For the first time in a very long time, South African rugby fans will have to be forgiven for having high hopes that one of the local teams will lift the Super Rugby title. The four franchises go into the much-anticipated 2020 Super Rugby season as favourites to win the title.
The coveted trophy has eluded them for almost a decade. The Bulls were the last side to win the Super Rugby prize on home soil. Expectations are high from the fans as they would like to see one franchise emulate the feat achieved by the national team.
South African rugby is on top of the world. With the majority of the World Cup-winning players still part of the four teams. There is a sense that their experience will rub off on other players. The new Super Rugby season is just a few weeks away.
All four teams will get to test their readiness this weekend in the Super Hero Sunday challenge. The Lions will take on their cross-town rivals the Bulls, while the Sharks will battle it out with the Stormers in the first encounter at the FNB Stadium, Johannesburg.
The Bulls are the only side that has retained their coach from the previous season. After a fairly poor run last season, the side from Pretoria went with consistency by retaining Pote Human at the helm.
Human is blessed with a number of Springboks in his team. The Pretoria side has managed to sign back veteran flyhalf Morne Steyn, who will start against the Lions on Sunday. It is clear that Steyn will be used in Super Rugby to provide experience and mentor the talented Mannie Libbok.
The three other franchises have new coaches. Ivan van Rooyen will be in charge of the Lions in the new season, after his run with the team in the Currie Cup. The Jo’burg side has a new-look technical team, which also includes Warren Whiteley as the forwards-lineout coach.
The Lions are the only franchise that has come close to winning the Super Rugby title in the last five seasons. John Dobson and Sean Everitt will take charge of the Stormers and Sharks respectively.
South Africans can no longer wait for the Super Rugby title. This is the time for the teams to deliver. Mediocre performances of previous seasons have been watershed by the Springboks World Cup victory.