Super 14 Preview 2010: The South African Challenge

Sanjay DevaCorrespondent IFebruary 9, 2010

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - MAY 30:  Bulls players celebrates after the Super 14 final match between Vodacom Bulls and Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on May 30, 2009 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

2009 was a stellar year for South African rugby.

The end-of-year tour to Europe burst the bubble, but with a four-to-five week break for the top players I expect South African rugby to once again be strong.

Unlike previous years, I sense a slight changing of the guard.

The Bulls will be strong and should lead the South African challenge. They've got big-match experience, rarely lose at Loftus, and have depth, which is required to win the Super 14.

I expect the Sharks to be off the pace despite having plenty of Springboks. They lack the x-factor and cohesion from a top side, and mentally don't compete well under pressure.

2010 should see the emergence of the Stormers and, to a lesser extent, the Lions.

The Stormers have way too much talent to keep throwing the competition away, and with the great support they get, a few early wins should see them gain momentum.

The Lions will be helped by a new coach and some new key personnel. While they'll lose more than they win, a change is happening in Johannesburg. I expect them to get better and better as the competition progresses.

Unfortunately, once again the Cheetahs are also representing South Africa! It really is time the Southern Kings were allowed to play instead.

Overall, I'm expecting a strong challenge from the Bulls and Stormers, a wooden spoonist in the Cheetahs, some encouraging results from the Lions, and more disappointment for the Sharks.

For a more detailed analysis of each of the South African sides, go to Sanjay's rugby news .