Why South African players favour URC over Super Rugby
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: A couple of South African rugby players have pinpointed why they prefer the United Rugby Championship over the Super Rugby.
After a slow start, the newcomers rallied to the point that only the Lions failed to qualify for the quarter-finals and a fortnight later the Stormers and Bulls battled it out in the event’s showpiece.
Cameron Wright, scrumhalf for the Sharks, admits it took time to acclimatise to the standard of opposition and difference in playing style.
“The URC really brings the best out of teams. Super Rugby brings the best out of individuals. Good teams always beat great individuals,” Wright said.
“The team perspective and the understanding of the game of rugby as opposed to understanding the skill level is definitely far higher in the URC.
“There’s an element of physicality that’s far higher in the URC than there is in Super Rugby because most of the northern hemisphere teams put huge emphasis on the defence, which we haven’t had to do in Super Rugby.
“We’ve always spoken about playing a good brand of rugby as opposed to playing winning rugby. Now the conversation has changed slightly because sometimes playing a good brand of rugby isn’t the best way to win.
“In Super Rugby there was quite a bit of margin for error because if you feel like you are mismatched defensively, there’s an opportunity for you in attack – but you have to be equally good at both in URC.”
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Reflecting last season, Wright said: “We got a big shock when we first came into the competition – we were maybe a little bit arrogant or complacent.
“And we thought that we had competed well from an international perspective and competed well from a Super Rugby perspective.
“That was a hard lesson we learned earlier in the season but we are definitely prepared now.
“We’ve got a lovely saying in South Africa that in order to eat an elephant you have to eat it bite-size – you’ve got to eat it piece by piece.
“Our biggest focus going into the new season is that we will eat it piece by piece because it’s a longer season than we’re used to.”
The Bulls were toppled 13-18 in the final in Cape Town Stadium having defeated favourites Leinster a round earlier and at the end of a long season.
“Compared to Super Rugby, this competition is a lot harder physically,” said Johan Goosen, who can play at flyhalf, centre and fullback.
“It’s not as fast as Super Rugby but the contact is different because in the URC you’re playing against big boys. In Super Rugby, you can hide but there’s nowhere to hide here.
“Everyone was surprised to see two South African teams in the final so it has given South African rugby huge confidence.
“It was a great year for the South African teams. We came in as the underdogs and the guys wanted to prove a point.”
The Stormers enter the new season with a target on their backs after dispatching Edinburgh and Ulster on successive weekends to set up the winner-takes-all showdown with the Bulls.
Leolin Zas finished as the URC’s joint-leading try scorer last season with 11 and the South Africa ‘A’ wing is relishing the challenge ahead.
“The world knows now who we are but we have to focus on ourselves for the new season,” Zas said.
“Winning the URC definitely wasn’t on the radar. We were just thinking about qualifying for the Heineken (Champions) Cup, so reaching the first eight. That was our focus.
“When we had fans back in our stadium in the eighth or ninth game, we started to believe we could win and it took off from there.
“We’ve got used to travelling now and I love this part of the world. A lot of the guys enjoy being on this side of the world.
“We know what to expect now so we’ll definitely try to pick up a few wins on the road.”