January 29, 2020 / 8:01 AM / a month ago

FACTBOX-Rugby-South African Super Rugby Conference

Jan 29 (Reuters) - Factbox on the teams in the South African Super Rugby Conference:

BULLS (Pretoria)

Coach: Pote Human (second year)

Captain: Burger Odendaal

Last year: Fifth (W-8, D-2, L-6)

Best performance: Champions (2007, 2009, 2010)

Chances: The Bulls have been perhaps hardest hit by the departure of several leading Springboks overseas, losing locks Lood de Jager and RG Snyman, number eight Duane Vermeulen, flyhalf Handre Pollard and centre Jesse Kriel, among others.

Coach Pote Human must rebuild the side and welcomes back experienced flyhalf Morne Steyn to Pretoria, seven years after he left for Stade Francais. Scotland international flank Josh Strauss also returns to Super Rugby for the first time since he played for the Lions in 2012.

New Zealand-born Tonga international centre Nafi Tuitavake has also been signed.

This could be a season of struggle for the Bulls though as their new-look squad takes time to settle, though Loftus Versfeld will always be considered a difficult stadium to visit for opposing teams. They are unlikely to be knockout contenders.

JAGUARES (Buenos Aires)

Coach: Gonzalo Quesada (second year)

Captain: Jeronimo de la Fuente

Last year: Second (W-11, L-5)

Best performance: Runners-up (2019)

Chances: The Jaguares surprised with a second-place finish in 2019 and will go into this year’s competition with much the same squad, suggesting they will be contenders again.

They will be without experienced flank Pablo Matera, who has left for Stade Français, but coach Gonzalo Quesada will enjoy continuity in his second season in charge.

The squad is made up largely of players from the Argentina national side though they tend to play a more attacking style with ball in hand.

The success of 2019 was built on strong home form and a new-found ability to pick up wins on the road, while only champions Canterbury Crusaders conceded fewer than their 38 tries in the pool phase of the competition.

One area they will want to improve is penalties conceded – they were the second most penalised team in 2019. Considering last year’s form, the Jaguares are the favourites for the South African Conference.

LIONS (Johannesburg)

Coach: Ivan van Rooyen (first year)

Captain: Elton Jantjies

Last year: Ninth (W-8, L-8)

Best performance: Runners-up (2016, 2017, 2018)

Chances: The Lions have been the most successful South African side in recent years with a hat-trick of final appearances between 2016 and 2018 — all of which ended in defeat.

They did not make the play-offs last season under coach Swys de Bruin, who has subsequently resigned due to a stress-related illness and been replaced by Ivan van Rooyen for his first Super Rugby campaign.

Hooker Malcolm Marx has left for a sabbatical in Japan, former captain Warren Whiteley continues to battle with injury and key wing Aphiwe Dyantyi is missing due to a positive test for banned substances.

Experienced former Springbok prop Jannie du Plessis has returned to Super Rugby from a spell in France. The Lions will likely miss out on the play-offs again.

SHARKS (Durban)

Coach: Sean Everitt (first year)

Captain: Lukhanyo Am

Last year: Sixth (W-7, D-1, L-8)

Best performance: Runners-up (1996, 2001, 2007, 2012)

Chances: The Sharks have the most settled squad of the South African Super Rugby sides but enter 2020 with a new coach in Sean Everitt, who replaces Robert du Preez, whose sons Robert Jnr (flyhalf), Dan (number eight) and Jean-Luc (flank) have all also left for Sale sharks in England.

This will be a big year for flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who played largely at fullback last season to accommodate Robert du Preez at number 10.

Experienced former Springbok JP Pietersen returns to Durban and forms part of a potent group of wings that includes Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi and Lwazi Mvovo.

The Sharks should be vying for top spot in the South Africa Conference.

STORMERS (Cape Town)

Coach: John Dobson (first year)

Captain: Siya Kolisi

Last year: 10th (W-7, D-1, L-8)

Best performance: Runners-up (2010)

Chances: The Stormers have lost some significant talent to Europe and Japan with lock Eben Etzebeth and centre Damian de Allende the two biggest blows to new coach John Dobson.

The Stormers have moved to replace De Allende with former Wales international Jamie Roberts, who has also been tasked with bringing some leadership to what is an otherwise an inexperienced backline.

Damian Willemse will be given a run at flyhalf alongside a fellow Springbok, scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, in what is an exciting half-back pairing.

World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi and World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit will be central to their chances in a powerful pack.

The Stormers will be contenders for top spot in the South African Conference in what is their final season at their Newlands home before they move to the Cape Town Stadium in 2021. (Compiled by Nick Said; Editing by Peter Rutherford )

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