Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: Super Rugby Unlocked: Season Preview

Super Rugby Unlocked: Season Preview

Hyron Andrews of the Cell C Sharks is tackled

South Africa's Super Rugby franchises will be joined by the Cheetahs, Griquas and Pumas for Super Rugby Unlocked: South Africa's answer to Super Rugby Aotearoa and AU.

Image Copyright - Steve Haag Sports

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

The tournament is essentially the Currie Cup Premiership with the country's five big sides being joined by the Griquas and Pumas in a double-legged home and away league format, with the team who tops the standings after the final set of fixtures winning the competition. 

This is likely to be a very feisty competition with a few grudges to settle especially for the Free State Cheetahs who look likely to be axed from the PRO14 and replaced by the 'big four' of South African Rugby. 

To Win Outright
Bulls: 22/10
Stormers: 5/2
Sharks: 3/1
Lions 4/1
Cheetahs: 20/1
Griquas: 66/1
Pumas: 66/1

The Contenders
It's pretty hard to look past the four regular Super Rugby franchises and the Cheetahs for a winner here. These five sides have dominated the domestic rugby scene here in South African for what seems like an eternity. 

If we're going on this year's form then one has to start with the Sharks who were magnificent during the ill-fated 2020 Super Rugby season, with the Natalians winning six of their seven games before the tournament was called off. They have lost some big-name players during the off-season though, with Makozole Mapimpi linking up with Top League side, the Red Hurricanes, and Andre Esterhuizen heading to England. They will also be without the services of the exciting Apehlelle Fassi who is out injured. The Durban-based side also suffered a heavy defeat to the Bulls just a few weeks ago. 

Staying with the coastal outfits and the Stormers will fancy their chances of taking the spoils here, especially after beating the Lions in Johannesburg in a warm-up fixture. The men from the Mother City had a decent enough run in Super Rugby 2020 as well, winning four of their six fixtures. They also have a litany of Springboks on their books including Siya Kolisi and new signing Warrick Galant. 

We'll start to make our way inland now and look at a Free State Cheetahs side who will be out to prove a point in Super Rugby Unlocked as they have seemingly been dealt the short straw yet again as it looks like they'll be booted from the PRO14 in favour of the country's other big sides. The Free Staters were decent value in the 2019/20 PRO14 season and were on for a play-off berth until the competition was brought to a halt and then restructured with only semi-finals being played. The Cheetahs have been a real force on the domestic scene in recent years winning the 2016 edition and last year's tournament. They have made a couple of decent signings since that Currie Cup victory as well, with the biggest name to return to the Free State being double World Cup winner, Francois Steyn. 

It's over to Pretoria now where the Jake White revolution is in full swing. The former Springbok coach has brought in a raft of players including experienced campaigners Nizaam Carr and Gio Aplon. He has also lured some exciting young guns to Pretoria with Jan-Hendrik Wessels and David Kriel linking up with the Province. The Bulls may have been extremely disappointing in Super Rugby 2020 - they only won one of their six fixtures - but you can expect them to be a real force in Super Rugby Unlocked. 

We cross the Jukskei to take a look at our next team, the Lions. The men from Johannesburg were enduring a nightmare of a start to Super Rugby 20202 only winning one of the six games they played before the season was called off. They may well struggle in Super Rugby Unlocked as well as they lost a lot of talent during the off-season with the promising Tyrone Green moving on along with Kyle Brink and Shaun Reynolds. They have tried to plug the gaps, however, bringing in former Bulls centre Bruger Odendall and young gun Jordan Hendrikse. If the Lions are to fire, however, they will need talismanic pivot Elton Jantjies to be on song throughout the competition. 

The Rest
The two other sides in the competition are the Griquas and Pumas. The former have been knocking on the door in the last few editions of the Currie Cup and have missed out on semi-final berths by very small margins up until last year where they were knocked out in the semis by the Lions. However, it must be remembered that the bigger unions generally are without their Springboks during the Currie Cup season, so the gulf in class between the Griquas and the big guns is likely to be more significant this year. The men from Griqualand will still be a very tough nut to crack on home soil as is normally the case. 

Fellow minnows the Pumas, haven't been as good during recent Currie Cups only winning one game last year and two in 2018. They have managed to bring in a couple of players from the Kings but they're unlikely to give any of the big unions a go this year. To be honest, I'll be surprised if they bag a Super Rugby unlocked win. 

Verdict: Bulls or Cheetahs @22/10 & 20/1
I'm hedging my bets for this one and backing both the Bulls and Cheetahs. The Bulls looked mightily impressive in their pre-season hit out and I reckon they are the best prepared for this tournament. The Cheetahs will also be a real force with veterans Ruan Pienaar and Francois Steyn guiding the back division. 

Written by Darry Worthington for Hollywoodbets.

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