Bulls, Stormers The Pick – Mark Schmidt

With the introduction of the new format, many pundits think Aussie teams have a better chance of winning the Super Rugby title in 2011. I agree with this, but I’m still tipping a South African team to win the title, says Mark Schmidt.

Kurtley Beale

I believe the Waratahs will top the Aussie table but will not be in the top two of the overall ladder. I see the Bulls and Stormers occupying the top two spots, meaning that any team that wants to win the title will probably have to play the semi and final here in South Africa.

The Bulls, Stormers and Sharks will probably split the games they play against each other. They will win the home and away games against the weak Cheetahs and Lions. In fact, it would not be silly to assume that the Bulls and Stormers will win all their home games.

And in recent times, the South African teams have been very good tourists, pulling off wins even in the toughest arenas in New Zealand.

Strong chance

The Bulls are going to be very determined to defend their title. Their team is pretty much the same as last year, where their big forwards like Matfield and Spies set the platform and the boots of Steyn and Du Preez keep opposition teams on the back foot.

After losing the Super 14 and Currie Cup finals, the Stormers will want to take that one step further and actually win some silverware. They have a strong, young and enthusiastic bunch of forwards, led by Schalk Burger. With Springboks like De Jongh, Fourie and Habana in the backs, they have an exciting group.

The two teams that may dispel my prediction are the Crusaders and the Waratahs.

Crusaders are perennial achievers, even without Robbie Deans. They have a strong squad and with the addition of someone with the skills of Sonny Bill, it will only make their team stronger.

Their only worry is their inconsistency against weaker teams, which in the end will cost them home semis or finals.

The Waratahs have a very strong squad, too.

New additions

The return of Palu is huge, and the addition of players like Ryan Cross will only make their backs that much more dangerous. Kurtley Beale has now become a superstar and will get help from Drew Mitchell and Lochie Turner on the wings.

The Waratah forwards are always strong and disciplined.

If the coach can get the forwards to set up a good platform for his exciting backs, then they may win their first title. But how many times has this been said about past Waratah teams?

You may all be asking why I have not tipped a team like the Reds to be in the mix with the likes of the Bulls, Stormers, Crusaders and Waratahs. The reason is because these four teams have been consistent for the last few seasons. They know what it takes to make finals.

You may find a surprise team like the Reds in 2010 or Chiefs in 2011, but the winner will most likely come from one of these four teams. And I tip it to be between Bulls and Stormers as they are unbeatable at home and have been touring well in recent seasons.

That is the recipe for Super Rugby title winners.

Top six predictions:

1. Bulls

2. Stormers

3. Crusaders

4. Waratahs

5. Hurricanes

6. Reds

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