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Lions, Bulls carry SA's Super hopes

It might be a bit early to say who will win next year's Super Rugby competition, but one thing is for sure – contenders from South Africa are few and far between.

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The Lions should be the strongest SA team with the continuity they will have in terms selection from tournaments past. They have also built significant depth in a number of positions in this year's Currie Cup competition.

They play an aggressive attacking game, which is a breath of fresh air from the normal dour rugby which is associated with many other South African teams – and the national team.

They also seem to be the fittest team in the Republic at the moment, which will put them is good stead in a long and arduous tournament like Super Rugby.

Lions, Bulls carry SA's Super hopesHowever, if they are to go all the way next year then some of their key and most influential players would need to remain injury-free for the majority of the tournament. 

Jaco Kriel, Warwick Tecklenburg, Warren Whiteley, Franco Mostert, Elton Jantjies, Harold Vorster, Francois de Klerk, Howard Mnisi and Julian Redelinghuys will all play a key part in the Lions' success next year.

The Lions have a tough schedule though, which sees them play the New Zealand and not the Australian teams in the pool phase. They also begin with a tough road trip – they play Japan's Sunwolves, the Chiefs and defending champions Highlanders away from home in their opening three fixtures.

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Their tough fixture list may be a blessing in disguise in that it would leave them with no room for error in next year's competition. 

The Bulls, with the amount of talent at their disposal, were disappointing this year's competition. Their failure to reach the play-offs was largely down to Frans Ludeke's stagnant game plan.

With Nollis Marais now at the helm we will hopefully see a smarter Bulls outfit that is not scared to try new things.

Lions, Bulls carry SA's Super hopesAn exciting aspect of the Bulls team next year will be their backline. Players like Handre Pollard, Warrick Gelant, Jesse Kriel, Travis Ismaiel, Rudy Paige and Jamba Ulengo are able to give defences nightmares in next year's competition with the right tactics and game plan.

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The Bulls will also fancy their chances based on the favourable draw they have been given, which sees them avoid all New Zealand teams in the Pool phase.  

The Stormers, like the Bulls, will play the Aussie teams and avoid the strong New Zealand teams but will still struggle to reach the play-offs.

They have lost their identity in terms of playing style in recent years and are struggling in certain positions.

There has been a lot of talk in the last two seasons about the Stormers and Western Province reverting back to their old exciting brand of running rugby, but it has failed to materialise.

They seem to tease their fans in the Currie Cup with the idea that they are embracing a more attacking approach. However, when Super Rugby started this year they reverted to the same boring conservative rugby they have been dishing out for the last six or seven years.

John Mitchell is probably the right man for the job to change the mind-sets of the players, but he will need a few years to make the Stormers into worthy title contenders.

Lions, Bulls carry SA's Super hopesThe Stormers also do not have a strong halfback pairing for next year and this is where they have been found wanting in seasons past. Robert du Preez seems like a good talented flyhalf, but needs another season or two to develop his game. 

The Sharks have done well to bolster their coaching team ahead of 2016, to work with a number of talented youngsters.

However, like the Stormers, they are also still struggling to find a game that works for them. Judging on their performances this year you could still see some of Jake White's influence in some of their game.

The Cheetahs will improve under the tutelage of Franco Smith, but they still won't make it anywhere near the play-offs.

They just do not have the depth to go far in a tournament like Super Rugby and will have to come up with a plan to try and keep their talent from going to greener pastures in the future.

As for the Southern Kings – well they are the joke of South African rugby at the moment and will be an embarrassment in next year's competition. 

They don't have the necessary players, coaches, management and there is no money to get those three things at the moment. Expect a few hidings for the team from Port Elizabeth.  

By Warren Fortune

@FortuneWarren

@rugby365com

 

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