A FULL card of seven games of Super Rugby is on offer this weekend with the inclusion of the Kiwi and South African conference play. And bring it on, I say.
The big games this weekend for us Aussies, are, of course, the Heritage Round games, the Reds v Tahs and Brumbies v Rebels.
But, in saying that, on a historical note, possibly the Force's game in the Republic v the debutant Kings, is also pretty damn important, too.
It's all about Folau
To the Reds v Tahs. Well, I think we'll all be looking at Israel Folau to see how he negotiates his first serious rugby test.
Of course, one game does not make a career.
Nonetheless, we'll be passing a discerning (and possibly not so discerning eye-rather a parochial one) over the guy's performance. We won't be able to help ourselves.
From what I have read and observed, Folau is definitely a 'rugby' (league and union) player.
He is naturally gifted with his footwork, acceleration and understanding of the attack and defensive requirements of the rectangular codes.
He's, what I would call, a 'rectangular' athlete. Having had some contact with rugby (at high school), he's familiar with its intricacies.
And for all the technicalities of rugby, let's hope the Tahs have kept it nice and easy for him: 'Mate, in attack, catch the ball and run until you get over the Reds' try line.
Or if you feel you can't make it all the way, hit the ground and play rugby league-hold onto the ball- until your team mates arrive.
That's all we are after. In defence, tackle the guy with the ball!'
Nothing more, nothing less.
It will be interesting to see how the Reds go about the Folau 'factor'.
More than likely, the Reds will try to 'target' Folau.
I say more than likely, because I don't think it's such a smart tactic to 'target' players these days.
Years ago, in my time it would have been simple.
Put a high ball up for him, chase, tackle him and have the forward ruck the livin' beegeezees out of him.
That'd have him questioning his decision to play rugby, his confidence (and a few other things, mind you).
With rucking no longer an accepted 'norm' of the game, and with an increased skill level of players cross the park, it's not so effective.
I suppose, the other issues is how will he tackle all this attention.
Being such a professional, I'd say that shouldn't be an issue for him. In fact, the added attention may spur him on.
As a rugby supporter first and foremost, I want to see him challenged with the ball-in-hand.
I want to see what he has got. I want to see Folau with the ball.
And with him at fullback and, if based on last weekend's game, the Reds drop the ball on the slipper a fair bit, we'll get to see just that.
It's just such a moth-watering proposition Folau running with the rugby ball-I can't wait to see him in full flight.
I hope, come Saturday evening and Sunday morning we are all going Folau this and Folau that-in a positive way.
Can Kings rule?
It took some serious courage for South African rugby to replace the Johannesburg-based Lions with the Port Elizabeth-based Kings.
Not too much happens in South Africa that does not have some political component to it, but there's no doubt the Kings are going to be a 'work in progress' for a few years.
That's nothing new. 'Expansion' franchises/team are very common in world sport.
The Force, in Australian rugby, the Storm in NRL, and the Western Sydney Wanders in the A League, are examples.
Although the Storm were, and the Wanderers are, very successful first up, that's not necessarily the norm. And so it appears for the Kings.
I think it'll be a few years for them to find their feet.
Nonetheless, as with the Force, their opponents in their first Super Rugby encounter, the Kings are all about the long-term domestic strength of rugby union (and a few other thing-this is South Africa we are talking about).
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