA sides have given up key ground to their New Zealand counterparts.
Last week the five New Zealand franchises announced their player rosters for next year’s tournament. With the holy grail that is the William Webb-Ellis Cup in mind and player welfare an integral part of the sport, New Zealand Rugby have displayed a street-smart side that’s put their SA friends in the shade.
The ongoing end of year tour, the result against England at Twickenham, and “that tackle” by Owen Farrell on Andre Esterhuizen, are enough to drive any nation to distraction.
However, what’s lost in the midst was SA’s substandard Super Rugby returns, especially on the road.
One could say the Lions made the final and therefore the failings of the other teams could be overlooked. That would be folly, if not fatal, as no SA team won in Argentina and only the Sharks recorded a win in New Zealand. The Lions collected SA’s sole success in Australia.
It goes without saying that SA didn’t win a Test in Argentina and Australia while they surprised all with their breakthrough win against New Zealand in Wellington.
The small detail of SA’s Super Rugby sides’ inability to win on the road escalated at international level.
It shouldn’t be lost on the players and the administrators that the early announcing of squads allows players to settle mentally, knowing how to approach their off seasons and preparing mentally for what will be a demanding yet different season.
The World Cup can and will shift a nation’s regional rugby goals. Losses made in Super Rugby but gained in a World Cup do come with the benefit of a four-year reign.
However, there’s also the significant matter of the Bulls, who have yet to settle on replacements for outgoing CEO Barend van Graan and departed coach John Mitchell. And the Stormers, with their hopelessly inadequate coach, Robbie Fleck, are mired in off-the-field problems.
The Sharks and the Lions are relatively stable so can and should take the initiative ahead of their Cape Town and Pretoria colleagues.
However, this is reactionary SA rugby. There are just 14 weeks between now and the first 2019 Super Rugby game. If the squads aren’t announced by this time next month, please refer back to this story and don’t be shocked.
This is, after all, SA rugby and nothing about it should come as a shock.