It's time to throw down
There's something comforting about February for the regular rugby oke. As the month in which the Super 15 begins, it's a period when the conjecture stops and we start talking about something as tangible as teams taking to the field and actual results.
It's exactly the same for the teams and the players: the time for regaling us with what they'd like to achieve this year is over, and it's time to walk the talk.
Looking at last year, there's a host of people with much to prove in this year's rugby season. Here's a list of some of them:
The Springbok coach's halo has slipped a bit after he subjected us to the most turgid rugby we've seen in years. Here's hoping he has learnt from driving us to drink.
THE ESTABLISHED INSIDE CENTRES IN SA RUGBY
Bulls centre Jan Serfontein is a young beast in a hurry. Based on the evidence of the friendly against an understandably under-strength Lions side, the 19-year-old is a big kid, is skilful, and is a blockbuster.
ELTON JANTJIES, PAT LAMBIE AND JOHAN GOOSEN
Jantjies has to show a Bok coach who appears not to rate him, and the general rugby public, that he can play behind a winning pack at the Stormers, and he has to do all this without his sounding board and inspiration, his late father Thomas. Lambie has to prove that he, and not Goosen, is actually Meyer's perfect 10. Goosen, who is still carrying that niggling heel injury, has to show us what the fuss is all about week in and week out.
JUAN SMITH AND SCHALK BURGER
I never thought I'd say this, but I missed Smith's particular brand of yster. Not only does he have to avoid suffering the same achilles injury that has kept him out for nearly two years, he also has to fight for the same place as Burger in the Bok team.
Forget that their participation in Super Rugby this year appears to be an elaborate stitch-up, they now have to prove that they belong at a level two rungs up from where they play locally.
Watson's always believed he was built for greatness. If we're honest, he looked like he belonged in the Currie Cup First Division last season. Leading the Kings to a second season in the Super 15 will go some way towards showing us what we're supposed to be missing.
You can only threaten world domination for so long. It really is time to deliver, gents.
BISMARCK DU PLESSIS AND CHILIBOY RALEPELLE
There was a time when "Bissy" and "Chili" were going to wage a frightful war for the number one hooker spot in the Bok team. John Smit's departure has brought Adriaan Strauss to the fore. Not only does he appear to be better-rounded than both, he also happens to be ahead of them on the pecking order. Bismarck has the easier task of proving his fitness, while Ralepelle has to chip away at the perception he's too small.
When you've left the Cheetahs for Australia in the sort of huff Ebersohn did, you don't want to do a Sarel Pretorius [arrive in a blaze of glory and return to the Cheetahs with your tail between your legs]. As he is a player I love watching, I can only say "Sterkte, ou Sias".