Best Super Performance: Champions (2007, 2009,
2012 Super Rugby: 5th (10 wins, 6 losses)
History: 4th, 8th, 11th, 12th, 11th, 12th, 12th, 6th, 6th, 3rd, 4th, 1st, 10th, 1st, 1st, 7th, 5th
TAB Odds: $12.00
In: Callie Visagie, Grant Hattingh, Lionel Mapoe, Marcell van der Merwe, Paul Willemse, Willie Wepener.
Out: CJ Stander, Gerrit-Jan Van Velze, Johann Sadie and Rayno Gerber.
The Bulls' efforts last year were commendable as they reached the play-offs despite losing a host of former Springboks from their line-up. They have retained the core of that squad as they look to develop into title contenders. If that is to become a reality, the Bulls will need two of their stars to return to their best form. Captain Pierre Spies and first five-eighth Morne Steyn both had forgettable seasons in 2012 and need to return to their world class ways if the Bulls are going to mix it with the best in the South African Conference.
Verdict: Their strength at their Loftus fortress will be an asset and give them a good chance of sneaking into the play-offs again.
Conference prediction: 3rd
Bulls: Dean Greyling, Frik Kirsten, Werner Kruger, Morne Mellett, Bongi Mbonambi, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Callie Visagie, Willie Wepener, Juandre Kruger, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Flip van der Merwe, Paul Willemse, Arno Botha, Grant Hattingh, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Potgieter, Pierre Spies (c), Deon Stegmann, Francois Hougaard, Rudy Paige, Jane Vermaak, Louis Fouche, Handre Pollard, Morne Steyn, Ulrich Beyers, Lionel Mapoe, Wynand Olivier, Jan Serfontein, William Small-Smith, Francois Venter, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Sampie Mastriet, Akona Ndungane, Zane Kirchner, Jurgen Visser.
Best Super Performance: Runners-up (2010)
2012 Super Rugby: 1st (14 wins, 2 losses, lost semi-final to Sharks)
History: 11th, 9th, 2nd, 5th, 7th, 7th, 9th, 3rd, 9th, 11th, 10th, 5th, 10th, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd
TAB Odds: $8
In: Jaco Taute, Elton Jantjies, Pat Cilliers, Michael Rhodes, Martin Bezuidenhout.
Out: Nick Fenton-Wells, Nick Koster, Quinn Roux, Danie Poolman, Jebb Sinclair.
The Stormers may feel they've fallen short in recent years as they've failed to pick up their maiden title, despite consistently being among the frontrunners in the regular season. They are certainly capable of going the distance this season , but will be hopeful they see captain Schalk Burger back on field sooner rather than later. He missed 2012 and is out for at least the first few rounds of this season so will need to make a big impact when he returns. The acquisition of Lions' backs Elton Jantjies and Jaco Taute should help ignite their attack, which has been their downfall in recent seasons.
Verdict: As one of the best travelling teams in the competition they are deservedly favourites to top the conference and would be a fearsome play-off opponent for any side.
Conference prediction: 1st
Stormers: Deon Carstens, Patric Cilliers, Brok Harris, Steven Kishoff, Frans Malherbe, Martin Bezuidenhout, Tiaan Liebenberg, Siyabonga Ntubeni, Andries Bekker, Ruan Botha, Eben Etzebeth, De Kock Steenkamp, Don Armand, Schalk Burger, Nizaam Carr, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Michael Rhodes, Duane Vermeulen, Dewaldt Duvenage, Nic Groom , Louis Schreuder, Kurt Coleman, Peter Grant, Elton Jantjies, Damian de Allende, Juan de jongh, Jean de Villiers, Gio Aplon, Bryan Habana, Gerhard van den Heever, Joe Pietersen, Jaco Taute.
Best Super Performance: Runners-up (1996, 2001, 2007,
2012 Super Rugby: Runners-up (10 wins, 6 losses, lost final to Chiefs)
History: 4th, 4th, 4th, 7th, 12th, 2nd, 10th, 10th, 7th, 12th, 5th, 1st, 3rd, 6th, 9th, 6th, 6th
TAB Odds: $9
In: Butch James, Franco van der Merwe
Out: Frederic Michalak, Ross Skeate, Steven Sykes
The Sharks' efforts in reaching the final last year proved their mettle and will give the people of Durban plenty of reason for optimism in 2013. Player movement has been limited and their squad has solid Super Rugby experience. They have a great opportunity to start the season strongly with no games out of South Africa until the end of April. If they can make the most of this and get points on the board early they could prove tough to chase down.
Verdict: Finishing sixth in the regular season last year disadvantaged the Sharks as they had to negotiate a hectic travel schedule to reach the final. It is crucial for them to secure the South African Conference ahead of the Stormers to give them a realistic chance of going one better.
Conference prediction: 2nd
Sharks: Willem Alberts, Jacques Botes, Anton Bresler, Craig Burden, Dale Chadwick, Marcell Coetzee, Kyle Cooper, Keegan Daniel, Allan Dell, Jean Deysel, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Monde Hadebe, Wiehahn Herbst, Ryan Kankowski, Francois Kleinhans, Jandr Marais, Peet Marais, Tendai Mtawarira, Lubabalo Mtembu, Franco van der Merwe, Meyer Bosman, Butch James, Paul Jordaan, Marius Joubert, Patrick Lambie, Louis Ludik, Charl McLeod, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Cobus Reinach, Sibusiso Sithole, Franois Steyn, Riaan Viljoen, Tim Whitehead.
Best Super Performance: Seventh (1997)
2012 Super Rugby: 10th (5 wins, 11 losses)
History: 7th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 10th, 11th, 10th
TAB Odds: $100
In: Caylib Oosthuizen , Cornal Hendricks, Elgar Watts, Johann Sadie, Joubert Engelbrecht, JP Nel, Lodewyk de Jager, Rossouw de Klerk, Sarel Pretorius, Tertius Daniller, Torsten van Jaarsveld.
Out: Juan Smith, Ashley Johnson, George Earle, Izak van der Westhuizen, Marcel van der Merwe, Phillip Snyman, Sias Ebersohn, WP Nel
The Free Staters have developed a reputation over the last few years of being one of the more exciting attacking teams in the competition. Scoring tries has never been an issue, conceding them on the other hand is a big one and is the reason the Cheetahs have never finished above 10th since they re-entered the competition in 2006. Expect their exciting attacking play to continue, led by the most exciting South African 10 on show Johan Goosen. He was impressive until he was injured last year and will be pushing hard to show that he deserves to be the Springboks first choice. However their forward pack will be hit hard by the retirement of former Springbok flanker Juan Smith, who was forced to give up after the recurrence of an Achilles injury in a warm-up match.
Verdict: Expect plenty of fireworks, but not a lot of substance. Should stay off the bottom of the conference thanks to the Kings' arrival
Conference prediction: 4th
Cheetahs: Lourens Adriaanse, Ryno Barnes, Heinrich Brussow, Rossouw de Klerk, Lood de Jager, Andries Ferreira, Lappies Labuschagne, Ligtoring Landman, Hercu Liebenberg, Trevor Nyakane, Caylib Oosthuizen, Coenie Oosthuizen, Boom Prinsloo, Davon Raubenheimer, Adriaan Strauss, Francois Uys, Philip van der Walt, Frans Viljoen, Ryno Benjamin, Francois Brummer, Hennie Daniller, Tewis de Bruyn, Robert Ebersohn, Barry Geel, Johan Goosen, Hansie Graaf, Rocco Jansen, Raymond Rhule, Willie le Roux, Sarel Pretorius, Johann Sadie, Riaan Smit, Piet van Zyl, Elgar Watts.
Best Super performance: Debut season
TAB Odds: $500
It's hard not to be negative when writing about Super Rugby's new kids on the block. New franchises have always struggled for at least the first season and usually longer. The Port Elizabeth-based Kings have hardly assembled a star-studded line up and the Rebels only managed three wins in their debut season with a far more impressive squad. The only real New Zealand interest in this team will be the fortunes of utility back Hadleigh Parkes, who should get plenty of opportunity for game time, but maybe not many chances to win. Massive Kenyan lock Daniel Adongo, who turned out for Counties in the ITM Cup, is also in the side and should at least provide a few highlight worthy runs.
Verdict: The Kings' only real chance for a win is in the first game of the season at home against the Force, expect plenty of cricket scores and not a lot of joy on their way to the wooden spoon.
Conference prediction: 5th
Kings: Daniel Adongo, Rynier Bernardo, David Bulbring, Kevin Buys, Cornell du Preez, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jaco Engels, Schalk Ferreira, Hannes Franklin, Grant Kemp, Virgile Lacombe, Tomas Leonardi, Bandise Maku, Edgar Marutlulle, Mpho Mbiyozo, Darron Nell, Devin Oosthuizen, Steven Sykes, Wimpie van der Walt, Luke Watson, Demetri Catrakilis, Ronnie Cooke, Siyanda Grey, Johan Herbst, Michael Killian, SP Marais, Waylon Murray, Hadleigh Parkes, Sergeal Petersen, Marcello Sampson, Andries Strauss, Elric van Vuuren, Shaun Venter, Nicolas Vergallo, George Whitehead.