Former Springboks star Thinus Delport has written off the chances of either of the new South African teams winning the expanded Guinness Pro14.
Delport – who won 18 caps for the Boks before playing in England for both Gloucester and Worcester – reckons the Cheetahs and the Southern Kings will bring flair and excitement to the competition, but won’t be making off with the trophy next May.
Instead, he believes it will be a season of transition for the sides who were cut from Super Rugby earlier this year.
“I think that would be a big ask to expect either the Cheetahs or the Kings to win the tournament in their first season,” said Delport.
“In any debut season, it takes time to adapt to the conditions, there will be a lot of logistical challenges as well as them getting used to playing in Europe.
“I don’t think they can win in their first season but they will be very competitive.”
Delport also told Sky Sports he believes the style of play in Europe will be unfamiliar to the South Africans and they will take time to adapt to a different form of defence.
“The style of play is different in the southern hemisphere. Both the Kings and the Cheetahs take a ball-in-hand approach.
“The Cheetahs have always been a very exciting attacking team to watch and the Kings have really improved their attacking play as well.
“The big challenge for both sides in terms of play will be the weather conditions, which they are not used too, as well as the defensive focus of the northern hemisphere. They won’t be used to such a strong pressured defence.
“The Kings have unearthed some real gems under coach Deon Davids. The Eastern Cape has always been a hotbed of African rugby and these guys have been given a chance to perform at the highest level. Guys like Andisa Ntsila at No 8 brings a lot of explosive power.
“In the backline you have got to look at the attacking capabilities of Makazole Mapimpi, Wandile Mjekevu and Malcolm Jaer – what an exciting back three to have in any side.
“The Cheetahs are not scared to attack so expect them to throw the ball around from all over the park. Hopefully, they can keep hold of the likes of Raymond Rhule, who is a very destructive finisher.
“Ox Nche is another player to keep an eye on – he is a very mobile prop who has some excellent hands as well.
“They also have some South African Seven players in their ranks – guys like Rosco Speckman, Cecil Afrika and Chris Dry who are getting an opportunity to show what they can do in the 15-man game. They should bring a lot of excitement to the way the Cheetahs play.
“It is very exciting and strategically it is a very good move for South African Rugby. Yes, there will be challengers but this is opening up South African rugby to a new and wider audience.
“I think it will give the chance for young South African players to play in the northern hemisphere and get used to the style of play and the conditions.
“The current Pro12 teams will have to deal with the pressure of travel fatigue but lucky for them there is no real time difference so they won’t need to deal with jet lag.
“Condition wise, the fields are going to be much harder and much faster. Weather wise, it will be much hotter as well.”
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