Which team is the best in the history of Super Rugby? Your vote decides who goes through and who is eliminated from the race for the prestigious title of SA Rugby magazine readers’ Greatest Super Rugby Team.
The teams are in your hands!
Was it Fourie du Preez and Victor Matfield’s 2009 Bulls, the all-star Stormers side that contested the 2010 final, the Sharks outfit that powered into the 2007 decider or one of the Lions teams that tripped at the last hurdle?
Or how about Joeli Vidiri’s Auckland Blues of the mid-90s, Todd Blackadder’s 1999 Crusaders or the masterful 2001 Brumbies steered by halfbacks George Gregan and Stephen Larkham?
The envy of northern-hemisphere rugby for the better part of two decades after the game turned professional, Super Rugby produced most of the talent that went on to win a Rugby World Cup between 1996 and 2019.
SA Rugby magazine readers have the opportunity to participate in a unique 32-team knockout tournament to unveil Super Rugby’s greatest team ever.
The 24 championship teams from 1996 to 2019 are joined by eight other worthy contenders with two teams matched up every Wednesday in a weekly duel for the right to advance to the next round.
We’re in Durbs for Game 1 as Kings Park hosts a blockbuster clash between the 1996 Sharks and the 2001 Brumbies.
Sharks coach Ian McIntosh has picked a team reinforced with 1995 World Cup-winners Andre Joubert, James Small and Mark Andrews, and emerging stalwarts of the Springbok team that went on to contest the 1999 RWC in flyhalf Henry Honiball, No 8 Gary Teichmann and loosehead prop Ollie le Roux.
Opposing them is the spine of the Wallabies team that eventually lost out to a Jonny Wilkinson drop goal in final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia.
George Gregan and Stephen Larkham take their places in a legendary halfback combination, founding fetcher George Smith prowls at openside flank and the back three boasts the incisive duo of wing Joe Roff and fullback Andrew Walker.
The 1996 Sharks only won six of 11 matches during the league phase, trampled 30-8 by Northern Transvaal at Loftus before smashing the Crusaders 58-26 in Durban.
They finished in fourth place on the table, one point clear of the Brumbies who had beaten the Sharks 44-31 in Canberra. But McIntosh’s team caused an upset when they recovered from ending the league phase with a 30-23 loss against the visiting Blues to ambush the table-topping Reds in Brisbane a week later.
However, they ran out of surprises in the final where the Auckland Blues powered to a 45-21 victory at Eden Park.
The Sharks didn’t travel so well in 2001, pumped 36-6 by Eddie Jones’ Brumbies in that season’s finale.
Walker, who was joint-top try-scorer with eight touchdowns, kicked five penalties and converted both of Roff’s tries to cap a campaign that started with the Brumbies demolishing the Crusaders 51-16 en route to an 8-3 record.
Ironically, one of those three losses came at the hands of the Sharks, a 17-16 reverse at Kings Park.
There are juicy matchups across the park. Honiball and Joubert will duel Gregan, Larkham and Walker for control of the sky while Small tests his pace against Roff, Fyvie has his hands full neutralising Smith at the tackle point and Mark Andrews is locked in a jumpball contest against David Giffin and Justin Harrison.
Though the 1996 Sharks boast utility Argentina front rower Federico Mendez among the replacements, the 2001 Brumbies have the advantage of a seven-man bench.
1996 Sharks – 15 Andre Joubert, 14 James Small, 13 Jeremy Thomson, 12 Dick Muir, 11 Cabous van der Westhuizen, 10 Henry Honiball, 9 Kevin Putt, 8 Gary Teichmann (c), 7 Wikus van Heerden, 6 Wayne Fyvie, 5 Mark Andrews, 4 Steve Atherton, 3 Adrian Garvey, 2 John Allan, 1 Ollie le Roux.
Subs: 16 Joos Joubert, 17 Roland de Marigny, 18 Robert du Preez, 19 Dieter Kriese, 20 John Slade, 21 Federico Mendez.
Coach: Ian McIntosh.
2001 Brumbies – 15 Andrew Walker, 14 Graeme Bond, 13 James Holbeck, 12 Rod Kafer, 11 Joe Roff, 10 Stephen Larkham, 9 George Gregan, 8 Jim Williams, 7 George Smith, 6 Peter Ryan, 5 David Giffin, 4 Justin Harrison, 3 Ben Darwin, 2 Jeremy Paul, 1 Bill Young.
Subs: 16 Tom Murphy, 17 Matt Weaver, 18 David Pusey, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Travis Hall, 21 Craig McMullen, 22 Mark Bartholomeusz.
Coach: Eddie Jones.