According to Irish weather“Gerry Thornly.
South African teams have lost just two games against northern hemisphere opponents since the start of the URC. Only the Sharks and Lions have lost one game each on South African soil to non-South African sides.
Since the return of their frontline players from international duty, teams in the southern hemisphere have improved dramatically from their largely dismal tours of the north.
For Thornley, the current rise of the South African teams shows that they have done well what they came for: raising the standards of the old Celtic League.
speaking on Wednesday Night RugbyThornley looked at the performances of the various URC clubs.
“I know it’s been slightly distorted by the fact that they have home and away fixtures against Zebre and Benetton, but both areas of Scotland are doing quite well this season,” Thornley said.
“They both look set to enter the playoffs, they’ve both outplayed the Welsh. There’s talk in Wales of bringing front row players home, increasing budgets and making Welsh regions stronger again.
“I think we will have to force the teams to roll up their sleeves. Otherwise, it will be a split between Ireland and South Africa.”
The improvement to the old Pro14 was desperately needed, and it translated into viewership, if not only through the addition of South African viewers.
However, Thornley believes the tournament’s biggest improvement is the quality of the rugby.
“I think the South African teams are going to get stronger and stronger, and it will also be difficult for Connacht to keep up with them,” Thornley said.
“It will improve the standards. We all wanted it. We forget that the Pro12 and Pro14 weren’t rocking our boats, right? It was almost too easy for Leinster to win it four years in a row.
“We can’t have it all. We want them to improve the standards, but to improve the standards it means they have to be very good, which means they are going to take some of the European places and the qualification places. .
“Maybe even a draw at home in the round of 16. It would be a very difficult game for a European team to consider. A quarter-final or a semi-final in South Africa.
“A one-off game, back and forth, it’s going to be tough.”
Although much has been said about South Africa’s involvement in Europe, which could potentially include an addition to the Six Nations, Thornley believes that ultimately it will improve the competition as a whole.
“Overall I think they’re going to be good for the tournament,” added Thornley. “South Africa is going to be a major player in the URC.
“It will be difficult even for Leinster to start winning in a few years.”
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