South African sides look to upset the odds in Super Rugby

It’s been a long five years for South African domestic rugby and there isn’t a great deal to suggest that this season will be any different for the country’s six Super Rugby teams. Not since the Bulls’ 2010 success has a South African team won the competition, and the introduction of a conference-style format of the tournament hasn’t helped clubs from Africa. With 18 teams now battling it out in what is club rugby’s toughest league, there is a fear that the country is being left by those from Australia and in particular New Zealand. While the introduction of an ever-improving Argentina side and now a Japanese club, this season looks set to be an even more cut-throat division than it was last year.

You only really have to look at the bookmakers to gauge the feeling heading into the 2016 season. Having retained the World Cup this year, New Zealand boast three of the Super Rugby’s strongest teams this year in the Chiefs, Crusaders and the Hurricanes, with defending champions the Highlanders also being tipped by some punters to make it back-to-back titles. Two Australian teams, the Waratahs and the Brumbies, will start the season with odds of around 8/1 with bet365, all before we even think about representatives from South Africa, with the Stormers, Sharks and Bulls all longer than 10/1 to end South Africa’s wait for a Super Rugby title this season.

by  Simon_sees 

By the time we get to the Lions, Cheetahs and the Kings, punters are looking at what can only be described as long-shots – and it’s hard to argue against any of these odds. While the Stormers might have felt confident following the appointment of Eddie Jones as head coach in September, the fact the Aussie appears to be on the cusp of agreeing to replace Stuart Lancaster as England boss has somewhat dented the club’s preseason excitement after a matter of weeks. Sure, there is every chance South African sides could end up shocking everyone and proving that there is still plenty of talent left playing domestic rugby in the country, but the bookies haven’t simply pulled these odds out of a hat, and all six SA clubs look to be facing an uphill battle this year.

So, what’s the reason behind the lack of success for South Africa’s six teams? Well, firstly, the standard of quality in New Zealand, Australia and definitely Argentina means Super Rugby is only getting more competitive, and then there is the small fact that the best South African players routinely take up lucrative offers to move to Europe. The weather might be cold, the crowds not always packed, but the significantly improved wages paid in the likes of England, France and Ireland is something that is hard for players to turn down, especially given how short a rugby player’s career can end up being. Unless this changes anytime soon, it’s hard to see how South Africa’s club rugby is going to get back to where it was at the turn of the millennium.