It is the start of a brand-new year and with that comes high expectations from teams all over the Border region to set goals for the upcoming rugby season.
Taking a closer look at the teams at home in Komani, there will be different expectations and ambitions, but whether they will be achieved or not remains to be seen. Breakers remain the force and flag-bearer of Komani rugby and currently ply their trade in the highest league in Border rugby, the Super League. First priority for the Mlungisi side is to consolidate their status among the cream in the elite league. For the last couple of seasons, they have been placed mid-table or in the bottom half of the log. They will want to push for the top 6 position and, who knows, might push hard enough for a place in the top four, which would be one helluva achievement.
With the Gold Cup now expanded and all teams in the premier divisions set to participate in preliminary rounds, the stakes are even higher. First on their priority list will be the expanded Eastern Cape Super 14 competition that starts on January 17, with Breakers locking horns at home on the 18th against Black Eagles. It is also a perfect opportunity to break their winless duck in this competition and try to reach the knockout stages for the first time.
Shining Stars survived the drop from the Premier League by the skin of their teeth, winning their second-last match of the season and then taking a vital bonus point in the last match to steer them to safety. Stars have the player personnel to at least target mid-table and consolidate their status in the Premier League. Ambitions to fight for promotion to the Super League are a bit far-fetched as the other contenders – WSU Eagles, Wallabies, Africans and Ocean Sweepers – will be the main contenders for the sole promotion spot.
Unlike Stars, Old Collegians were not that lucky and suffered a heart-breaking drop from the premier league to the first division. OC must do a lot of soul-searching and produce the mental steel and character to bounce back. Their target is simple and straightforward, win the first division and return to the premier league.
Progress made headlines in the first division last season by going all the way to the play-offs after winning their stream unscathed. They were brought back to earth after losing their first match in the play-offs. Lessons learned, that alone should be motivation enough to push harder this season. It will not be easy though, as they will face perennial arch rivals Collegians who are just as hungry for a return to the premier league. Their target is also simple, beat everyone and win the play-offs in order to gain promotion.