It pains me that with the first roll of the bones in 2006, the Stormers have been reduced to ash!
First round matches in the Vodacom Super 14 are always a lottery. You never quite know what you’re going to get and pre-season match-ups are meaningless. I worked this into the chant before throwing the first ever Super 14 bones. When it was over, there were some surprises and one very big shock.
First the surprises, the pussycats of Johannesburg will roar to a victory that will prove rare as the season unfolds. Let’s not forget the Cats also won their first round fixture last season and then rolled over and played dead for the rest of the tournament.
They’ll win against the Stormers, not because they are any better than the Cape-based side, but rather due to the mediocrity of both teams. Home ground advantage is the biggest factor here in a match-up that features some of tomorrow’s stars, but way too many of yesterday’s heroes.
The Cats will take it by seven.
Equally, the Cheetahs will start their season on a high against an ordinary looking Bulls pack. Those in Bloemfontein must enjoy the victory because there won’t be too many after that.
Cheetahs by four.
Of the overseas games the two easy picks are the Waratahs winning away against the rubble Reds and the Brumbies brushing aside the Farce. That will be two away wins.
The Blues v Hurricanes match is fascinating because the Canes offer more than ever before, but history is stacked against them, even if they did win for the first time against the Blues in Auckland last year. Previously I’d written that they’d never won against the Blues in the competition and within 10 minutes Adoons had given me a reminder that the result so obviously pained me I’d removed it.
Forced to delve into the record books I can categorically state that Adoons is right and the score was 22-10 on May 6. I therefore apologise for my refusal to acknowledge the Canes history-making effort and do so to the Muppits of those 135 countries who log into Keo.co.za every day.
Blues by eight
The Crusaders, traditional slow starters, will beat their southern rivals by 10 points and erase memories of sluggish starts. They play at home and that’s a big advantage, despite their NPC semi-final loss to Otago. It is a new year, a new competition and the five-time Super 12 champs won’t stumble again.
Which leaves us with just one game … and that’s the shock. The Sharks, the clownfish of 2005, will start the season with a bang in scalping the Chiefs. The Durban humidity will get to the New Zealanders, who’ll play an expansive game and beat themselves while doing it.
The Sharks will keep it tight, minimise mistakes and prey off a Chiefs side that will neglect doing the basics up front and put themselves under pressure among their potent backs.
The Sharks, despite their ability to be the comedians of the tournament, are always a good bet to win the first one at home. What happens thereafter, once they go on the road, won’t be as big a shock as the roll of the bones was when it called a Sharks win against the Chiefs, by a comfortable eight points!
Round one winners