Super Rugby
South African Super Rugby preview: who will top Africa 2?
Sam Bruce
February 18, 2016
Super Rugby Africa Two: Jaguares could go all the way

The South African Group has been split into two conferences in the new era of Super Rugby. Here we preview Africa 2, which features the Jaguares, Kings, Lions and Sharks.

JAGUARES

Best finish: N/A

Last year: N/A

Squad: Matias, Alemanno, Gabriel Ascarate, Rodrigo Baez, Emiliano Boffelli, Santiago Cordero, Agustin Creevy, Juan Cruz Guillemain, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Santiago Garcia Botta, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Ramiro Herrera, Facundo Isa, Martin Landajo, Tomas Lavanini, Tomas Lezana, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Juan Martin Hernandez, Pablo Matera, Manuel Montero, Julian Montoya, Matias Moroni, Ramiro Moyano, Lucas Paz Noguera, Matias Orlando, Javier Ortega Desio, Guido Petti, Nicolas Sanchez, Leonardo Senatore, Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Joaquin Tuculet.

Fixtures: Cheetahs (A), Sharks (A), BYE, Stormers (H), Blues (A), Hurricanes (A), Crusaders (A), Sunwolves (A), Kings (H), BYE, Sharks (H), Lions (A), Kings (A), Bulls (H), Highlanders (H), Lions (H)

© World Rugby/Getty Images

This year: The Jaguares have been touted as genuine title contenders and looking at the array of talent across their squad, it's hard to argue a case against. Captained by Pumas skipper Agustin Creevy, the Jaguares have secured all but a handful of Argentina's top Test talent, and given a smattering of locally-based players their first chance at the big time. Fresh from an outstanding Rugby World Cup, Nicolas Sanchez will marshal the side from fly-half while the Jaguares are rich on set-piece stability and will pose breakdown threats in the form of Pablo Matera, Facundo Isa and Juan Manuel Leguizamon. If the Pumas' home Tests are anything go by, opposition teams will be confronted by an imposing atmosphere in Buenos Aires - something the Chiefs are first to sample in round four. The Jaguares will however themselves be tested by a four-week road-trip that sees them battle the Blues, Hurricanes and Crusaders in New Zealand, with a stop-off in Tokyo on the way home.

Greg Growden says: They could be a tournament threat. They are in a very easy draw, have an overflow of international players, and will take advantage of teams suffering mind-sapping travel plans just to get to Argentina. It appears inevitable they will be part of the semi-final mix.

Super Rugby Africa One: Stormers look best in weak group
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Tip: First in Africa 2

Odds: $12 (Ubet)

KINGS

Best finish: 15th ('13)

Last year: N/A

Squad: Aidon Davis, Chris Cloete, Cornell Hess, Cyril-John Velleman, Edgar Marutlulle, Elgar Watts, Jacobie Adriaanse, Jacques Engelbrecht, James Hall, John-Charles Astle, JP du Plessis, Jurgen Visser, Kevin Leuiters, Leighton Eksteen, Louis Fouche, Lukhanyo Am, Luzuko Vulindlu, Malcolm Jaer, Martin Ferreira, Phillip du Plessis, Scalk Ferreira, Schalk Oelofse, Shane Gates, Sipato Junior Pokomela, Siyanda Grey, Stefan Watermeyer, Stefan Willemse, Steven Sykes, Tazz Fuzani, Thembelani Bholi, Tom Botha, Tyler Paul.

Fixtures: Sharks (H), BYE, Chiefs (H), Crusaders (A), Hurricanes (A), Sunwolves (H), Bulls (H), BYE, Lions (H), Jaguares (A), Blues (H), Cheetahs (A), Sharks (A), Jaguares (H), Highlanders (H), Lions (A), Stormers (A)

© Michael Sheehan/Getty Images

This year: A complete and utter shambles: there can be no better description of the Kings ahead of their return to Super Rugby. The Eastern Cape franchise has been plagued by drama since they were announced as a permanent Super Rugby fixture, most notably the province's receivership proceedings. South Africa Rugby has since taken control of the Kings but allegations of unpaid debts, standover tactics and corruption will not go away. On the field, coach Deon Davids has his work cut out moulding a bits-and-pieces squad into a competitive matchday 23 - a difficult task due to the distinct lack of Super Rugby experience. The Kings finished last in their only previous season of Super Rugby and they will be at short odds to suffer a similar fate in 2016.

Greg Growden says: All we hear is that they will be a basket case, suffering from enormous internal problems, including being propped up financially by the South African Rugby Union. Their squad is a bunch of unknowns. Next.

Tip: Last in Africa 2

Odds: $251

LIONS

Best finish: Semi-finalists (00, 01)

Last year: Eighth; second in South Africa.

The Lions enjoyed their best season for some time in 2015, recording nine wins to finish second in South Africa and eighth overall. Coach Johan Ackermann is fast building a reputation as one of South Africa's top coaches, and has even been mentioned as a potential Springboks replacement for Heyneke Meyer. The Johannesburg side were solid in both attack and defence, finishing mid-table across both sides of the ball; they also went three from four on their Australasian tour. But it was their workmanlike back-row that had the competition talking as skipper Warren Whiteley and flanker Warwick Tecklenburg finished at the top of the season tackling charts.

Squad: (From) Marnitz Boshoff, Andries Coetzee, JW Bell, Ruan Combrinck, Lloyd Greeff, Courtnall Skosan, Sampie Mastriet, Anthony Volmink, Koch Marx, Selom Gavor, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Stokkies Hanekom, Howard Mnisi, Harold Vorster, Lionel Mapoe, Jacques Nel, Gerdus van der Walt, Marnitz Boshoff, Jako van der Walt, Elton Jantjes, Ashlon Davids, Ross Cronjé, Faf de Klerk, Ricky Schroeder, Dillon Smit, Marco van Vuren, Warren Whiteley, Fabian Booysen, Ruaan Lerm, Jano Venter, Steph de Wit, Jaco Kriel, Derick Minnie, Warrick Tecklenburg, Ruan Ackermann, Cyle Brink, Victor Sekekete, Robert Kruger, Lourens Erasmus, MB Lusaseni, Franco Mostert, Martin Muller, JP du Preez, Andries Ferreira, Bobby de Wee, Robbie Coetzee, Malcolm Marx, Akker van der Merwe, Ramone Samuels, Jacques van Rooyen, Dylan Smith, Corné Fourie, Julian Redelinghuys, Ruan Dreyer, Justin Ackerman, Pieter Scholtz.

© Marty Melville/Getty Images

Fixtures: Sunwolves (A), Chiefs (A), Highlanders (A), Cheetahs (H), BYE, Crusaders (H), Sharks (A), Stormers (H), Kings (A), Hurricanes (H), BYE, Blues (H), Jaguares (H), Bulls (A), Sharks (H), Kings (H), Jaguares (A)

This year: Buoyed by their efforts of last year, and a first Currie Cup title in four years, the Lions must be regarded as playoff contenders. But they find themselves in what appears to be the tougher of the African sections, adding to the importance of home-and-away clashes with fellow conference rivals, the Jaguares and Sharks. Having three of their five New Zealand clashes at home is an advantage, as is a favourable draw that sees them face the Sunwolves in the opening round, before matches away to the Chiefs and Highlanders. If the Lions can return home from that tour with two wins under their belt, and with no serious injury concerns, they will be right in contention for top spot in South Africa. There is plenty of cause for optimism at Ellis Park.

Super Rugby: Who will have the best … ?
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Greg Growden says: At last this often forgotten province did something, finishing mid-table in 2015. They shouldn't go any higher this year, possessing close to the same line-up as last year. They are determined, know how to utilize their forward-based strengths, but are short in depth. Any substantial injuries up front and they are doomed.

Tip: Second in Africa 2

Odds: $34 (Ubet)

SHARKS

Best finish: Runners-up (96, 01, 07, 12)

Last year: 11th; fourth in South Africa.

The Sharks blew what was arguably one of the most favourable draws in Super Rugby history last season, recording just seven wins - one of which was gifted to them when the Stormers named a second-string side ahead of their semi-final clash with the Brumbies. They were hit hard by injuries, with Pat Lambie out for much of the season; but it was the ill-discipline of the experienced Bismarck du Plessis, Francois Steyn and Jean Deysel that hurt - the trio suspended for a combined 16 weeks. Coach Gary Gold, who replaced Jake White after just one season, made little imprint on the franchise with the now Montpellier boss' defensive work of the previous year now but a distant memory.

Squad: (from) Ayron Schramm, Barend Potgieter, Christiaan de Bruin, Coenie Oosthuizen, Dale Chadwick, Keegan Daniel, David McDuling, Etienne Oosthuizen, Franco Marais, Francois Kleinhans, Gerhard Engelbrecht, Hyron Andrews, Jean Deysel, Kyle Cooper, Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira, Lubabalo Mtyanda, Monde Hadebe, Mzamo Majola, Philip van der Walt, Ruan Botha, Sias Koen, Thomas du Toit, Andre Esterhuizen, Cobus Reinach, Garth April, Heimar Williams, Innocent Radebe, Joe Pietersen, Johan Deysel, Lukhanyo Am, Lwazi Mvovo, Willie le Roux, Marius Louw, Michael Claassens, Odwa Ndungane, Patrick Lambie, Paul Jordaan, Sibusiso Nkosi, S'bura Sithole , Stefan Ungerer, Wandile Mjekevu, Conrad Hoffmann, Joe Pietersen, Daniel du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Juan Schoeman, Khaya Majola, Lourens Adriaanse, Stephan Lewies, Tera Mtembu.

© Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Fixtures: Kings (A), Jaguares (H), Stormers (A), Bulls (A), Crusaders (H), BYE, Lions (H), Blues (A), Highlanders (A), Hurricanes (H), Jaguares (H), BYE, Lions (A), Cheetahs (H), Sunwolves (H)

This year: The Sharks have been one of the busiest recruiters ahead of this season with Springboks Willie le Roux and Coenie Oosthuizen, and former Waratahs cult hero Jacques Potgieter, all moving to Durban. Potgieter looks to be the prize addition with his work in Sydney regarded by many as one of the key drivers behind the Waratahs' 2014 triumph. Le Roux's recruitment is also significant, as it means new skipper Pat Lambie can take up a permanent place at No.10, rather than switching between the playmaking and custodian roles. Lambie has however been hit by injury again this pre-season, creating a sizeable headache for coach Gold. The departures of the du Plessis brothers, Willem Alberts and Francois Steyn are significant losses in terms of experience - though it probably reduces the risk of red cards.

Greg Growden says: Have recruited well in the off-season, signing Willie Le Roux, Joe Pietersen, Coenie Oosthuizen and Jacques Potgieter, which will help relieve the pain of losing the du Plessis brothers and Francois Steyn to France. Should do far better than a dreadful 2015, especially as the South African Group is down on playing quality.

Tip: Third in Africa 2

Odds: $13

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