Saturday 25 February 2017

Familiar faces whet appetite for Super 14

While the northern hemisphere wallows in the Six Nations, rugby junkies can also look forward to the return of the Super 14 and perhaps clearer evidence that the revised breakdown interpretations can benefit the sport.

And there will also be some familiar faces. Even before a ball is kicked, it's been dramatic, with Melbourne's big-money arrival to next year's Super 15 making waves.

A lot of Irish eyes might be on the Brumbies this season, especially with Ulster's always controversial Justin Harrison popping up there alongside Leinster's Heineken Cup legend Rocky Elsom, while Leinster target Matt Giteau has also hooked up with the Canberra-based side.

Queensland have rescued Ewen McKenzie after his Parisien nightmare and Tim Horan has come on board in the background, surely to guide a talented if often wayward -- ahem, Quade Cooper -- back-line.

Reigning champions, the Bulls, have been hit by injury -- Bakkies Botha -- and defection -- Bryan Habana has linked up with Jaque Fourie at the Stormers -- so they may struggle to retain their title.

We're looking forward to seeing the King, veteran Carlos Spencer, do his stuff with the woeful Lions and controversial ref Steve Walsh making his comeback, but we'll miss the sadly injured Juan Martin Hernandez at the Sharks.

Take the Stormers (9/4) for a play-off and, with as much enthusiasm as those who backed Liverpool to win the league, the Hurricanes (7/1) represent better value than perennial favourites Crusaders. DK

Irish Independent

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