It was important, following World Cup glory, that South Africa showed up to Super Rugby. And while it’s been only two rounds, more couldn’t have been asked from the two strongest and heavily springbok-laden South African outfits, the Stormers and Sharks.
Mass exoduses for the Bulls and the Lions meant that it was always going to be a tough 2020, but it was expected for the most part that the Stormers and Sharks, full of World Cup winning Springboks, would continue the momentum of the World Cup into Super Rugby, and reinstate South Africa as a power within the tournament.
It has only been two rounds, and not much can be deliberated so soon in such a long tournament, so forget predictions of titles or long term outcomes. What needs to be applauded and encouraged, in the short term, is the stylish and emphatic return that the Stormers and Sharks have made to Super Rugby. The Stormers were clinical and brutal in battering a visiting Hurricanes side 27-0 to start the tournament. This past weekend, they were equally structured and physical in keeping the Bulls at bay (13-0). After the first two rounds, the Stormers retain a clean sheet that speaks volumes of their defensive structure and fitness. The Sharks dismantled the Highlanders 42-20 in Dunedin and laid down a marker of South African presence. People can argue that the Hurricanes and Highlanders have weaker teams this year. What was certainly not weak was the the performances of the South African sides against them. The Stormers boast arguably the strongest pack on paper in Super Rugby; their performance thus far supports this. The Sharks have one of the most exciting backlines; their performance thus far showcased this. Halfback pairing Damian Willemse and Herschel Jantjies, of the Stormers, have fired from the get go. Aphelele Fassi, one of the few non-Springboks in the Sharks backline, has been the stand out fullback Tournament-wide after two rounds.
The Stormers and Sharks have started their Super Rugby campaigns by showing on field the possibility that the squads promised on paper. While the tournament has months to go, and looks set to be one of the most competitive in a while, let’s take comfort in the fashionable and fitting way the the two sides have carried the South African flag from 2019 into 2020. And let’s hope that they continue in the same vein.