Super Rugby fact file: South African conference two
Penpix of the South African conference two teams playing in this season’s Super Rugby series, which starts on Friday:
Coach: Raúl Pérez
Captain: Agustín Creevy
Stadium: Jose Amalfitani Stadium, Buenos Aires
Best finish: First appearance
The Argentine newcomers arrived in South Africa two weeks ago ahead of their opening match against the Cheetahs on Friday, playing two warm-up matches. Able to call on a majority of the Argentina squad that reached the semi-finals of the World Cup last year, the Jaguares should be competitive but will have to adjust to the unique demands of a Super Rugby campaign. The Jaguares have a particularly testing itinerary over the first few rounds starting with two matches in South Africa, then two at home followed by three in New Zealand before going to Japan.
Coach: Deon Davids
Captain: Steven Sykes
Stadium: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Best finish: 15th (2013)
The Kings return as the sixth South African side in the new expanded Super Rugby series, and will be keen to improve on their only appearance three years ago, when they finished bottom. However, administrative and financial problems have forced the South African Rugby Union to oversee the running of the franchise and the uncertainty about the viability of the team has made it difficult to recruit top-quality players for the Kings, who seem destined to be among the stragglers again.
LIONS (formerly Golden Lions)
Coach: Johan Ackermann
Captain: Warren Whiteley
Stadium: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Best finish: Champions (1993)
Under coach Johan Ackermann, the Lions have played attractive, running rugby, out-performing teams with bigger names. They won the 2015 Currie Cup domestic competition after being runners-up the previous year. Teamwork has been a key element for a franchise whose players seldom attract the attention of the Springbok selectors. An exception could be Elton Jantjies, whose skills at fly-half make the Lions the best equipped of all the franchises in this key position. Unusually, all the players who earned eighth place in 2015 remain available.
SHARKS (formerly Natal Sharks)
Coach: Gary Gold
Captain: Patrick Lambie
Stadium: Kings Park, Durban
Best finish: Runners-up (1996, 2001, 2007, 2012)
Wins over Toulon and Toulouse on a pre-season tour of France gave encouragement to the Durban-based franchise after a poor 2015 campaign. With stalwarts such as the Du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck, and Willem Alberts no longer available, the Sharks were hit hard when new captain Pat Lambie was ruled out for 12 weeks after shoulder surgery, while flanker Jacques Potgieter, signed from the Waratahs, suffered an ankle injury during the tour and will miss six to eight weeks. Back-row forward Marcell Coetzee will captain the side in the absence of Lambie. Springboks fullback Willie le Roux will add flair to the backline and Coenraad Oosthuizen will be an adequate replacement for Jannie du Plessis in the front row.