|Volume 1 - Week 10|
Brilliant! The Super 12 is heading home, safety belts are buckled and the landing lights are on, the only problem is we don’t know what airport! Week 10 complete and with only two rounds to go there is no clear favourite based on current form. The landing may be rocky indeed but lucky for us we only need to watch and read about the action.
The Bulls won and yes I know everybody mentioned it but anybody growing up during the seventies and eighties in SA recall the might of this union. They won everything and with match winners like Naas Botha they became the scourge of every WP supporter and all the other teams. The stereo type Blue Bull supporter never knew what it was to lose and their boisterous manner was a trademark of Loftus where you did not dare shout for the opposition except if accompanied by a tour party of minimum twenty (thousand that is!). The demise of this proud team is therefore a heartbreaking sight to all those loyal fans reminiscing of previous glories. Love them or hate them, those were the only permutations, but somehow I think the humbling of the bull will make them a far more popular team than ever before now that they’ve started winning.
The long weekends have taken its toll and RF is slightly smaller this week with the quiz taking a rest. Fortunately the columnists were rotated during the season and are fresh with output. I would like to take this opportunity of thanking Mark and MM for the weekly efforts and all the other readers that submitted articles, views and letters whom without I would struggle.
The coming weekend is big and if you are living in the greater Gauteng area get your behind to Loftus and support our two teams. Those not in the area can look forward to some delicious matches on the telly, vital to the final standings on the log.
Ps: For all new readers, please mail RugbyForum@freemail.absa.co.za to include or remove your address or to request previous copies of RF.
Letters to the Editor
I would like to share a brilliant quip, read in the Argus newspaper, which originates from a debate about the changing of Adderley and Wale Street names in Cape Town. The provincial ANC leader Ebrahim Rasool argued in favour of Adderley stating that had this gentleman failed in his efforts to prevent the Cape from becoming a penal colony, at least one positive consequence would have been that Stephen Larkham would have been around to solve the Stormers' and Boks' problems at flyhalf! Priceless! Good to hear that our politicians are just as enthusiastic about the game as we are!
If you watched the Bulls game I'm sure you would have heard the inane comments and unprofessional actions of the announcer.
Not only did he keep the music blearing when the Bulls kicker was going for posts, but dumb comments that came from him were not only unprofessional, but very embarrassing, and one has to wonder what overseas viewers might have thought. The Chiefs goalkicker had one late conversion attempt on about the half-way line, and the kick was obviously a bad one, and it kept low and only reached about the 22. The clown behind the Microphone says something along the lines of "Some-one should tell this guy this isn't soccer!"
How an idiot like that continues to work is beyond comprehension! Someone should teach him that his role is to inform the public of important facts (name of kicker when successful, name of try-scorer, the score, etc). Not to give his (childish) opinion of what is going on in the game!
Can't agree more Michael, the man was a menace and not much better this last weekend either!
v-i-c by Mark Foster
The elated faces said it all after the match didn’t? The Bulls won a match in the Super 12! Congratulations to the men from Pretoria who can now join some mates in showing their faces without being ridiculed for their ham-fisted performances.
Apart from the “momentous” victory the past weekend’s Super 12 was a bit of a let off for the log leaders, Sharks and Cats. Both failed to record a win that would catapult them into home semi finals. The competition this year, due to referees conniving (as some say) or not proved that home ground is uber alls and that factor alone will irk the two South African sides for not “completing” their mission before the final matches. We all know, home affairs are as tight as a duck’s feathers so next week we could see South African teams play a huge influence on the top of the log standings.
The Kiwis are getting into gear and no wonder Mr Smith had no worries about the weak showing of his country’s teams in the opening half of the competition. Do we forget that he himself coached the Crusaders to back-to-back victories? Who better than any of his compatriots can gage the standard of both the competition and that of the players? If the man is not worried, I for one believe him and will start worrying for the Tri Nations.
The coming weekend will be the watershed for the middle of the log congestion and the mouth-watering clashes involving the Hurricanes, Brumbies, Reds and Highlanders will heavily influence the final standings, be prepared for an upset or two.
A last word to the Bulls, stick to the basics, grind away as before but don’t hand the ball to the backs, any errors will be ruthlessly exploited, get that right and you will hear the sounds of v-i-c… v-i-c… v-i-c-t-o-r-y!
It’s a bird, it’s a plane… No, it’s Butchie! by Tom Marcellus
I was intrigued to read recently that Ebbo Bedford was so confident that the wiry-framed Hennie “Die Windhond” Muller of 50 years ago would demolish the far meatier Butch James in the tackle. I learnt on my Dad’s knee that Muller was the original psychotic loose-forward who pursued opposing backs like a marauding old wolf (to continue with the canine analogy), sowing terror, melancholy and begrudging admiration in equal measures. Be that as it may, and without wishing to tarnish the great old man’s reputation as a tackler of peerless resolve, I’m not so certain that James would be such a pushover.
Few current Super 12 players are more deserving of a quick amateur analysis than the burly young Sharks flyhalf. I’m no out-and-out fan of James, whose play is punctuated with occasional bouts of insanity, and the suggestion that he don the Bok no 10 jersey in a few months’ time fills me with trepidation, but he certainly breaks the mould of the sedate, kicking flyhalf who eschews the toil of his fleshier, thick-fingered teammates.
James’ most noticeable trait at the moment is his hot-headedness, whether in attempting to rough-up his opposite number off the ball or in his outright disregard for accepted methods of tackling. Was it during the victorious Blues game that James began his rapid rise up the ladder of rugger infamy, with his murderous (but happily unsuccessful) attempts at decapitation? In any event, the sight of this flying chunk of meat hurtling head-high through the muggy Durban air reminded me of that time, in my youth, when the half-crazed bullock burst through the barbed-wire fence before the dogs got ‘im. But that’s another story altogether.
Much has been recently said, especially by those good folk in the Antipodes, about James’ new-found penchant for acting the part of the backline enforcer, intent on having his opponents “sleep with the fishes”. There is just cause for their alarm, especially as James’ mere presence on the pitch seems to offer the spectre of outright thuggery. But, being a fan of those splendidly gruesome Martin Scorsese films, let alone being someone who had to endure the grim years of Gerald Bosch, Robbie Blair and Naas Botha, I’m only too pleased to see a sturdy flyhalf who kicks a bit and runs a bit, but is at his happiest when he’s flying headlong, invariably late, into the torso of the enemy. What a refreshingly brutal approach in this age of political correctness!
And well may I offer the plea of vicarious fulfillment to you, esteemed reader, as my own inability to brutalise opposing backlines during my glorious season as flyhalf of the school’s under 15F XV has left me with lifelong emotional scars. Continuing with this soul-searching, my bloodlust may also stem from the fact that (as I mentioned above) an aspiring little flyhalf growing up in SA in the 1970’s was fed a staple diet of long, raking punts, clean shorts and “vlaggies om hoog”. With Butch James now patrolling the Sharks’ midfield, imposing his still unrefined but invigoratingly robust style on each game, I can now rest assured that, though King Henry has returned to his Bergville farm, his meaty legacy lives on in the shape of the Tekweeni Tank.
But Ebbo Bedford has a point. If I had to choose someone to tackle for my life, I would probably have to choose the great old Windhond, despite the fact that I never saw him crashtackle an inside centre in anger. But, caught in a dark alley and faced with a gang of blow-torch wielding sex fiends, I know who I’d want at my side, with murder in his soul. There would be blood on the streets that day.
Hurricanes 42 - Waratahs 17
The middle of the log clash was a do or die affair for both teams, the prize – Super 12 semi final places. Home ground advantage has been a strong influence in the competition so far and this match-up was no different. A capacity crowd although not playing in Wellington, cheered the home team on and they did not disappoint.
The first half went mostly the way of the Waratahs, they denied their opponents a lot of possession and once relinquished applied great pressure on the much-vaunted backs. Manny Edmunds was the general behind a good pack and his intelligent play coupled with some good breaks allowed the men from NSW to attack the Hurricanes’ line. Matt Burke, back from injury had one of his rare shockers and this will be remembered as the worst match his played in the Super 12. The Hurricanes to their credit held on through the boot of Holwell and at half time the game was reasonably squared, admittedly the Waratahs deserved a far better return for their efforts.
All Black great and assistant coach Brian Williams summed up the Hurricanes plight at half time by mentioning that they had to secure some ball and start to play rugby. The Waratahs continued in similar vein but crucial errors and an uncanny high penalty count put paid to their efforts. They seem to fall foul of Andre Watson’s whistle and he punished their mistakes relentlessly. By now the Hurricanes, through the efforts of Waller and an efficient loose trio secured more ball for the dangerous backs to run with. Lomu was used both wide and around the fringes as an extra forward and the big fella as usual tied up three to four defenders in turn creating space for players like Lillee.
The Waratahs, in a few crucial blows, lost Nathan Gray to the sin bin and Manny Edmunds to injury, this disrupted their game and Matt Burke’s shocking kick offs swung the impetus towards the Hurricanes. The men in yellow scored a few blistering tries, one the result of a shocking defensive blunder from Matt Burke to rally ahead and take the match out of the Waratahs’ reach. Players like Ingham and Gray when back on the field did not relent though and tried and tested the Hurricanes defence on numerous occasions but apart from an Ingham try it was not their night.
The Hurricanes through mercurial fullback Cullen managed to score a fourth try in the dying seconds to secure a much needed bonus point so crucial for their semi final hopes. The Waratahs with two matches left against in-form Crusaders and Reds seem unlikely to be in contention for the semi finals, a bit unlucky for a team who did so well early on in the competition.
Men of the match: Dion Waller and Luke Ingham
Stormers 29 - Chiefs 15
The Stormers beat the Chiefs convincingly at Newlands in an evening match. The match was not a particularly good one between two teams more renowned for their counter attacking abilities than structured multiphase play.
The Stormers forwards did plenty of good work and the loose forwards created a few opportunities but the lack of direction was evident and one of the reasons the Stormers struggle against teams set on making as little as possible mistakes and playing the percentages. It was evident from this performance that they need the creative spark that Paulse, Skinstad and Rossouw bring added with the hard graft of Krige.
The same can be said of the Chiefs, they have the creative flair in the backs with Reihana and Randle, two very elusive men. The problem though is establishing control and creating a platform to attack from. The good teams should not turnover that much ball for the Chiefs’ flyers to capitulate. John Mitchell, will no doubt rectify this over the next few years and with the undoubted talent at the back will become a very dangerous team to beat indeed.
The Stormers’ season may not be “mathematically” over, the word to describe straw helms, (hey, miracles do happen, the Bulls won!) but they have a tough task ahead against two local sides. The match was also a farewell to Newlands, I’m sure a lot will be said before next year’s competition but the men in black do perform better to a capacity, fanatic crowd at Newlands than anywhere else. Let’s hope for the players and new coach’s sake the administrators sort it out.
The Chiefs head back to play the Hurricanes, an unenviable task and a great big ask from the players but then, All Black reputations will be on the line and a New Zealand side can effectively end another’s chance for semi final contention.
Man of the match: Deon Muir
Crusaders 34 - Sharks 24
A Sharks’ 1st XV came unstuck against a motivated Crusaders outfit, out to prove to their home fans why they were champions 3 times in a row. The fans, attending in their droves were not disappointed; their team played classy rugby with All Black selection and pride only to motivate them. The Sharks trying to qualify for a home semi final after four weeks overseas found the locals in no charitable mood and walked away with nothing.
The Sharks began very well in the first half and scored three very good tries to lead by 2 points at the break. The forwards were delivering and the backs with in-form Kayser looked dangerous. The Crusaders however never let them get away too far and one sensed a far higher urgency amongst the men from Canterbury.
The Crusaders dominated the second half and even though they only played against 14 men at one stage they were just too good for the Sharks, the Mauger brothers orchestrated the backline superbly and the young Aaron probably justified his selection ahead of All Black Mehrtens. The reason the sharks were reduced to 14 was total stupidity from Brent Moyle, mountaineering on a player about 20 meters from the ball, duhh! Off course he was caught and this cost his team a possible bonus point.
Mark Andrews and Norm Maxwell shared a 10 minute break for “politely greeting” each other and “enquiring” about the weather the referee was not impressed. One could argue that with both players off the field the going was even but Andrews is the captain and that always affects the team.
On the night the Crusaders outclasses the log leaders and proved to their many supporters, home and abroad that they will, like Arnie, be back but only next year. The Sharks take a rest after 10 weeks of rugby and regroup to face the Stormers in what will become a crucial encounter to win a home semi final.
Man of the match: Aaron Mauger
Reds 22 - Cats 16
The Reds recorded their 3rd straight victory and denied the Cats crucial points for a home semi final spot. The match played in Brisbane, was a must win situation for the home team and they duly obliged by playing it hard and tough. The Cats, only one point the richer will reflect on what they must have identified as a possible win before the tour. They have the unenviable record of never winning a match in Australia and will have to wait another year to accomplish that.
The Reds dominated proceedings in the first half and more importantly they capitalized on the Cats mistakes to score points. Boosted by the return of Eales the Reds pack delivered a solid performance against the physical men from the Cats. The defence, historically strong was working well and the Cats backline with dangerous players like Hall and Delport were never given enough space to move. In turn the Cats had a bad defensive lap to allow Flatley in for his try, the flyhalf had a very accomplished display and will provide Stephen Larkham with some pressure for the Wallaby berth.
The Cats, as the commentators suggested must have had a lambasting by Laurie Mains at half time and played far better in the second half. Andre Venter both created and finished a magnificent try from seventy meters out, to briefly threaten a come back. The Reds closed shop and the notorious defence held firm with penalties making up the balance of the scoreline.
The Cats felt the absence of captain and star flanker Rassie Erasmus whose creative touch was sorely missed. The worrying factor for the team must be the form of Werner Swanepoel, he is a fine player on the break but his option taking and kicking is not up to a test players standard, as Phil Kearns loudly exclaimed, “for goodness sake put the boot away Werner!”.
The Reds did well to turn their season around after the narrow loss in George against the Stormers and was it not for the bad run of injuries to key players would have been well in contention for a semi final spot. As it is they need to win their two remaining matches against fellow contenders Highlanders and then the Waratahs in what will be a test team trials match.
The Cats head home, heads held high with two victories after none in the previous five years and with bonus points from the matches lost. They now face the resurgent Bulls at home after a weeks rest.
Men of the match: Andre Venter and Elton Flatley
Bulls 28 - Blues 25
The Bulls finally did it! Even the worse enemy of this side could not help to suppress a smile on this occasion. The match was one of those close affairs and to be honest a draw would have been a fair reflection but then drawing is like kissing your sister and the Bulls deserved a win after a few near misses earlier in the season.
The Bulls’ forwards once again established a good platform by winning enough first phase possession however the lack of ingenuity out wide was the old Achilles heel. There were a few fine moments, mostly from the youngsters and even if there were a lot of criticism felled at the coach in this regard, the players took (excuse the pun) the bull by the horns and produced some scintillating moves. Yes, they will make mistakes, idiotic ones to boot but with the experienced players, except Joost unable to provide a stabilizing influence they have to learn unaided and gain experience the hard and tough way. One of the better sights in rugby is a classy wing using his speed to round his opponents and save tries on cross defence, Lombaard did both, he will play for the Boks sooner rather than later.
The Blues played well considering the altitude and the usual low that comes after a very good victory. James Alridge, the young flyhalf, is a good player and his skill with both feet is testimony of his burgeoning talent. The forwards missed Parkinson but his brother-in-hair played well enough but without the bulk and presence Parkinson provide.
The Bulls lost a few influential players during the match, both Anton Leonard and Joost were replaced, making this an even more remarkable effort. The match was only won in the dying seconds but once again the game is never over ‘till the final whistle and for once in favour of the men from Pretoria.
The Blues travel home to face the Brumbies and the Cats and Sharks will hope for a goos showing from Robin Brooke’s men. The Bulls, well they face the Stormers at home and this could be a very tight bruising affair.
Man of the match: Friederich Lombaard
The log after week 10:
Opinions and Views
The one handed palmer can always reach higher, they say. They may be right, but the result is that nearly every lineout is like a tropical island - all waving palms. Vivian Jenkins
Rugby is a game for the mentally deficient... That is why it was invented by the British. Who else but an Englishman could invent an oval ball? Peter Pook
I'm just off for a quiet pint. Followed by fifteen noisy ones. Gareth Chilcott after last game for his club
In cricket it seperated Bradman and Sobers from the rest; Pele had it in football, Borg had it in tennis, Ali had it in boxing, Barry John had it in rugby. Those who try to pin down everything in life like so many butterflies to a board would call it genius. I prefer it nameless. George Allan
The whole of the world is tribal, but when it comes to rugby, New Zealand is much more tribal than most. The All Blacks are the national virility symbol. Their people support them come hail, rain or shine. Mike Gibson
Super 12 Barometer
The Super 12 team we should choose in case the Six Nations compiles a similar 1st XV for a match-up on neutral ground of course. What do you think? - Ed
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