Just how the revised Super Rugby format will go down with the South African rugby public is unclear, but we won’t have to wait long to find out.
The new-look tournament gets underway in less than a month, with the Blues and the Highlanders kicking things off in Auckland on Friday 26 February 2016.
From a South African perspective, the road ahead looks a tough one and if local bookmakers are to be believed there is no standout side from within these borders that looks set to challenge for the title.
Outside of the tournament changes, the majority of the South African franchises have also undergone major alterations with only 2wo sides – the Cell C Sharks and Emirates Lions – heading into 2016 with the same coaches that did the business in 2015.
The Southern Kings, obviously, were not a part of the 2015 competition but they also have a new man at the helm.
Here, we look at the 6 men tasked with bringing success to their respective franchises:
The Toyota Cheetahs know they have an uphill battle in this year’s Vodacom Super Rucompetition, but they have approached their mammoth task with a renewed amount of energy and are hoping they will reap the rewards for their efforts.
Since Franco Smith took over the team in the last 2 games of last season the side has shown some exceptional touches on attack, but their defence at times and their set piece play has often let them down, ensuring that a lot of the good work they do on the field is reduced because of poor defence.
Smith has worked hard on this with the team through the off-season and believes it is one of the biggest priorities for the team to address before the season gets under way.
While he admits the team is still a work-in-progress, the former Springbok playmaker is hopeful that strides made in physical conditioning and the work the management have put in with the side in the off-season will begin to bear fruit when the serious games begin next month.
Springbok fullback Willie Le Roux has been included in the Cheetahs matchday 23 to face the Waratahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Le Roux was a standout omission from new coach Franco Smith’s team announced earlier in the week but has now been included by taking the place of outgoing utility back Joe Pietersen on the bench.
This is the 2nd late change from the initial team after Varsity Cup star Gerhard Olivier was brought in for a potential debut off the bench as he replaces Willie Britz.
Smith decided to add a further 3 Varsity Cup players – 2 of which in the starting 15 – to the matchday team as he looks to rebuild the struggling franchise following a lacklustre 2015 campaign.
No 8 Niell Jordaan and flyhalf Neil Marais will make their Super Rugby debuts in the Cheetahs final home game of the campaign with prop Elandré Hugget starting the match on the bench.
In the forwards, Burrie Uys moves off the bench in a swap with Danie Mienie, while Tinie Burger and Johannes Prinsloo switch positions at the side of the scrum. Jordaan replaces Henco Venter at No 8 as the latter takes his place among the replacements.
Marais will be partnered with Sarel Pretorius as the halfback pairing while Springbok flyer Cornal Hendricks replaces the injured Raymond Rhule at left wing while Ryno Benjamin moves off the bench to take his place at inside centre, replacing Michael van der Spuy while Coenie van Wyk replaces Clayton Blommetjies, who misses the match altogether, at fullback.
New Yoyota Cheetahs head coach, Franco Smith, has named his team to tackle the Waratahs in a Super Rugby clash in Bloemfontein on Saturday (15:00 SA Time).
It will be Smith’s 1st game in charge following the departure of Naka Drotske.
Smith has made several changes to the team that lost 42 / 12 to the DHL Stormers at Newlands last weekend.
In the backline, Niel Marais replaces Joe Pietersen at flyhalf. Marais was a star player for Shimlas in this year’s Varsity Cup, which they won under the coaching tutelage of Smith.
Sarel Pretorius is also back at scrumhalf, while Cornal Hendricks will start on the left wing, replacing Raymond Rhule who has a knee injury.
Rayno Benjamin also moves up from the bench, replacing Michael van der Spuy to start at inside centre this week, while Coenie van Wyk replaces Clayton Blommetjies at fullback.
Up front, BG Uys starts at loosehead prop, with Danie Mienie moving to the bench, while Tienie Burger and Boom Prinsloo swap places in the loose trio.
The Toyota Cheetahs will bid an early farewell to long-standing coaches Naka Drotské and Os du Randt.
It was confirmed last week that Franco Smith would take over as head coach of the struggling Cheetahs franchise next season.
However, he will take over from Drotské in a couple of weeks.
Drotské and Du Randt were to have seen out the remainder of the season, but on Tuesday it was revealed they will depart early.
Du Randt, a 2-times World Cup winner as a player, accepted a “very exciting” opportunity to coach abroad.
He will also act as an ambassador for the Cheetahs.
In a statement on Tuesday the Cheetahs confirmed that Du Randt will depart the franchise during the 1st week of June.
The details of his new position will be revealed at a media briefing at the Free State Stadium, in Bloemfontein, on Saturday.
The Cheetahs host the Lions in what will be Du Randt’s final home game before his departure.
As a result of Du Rand’s early departure, Drotské has also requested an early release.
Both Du Rand and Drotské will be in charge for the last time when the Toyota Cheetahs face the DHL Stormers in Cape Town on 30 May.
The Toyota Cheetahs todat announced that Naka Drotske has will step down as Toyota Cheetahs Super Rugby coach at the end of this Super Rugby Season in order to persue business interests.
In addition, scrum coach Os du Randt has indicated that he will also be leaving the Cheetahs to go overseas and to persue coaching career opportunities abroad after completing his stint in Super Rugby this year. The whereabouts of his overseas tenure has not been made known yet.
But that’s not all, folks, Hawies Fourie, the Toyota Cheetahs backline coach wil also return to GWK Griquas to take up the Head Coaching position at the end of Super Rugby.
Franco Smith, who was named the Toyota Free State Cheetahs Currie Cup coach for 2015 earlier this week, will take up the position as Super Rugby head coach at the Toyota Cheetahs in the place of Naka Drotske.
Varsity Cup-winning coach Franco Smith has been appointed the head coach of the Toyota Free State Cheetahs for this year’s ABSA Currie Cup campaign.
While it was expected that Smith may also be given the reigns of the Toyota Cheetahs Super Rugby franchise, this wasn’t announced with current coach Naka Drotske still continuing in his contract until the end of October 2016.
In addition Rory Duncan, who coached the side alongside Smith in the Currie Cup last year, will from now on be the Director of Coaching and will handle all rugby matters for the franchise from now on.
“We want to make it clear that Naka Drotske, his coaching team and the current structures continue unabated in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby competition. Any media reports concerning Drotske’s position is pure speculation and is not accurate. Drotske has a contract with the Toyota Free State Cheetahs that expires on 30 October 2016,” a statement from the union said.
Coach Franco Smith has been forced to make changes to his Varsity Cup Dream Team which will tackle the Baby Boks in Stellenbosch next Tuesday evening.
UP-Tuks players Dan Kriel and Jaco Visagie are not available for selection and had to be replaced.
Kriel’s spot at inside centre has been taken by Johan Deysel who will now link up with his NWU-Pukke team-mate Rowayne Beukman in midfield.
Visagie was due to start as a replacement and experienced UFS-Shimlas hooker Elandre Hugget will now take his spot on the bench.
Former Springbok utility back Franco Smith has been appointed as assistant coach of the Cheetahs.
Backline coach Hawies Fourie has been released to take charge of Griquas.
Former Treviso coach, Franco Smith has been appointed as Assistant Coach for the Currie Cup. Smith gained a wealth of experience whilst coaching Treviso.
We are all well aware of the host of South African rugby players who are plying their trade outside of South Africa. For this article we venture into the land of make belief and choose a squad made up entirely of players with South African connections playing in the current season’s RaboDirect Pro12 competition. – The ‘Raboboks’
Benetton Treviso are on course for their highest-ever RaboDirect PRO12 finish but head coach (former Springbok flyhalf) Franco Smith insists he is not concerned about the final table.
The RaboDirect Pro12 2012/13 season kicked off on Friday night with Welsh outfit Newport Gwent Dragons hosting tournament newcomers the Italian team Zebre. The Dragons slayed Zebre, outscoring the visitors by four tries to none.