Turning attention to the Southern Hemisphere and this weekend sees the highly anticipated return of Super Rugby. With the top club sides from across New Zealand, Australia and South Africa taking to the field, here at Lovell Rugby we are casting our expert eye over the 2014 proceedings to bring you up to speed for the new season.
Rather than individually focusing on the credentials of each side and their star players, our own Lovell Rugby team have been looking through the Super Rugby record books. It may have a relatively short history compared to other domestic competitions around the world but for big hits and even bigger facts, you can’t beat the power of Super Rugby.
Having officially started off back in 1996, the competition was rather aptly titled Super 12 due to the number of teams competing. In 2006 a further two sides were added and the current number was achieved in 2011 with the Melbourne Rebels joining. With 18 years having now passed since the conception of Super Rugby, there is no disputing that the New Zealand sides rule supreme having notched up twelve titles between the Crusaders, Blues and Chiefs.
In fast approaching twenty years of action, it is New Zealand side the Crusaders who have proven the undisputed force in Super Rugby. With seven titles to their name and the league’s leading all time points scorer, Dan Carter with 1547 to date, the only real surprise is that 2008 was the last time the silverware went to Canterbury.
Away from the team records, as well as taking Dan Carter out of the equation, former Bulls player Morne Steyn has an array of individual stats to show off. With records for the most points, tries, penalties and drop goals in one season, it would still take an incredible effort to beat Bryan Habana’s quickest try, which was recorded at just 8 seconds. One record which has stood the test of time is that of Gavin Lawless who in 1997 scored 50 individual points, including 4 tries – a feat that even the great Carter looks unlikely to break.
Of all the sides in action spare a thought for the Natal Sharks, who with four final appearances have still yet to take home the prized trophy. This is in stark contrast to their South African counterparts, the Bulls, who have yet to taste defeat in the final and in 2007 made history by becoming the first team from South Africa to win the title and just happened to be against the Sharks.
With representatives from only three countries competing then you would think it common to see a final against one another. Well in fact, over the years exactly a third of the finals have been contested between the same nation whilst interestingly enough there has never been an all Australia final. Another surprising fact is that 2007 was the only year the national team won the Rugby World Cup whilst their club side were also crowned Super Rugby champions, with South Africa and the Bulls taking all the glory.
Lovell Rugby’s Prediction
Few would bet against the Chiefs becoming the only team, other than the Crusaders, to win a hat-trick of titles. Whilst the Crusaders and Sharks could well be victorious and prove strong opposition, come the final on 2nd August we are predicting the title to remain in New Zealand.
Players to Look Out For
New Zealand: Ben Tameifuna (Chiefs) – One of the heaviest players in Super Rugby and having only made his debut in 2012, the Chiefs prop has proven a powerhouse and been instrumental in the success of the double winning side. Another strong season could well see the 22 year old be a force to reckon with on the international scene and would be great timing with the Rugby World Cup next year.
Australia: Kurtley Beale (Waratahs) -Following two seasons with the Rebels, Beale returns to the NSW Waratahs for 2014. Plagued by off field trouble last year, this is a make or break season for the 25 year old fly-half as he also looks to put behind him the disappointment of the Lions tests and that kick.
South Africa: Victor Matfield (Bulls) – Having initially retired after the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the former Springbok captain is looking to turn back the years after announcing a two year return with the Bulls. Whether he still has the power and desire to regain his status as one of the best locks in world rugby remains to be seen but he will certainly strike fear into opponents once again.
Remember to stay with Lovell Rugby throughout the Super Rugby competition as we bring you the latest rugby shirts to show your support in. We will also be offering great prizes through our Facebook and Twitter pages, so be sure to visit them.