Seeing this is my first article of the new millenium and the first article since that AWFUL event that no one here talks about (and if any of you bastards mention it I hope the next meal you eat gives you a nasty stomach bug that really gives you the chronic splats!!).
I would just like to mention for me its been bloody hard to get motivated for this footy season after the happenings of that AWFUL event. I've spent the summer sticking many long pins into my Mr Potato Head doll (a la John Hart). He looks like something from the movie Hell-raiser now instead of Toy Story 2! Anyway now that evil pox on NZ rugby has ended and we now have REAL coaches who know what they're actually doing, I'm sure things are gonna be completely wonderful from here on in and we will NEVER EVER have to witness another AWFUL event as we did in the latter stages of 1999.
Oh look, a flying pig....
Back to the point of the article...a preview of this years S12.
Gonna take a different tack to start and rate how well the NZ teams will do this year from the style of jersey they now have! For all you non-NZer's some brain surgeon in the NZRFU gave Adidas what seems like free reign to design the ugliest jerseys known to man for this seasons tournament.
Put it this way, if you mention that AWFUL event these jerseys would be damn good for 'cleaning' up the mess that chronic splats causes! The good old fashion "Bog Roll" (toilet paper) would be much to precious to use.
These jerseys SUCK!
As a Cantab, our jerseys SUCK the most. Gone are the traditional red 'n' black (there's a reason why the red comes before black in the name). Our jersey this season is basically all black with a single red stripe through the middle. Going by the jersey design, we will finish DEAD last in this years tournament.
And if we are too finish last it looks like the poor wee Aucks are DEFAULTING this year! Their jersey is a baby blue colour that the likes of Coventry City might wear in the English Premier soccer league. AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL BLOODY AWFUL!!
In fact from all accounts the only NZ Super 12 (or is that 11?) franchise to have a half decent jersey will be the Wellington Hurricanes....
....Which brings me to the serious part of this article which I am finding terribly hard to write (have you noticed?). I believe the Wellington Hurricanes, despite the Crusaders best intentions to make it a 3-Peat, will win this years S12.
A New Zealand team will win the tourny again because quite frankly no one else has even really looked like getting close. The Hurricanes have got the most sought after player in the Rugby code in Jonah Lomu, they have a magnificent new 35,000 seat stadium to play in (which will be packed every game), and they have the expectation of a city, province and region that has traditionally under performed at a sporting level in NZ weighing on their shoulders. It's about time something good happened and this is the year where I think they will do it. And good luck to them if they do!
The Crusaders enter this years tourney like they have in previous years...no one really rating them?
Isn't it bizarre? When I think back to all the hoopla surrounding the Auckland Blues going for their 3-Peat, every NZ household was continually bombarded by our Auckland-based national media how "..awesome..." the Aucks where. The respected rugby judges acknowledge the Cantabs performances, but the generic wallys that cover our game here in the tabloid media hardly even mention the reigning champs. (Messrs Deaker, Doug "I'm-bloody-ugly-and-should-stick-to-radio Golightly have got their heads so far up each others arses when Deaker talks you can almost make out Golightly's tongue wagging down his throat! Pair of complete dickheads! Like it or not fellas, the Cantabs will enter this tournament as hard-nosed as ever. Underestimate us at your peril.
We've lost the great 'Gus' Gardiner to England, and Steve Surridge to Japan (where hopefully he'll earn a nice wee nest egg for the future) but have picked up Rob Cribb and Dallas Seymour who should competently fill there shoes. (RugbyHeads would like to wish both players all the best for the future, The work and commitment you both displayed for the province is an example to all.)
I think with Rob Deans taking over the mantle from the now All Black coach Wayne Smith, the continuity will remain. It's such a tough call though looking for the 3-Peat. I would be happy with a strong performance from them this year...even if they don't win...just a strong performance.
This brings us to the Highlanders.
Who really knows how well they will go? A mostly All Black forward pack that struggled to fire under Mr Potato Head. There's no doubt that when these boys are motivated and firing they are the best forward pack in the world. The question remains tho do they have it for the big games?? I think thats a question that needs to be asked of them often. The pressure has to be on them to perform week in and out. Peter Sloane as their coach continues the Otago tradition of honest, down to earth, grass roots coaching that Tony Gilbert portrayed in abundance.
The Chiefs and the Blues are both kinda unknown quantities this year.
In the case of the Chiefs they have been the perennial under performers at S12 level since its inception. Near the end of last years tournament they finally started to show the consistency needed to be successful. But they have lost a key player ...Jonah Lomu!!!
Despite having the strong base of the Waikato behind them I can't see them performing that well this year.
The Blues strangely enough are kinda in the same boat. Even though they won the NPC last year, it was a much weakened tournament with the All Blacks away.
Oreni A'ei is the player I think everybody wants to see him again! He was awesome in the games the Aucks played and he will be (I think) keeping Carlos Spencer out of the starting line-up this year (fueling rumours of an imminent return to his roots to the Wellington region for Toffee Pops boy).
With Robin Brooke taking the gravy train with the Aucks for another year (why?) I can't see the Aucks winning the tournament this year. They have the ability to pull off a couple of surprise wins but that isn't really enough.
Suppose I'd better mention the Bok's and the Wobblies.... : - )....
Queensland look to have the strongest team on paper, with 13 of the Event-that-you're-not-allowed-to-mention winning Wallaby team on their books.
With those super-stars of world rugby Tim Horan and John Eales on the squad they have great leadership and will be a formidable side and the biggest threat to the NZ dynasty that is the S12.
I would expect NSW to be all talk again...with the associated choking which normally follows their performances.
ACT will struggle this year. Even one of NZ's weaker S12 franchises in the Chiefs have beaten them easily in a warm up game.
Then to the Bok sides.
Will the Cape Town based side be able to go one step further than last year and make the final that seemed they would inevitiably do last year?
They've got a great stadium, the great white hope, that was a dismal failure at 'that event', in Bobby Skinstad and fanatical support with the "Blackout" promotion at Newlands.
The Western Stormers are a good team with a better than even chance of making the final. The Gauteng Lions remind me very much of NSW. All talk - no performance. Apart from the Coastal Sharks no other team from Bokland really inspires you does it? You don't feel fear in your side facing them. Of course that could all change if one of them end this season with a S12 trophy in their clubroom cabinet. You just never know.
Personally though, I'm still putting my bikkies on a Hurricanes win this year. In the words of a famous Australian comedian, hopefully I'II be 'farting through silk' if they come through.
Of course my heart is with (as always) the mighty Cantabs. But the $$$ are on the 'Canes. "um, Jules, can I borrow some money???..."