|Volume 1 - Week 19|
Brilliant! The international season is taking a breather after three weeks of turbulent displays from the Springboks and steady growth from the All Blacks (sound like a market report!), all attention is now focused on the world champion Wallabies’ quest to break their duck against the mighty Lions.
The first test between the Lions and Australia was an awesome match of scorching intensity and breathtaking individual performances but before I continue, a slice of humble pie… Like many pundits and the entire Australian team I did not rate the Lions chances high at all, fortunately my penance is a few words of apology, John Eales and his men must face a rampant, confident Lions outfit boosted by a win over Super 12 champions, the ACT Brumbies.
The match provided a few unforgettable moments; Jason Robinson’s try for the sheer audacity of running around Latham and the defining moment, Brian O’Driscoll’s sublime pace and slick footwork to beat Larkham and Burke and score virtually untouched – sheer genius! One would forgive and not bet against the young boy wonder if he was to attempt walking from the mainland to Tasmania!
The Springboks were horrible in the first half but in true commentating parlance, it was a game of two halves and the second was much better with some good tries. A continuous worry though is the apparent lack of direction in attack, the Italians were a forgiving side but the same sentiments will not be found at Newlands on the 21st of July.
The Skinstad question, for all the furore it caused, was soon forgotten and our new captain can be satisfied with his personal performance in what amounted to his first 80 minutes of rugby in 2 years. The trademark linking and offloads were there and with teammates settling into familiar positions and running lines his impact should be felt, that is if our tight five dominate of course.
A worrying factor is the tendency of South African players to look elsewhere once there is a downturn in fortunes, in other words foreign offers are suddenly times a dozen and agents unscrupulously wave the carrot of the mighty pound. The decision of Andre Vos to remain in South Africa and fight for a place in the starting XV must be applauded and rank as a worthy reminder of a good character and belief in his country. I think we have not seen the back of him just yet and as in his early days with the Queensland Reds he can adopt to the flanker role again with success.
The Currie Cup, premier domestic championship kicks off this weekend and with SARFU continuing the previous year’s format supporters can once again look forward to an exciting season culminating in strength versus strength super eight round robin. The new season will inevitably produce new talent and hopefully SARFU will appoint the new Super 12 coaches early enough for them to identify and recruit capable squads for next year.
The weekend’s test match promises to be a humdinger and once bitten twice shy I will not predict a winner but express the hope of witnessing another memorable match of rugby football.
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Disappointed Ausies by Mark Foster
The cat is amongst the pigeons or in this case the Lions are amongst the Wallabies and to the dismay of every “Ausie, Ausie Ausie” chanting supporter a probable victory became impossible. The stark fact that the world champions in everything but “jukskei” lost to the forefathers who mercilessly banished them to shores afar were doubtless difficult to bear. My sympathies to my Australian friends, knowing their demeanor they took this defeat graciously and sportsmanlike…
What is the immediate implication of the defeat? The Wallabies will realise that trophies in cabinets are worth jack on the field and that opponents at this level afford little respect to past endeavors or feats. This is only after one defeat, a second defeat a week later, which is not impossible, and the implications will suddenly multiply in tens. The repercussions of a series win to the Lions will create a ripple effect around the world and a total rethink on how the game should be played in the future.
Harry Viljoen and by implication South Africa are Australian converts, the style of play, the training methods and even coaches were adopted to create a “South African brand of Australian” rugby. Cannot fault the man, Rod Macqueen is statistically the best rugby coach ever and as a role model unsurpassed however what happens now if the Wallabies lose against the Lions? Do we revert to Lions rugby? Cast an eye on this Lions, they are playing the way South Africa played when we were great, if I sound like an ex pat please forgive me but Graham Henry’s men are dominating up front with robust physical forwards and then moving the ball to brilliant backs once the opposition forwards are sucked in. Admittedly, he has in Wilkinson and O’Driscoll two brilliant exponents with quick hands, elusive running angles and a “feel” for the game. Do I hear Ian McIntosh saying “but that is what I’ve been saying for yonks!” and he was criticized for playing so-called “konsertina” rugby!
The crux of this argument is that South Africa should stop imitating and begin innovating, best done by the return to dominant forward play, creative genius at the decision making roles of 8, 9, 10, 12 and 15 with our usual array of physically strong outside centres and wings. Easy is it not? No, afraid not, the Springboks are slow in identifying genius all be it errant and to nurture talent to develop into the complete article. Andre Joubert and Henry Honibal missed many seasons of top-flight rugby due to the lack of recognition of their exceptional talents.
Harry Viljoen is able to recognize talent that is a fact; Bob Skinstad and James Smal are two of the many young men developed by Harry into world-class performers. Players like these two and other in similar mould does need one thing though and that is grafters, players around them that do the donkey work and refuse to take the shine but accept the plaudits in private, knowing that their input was essential. Andre Venter is one, Mark Andrews use to be one, Corne Krige is developing into one, what we need is a few more to combine with the likes of Skinstad, James, Fleck and Jantjies.
I do not believe that Springbok rugby is in a crisis yet, what is needed is confidence in players, in a game plan and then as much consistency as we can muster. Squad rotation outside of a match 22 is disastrous, Nick Mallett’s been there done that and lost the T-shirt, a coach however does not have any choice if the current crop is not performing, a Helleresque conundrum and ironic that 22 is once again the number! The players should start performing and justify the reason they were included in any of Viljoen’s original planning. Yes, there is a lot to learn and new ideas galore but the players; the pampered, well-paid PROFESSIONALS cannot hide behind these excuses forever, it is high time they stand up and be counted.
The Australians this weekend have a weighty responsibility to win in order to appease their supporters and reaffirm the belief of the followers of their playing style, in doing so they will keep alive the hope of winning the series and other’s vision on rugby’s future.
New Zealand 37 - France 12
The All Blacks managed to get one back on a very game though inexperienced French side, dispelling the fear of a repeat, shock loss in the World Cup and on their European tour last year.
The Kiwis struggled in the tight phases against a very strong French pack however every other aspect of the game was tightly controlled and brilliantly executed. The French, omitting some of the key performers of the shared series with the Springboks, lacked any real penetration out wide and young flyhalf, Skrela was too slow and too predictable. Merceron, the hero of the first test victory against South Africa was introduced later in the match however his earlier presence might have changed the course of the match.
The All Black backline was in tremendous form and every member contributed to a try fest, Jeff Wilson overtook Christian Cullen as top try scorer with a glorious try and fine all round display. Led by Brown, both Alatini and Umaga had plenty of space to run at the opposition and create opportunities for the back three with Lomu playing his best test in ages.
The French, valiantly introduced young players on this three-match tour and they will be a far better side after this experience, great talents like Merceron and Jeanjean emerged and they should regard the tour as a successful experiment.
The All Blacks are looking very dangerous for the Tri Nations, possessed with an extraordinary backline and rampant physical forwards, Wayne Smith will be pleased with their last three outings. A first up test against the Springboks await at Newlands in three weeks time.
Moment of the match: Doug Howlett’s try, replacing McDonald with 5 minutes left there was plenty of speculation if he could maintain a unique record of scoring in every march his played, he did so within the minute!
Man of the match: Jeff Wilson
Australia 13 - British and Irish Lions 29
The multi cup holding Wallabies were shocked in their foundations by a magnificent Lions victory. The combined forces of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales were too strong for a strangely placid Australian team.
The match began with a scuttle for position and possession but an electrifying try from Jason Robinson, who after a quick ruck ball and fast hands skipped around Chris Latham set the tone for the Lions performance on the day. The men in red were lionesque in their defence and their technique of low and hard tackling ensured that there were no breaches of the first line. The commitment of the players were impressive and led by captain, Martin Johnson each and every player made a tremendous amount of big hits on a disrupted Wallaby side.
The Wallabies were a far cry from the all-conquering team of the past few seasons, the bounce of the ball, admittedly was not in their favour in this match and they might rue the absence of enough warm-up matches prior to this series. Rod MacQueen’s men looked a bit shell shocked by the way the Lions got in amongst them and created absolute havoc. The well drilled pack, led by huge performances from Keith Wood, captain Johnson and Scott Quinell competed fiercely and mostly dominated the Australians, forcing them on the back foot in part making it extremely difficult for the much fancied Australian backs.
The Lions backs were in one word phenomenal, Wilkinson provided both Henderson and O’Driscoll with the all-important extra split second with his fine distribution and boy, did the two Irishmen revel in it! Both players seem to cut the much vaunted Australian three-quarter line at will and O’Driscoll’s try in the second half equals Andre Snyman’s effort at Twickenham in 1997 for brilliance. The 22-year-old is arguably the best centre playing the game at the moment, his defence and more importantly attacking skills make him the most dangerous threat to Australia’s hope of a home series. Let us not forget Robinson…
The Lions caught the Wallabies napping and their sternest test will come next week when they are sure not to have proceedings as easy as it was in this test. The score in the series is 1-0 though and that creates unbelievable pressure on John Eales and his men in the coming week. The Lions, with wily coach Graham Henry can concentrate on improving a winning formula and team with injured stars available for selection it provides for a far better outlook than what Rod MacQueen is facing, with playmaker Stephen Larkham and Jeremy Paul unavailable for the rest of the series.
Moment of the match: There were a few; Robinson rounding Latham, Walker’s twinkle toes through defenders, Brian O’Driscoll’s try, one of the best ever and Keith Wood’s attempt at a drop goal from almost 50 meters out – what confidence!
Men of the match: Keith Wood and Brian O’Driscoll.
South Africa 60 – Italy 14
The Springboks and Italy met for the fifth time in history and after a magnificent rendition of their national anthem by angelic Claire Johnstone the Italians were inspired to perform.
The Springboks led by controversial selection, Bob Skinstad were poor in the first 30 minutes, too many handling errors, stern Italian defence and a propensity for aimless running and passing in a difficult wind restricted their flow however there were far more backbone in their performance.
The Italians tried hard and supported the ball carrier very well but with a few first selections unavailable for this tour they were always going to struggle against the Springboks. One could however discern the Kiwi influence from Brad Johnstone with a strong showing from the forwards.
The Springbok’s managed to carry the ball wide on numerous occasions and this was helped by Montgommery’s performance at flyhalf. The Stormers player enjoyed a good afternoon at no 10 and with a crisp service from Neil De Kock there was plenty of time to decide whether to run, kick or pass, against more able opposition the reaction time will be halved. Paulse, Delport and Jantjies were good value and with Bob Skinstad providing the linking pass on a few occasions they were able to do some running.
A more disconcerting aspect of the test was the performance of the Springbok pack, the tight phases were not up to scratch and judging by the other two matches on the day, the Southern Hemisphere is falling behind in this department. Once the ball moves away from the scrums and lineouts, the men in green and gold were far better and easily outgunned their opposition. The much-in-demand second row pairing of Andrews and Ackerman proved successful in the general play but the lineouts were once again a worry. Bob Skinstad made clever use of himself in the back of the lineout and van Biljon in his first test proved to be a very good replacement to John Smit who left the field with an injury.
A big question of the prevailing week namely Bob Skinstad’s performance, was adequately answered by the player himself. The new captain uncharacteristically dropped a few passes but his workrate on defence, lineouts and his linking out wide was superb. All in all a more than satisfying 80 minutes, the man will be ready for the Tri Nations.
The new players performed admirably the likes of Matfield, van der Westhuizen, De Kock, van Biljon and Jantjies can play a big role in both the current setup and the future. Joost may have a better future as impact player, within a tight match his electrifying breaks are nullified but with twenty minutes left on the clock he could prove a very valuable asset to unlock defences.
The Springboks will take heart at achieving a confidence building victory however a lot of hard work remains before the Tri Nations and the avoidance of embarrassment.
Moment of the match: Breyton Paulse’s try after a fancy back flick pass from Bob Skinstad
Man of the match: Breyton Paulse
If the game is run properly as a professional game, you do not need 57 old farts running rugby. Will Carling
The French selectors never do anything by halves; for the first international of the season against Ireland they dropped half the three-quarter line. Nigel Starmer-Smith
If I had been a winger, I might have been daydreaming and thinking about how to keep my kit clean for the next week. Bill Beaumont
After biting Sean Fitzpatrick's ear - For an 18-month suspension, I feel I probably should have torn it off. Then at least I could say, 'Look, I've returned to South Africa with the guy's ear.' Johan le Roux
Letters to the Editor
I am a real Bok supporter probably since birth, win or loose. We will be ready for RWC 2003 with or without Harry. Coaches gets the blame for players' mediocre performances. Let us leave the coaches and put the pressure on players to play for their country with pride and dedication. We will have Italy for biltong comming Saturday as it was proved by Namibia already that the Italians have still a lot to learn and much "pap" to be eaten before they can think of beating the worlds best side, who are the Bokke. Best wishes to Bobby in whom I have trust as a player and captain. Its just so sorry that the wrong people got axed after mediocre performances, never the less we are and will be the best in 2003.
Well what can we say ? Another one bites the dust.
In a nutshell. Andre's not gone but still hanging onto the fringes (even if it is the flank). At least he has not been chucked out of the team and now that Bobby's the captain we must as a rugby loving nation be behind him and give him our support.
Harry, well he will always be Harry, a puppet for SARFU. He reminds me of my neighbors dog, bark, bark and bark. Turn around and say voetsak and then tjank- tjank ja baas, jammer baas, tail between the legs baas.
About the two "Froggie" test games, we could see that there was no game plan or that the pockets were too full of all that lovely lollie and could not run with that weight. WE need to play basic rugby again, stuff all that fancy pancy stuff. Get over the try line (theirs not ours).
Let me end with a famous song for my pet hate Springbok player, Percy Monty:
PERCY VAT DIT IN DIE H....L
DOO DAA ,DOO DAA
PERCY TAKES IN THE B....M
DOO DAA, DOO DAA
Cheers Clive E. (Bucket)
With all this bullsh*t about running lines and angles and God only knows what else, most of our test team (and provincial) players have gone and got themselves lost in the map of some idiot who have forgotten about the basic idea of playing rugby.
All this unnamed idiot has to do is look at how the Barbarians in the UK approach the game. They get together a few days before the game and run riot on the field. No fancy training camps and all that hogwash that goes with it. Just basic normal rugby with ball in hand. Strong scrummaging, fast loosies and a backline that is not afraid to get away from the protection of his all so protectfull forwards.
All the so called experts tell us about the defence patterns that has improved so much lately. They have improved so much because we have become so predictable. All the sides know that the ball will not reach the outside centre more than ten percent of the time. And when it does, he has run across the field and has no space to work with between himself and the wing.
No man, this drivel we hear from all coaches must stop and they must teach the players the basics of rugby.
As far as Bobby Skinstad is concerned, he was not my first choice as captain, but then neither was Andre Vos. We must now support Bobby the same way we did Andre, Gary and Francois. He after all did not pick himself, and he deserves our support because of that fact alone.
I am not going to say anything about your opinion regarding the Lions/Wallaby match.
Living in Australia, I got to see all the Lions tour matches so far. What a revelation! We have all duped duped by the clinical and I believe boring way the Australian team have played the game. No real exciting flair. This is my opinion any way.
The Lions play rugby the way it should be played. Tough up front and going forward ball goes wide, faster than anything I have seen. I wish Harry Viljoen could see the match. Unfortunately, it's a bit dark where his head is.
Thank God for the Lions. Brought the spark back into the way the game should be played.
Yip, eating a large dose of humble pie and I'm sure many others as well... did you read the Peter Fitzsimmons article on the defeat on the Rugbyheaven site? An extract, "if you take into account only the result on the scoreboard and COMPLETELY ignore everything else, it is possible to come to the conclusion that the Wallabies - how do I say this? - lost." Agreed, the Lions played magnificent exciting rugby and I for one will make no predictions come Saturday... -Ed.
Briewe en Opinies in Afrikaans
Die oer oue les van selfversekerheid het weer dié naweek kop uitgesteek, dit is wonderlik hoe ons as sportmalle publiek hierdie fenomeen nog steeds aanskou, 'n mens sou verwag dat enige internasionale sportman of -span met die standaard van tegnologie en sielkundige bystand beskikbaar uit die ou lokval se pad sal bly. Ek praat natuurlik van die vernederde Australiërs wat goed opgedons is teen die Britse Leeus en voordat daar enigsins verder geskryf word moet ek my grootste en nederigste apologie aanteken dat ek met dieselfde truuk gevang is!
Die wedstryd van die jaar sover is op ongelooflike wyse deur die Leeus in Brisbane gewen, die manne het met brute krag en profesionele uitvoering die mag van die wêreld kampioene verpletter. Die mees indruwekkenste apsek van hierdie oorwinning was die agterlyn spel, 'n afdeling waar die Ausies al vir jare koning kraai. So briljant was die twee Iere, O'Driscoll en Henderson op senter dat daar in Kangaroo land 'n aandrang op die herinstelling van afgetrede Tim Horan is. Suid-Afrikaners sal onthou hoe Nick Farr-Jones orreed is om ons die stryd aan te sê met ons toer doer onder in 1993, hy was indirek verantwoordelik vir 'n toer nederlaag, dit, glo ek sal egter nie weer gebeur nie. Die kruks van die saak is egter dat daar bekommerde mense in die Wallabies-kamp is.
So gepraat van bekommerde mense, Harry Viljoen slaap seker deesdae maar rusteloos want so gekyk na die Springbok vertoning van die naweek is daar weereens meer vrae as antwoorde. Die groot aantal spelers wat gebruik is in die drie toetse het almal gesukkel om te oortuig wat die eintlike plan van aksie is. Die bal word lewendig gehou en dit kan aanvaar word dat dit die spil is waarom die "plan" draai maar op die oomblik blyk dit die hoof- en enigste doel te wees. Die balbesit moet egter gekanaliseer word in konstruktiewe bewegings wat die verdediging toets, die paar keer wat daar voorwaarts gehardloop is en spelers hulleself in gapings probeer plaas het was die agterlyn giftig. Die idiaal en ek is seker hulle weet dit, is om dit elke keer reg te kry d.m.v inoverende hardlooplyne en die "flair" van Fleck, Paulse en Skinstad. 'n Belangrike vereiste vir dié tipe spel is vinnige balbesit van 'n oorheersende pak voorspelers, 'n beginsel wat Saterdag deur die Leeus vervolmaak is. Dit blyk uit die vertonings van die Noordelike Halfrond spanne dat hulle ons vooruit is met die standaard van hulle voorspeler spel en ek hoef niemand te herinder wie se tradisionele sterkpunt dit was nie!
Die Springbokke speel eers weer oor drie weke teen die span wat op die stadium die gevaarlikste vertoon, die All Blacks. Toegegee, enige speler wat die groen en goud trui oor die kop trek teen die All Blacks is 'n tien keer meer gemotiveerde speler maar die manne met die silwer varing het op die oomblik die beste voorbereiding en selfvertroue wat so belangrik is in 'n toets wedstryd. Een ding wat my erg bekommer is die bewering dat daar twee persent of so iets is wat die "verskil" maak op die vlak van 'n toetswedstryd tussen wen of verloor synde die spesiale aandag aan skop vang ens. die vraag is nou wat word benodig om op die "X" persentasie te kom voordat die 2 persent 'n verskil maak want ek is bevrees ons dop die toets sover.
Die komende naweek skop die Currie Beker af met 'n volle rondte en die "gewone" spelers kry weer kans om te beindruk na 'n lang periode van onaktiwiteit, hopelik is Harry Viljoen nog buigsaam genoeg om spelers wat op hierdie vlak presteer in aanmerking te neem. Ek verwys nou spesifiek na spelers soos Trevor Halstead, André Snyman en meer belangrik voorrye soos Toks van der Linde en Cobus Visagie. Die toekoms van Springbok rugby as toonaangewende land lê in die hande van die groot manne in die voorry, ons moet weereens domineer en teenstanders se respek afdwing met superior skrumkrag en die res sal vanself kom, 'n belofte van André Markgraaf as ek reg kan onthou.
Die tweede toets tussen die Wallabies en Leeus is die liplekker stryd vir die naweek en 'n Wallabies oorwinning sal die reeks ongelooflik interesant maak asook natuurlik 'n bemarkings droom vir die finale wedstryd die daaropvolgende week. Geniet die rugby en ondersteun die provinsiale spanne in die Currie Beker.
Die beste besluit wat Harry Viljoen nog as afrigter gemaak het is om Vos van die kapteinskap te ontneem en Bob Skinstad in sy plek aan te stel. Skinstad is 'n uitstekende leier en een van die beste agstemanne ter wêreld. Skinstad moet saam met Venter en Erasmus die lostrio vorm met AJ Venter op die bank. Dalton is 'n moet vir die Bokke se lynstaanwerk. Kempson moet die loskop wees, met Meyer of Cobus Visagie op vaskop. Smit en Ollie kan as impakspelers gebruik word. In Andrews,Vd Bergh,Ackermann en Matfield het ons vier puik slotte. Joost is steeds ons nommer een skrumskakel en Craig Davidson is tweede beste. Op losskakel sal ek vir Braam kies vir sy stelskopwerk en die senters moet Halstead en Fleck wees. Delport,Paulse en Hall vorm 'n gedugte agterste-drie en Kayser en Butch James kan die bank warm hou. Met dié span staan die Bokke 'n kans in die Drienasies, maar met Jantjies,Montgomery,Krige,Vos,Barry en De Cock in die span lê daar groot slae voor vir Bokke in die Drienasies.
Ek het nie veel om te se nie, maar ek het wel die antwoord
oor n paar kwessies rakende span keuses. My span is nie gekies met die oog
Die span is as volg, Percy Montgomery, Brayton Paulse, Andre Snyman, Robbie Fleck, Thinus Delport, Gaffie de Toit, Neil de Kok, Bob Skinstad (c), Andre Venter, Corne Krige, Mark Andrews, Johan Ackerman, Willie Meyer, John Smit, Cobus Visagie. Reserwes: Joost, Pieter Rossouw, Deon Kaysor, James Dalton, Robbie Kempson, Victor Matfield, Rassie Erasmus.
Ek weet julle lug nou seker n paar wenkbroue oor my keuse
as heelagter. Kom ek verduidelik hoekom. My eerlike opinie oor Percy en
Thinus is dat beide van hulle nie van internasionale gehalte is nie. Percy
het wel n groot linkervoet, en as hy n slag uitskop, wen dit darem ver
Belowende spelers vir die komende wereld beker sal wel speelkans kry deurentyd.
Nag ou grote en laat dit juig.
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