By Ollie Field
Super 14 fever has hit Grahamstown and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere in a big way. As our boys do battle on the park, South Africans everywhere are wearing their hearts on their sleeves and screaming for their teams like Trojans.
But what makes this competition so special?
Well, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa won 20 out of 21 games in Internationals at the end of last year. Enough said. And this year’s tournament has at least eight real title contenders.
After just three rounds, a number of individuals have put up their hands both for national selection and selection in the ‘Off The Mark 1st IX’. The team is made up as follows: from the back, Norton-Knight for the Waratahs has been solid and consistent as ever, barely putting a step wrong in any of his team’s crunch games.
Wing positions go to JP Pieterson with three tries, and Lote Tuiqri with two.
In the centres is a bit of a surprise package. Inside goes to Jean De Villiers, the Stormers captain and arguably the best player in the world. Laulala is the only player for the defending Super 14 champions that makes the team. At outside centre he’s been dangerous, scoring four incredible tries already.
Bulls flyhalf, Morne Steyn, is the highest points scorer in the tournament to date with 44 points, while Beale from the Waratahs is still to put a step wrong. However, the spot must be given to low lying Reds flyhalf, Quade Cooper whose attacking capability caused problems for the Bulls, Stormers and, more recently, bottom of the table Cheetahs.
The number 9 jersey goes to Du Preez, who’s world class tactical kicking, passing, and defense so far in the tournament make you think we could be watching the best ‘scummy’ in the world.
The forward pack is a mix of mainly Australians and South Africans (not sure what the Kiwis think of that). At Number 8 must be Pierre Spies who’s been immense so far with four fantastic tries. And he will need to continue this if he is to keep his Boks place ahead of Sharks giant Ryan Kankowski. Flankers are Waratah’s hard-man Phil Waugh and Brumbies’ veteran George Smith. That goes without saying.
Locks are Botha and Muller. That choice might be a bit bias, but with Matfield injured and the Australasians struggling in the line-outs, they certainly deserve it.
In the front row, Guthro Steenkamp is in the loosehead position, while on the tight head sits Blues prop Ryan Miller who has scrummed incredibly well so far, completely destroying the Stormers pack this weekend. The hooker position goes to Schalk Brits. He’s been incredible in the loose and his line-out throwing has been pin-point.
And so, these should prove to be the players to watch. The Super 14, for me, is really the pinnacle of awesome rugby to watch, and will continue to capture the minds of all the “Player 23’s” around the country for the next few months.