|Volume 1 - Week 20|
Brilliant! Gee whiz, nothing like a quiet week in South African rugby is there? Now, for those readers from foreign shores who do not have an inkling of what I am talking about, do not feel alone or isolated as a matter of fact you are better off than what we are! Here goes, Johan Erasmus, flank extraordinaire was dropped to gain weight or brush up on his science, it is not quite clear which and replaced by a 20-year-old uncapped, untried, unknown player called, sorry forgot his name. André Markgraaff resigned from his position as assistant coach to benefit SA rugby on a grander scale. Now you know it all… well almost!
The current Springbok set-up has had more than its fair share of controversies and the time has come to no longer beat around the bush. Harry Viljoen has done himself no favours nor endeared to anybody with his actions of the past few months. South Africa arguably entered the international season with the healthiest of situations, teams 2 and 3 on the final log of the Super 12 and a losing finalist who were able to contain the winning Brumbies for just over 40 minutes in the final and who beat them in the round robin stages. May I remind you the Super 12 final was 6 weeks ago! As the hotel porter in the legendary George Best story exclaimed, “where did it all go wrong Mr. Best?” The same can be asked of Mr. Viljoen.
There is one escape clause to the seemingly crazy decisions and headless chicken syndrome prevailing at the moment and that is a test win over the All Blacks in Cape Town. The pressure on Harry Viljoen must be unbearable and with so many questionable decisions one wonder if he has not sunk in that deep abyss of no return where any reversal of decisions will be seen as a sign of weakness, capitulation or an affirmation of a loss of control. A daily newspaper reported on young supporters who met their Springbok idols, no politics, no points to prove, just simple adoration of figures seen as the human embodiment of superheroes. Ah to be able to see things through the eyes of a child again.
The mighty Lions were stopped by a resurgent Wallabies team who in the second half produced the type of rugby that accounted for all the trophies in the ARU’s cabinet. Joe Roff, did it in the Super 12 final and again on Saturday with a wonderful display of his prodigious talents. The final test Saturday is shaping to be one of the most important rugby matches ever, the quality displays of both teams is a first class advertisement for rugby and the massive coverage and interest is testimony of a truly global game.
Last week I sat pretty cozy on the fence avoiding any predictions but it is way too boring so here we go. I think the Wallabies will win their first ever series; emotionally it will be a just reward for a brilliant last two years of Rod Mcqueen rule. Realistically they ended the stronger of the two teams and with a fit Larkham should be able to dominate the flow of the match, as soon as the phases begin it is good night nurse. The Lions were extraordinary in the first match to prohibit the Ausie pack and George Smith from providing all-important possession for great players like Gregan, Larkham, Roff and Walker. Martin Johnson and his men will have to rise even higher to the occasion, should they do so a Wallaby victory depends on the containment of “Waltzing” O’Driscoll. It will be tight but “Nobody” Eales will be lifting the Tom Richards trophy on Saturday night.
Amazing how players recover in the modern era, Johnny Wilkinson has a suspected broken leg on Saturday night with plaster and crutches, Monday he is restricted to the pool and light exercises, Wednesday he is fit to take his place in arguably the biggest rugby match of his career! I can understand his eagerness and can confess to doing similar stupid things for free in an early club career but is it in his best interest as a 22-year-old genius to risk permanent injury?
The first weekend of the premier South African domestic competition, the Currie Cup showcased a wonderful array of young and established talent. Rudolph Straeuli, Natal coach must be grateful in the “nicest” possible way that Harry Viljoen has ignored so many of his charges. The Natal Sharks are a very good team with players thoroughly deserving of higher honours. Craig Davidson is tireless and must rue lost chances on the Springbok’s end of year tour last year, probably the reason why Harry Viljoen is ignoring his talents and Charl van Rensburg once again proved his massive worth on flank and lock. A comforting sight was the performance of Springbok centre, André Snyman, the man I believe potentially to be the best outside centre in the country. Straeuli also seem to have the knack of unearthing big, young flyhalves with quicksilver hands, Herkie Kruger’s distribution was first class, if only he could kick…
The match signified the end of an era with Japie Mulder injured yet again, the old warhorse should now take the hints his body is throwing at him and pack it in, for one thing it will guarantee the safety of young upcoming players! The other matches produced varied results but it was heartwarming to see that there were game plans in practice and tries scored galore. The national influence has seemingly not filtered through to the provinces yet although watching a match involving Western Province u/21 the amounts of high, armless tackles it was alarmingly clear that the youngsters are unduly influenced.
The weekend is focused on the big match in Sydney and hopefully we will enjoy a spectacle of running rugby. One fervent wish, I hope that Rapport, the local Afrikaans Sunday newspaper and bearer of bad news stick to match reports of the weekend’s rugby rather than playing Nostradamus with unnerving accuracy.
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Shakespeare, Charlize Theron and the Springboks by Mark Foster
To say or not to say, that is the question – the old scribe Shakespeare regaled us with many a witticism in his prodigious offerings but even he would have difficulty in aptly describing the muddle the Springbok-team is in. The time however has come to say…
The past few months gone by must rank as the most turbulent in Springbok history, yes the average human being behold by the law, as the acid test for comparison is content with chop and change in his own life but not, repeat not within the set-up of the national rugby team. A large part of the South African mentality is dictated by the performance of three teams, the Springboks, Bafana Bafana and the Proteas. A problem within the sporting laager is seen as a problem in the household and there are big problems (plural!) in the Springbok laager.
The upcoming international season was suppose to be the year of the Springbok after a best ever showing in the Super 12, two teams to provide a nucleus of players and a unique “South African game plan” to malleate a winning team. Instead what do we have? A confusion over the selection of “form” players, an untimely defeat against France, poor showings in the rest of the “warm-up” tests, a sacked captain, a sacked “senior” player believed by most pundits worldwide to be the best flanker in the game, continuous shifting of goalposts (nothing to do with the kicking coaching) and now the resignation of an assistant coach who happens to be a helluva influential figure in SA rugby. Can I have all that with fries to go…!
One must admit, Harry Viljoen has cahunas the size of shotputs or the close equivalent, a degree of dimness to rival a certain fair-haired fullback, to have accomplished/instigated all the goings-on of the past month or two. Let us assume the former due to an impressive track record as highly successful businessman and a respectable return as Currie Cup winning and losing finalist coach although the hair colour remain suspect. How on earth then could so much go wrong in such a short space of time with all the research and deployment of specialized coaching staff? The usual avenues of blame are exhausted; yes the players carried the can for unimpressive performances against the French, the captain was sacked for being a “limited” eightman who is vocally challenged or whatever and unable to make decisions, a brilliant player was dropped to go and “work in the gym” or something for being a disruptive influence and a senior assistant coach has resigned to be of more worth to SA rugby or some bollocks. What else and who else remain? I will leave you to work that one out yourselves.
A quick word regarding the Australian victory, thanks to a magnificent intercept of a weak Wilkinson pass, Joe Roff provided his teammates with something special to remember him by during his sabbatical in France. A second try five minutes later confirmed his eminent status as best wing in the world. The Lions was not quite as diligent with their first time tackling as in the previous match and a resurgence of the Wallabies pack lead by John Eales created a platform for victory. The coming weekend’s series decider will be a hard-fought affair, expect a closer scoreline with maybe penalties deciding the match however if the players can produce yet another spectacle the game of rugby will benefit immensely worldwide.
A closing thought and fervent wish, that we hear nothing from the Springbok-camp for a week and a half, it may be as futile as expecting Charlize Theron to pop out of your birthday cake!
Australia 35 - British and Irish Lions 14
The second test between the Lions 2001 edition and the Wallabies was played in Melbourne under a historical first closed roof. The beleaguered Ausies, fiercely criticized by all and sundry hit back to level the series and create massive expectation for the third and final test in Sydney.
The Lions, who continued where they left off after the first test, once again dominated the first half of this fiercely contested match. Although a better prepared Australian team offered a more concerted effort on defence and forward exchanges, the Lions managed to dominate position and possession. Neil Back’s try was the only consolation for a few scoring opportunities, this time however the Lions lacked the numbers in support and the individual brilliance of O’Driscoll although not contained was efficiently isolated.
The match was very much in the balance after halftime and a promising Lion’s blindside move was foiled by a Joe Roff intercept after a 50-50 pass from Johnny Wilkinson. Had the pass worked the result might have been a try in the opposite corner but Joe Roff with some work to do handed the Wallabies the lead for the first time in over 2 hours of rugby between the two teams. Five minutes later the big wing was at it again and scored an even better try from similar distance after an excellent pass from Larkham.
The contest was effectually over, the Wallabies regained confidence and the familiar phased play controlled by Gregan appeared and the mighty Lions were run ragged. Burke who kicked superbly scored a final try to ensure the biggest Wallaby victory over the Lions in history. There was one significant moment that might not be remembered by many but specifically by Nathan Gray and that was his crunching tackle on Brian O’Driscoll, the first time he managed the feat in two matches! The moment typified the boomerang in the Wallabies’ performance from the previous week.
Referee Jonathan Kaplan controlled a memorable game and his excellent management abilities ensured a spectacle of rugby for all to enjoy. There were moments when a more card-happy zealot would have sent players to the sinbin, Kaplan however remained calm and firm a trait respected by players.
The match was won up front and John Eales and “Grub” Smith deserves a few plaudits with the rest of his pack for a magnificent second-half performance. The Lions will look to stand firmer in this department and provide Keith Wood and Scott Quinell with more support. The backlines are just about even but the Lions must make a more determined effort to provide O’Driscoll and Robinson with more quality ball.
The final test is what everyone‘s been waiting for and this weekend will be hard, injuries to key players will determine the outcome.
Moment of the match: Joe Roff's interception try, it changed the game and presented the Wallabies with a sniff of victory.
Man of the match: Joe Roff
On his successors in the Oxford University backs - I've seen better centres in a box of Black Magic. Joe McPartlin
I may not have been very tall or very athletic, but one thing I did have was the most effective backside in world rugby. Jim Glennon
I think Brian Moore's gnashers are the kind you get from a DIY shop and hammer in yourself. He is the only player we have who looks like a French forward. Paul Rendall
Forwards are the gnarled and scarred creatures who have a propensity for running into and bleeding all over each other. Peter Fitzsimmons
Letters to the Editor
I would like to agree with Mark Foster whoever he is. His comments on SA-Rugby are really well observed and needs to be imposed on pigheaded coaches like Nick Mallet and Harry Viljoen.
Their moronic infatuation with Brumby and Australian rugby is a shame and born out total disregard for the proud history of SA-Rugby. SA-Rugby is about forward domination and intimidation. Their backs are suppose to finish off a tired and thinly spread defence. Rugby is in essence still the same game. Without possession you cannot play. I personally find Australian- and Brumby Rugby extremely boring. Especially the Brumbies, their game plan revolves around repeated recyclement to enable their backs to cross over the line for mostly short range tries. Gregan's ad nauseam inside passing is so utterly predictable, I am surprised that no one has worked it out yet.
Mallet, Viljoen & du Plessis all tried to impose a new and exciting brand of rugby. It failed miserably and was mostly at the cost of Bok-rugby, the supporters and lastly themselves. They have a total misconception of exciting rugby. To their own twisted little rugby minds exciting Rugby equaled running Rugby. Let me remind them that the millions of supporters, to which they owe their pathetic little existence, only find BOK-rugby exciting if the BOKS are winning. Their record? Du Plessis can not be forgiven for the losses against probably the worst Lions' side ever, Mallet can not be forgiven for successive record losses against NZ and AUS two years in a row as well as the loss against Wales and a few against ENG. Viljoen? He almost became the worst coach after his team narrowly won against ARG, IRE and WLS. It could easily have been different.
Let me ask the question - was Mallet's Rugby exciting when he took over from Carel? Off course - record 52-10 annihilation of France, 29-11 humiliation of the ever arrogant Poms and a record drubbing of Scotland of 60-something. What was wrong with that approach? Nothing, nothing at all, forwards dominated totally and the backs did just what they wanted.
There is none as blind those who does not want to see. I said from the beginning that AUS had absolutely no chance against the Lions. Everybody laughed. What do they say about laughing last? Neither the BOKS or the AB's will have any chance against the current Lions either (its very difficult for me to admit this - I hate the Poms!). Why? The reason is simple. The Lions are employing an age old success recipe which AB- and BOK-rugby discarded to its own detriment - powerful forwards. I boldly predict that the Lions will win this series easily regardless, of whether they win the second test or not. AUS just does not have the forwards or the depth to beat them - neither does the BOKS or the AB's.
AUS is vulnerable up-front. The AB's and BOKS even under Mallet and Heart knew this. So why didn't they exploit it? Easy. Their own forwards are so pathetic and useless that they can not dominate even mediocre packs like those of the home unions. If you have woosie forwards like Maxwell, Skinstadt etc you will get your butt kicked time and time again. SA had half an eight man (in the form of Skinstadt) and that's why they lost the test in November 1998 against England. Their forwards just did not have the ability to dominate.
Neither Harry's BOKS, nor the AB's have awesome forward packs like in the past. They each have a bunch of overpaid and underplayed woosies that prefer rather to winge and whine about everything that's wrong or not to their liking. Venter and Vos being notable exceptions. Every time any one gets dropped they want to bag their baggies and run overseas. Players like that should not represent their country. They are a shameful blemish on the proud BOK heritage that is now utterly deplorable and in a terrible state.
If one looks at the approach of a man like Strauly, one senses some kind of rationality amidst the madness. He believes in the basics of BOK-rugby and has had phenomenal success with a very young team. His team did not play the most exciting rugby in the beginning but as the team gained dominance they grew in stature and produced some good running rugby. Their forwards of course laying the foundation. Their loss to the Brumbies had little to do with a testosterone overdose. They didn't take their chances and Butchie's kicking did not help a lot either. Their approach and game plan was perfect, nothing wrong with that. They would have won nine out of any other ten finals.
Harry should discard his despicable love affair with Australian rugby as soon as possible. They can't teach us any thing at all. Return to your roots boy and maybe you will find a measure of success.
SHARKS AND LIONS PLAYERS WITHDRAWN FROM SQUAD
Today was a sad day in the history of SA rugby when ten players contracted to the sharks and lions were withdrawn from the springboksquad by there coaches.Dave Smith of the sharks had this to say''THE PLAYERS ARE HAPPY WITH MY DECISION AND ARE 100% BEHIND ME ON THIS,WE FEEL THE WITH THE SUPER 16 AND THE CURRIE CUP THE TOP PLAYERS ARE
PLAYING A LOT OF RUGBY AND THE CALLUP TO THE BOKS IS JUST NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE,IT IS NO LONGER AN HONOUR TO REPRESENT THEM LIKE IT WAS BEFORE''And from the players we got these comments''PLAYING FOR THE BOKS IS JUST ANOTHER LOAD ON OUR ALREADY VERY HARD YEAR,AND TO GO TO A TEAM THAT IS BASED ON PIPE DREAMS AND NOT ON THE OLD PRIDE AND PASSION OF THE BOKS OF THE PAST IS NOT THAT APPEALING ANYMORE.WE HAVE THOUSANDS OF FANS IN OUR HOME STADIA THAT WOULD RATHER HAVE THE SUPER 16 AND CURRIE CUP TROPHIES THAN THE TRINATIONS OR WORLD CUP AND THEY ARE THE PEOPLE THAT PAY OUR SALARIES AT THE END OF THE DAY. A truly sad day in the history of the game in our country but who can blame the players,sarfu brought this on themselves with there selection of coaches that chose players on personal feelings and not skill.
Don't laugh,this is not to far off.The way sarfu are running the rugby they are making the unions stronger and the stronger they get the more say they will have in the affairs of their players and if they think that the player they spent a lot of money on is put at
risk be it phasical or emotional(from the constant let downs) they will withdraw them and let them get on with the job at hand,just look at radebe and mcarthy in soccer and then laugh.
sad but its coming
ANDRE VAN ROOYEN
Mark Foster has hit the nail on the head. The Lions play similiar to what the Springboks used to play. Big forwards making head way and in turn setting up quality possession for their backs. Why must we try and change to a pattern that knowone understands?
Briewe en Opinies in Afrikaans
'n Moderne wysheid is die week vergestalt na die soveelste "skok" aankondiging uit die Springbok-kamp naamlik 'n week in rugby is 'n lank tyd. Die nimmereindige veranderings in die spankeuses het uiteindelik deurgesyfer na die afrigters met die bedanking of eerder "herontplooiing" van André Markgraaf. Die kru gesegde van dinges wat afdraend loop is ook weereens verkeerd bewys!
Die ontwrigting van die afgelope paar weke soos die verwarring oor span samestellings, huidige vorm van spelers, nederlaag teen die Franse, swak vertonings in die wen toetse, die aanstelling van Bob Skinstad, die uitlating van Johan Erasmus en nou Markgraaaf beteken dat ons nasionale span in 'n warboel is. Die vindingrykheid van 'n Einstein is onnodig om agter te kom dat daar iets baie baie groot verkeerd is by die Springbokke. Spelers, wat alreeds sukkel met die basiese beginsels van 'n sogenaamde revolusionere spelpatroon moet op die stadium so deurmekaar soos kots in 'n tuimeldroër wees. Wat gaan aan?
Die eerste gedagte wat in my kop sit is bes beskryf deur die ou Steve Austin, man van staal uitroep , "ek verloor beheer, ek verloor beheer, ek gaan val, ek gaan v.." Soos die ou tienerheld en Hompie Kadompie gaan dit 'n hengse lot kos om die probleme wat tans bestaan te korrigeer/uitwis/verwyder. Ou vader tyd tik egter teen dieselfde spoed en 'n goed gedrilde, selfversekerde All Black span wag op Nuweland in kwalik twee weke se tyd. Hoe kon dinge so vinnig verkeerd loop?
Die Super 12 was glorieryk en vol belofte vir 'n goeie seisoen wat voorlê, die logiese gevolg van so 'n suksesvolle kompetisie is tog om voort te bou op goeie vertonings deur 'n kern saam te stel met kombinasies waarom die Springbok-span kan bou. Kan dit wees dat ons beheptheid om provinsialisme af te breek tot ons ondergang lei? Dit maak tog sin om die sterkste span(ne) in die land as boublok te gebruik en aan te vul met briljante individue wat goeie indruk gemaak het in die Super 12, 'n voorafbepaalde kriteria deur die afrigter. In stede daarvan sit ons met 'n "uitnodigingspan" van 2003 belowendes, daar is niks fout met ontwikkeling nie maar daarom het ons goeie strukture soos die Vodacom-, Currie-, Super 12 kompetisies en die verskeie ander voedingsbronne soos die sewes, o/21, o/23 nasionale spanne wat internasionaal meeding. Die Springbok-span en veral teen die All Blacks het "ooms" nodig om die pyp te rook.
Australië se oorwinning Saterdag het die bemarkers se droom van 'n finale, reeks beslissende toets verwesenlik. Die wedstryd was tot en met halftyd nog in die weegskaal maar die bul-vleuel van Canberra, Joe Roff het met 'n meesterlike lopie die hupstoot verleen wat die Wallabies benodig het om uit hulle trans te ontwaak en die Leeus te oorrompel. Dit was soos verlede week 'n opwindende wedstryd met 'n geweldige intensiteit soos gemeet aan die beserings. Wat my beindruk het was die spel van John Eales, as kaptein is hy onberispelik maar die paar vraagtekens oor sy spelpeil is vinning uitgewis en die ongelowige Thomasse het op hulle neuse gekyk na 'n briljante vertoning. Eales se dade het sy spanmaats aangespoor tot groter hoogtes en met hulle kenmerkende fase spel het die Wallabies die tweede helfte gedomineer om 'n goeie oorwinning te behaal.
Die begin van die Currie beker het aan verskeie mense lees die Springbok afrigter bewys dat daar skort met die samestelling van sy spangroep. Natal het die Leeus dronk gehardloop met die tipe rugby wat Harry graag wil speel, die voorspelers het vinnige bal aan die agterlyn verskaf waar Herkie Kruger met skitterende verspreiding oorgenoeg tyd aan sy snellers veskaf het om kreatief te werk te gaan. Charl van Rensburg het met 'n virtuoso vertoning op flank en slot bewys dat daar min spelers rondhardloop wat op sy vlak kan meeding, snaaks genoeg een van hulle, Rassie Erasmus is ook gedoem tot Currie Beker rugby. André Snyman gaan hierdie jaar weer die groen en goud oor die kop trek, so ook Stefan Tereblanche wat vir Jantjies laat sleg lyk het met sy wonderlike aanvoeling en verskeidenheid van talente, dit is as spankeuses op meriete plaasvind.
Die komende naweek is die finale Wallabies/Leeus toets en ek sien geweldig uit na 'n groot stryd tussen twee spanne wat elk die geleentheid gehad het om die ander die loef af te steek. Beserings speel soos gewoonlik 'n belangrike rol maar die wenner van die stryd gaan die span met die meeste karakter en wil om te wen wees. 'n Moelike een om te voorspel maar alles hang af van die Leeus se vermoë om die eerste toets se beginsels te reproduseer; sit die Wallabies pak op die agtervoet, oefen druk uit op Larkham en gebruik vinnige bal om gevaarlike spelers soos O'Driscoll en Robinson spasie te gee.
Die publiek het myns insiens nog nie die laaste skok vanaf die Springbokke beleef nie, ek hoop egter dat die volgende skok 'n oorwinning in Kaapstad gaan wees want die kanse, sonder om my eie span af te skryf, lyk maar skraal. Kom ons hoop vir die beste, 'n goeie week en 'n half se voorbereiding vir die 2003 voorwedstryd!
Ek is bly om te sien Harry Viljoen is stadig maar seker besig om sy oogklappe af te haal. Selfs Harry het gesien Barry,Mulder en Fynn voldoen nie aan die verwagtinge nie en hy het Marius Joubert se puik vertonings vir die SA o-23's opgemerk. Hy het ook agter gekom dat jy kan nie sonder 'n erkende stelskopper speel nie, toe kies hy tereg vir Braam. Dit het hom ook bygeval dat die Bokke swaar leef in die skrums en toe kies hy vir Visagie. Wat hy nie raakgesien het nie is dat die Bokke in die lynstane sukkel a.g.v. swak ingooiwerk. Dalton is seker naas Keith Wood die beste in die daardie aspek van die spel in die wêreld. Dalton sal ook broodnodige vuur aan die pak verskaf. Harry sal ook met verloop van tyd agterkom dat Davidson beter as De Cock is en dat AJ Venter beter as Vos is. Halstead en Fleck is ons beste senters,maar Halstead haal nie eers Harry se groep van 32 spelers nie. Harry hou daarvan om minstens een skokkeuse in sy Bokgroep aan te wys. Eers was dit Francois Swart bo Braam,nou is dit Johann van Niekerk bo Rassie. En Janjies is beslis nie beter as Pieter Rossouw of Stefan Terblanché nie. Sterkte met die drienasies Bokke, maar met dié spelers en afrigter gaan julle nie die pyp rook nie.
Die Britse Leeus en Iere teen die Australianers het my onrustig gestem. Wat kan ons te wagte wees wanneer die Springbokke teen die Aussies in die Drie Nasies speel? Ek hoop van harte dat Sir Harry en sy trawante 'n moerse haas uit die hoed trek wat vriend en vyand sal verras. My beskeie mening is dat die keurders 'n span kies om die spelers by 'n spelpatroon in te dwing. Hoekom kies hulle nie eerder 'n spelpatroon wat by die spelers sal aanpas nie. Groot sterk spelers wat kan oorheers en domineer het nog altyd gewerk. Ek vra myself nog, wat is die kortste pad tussen twee punte. 'n Gewone reguit lyn. Waar kom die hardloop hoeke en ander termenologie vandaan. Die korste pad doellyn toe is reguit. Wat van ondersteuning en posisionele spel. Wat soek 'n slot op die vleuel en die flank op die senter se posisie? Dit is waar die omdraai van besit inkom. Daar is te min voorspelers om te ondersteun. 'n Ander ding wat my ten hemele laat skree is die hoogvatte van die spelers. Gelukkig is ek nie 'n skeidsregter nie. Ek sal 'n speler summier afjaag wat hoogvat. Dit is een van die mees elementêre reëls en pligte van 'n speler dat hy die opponent om die heupe en bene duik.
My nuutste spankeuse is soos volg.
15. Tinus Delport
Groete uit my losie.
NS. As sir Harry hulp nodig het, kan hy my met geruste hart skakel. Ek sal hom help vir die helfte van die salaris van een van die ander trawante.
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