Super Rugby takes centre stage across the Southern Hemisphere for the next four months

Vodacom Super Rugby takes centre stage across the Southern Hemisphere for the next four months but there will the unavoidable backdrop of Rugby World Cup 2015 as September’s global showpiece looms ever larger.

And while every South African, Australian and New Zealand player will have been carefully briefed to avoid public discussion of the World Cup lest there is a perception of a lack of focus on matters at hand, ie Super Rugby, privately the leading players will have an eye firmly on the encroaching World Cup with all its glamorous trappings.

Quite obviously every player wants to go to the World Cup and the Springboks, All Blacks and Wallabies teams each have a handful of positions that have not been nailed down. Make no mistake, there is a heck of a lot at stake in Super Rugby for players hoping to impress their national coach for the positions in which there is lingering doubt. One way or another, Super Rugby form will sway opinion on those troublesome areas that coaches have carried from the end-of-year-tours into the Super Rugby season.

Heyneke Meyer, for instance, will not have his mind firmly made up on arguably the most important position in the Springbok team, flyhalf, where young bucks Patrick Lambie and Handre Pollard are neck and neck to succeed veteran Morne Steyn, who will be the third flyhalf in the World Cup squad and very much the experienced back-up option should misfortune befall Lambie or Pollard.

The 20-year-old Pollard was the Player of the Tournament at last year’s IRB Junior World Championship in what was his third successive year as the SA Under-20 flyhalf, an incredible achievement.

The Paarl Gymnasium product began the end-of-year-tour as Meyer’s starting flyhalf but by the fourth and closing match, Lambie had edged ahead into pole position.

Lambie is himself just 24 but amazingly has already amassed 40 caps for his country, a number of them at fullback and inside centre before his merry-go-round journey around the Springbok backline ended this year with Meyer settling on him as an out-and-out flyhalf.

Lambie will spearhead the Sharks backline in this year’s Super Rugby competition, Pollard will marshall the Bulls’ back division. There is little separating them and there will be no keener observer of how they fare for their respective teams than coach Meyer.

Pollard’s goal kicking average is marginally better than that of Lambie but who will forget the majestic 55m kick from the Michaelhouse old Boy that won the Boks their Rugby Championship match against the All Blacks at Ellis Park last year?

Both players break the traditional Springbok flyhalf mould by preferring to distribute the ball or take it to the line as opposed to kick it, and that in itself means Springbok attacking play will be the winner, whichever of the two finally secures the No 10 jersey.

Meyer has several other selection posers in front of him but perhaps the next most vital answer he must come up with is who to start as hooker.

Following the retirement of illustrious Bok captain John Smit after the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Bismarck du Plessis was the natural successor to a jersey many felt he should have had a lot sooner, and it was not long before Du Plessis was acknowledged as the world’s best hooker. It appeared the No 2 jersey was his as long as he wanted it. But the redoubtable Cheetahs hooker Adriaan Strauss steadily fought his way into contention with consistently inspiring performances for the Bloemfontein team, and by the end of 2014 he was starting as many Tests as Du Plessis.

Strauss, now with the Bulls, has everything to play for while Du Plessis, the Sharks captain, knows he has to pull up his socks.

by Mike Greenaway


About Martin Myers
Music Supervisor / Artist and Talent Manager / Publicist / Music Exchange Founder / Owner Triple M Entertainment

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