|Volume 1 - Week 2|
Brilliant! Thank you for the fine efforts this week I doubt if we'll uncover any Norman Mailer's but what the heck, damn good fun and all for something we love.
The weekend’s matches were encouraging from a South African perspective, awesome stuff from the Cats and stirring defence from the Sharks. The Stormers are in for a tough time on tour and there seem to be disparity in the team, certainly in their performance. The Ausie commentators had a field day and as entertaining as they can be it does get a bit much! “Sour grapes!” I hear from Down Under, damn right it is mate!
Home advantage is still the dominating factor in this competition and as most agree travelling teams notching that elusive win will prove decisive in this competition. The Kiwi teams are always contenders in the latter half of the competition and there should be no false illusions with their omission from the top half of the log.
The weekend also saw England, once again trounce their northern neighbours and if they continue to build and improve the Southern Hemisphere will never again have an easy game or be able to afford an off day against the Roses. Foot and mouth disease sounds like something one can contract from rugby not proscribe the game. The French as usual got the better of Italy in the all-European tie.
On a more serious note, the death of one of sport’s true greats and arguably the best of them all did not pass unnoticed it is a tribute to the stature of the man to evoke such feelings decades after his feats in the middle. There are a few anecdotes from this magnificent cricketer’s life but the one that will always stay with me is; after being asked what he would have averaged against a particular poor English side contending the ashes he replied with a surprising low figure of in the sixties. The intrepid interviewer could not believe his ears; this man averaged 99.94 in tests and 95 runs in first class matches, how could that be true? The Don replied, “I am in my eighties you know!” Sir Donald Bradman - the best ever.
Have a wonderful weekend of rugby, send in those articles/opinions and forward RF to everybody you know.
Ps: For all new readers, please mail me at RugbyForum@freemail.absa.co.za to include or remove your mail address or to request previous copies of RF.
“Demise of the rugby Broederbond” by Polla Scholtz
One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how some of our Boks temporarily manage to forget their shared loyalties, which must surely burn brightly within all of them every time they don the Green ‘n Gold on some faraway paddock, when they run out for their provincial teams. One of the great charms of rugby is unquestionably its physical nature, but when players who play together on international tours resort to maliciously elbowing and shoulder-charging each other, something must surely be rotten in the state of Denmark. The niggle shown in the two SA derbies played last weekend in the Super 12 confirms that one-on-one rivalry and provincialism, for a decade the scourges of SA rugger, are alive and well.
Few SA rugger fans will offer much pity to the hapless Welshman who was pole-axed by a late shoulder charge by Japie Mulder on last year’s Bok tour to the UK (and rightfully so, we cry out!), but local supporters clamoured in unison last week for the Bok midfielder’s head, following his barging of De Wet Barry in the Cats/Stormers game. It is generally accepted that Mulder’s actions were in retaliation for an earlier, legitimate tackle by the coastal upstart (as he was presumably viewed). At the heart of the public’s repugnance lies a disbelief that Mulder could so easily, and to such brutal effect, manage to set aside his national allegiances – out of a naïve belief that to play for het Springbokken amounts to an admission to a sacred band of brothers– to launch into a personal attack against his Bok teammate.
I’m not convinced that all the fuss over the Mulder/Barry affair was warranted, but my point is cemented by the silly roughing up of Breyton Paulse by Thinus Delport only minutes earlier. Once again, simple mean-spiritedness seems to have been the motive, as Delport sought to show Paulse – the darling of the Newlands faithful, especially the Kappies en Coke throngs on the terraces – just who was baas. As was reported in this week’s edition of Rugby Gossip, this was especially foolhardy, as unconfirmed sources reported that an ominous looking chap with what appeared to be a dishcloth on his head, mumbling something incoherent about a juggaluss, was noticed skulking around the Cats’ hotel shortly after the game.
For God’s sake, guys, save your malevolent energies for the Kiwis and the Aussies - at least you will then spare the SA rugger public the anguish of having to condemn the actions of a favourite son! In the meanwhile, young Mr Barry will do well to avoid any further direct confrontation with the burly old warhorse. Parry, stab, thrust, and save yourself for another day. After all, aren’t De Wet’s good at that sort of stuff?
“The more things change the more they stay the same” by Mark Foster
Week 2 of the Super 12 is over and there were a few upsets to the fancied teams. There are only three unbeaten teams and few would have correctly predicted them two weeks ago, the rest are struggling to find rhythm and form. History of the competition suggests suicide for the early log leaders however a plethora of winning is the catalysts for confidence; confident teams win matches.
Confidence is commonly acknowledged as essential to perform well in anything from opera singing to egg spoon racing at the local church bazaar. The great teams in world sport of recent years like Manchester United and the Australian cricket team inevitably attain and sustain winning form over a few seasons. The reasons for this phenomenon varies from a brilliant coach, great leadership, star performer(s) and depth in playing personnel to something simple like continuity in selection.
The plea thus from coaches and players to give them time to regain or attain confidence is a valid one. I beg however the question, why do some young inexperienced players walk onto the park and perform and others don’t? Surely to train with great players, coached by legends (in some case) and inclusion in a squad above hundreds of other hopefuls should provide ample confidence?
The fact of the matter is that confidence is confused with temperament, there are many confident players out there due to afore mentioned factors or their prior accomplishments all be it at a lower level. Temperament however is not something one can coach or train hours for, it’s natural. Enter BMT, the much vaunted “big match temperament”, cliché I hear you say? I don’t think so; the coaches and the stars around a player can instil confidence, the player himself though must perform under intense pressure and succeed.
How do we find BMT in players? Those who possess this gift i.e., great players past and present and certain coaches will realise it like a slap in the face. The challenge is not only to recognise but also develop it and more importantly to expose it. Examples are ample over the years, invariably these players achieve the legendary status they otherwise might never have had but for the timely intervention of genius. The more things change the more they stay the same the old adage describes of life; the same applies to sport.
“Back to Basics with the Sharks” by oom Boy Hartman
Hats off to Rudolf Straeuli and his merry band!
As befits a man with so belligerent a name, he and his advisors down in the trenches at the Shark Tank devised a gritty game plan that, with Prussian resolve, snuffed out the efforts of an extravagantly talented Brumbies backline. From where I sat high up on the main grandstand, it was not pretty on the eye, but it was pretty damn effective nevertheless, as wave after wave of attack was repulsed by offensive defence. Butch James might not be the greatest kicker about, but he packs a mean tackle - as George Gregan will testify. And the Guv’ (Mr Gregan) is no shrinking violet in that department either.
Having witnessed at firsthand the fluency with which the Guv’, Bernie (Steven Larkham) & Co demolished the Stormers backline last year, and having read reports of their destruction of the mighty Crusaders outfit in their Super 12 pipe-opener last week, I had little hope that an iffy Sharks backline would be up to the task of withstanding the looming onslaught. But my old mind is feeble now – the legacy of charging blindly into too many rucks without my scrumcap on, I suppose – and I too easily forgot the basic rule of trench warfare, ie that a 3-to-1 superiority, at least, is needed before an attack can be launched. Kitch Christie knew this, and his defensive patterns and beefy midfielders played a large role in securing glory in ’95 against a rampaging All Black back seven. Tackle, tackle, tackle (to crib Paul Roos’ immortal advice to the 1931 Boks), and the gaps will emerge.
General Sir Ian Hamilton, on the other hand, wasn’t as well versed in the art of modern conventional warfare, and his folly in blindly insisting on a policy of all-out attack meant that a hefty chunk of the flower of Australian youth perished under the spray of Turkish machine-gun fire on the beaches of Anzac Cove. For some of the beleaguered Aussies on Friday night it must have seemed like 1916 all over again. Faced with a remorseless, determined enemy, their peerless handling skills and innovative strategies were ground down into the pitiless soil.
Are you listening, Mr Viljoen?
(I doubt if Harry's got his copy of RF yet "oom" Boy but I'm trying my best to distribute the publication to the decision makers in rugby - Ed.)
"Let the Best Team Win" by Referees Suck
One must concede that it is definitely possible for a crowd to get behind the home team, lifting their team's spirits just enough to take the game away from the visitors. It is also possible that an intimate knowledge of the local atmospheric conditions and prevalent flora can give the home team an edge in certain departments. BUT, is it really possible that Home Advantage makes the visiting team more prone to transgress the Rules of the Game?
Let's for the sake of the argument arbitrarily choose the England Rugby Team playing at Twickenham and assume that referees worldwide apply the Rules of the Game without any favouritism.
If it the case that England is awarded more penalties (on average) at home than any other visiting international side, then it must the case that the England Team through skill and self-control are the best-behaved rugby team in the world. Being the best behaved team in the world, England should also have the best away game penalty record (on average).
But if another team like Ireland playing at Lansdowne Road is also awarded more penalties at home (on average) than any other visiting international team, then they must be the best behaved team in world. The same could be said for Argentina, Australia, France, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, Wales or any other International Rugby Team for that matter.
This would leave at least two logical conclusions:
The matter can be resolved if we were to assume that the Laws of Science also apply during Rugby Games. By applying Achem’s Razor, which states that the simplest explanation is also the most likely, one would probably find that… Referees do favour Home Sides.
It would be great if we had Rugby Statistics about the average number of penalties a team can expect when playing at any International Venue. At least then you would know that your team starts the game with a 5 penalty deficit. Wouldn’t this knowledge help you to avoid the hart wrenching scene where the referee runs the length of the pitch during injury time, blowing his whistle at 10 meter intervals whilst saluting the home team? And, wouldn’t you see the best team win more often?
(a university in Wales compile this kind of statistics, maybe a bit of surfing should be done, anybody else know where to find it? - Ed.)
"Ode to the East" by Roger
Congrats with the great initiative, I sent RF to all and sundry and would also like to contribute the following:
Reading through a few of my favourite sites this week it is quite apparent that rugby fans have something in common. The commonness we share is difference… huh? Yip, there is always a difference in opinion, a different fly half who we think is the dog’s bollocks or a different team we support.
Traditionally there was a North South divide however once the nineties arrived and on a glorious October day in Pretoria, the bastion of Northern rugby, the unthinkable happened, Naas and the “manne” lost to the “soutpiele” from Natal.
The difference in points that day was minute however the difference over years to come was colossal. Rugby in South Africa evolved to encompass three regions of strength, it also threw a spanner in the works of the North South debate. East? I have never heard about a North East or South East divide. Why then are there always niggle between North and South bordering on bare knuckle slugging?
Difference in opinion creates competition and competition in turn creates strength, for SA to become the world champions again we need not sledging, chirping, crying and whinging but difference in opinion, fierce and fair competition and from that eventual strength.
The Japie/Barry story reopened the festering wounds and credit to the Cats they composed and thumped the Highlanders. The boys down South took it differently and were way out of sorts in Sydney, mate. While everybody is sledging, chirping, crying and whinging the East is slowly marching to the top, reminiscent of the Cold War. Rudolph, a previous stalwart of the North is winning matches with his Sharks team and at the end of the day that is what it’s all about, winning matches.
Now if you think this is an ode to Natal you are quite right, the boys in the East are sticking to rugby and re-establishing a team similar to the greats of the nineties. South African rugby needs a strong Sharks team, one that will make a difference.
(Keep it coming Roger, the Natal Witness might want to use you - Ed.)
(answers at the end)
Blues 17 Crusaders 12
A close-knit affair between the only two sides so far to win the Super 12 title. The match was never a spectacle and it seems that the South African opinion regarding local match ups was validated.
There were some great moments however and with so many All Blacks on display who can blame them for rock solid defense coupled with a titanic struggle up front. The scoreboard will reflect another loss by the champions and they are reeling at the bottom of the log, they must be looking forward to Jade Stadium, beware of the Chiefs! Long penalty kicks are neutralized by two strong blokes picking up one tall bloke, this game was no different and the Crusaders employing this tactic saved three points. Carlos Spencer once again produced a bit of brilliance to sneak through the defense and provide a pass for Muliaina to score in the corner.
The result was well deserved and the Blues can only improve and relive the glory years of the nineties.
Hurricanes 26 Bulls 20
So close but yet so far, the Bulls almost sneaked a win in New Zealand, they can only blame missed opportunities and some errors in judgment for this loss. They will however take a lot of heart in their display against the finest attacking back line in Super 12 rugby.
The tackling was marvelous notably Lombaard and Joost coming up with try-saving efforts. Steyn of the “he’s there for his goal kicking abilities” was poor in this department and arguably cost them a historical win. The forwards with a superb Matfield were getting the better of a Hurricanes pack and it is a great tribute to the Hurricanes to win matches when they are not dominating possession. Goosen made an impact when he replaced Steyn and the try by Lombaard will be of the “something to tell your grandchildren” variety. For the Hurricanes this will be a timely reminder to either produce or buy quality forwards to feed the backs with some ball. Lomu scored his obligatory try although a rarity against South African teams and it was good to see the big one back.
The Stormers will be in for a trying time if they produce the same hapless performance of Sunday.
Chiefs 32 Reds 29
In an exciting match dominated by the kicking talents of Jackson (22 points) and Flatley (19 points) the Chiefs notched up a valuable home win against much fancied opposition.
The Chiefs spearheaded by strong drives and hard running backs took full advantage of the numerous errors from the Reds. The high penalty count was always going to influence the outcome however there were some fine tries by Roger Randle and Ben Tune, the latter is a splendid player if he can stay off the injury list.
The Reds will reflect on the one that got away and with the Chiefs reduced to 14 players they could not capitalize as seen before when this occurs. Waiting for them will be the Blues and the giants of yesteryear will have a fierce contest in Aukland. The Chiefs are looking to humiliate the Crusaders with a third defeat in a row.
Sharks 17 Brumbies 16
What a tense match! Rudolph must of aged substantially in the dying minutes of the match with wave after wave of Brumbie attacks on the Sharks line! Before this there was eighty minutes of hard fought uncompromising “test” rugby.
The Brumbies arrived in Durban with the reputation as the most inventive attacking team on the planet. A demolition job on the Crusaders the week before made them hot favorites for the encounter with the Sharks. The match was nowhere near the spectacle expected and the tactical nouz of Straeuli overcame the flamboyancy of Jones. The foundation of the Sharks victory was their defense, the catch phrase is offensive defense and this was a damn fine display.
First time tackling neutralized the dangerous Brumbie backs and astute tactical kicking forced the dangerous wingers to turn around. With this weakness exposed the Sharks exploited it ruthlessly and almost every ball was hoisted over the head of the diminutive Walker. The Sharks weakness in the scrums will be of great concern to the coach with the Highlanders looming. I question the decision of replacing Fynne with John Smit, Smit is a hooker and the best in the country, he should not be playing prop. Mark Andrews was a colossus and with his play, presence and captaincy he only needs to work on his goal kicking to replace John Eales as the most valuable player in world rugby!
The Sharks played well as a team and with some talented players returning from injury and suspension they need to capitalize on the newfound confidence. The Brumbies has an atrocious record in South Africa and they will hope to walk away from Ellis Park with at least a bonus point. The Cats will be hungry and prowling though.
Cats 56 Highlanders 21
Superb, sublime, slick Cats, what a performance! Mains will be the first to point out that there were errors and the display was not faultless but for the moment it is good to see quality tries aplenty.
The Highlanders attacked with their powerful scrum and was accomplished in the set phases, turnovers however cost them the match, the game is dominated by set phases but as we all know it is the subsequent phases that create try scoring opportunities. Chad Alcock was a deserved recipient of the man of the match award, he gave a polished display of attacking scrumhalf play, something that can backfire just as easily and beware Chad, the Brumbies will be looking out for you.
The key to the success of the Cats backline is Eugene Meyer, reminiscent of Dick Muir he is a superb organizer and defender with an impressive work rate. There were many good performances on the day and the forwards can be congratulated in playing as well as they did against class opposition. Mains should be well aware of his team’s capabilities after this display however they need to attain consistency over a sustained period and Saturday’s match against the Brumbies will be the real test.
The Highlanders should not despair, they can amend on Saturday against a Sharks pack that looked vulnerable and hopefully bring their dangerous backs into the game. The House of Pain will be a welcome comfort after their African sojourn.
Waratahs 35 Stormers 7
The match was in one word drab! Not since the Transvaal team of the early eighties were there that many knock-ons in a first class match! The Stormers should have performed far better with the confidence building South African victories of the day before. They did not.
The Waratah’s obviously sunk to the standard of the opposition, they were nowhere near the slick outfit of the week before. Edmunds even though he had a good game struggled with his hands and therefore the elusive Gray and Ingham was not as dangerous as they can be. The Waratah’s did catch a wake up and scored 4 tries to 1 eventually and it was mostly due to the settling effect of Matt Burke. In contrast to Percy Montgommery his direct opponent, Burke looked like an accomplished international and one feel that should he have an off day he’ll still be solid and never sink to the foibles of Montgommery. The commentators easily picked up on the hapless blonde’s(?) performance, and this pearler from Greg Clarke after the umpteenth knock summarised his day’s work, “Don’t bother to look at the video Monty… it’s not pretty!.”
Bob Dwyer can be very fortunate the Stormers agreed to “old man” scrumming (no pushing) as his prop was busted feigning an injury. What use are analysts and advisers when it took them almost 10 minutes to figure out subbing slow props for extra speed and attacking ability after the uncontested scrums? I think even 14 players were good enough to weather the “Storm”. Fleck and Louw were the only Stormer players that kept on trying and can be satisfied with their performance. Bob Skinstad is in trouble, he must perform but with a team as bad as this on the day, few could impress.
The log after week 2:
Waratahs 10, Cats 9, Sharks 8, Brumbies 6, Reds 5, Blues 4, Chiefs 4, Highlanders 4, Hurricanes 4, Bulls 1, Crusaders 1, Stormers 1
Opinions and Views
Rugby football is a game I can't claim absolutely to understand in all its niceties, if you know what I mean. I can follow the broad, general principles, of course. I mean to say, I know that the main scheme is to work the ball down the field somehow and deposit it over the line at the other end and that, in order to squalch this programme, each side is allowed to put in a certain amount of assault and battery and do things to its fellow man which, if done elsewhere, would result in 14 days without the option, coupled with some strong remarks from the Bench. - P.G. Wodehouse in Very Good, Jeeves (1930)
On Jonah Lomu - I've seen a lot of people like him, but they weren't playing on the wing - Colin Meads (welcome back Jonah - God help you Stormers! Ed.)
Super 12 Barometer
The Super 12 team we should choose in case the Six Nations compile a similar 1st XV for a match-up on neutral ground of course. What do you think? - Ed
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