Of all the things you could call the 2019 Super Rugby season, predictable isn’t one of them. There have been major upsets, dips in form that have raised some concerns ahead of the World Cup, and individual performances that have screamed "I should go to Japan!".
So, after 12 rounds of action, here’s the good, the bad and, of course, the ugly.
RG Snyman’s offloads: If the beautiful was included as a subheading, Bulls lock Snyman’s offloads would top that list. The offload, when executed well, can provide the key when it comes to unlocking defences, and on a more superficial level, there are few things in rugby that are more pleasing to the eye than the ball being kept alive by one of these passing treats.
The Herschel Jantjies factor: In South Africa, any scrumhalf who seems like the real deal post the Fourie du Preez era – although he still has some way to go – will always induce massive excitement, and Jantjies has been no different. He’s shown just how good he is at injecting pace into a game, while his blitzes around the fringes, all those attacking touches and laudable defence all add to his "one for the future" points.
A touch of magic: Say what you want about the state of our Super Rugby teams, there’s no doubt that Rassie Erasmus is still seriously spoilt for choice when it comes to options ahead of the World Cup.
The inconsistency: While it hasn’t been an SA-only problem, the local results have been particularly frustrating. We all know the deal: The Stormers, for example, thrashing the Rebels with “complete rugby” one week, only for things to go way south two rounds later. And they’re not the only ones who have been riding an up-and-down wave. It’s been frustration and puzzling efforts all round.
More inconsistency: What would a Super Rugby season be without a few refereeing calls that are more worrying than the overpowering French flavour in the Rugby World Cup referee panel? It would be foreign. And it’s also filtered into the judicial system.
No (high) hopes: Crowd figures have become pretty sad in recent years, and there hasn’t exactly been a drastic increase during the 2019 edition. Maybe we dwell in less-than-optimistic comment sections too often on social media, but one can’t help but feel that South Africans don’t realistically expect their teams to go the full distance anymore, and you can’t really blame them.
Questionable coaching, long-coming mediocre results and an often "don’t know how to win" vibe seem too common, so it’s no surprise that the empty seats have started talking.
Fans can only take so much, and sometimes it seems like they don’t really care as much anymore.
I’m not saying your team losing should ruin your Monday morning office breakfast and the rest of the calendar year for you, but it would be nice to see some shock accompany a poor result every now and then.
Izzy’s divide: This point is one that goes much, much further than Super Rugby and Australia – it’s a rugby problem, a world rugby problem. The Wallaby superstar’s Instagram condemnation has left a taint on the sport that’ll be hard to remove, not just because it went against the inclusive tag the sport is working towards, but also because it has divided all those involved in the sport.
People tend to remember the bad long after the good has left the memory, and that intolerance will for long still be associated with rugby union. And so will the ill-feelings from those who feel Folau was unfairly treated and had every right to point out directions to hell.