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South African conference preview

Heinrich Brussow

Heinrich Brussow will again line up for the Cheetahs in the 2012 Super Rugby competition. Source: The Daily Telegraph

GET the inside word on the five South African teams as we count down to the start of the 2012 Super Rugby season.


STRENGTHS: Their Bloemfontein home base is something of a fortress. Will have injured aces Juan Smith and Heinrich Brussow both back to beef up a potent back-row.

WEAKNESSES: Defence. Gave up the equal most line-breaks (103) last year, as well as the most missed tackles (459). Poorly performed abroad.

GAME STYLE: They play a ball-in-play game but often lack the finesse to break down good defences.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Heinrich Brussow

WILL BE HAPPY WITH: Anything better than last year’s 11th place.

Patrick Lambie

Patrick Lambie
Springboks fullback Patrick Lambie will be the Sharks’ key playmaker.
Source: AFP


STRENGTHS: Young Patrick Lambie is a real star from fullback who steps into playmaking as well. Plenty of experience and Bismarck du Plessis can call the jersey at hooker his own now John Smit has retired.

WEAKNESSES: The loss of Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira for three months is a massive blow for the Sharks, putting  pressure on front-row resources.

GAME STYLE: The Sharks have a dash in attack and will have Frenchman Frederic Michalak to show the way from No.10.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Patrick Lambie

WILL BE HAPPY WITH: Play-offs or fans will revolt

Schalk Burger

Schalk Burger
Stormers’ flanker Schalk Burger should provide plenty of highlights for Stormers fans.
Source: AFP


STRENGTHS: No team conceded fewer tries in 2011 (18). Brilliant defence was the backbone of the team that topped the South African conference last year.

WEAKNESSES: Backline depth. Flyhalf Peter Grant is an attacking plodder against the biggest teams and so it proved when they lost a semi-final in Cape Town last year.

GAME STYLE: Initiate some wonderful counter-attacks from the turnovers created by their big defence. They run giant lock Andries Bekker out wide at times too so they mix it up.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Always Schalk Burger.

WILL BE HAPPY WITH: Semi-finals.

John Mitchell

John Mitchell
Lions coach John Mitchell has brought some much-needed structure and tough tackling to the struggling Lions.
Source: AFP


STRENGTHS: New dynamism since Kiwi coach John Mitchell arrived and he delivered a Currie Cup. They actually can structure attack now. They finally know what it means to tackle. Big improvers last season.

WEAKNESSES: A paper thin squad, culled to cut costs and keep the struggling outfit afloat. Few big name stars but have proved big, willing hearts go a long way.

GAME STYLE: Mitchell’s hallmark of using the full width of the field is obvious. He has added structure, fitness and attacking patterns.


WILL BE HAPPY WITH: Turning last year’s three wins into six or seven and mid-table finish.

Francois Hougaard

Francois Hougaard
Springbok Francois Hougaard will carry the hopes of the Bulls this year after several key departures.
Source: AFP


STRENGTHS: Always their forward clout, their fearsome form at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria and backing their ingrained style.

WEAKNESSES: You just can’t cover the loss of forwards Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha and Gurthro Steenkamp. A once great team is rebuilding.

GAME STYLE: Always a very traditional style with plenty of kicking for territory from the cultured boot of flyhalf Morne Steyn. That won’t change but the ball supply and authority up front has shrunk.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Francois Hougaard

WILL BE HAPPY WITH: Scraping into finals

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