I have to admit that for the longest time after the World Cup last year I felt seriously uninterested in rugby.  Maybe it was just inevitable after a year in which rugby was completely oversaturated the sporting calender.  The 2012 version of the Super 15 starts on Friday when the Sharks take on the Bulls in Pretoria and up until Monday I wasn’t too interested or cared too much that it was about to start.  But this week, with the knowledge that rugby is starting again I’ve started to feel excited again.

Eastern Province Kings

Luke Watson - future captain of the Kings

It’s going to be a very interesting year indeed as whichever South African rugby team that ends up at the bottom of the South African log will be ejected from the competition to make space for the Eastern Province Kings.  Should this happen?  Absolutely not! All of the teams in the competition are top flight rugby teams in the premier division of the Currie Cup, while the Kings couldn’t even win in the First Division.  In terms of strength, they don’t belong in the competition.

So far are they being forced in?  It’s an easy answer – political expediency.  The Eastern Cape is seen as the area which develops the most black rugby players.  I suppose that could be understood to give transformation a bit of a boost.

The laughable thing is that when the question was posed how they are going to be competitive in the premier regional rugby competition in the world, the answer was that they were going overseas to get players who were coming to the end of their contracts in the Northern Hemisphere.  What happened to all of the development?  All they’re doing is grabbing players back from the north – many of whom are white.  So much for the vaunted transformation.

Changes

Captain Keegan

Gone is Captain John Smit and the old man at the back, Stefan Terblanche.  Keegan Daniel has been selected as the captain for the team for the season with Bismarck du Plessis as his vice captain.

Players like Tim Whitehead and Riaan Viljoen who will add some strings to the Sharks bow.  Tim Whitehead is a particularly pleasant boon to receive as one of the Sharks’ biggest areas of weakness in the past few years have been the centres.  Tim impressed so much that he has hopped ahead of some of the more senior players to start on Friday against the Bulls.  JP Pietersen, our star wing has also shifted in to cover outside centre and with his pace can make life very difficult for the opposition.

Riaan Viljoen, a fullback with a booming boot, played age group rugby for the Sharks before moving on after finding his way into the senior team blocked by Frans Steyn.  Steyn has moved on and Viljoen has come back.  He slots straight into the starting team at fullback on Friday and will be sure to send great return kicks against the Bulls who love the tactical kicking game.

It’s back.

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