|Volume 1 - Week 25|
Brilliant! The Tri-Nation competition is wide open after one of the most fiercely, combative tests between the current and previous world champions ended in a draw. The match was, in true test rugby fashion, a classic of guts, determination and will to win. Various luminaries liken a draw to sibling affection but there was no affection in this match! Niggle was the name of the game and judging by all the talk during and after the match, the Perth test will be remembered for a long time.
A few things emerged from this match, the resurgence of a proud and very good Springbok team; confirmation that defence is dominating attack; referee’s varied interpretations; individual discipline and behavior.
The Springbok team, written off by many during the build-up has completed a remarkable change of fortune, from no goers to a tough, professional and highly competitive outfit. The good old basics are evident, a strong tight five, excellent lineout work and three loose forwards flexible in their approach and dedicated to their task. The attacking skills are evident with a fine counter-attacking try on Saturday, running rugby however is only mastered once the confidence in fellow team members escalate and an understanding is cemented. Regardless of the outcome on Saturday, the Springbok team has restored pride and confidence and more importantly respect from the opposition.
Tries are becoming a commodity, defence has the upper hand at the moment but there is no doubt that the cycle will change and we will once again see the likes of the 2000 seasons high scoring matches. One of the most sought after skills in rugby is the offload in the tackle, the ability to draw two men in a tackle and release the ball to a supporting runner, players who master this skill will be invaluable to their team.
The individual discipline of players on the field are fast becoming a joke, Saturday yielded many penalties for “killing the game” true, there is a very fine line between holding on by the attacker and spoiling by the defender. The referee’s tend to interpret this situation differently and it is important that the teams analyze the referee beforehand and vital to do it during the match. With all the communication during injuries and a ten minute break at half time somebody can surely pick up the trend and point it out to the players, that is dependant of course that the referee is consistent.
The Springboks were penalized unmercifully on Saturday but careful study of the match revealed that Butch James and Bob Skinstad was involved in most of the incidents. Few will argue that they were unlucky to be binned for the respective sending off incidents but continuous infringement during a match builds up to a boiling point. Skinstad is not a dirty or a unsportsmanlike player, his team’s defensive record is good enough without him needing to relinquish stupid penalties. As for Butch James, Ian McIntosh summed up best, “he made his bed and he must lie in it” the Ausie commentators referred to him as a “repeet offenda!”. Butchie, sorry old boy all your good work on attack is useless if you are to spend 10 minutes in the bin every match and concede a minimum of 6 points in penalties. Your team and your country needs you to change your attitude and more important your tackling, clean up your act how difficult can it be? George Gregan, blew his chances of becoming the new Australian skipper with his petulance, something festering in every game. He is the best player in his position in the world, he is not setting a good example to many youngsters with his churlish behavior.
The coming weekend the Springboks are playing the All Blacks in New Zealand, victories there do not come cheap and Harry Viljoen might best remind his players to win the game before worrying about a bonus point and the title. A win will put the pressure on the Wallabies to win against the All Blacks, over the past few seasons the team playing away from home has won more often.
A final word, good luck to the Springboks for their final match of the competition, a win is more than possible but the biggest influence will be Mehrtens, be it positive or negative – his form will determine the outcome. Those of you that read SASI, check out page 27.
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Letter to the Coach by Mark Foster
The plight of international rugby was accentuated after Saturday’s test match between Australia and South Africa. Finally the days of amateurism and shamateurism is dead and buried, also gone, forever it seems, are the days of sportsmanship, gamesmanship and good old humbleness. Sledging, criticizing and whingeing has replaced all the above in a sport historically reserved for “gentlemen”.
The latest coach of Australia, Eddie Jones has earned the undisputed title of whinger of the world. The man, unmistakably a brilliant coach as his tenure at the Brumbies suggest, has “endeared” himself to every rugby supporter worldwide with his unrelenting criticism of absolutely everything concerned with rugby. An open letter to the coach:
Dear Mr. Jones
As a lifetime supporter of the game of rugby it pains me to see you behave like a teenage prima donna on every occasion the team you coach, play. Win or lose, you are at pains to be as unpleasant and sour a puss as possible. This attitude of yours has filtered through and reduced great players like John Eales and George Gregan into unsportmanlike athletes content to harass referees and whinge about every decision against them.
The current Australian attitude seem to reflect an “us against the rest of the world syndrome” reflective of your own ACT insecurities in the Australian domestic setup. It is unnecessary for a team rightly labeled as great for winning a World Cup, Bledisloe Cups and a first ever series win against the Lions. But then, it was your predecessor that set such high standards in both play on the field an attitude off it, you sir seem determined to destroy all that is and was good of Australian rugby in as short a time as possible.
Humility and sportsmanship are unfortunately inherent qualities of a man and cannot be acquired; it is best you learn from those players in your team who has plenty of it i.e. Daniel Herbert. Once present, a brilliant Australian team can continue to dominate the sport and the rest of the world only need to feel envy not the kind of animosity currently prevalent.
Yours in rugby,
The Springboks on the other hand is performing admirably on all fronts, the inconsistencies and problems of the international season build-up has disappeared somewhat and the current squad is shaping into a team deserved of much higher honours. Credit must go where credit is due, Harry Viljoen and Bob Skinstad has managed to engineer an incredible feat by turning around; a team struggling with morale, a media contingent scathing in its criticism and a public two steps short of anarchy. The general consensus of support for both men is as overwhelming as the disparagement was evident barely a month ago.
What has contributed to this turnaround? The most important factor was the win in Pretoria, second was Bob Skinstad’s try, many believed that he did not hold the respect as a player, a 25m sprint changed everything for the new captain. After Saturday, the defence of the Springboks displayed more character (while reduced to 14 men) than shown in the previous internationals combined. The player’s oozed determination and this in turn reflect their passion for playing in their country’s colours. The new confidence and respect will build an unique camaraderie so important to achieve the extra 2% which is vital for a win at this level. An open letter to the coach:
Dear Mr. Viljoen,
You have done your nation and supporters proud, from an auspicious start the change has been remarkable. Your comments in the media and the reflection from your team are heart warming to any supporter of rugby. You have now set the standard and our fervent wish is to see it upheld.
Yours in rugby,
The coming weekend pit the two greatest rivals in a series deciding match for both teams, anything less than a win will arguably decide the wooden spoonist. The Springboks must win to have any chance and the All Blacks are now the pivotal team to determine where the crown will rest. The initiators of the competition probably had this scenario in mind when they created the concept it took a few years but this is rugby at its tensest and best.
A parting word, rugby even though professional remains a game and there are certain traits we as the general participants and followers crave, although not imbedded in script they are enjoyment and sportsmanship. Ted Turner said the following, “If I only had a little humility, I'd be perfect.” Perfection to the detriment of humility is not what rugby is about, fortunately the malefactor of this gets found out sooner rather than later...
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"And in the red trunks..." by Tom Marcellus
As any tattooed boxing nut will tell you, the reason why the long, often tedious graveyard shift before a world heavyweight title bout is invariably spent watching less meaty pugilists mixing it in the ring, is that the time spent watching such nimble, fleet-footed boxers allows for a heightened feeling of anticipation before the real "heavies" finally climb through the ropes. Although these larger versions are often slow, cumbersome and seemingly clumsy, their sheer size and brute strength remain the reasons why the title, Heavyweight Champion of the World, remains one of the most revered stations on the planet.
Similarly, and in a more obvious example, a dainty plate of fried potato skins and guacamole is a not unwelcome intervention between a reveler's arrival at a braai, Coleman in hand and No 17 at the ready, and his eventual tucking, dribbling and delirious, into his more stodgy beesvleis, pap, en sous. Not only does this gastronomical curtain-raiser afford his palate the opportunity to acclimatise before the pending cholesterol onslaught, but it allows for a sense of build-up, anticipation or foreboding. Maybe that's just me. But then enough appetite whetting, let's talk rugby.
The above analogies are not so horribly out of place as we briefly survey the Tri-Nations battleground, with but 2 decisive games remaining. Much has been said since the thrilling Wallabies/Boks match in Perth last weekend about the sudden lack of tries in this year's competition and this correspondent, for one, could not be happier. Since the inception of the Super 10 competition in 1996, the majority of the watching rugby public around the world has been mesmerised by the pace and skill of the game, as played by the leading provincial teams in the southern hemisphere. Since then, rugger commentators from these parts have looked down their sunburnt noses at the stodgy game played north of the equator, which was reviled for its lack of brutal vitality and panache.
This zest for expansive play naturally crept into the international game and scorelines, even in NZ/SA clashes, that would have been unthinkable a few years ago soon began to litter the pages of rugby annuals, reaching a peak at Eden Park in 1997, when the Men in Black triumphed 55-35 in a 12-try extravaganza. One wonders what growling old timers like Boy Louw and Doc Craven, not to mention Kevin Skinner and Pinetree Meads, would have made of the new-fangled rugby circus?
Yes, the horse's ovaries had well and truly become the main course, as international teams tossed the ball about in a new celebration of rugby. Stadium turnstiles squeaked merrily, pom-pom girls leapt with delight, and 10-try epics became the norm, and surely everyone was pleased? As always, there is always some disgruntled sod whingeing into his brandy and coffee, and this time it was me. Smoke, flames, flowing backline movements and glorious tries were all well and good when the Blues or Waratahs were having a frolic down at Kings Park, but international matches, especially those between the games' titans, should amount to trench warfare, I grumbled. Heavy artillery, bayonet charges, exploratory forays followed by bursts of machine-gun fire, gas masks, barbed wire, always heavy artillery. Grinding forward exchanges, followed by big tackles, fisticuffs and a hot shower after the game. That was a real test match.
It is thus with some satisfaction that I await the outcome of Saturday's test match at Eden Park. Both teams, especially the home side, are feeling the heat, as the tournament rolls inexorably towards its climax. It should be a game of attrition, and opportunities of scoring should be limited. Bad weather and a slippery pitch are predicted.
Mud, rain, blood, haka. It sounds like rugby heaven to me.
Play the Game by Desmond Organ
The second Tri Nations game between South Africa and Australia was a classic example of defensive patterns dominating the attacking aspects of the game. There have been many voices raised by Northern Hemisphere armchair critics that the current English side would dominate the current Tri nations Teams. Well there may be some merit to this claim as far as defensive patterns are concerned, however I still believe that there is more flair or the ability to adopt a new style of play in the Southern Hemisphere.
The one common characteristic in this year's competition as well as the Super 12 has been the growing chorus of complaints about the rules of the game and the way that the referee is managing certain aspects.
Close analysis of the Tri Nations will show that the majority of these complaints have been coming from the Australian coach and team leadership. The one thing that stands out clearly from the two clashes between South Africa and Australia is the dialogue between John Eales and the referee and the post match commentary from the new Australian coach. I think that John Eales is leaving a mark in his last Tri Nations and that is one of a whiner. No sooner than the game is over and we have press reports articulating the Eddie Jones view of the way that the game was not being managed correctly and how it disadvantaged the Australian team. On the contrary, both the game in Pretoria and the game in Australia saw South Africa worse off in terms of the number of penalties or players missing from the sin bin syndrome.
The reality of this is that the Australian's are no longer as far ahead of the rest of the pack as they are accustomed to and one of the classic aspects of rugby as a game is starting to overcome them. Yes, their scrum and lineout is predictable and a weak link in their game plan. They were able to get away with it against New Zealand, but South Africa and the British Lions have shown where they are vulnerable. Last year saw many great scoring opportunities but at the same time we saw a group of players spread out across the field playing a Rugby league type of game which the administrators have correctly stepped in to prevent.
This article is not propagating a less attractive type of game, but close games are also interesting to watch and indicate that defence is just as much a part of the game as attack is. The try that was scored by South Africa was about as traditional as you can get, quick ball from a breakdown spread to the outside before the defence had time to recover. At least this was achieved without the use of decoy runners, which border on obstruction and the erosion of the natural ability of the individual player. There has also been extensive criticism from the Australians of the way that the tackle rule is applied. I am a firm believer that the laws preventing the player from going off his feet is there to ensure that the ball is not being unnecessarily killed at the breakdown.
Let's play the game and reduce the ammount of on field complaints and post match sour grapes.
Australia 14 - South Africa 14
The Subiaco Oval, a “footie” ground played host to the first ever draw between Australia and South Africa. The match was high-spirited and of seething intensity with both teams not willing to give an inch. Spectators were left drained after almost 2-hours of riveting, tight rope action.
The first half contained numerous errors from both teams and the stop start rhythm made free flowing running rugby very difficult. The Springboks game plan was pretty clear and that was to provide the Wallabies with slow ball to neutralize the efforts of Larkham and their efficient phase approach, they succeeded magnificently. The Wallabies were clearly frustrated by their inability to launch “seven phases” from the little possession offered, stoic defence met their best efforts and after some relentless attacks failed to cross the Springbok line.
Both kickers had a bad day at the office and with almost 36 minutes of hard uncompromising test rugby the scores were level at 3-3, compliments Burke and van Straaten. A badly judged chip kick from Matt Burke provided the Springboks with one of their few opportunities to counter attack and Butch James launched a long pass out wide to Joost who fed Jantjes and after a good run and pass, Mark Andrews crashed over for a try. The conversion was spot on but to the horror of the Springbok supporters it fell short. The Springboks were deservedly ahead at half time, both position and possession was in their favour. The two teams were highly strung and a few scuffles reflected the importance of gaining ascendancy up front.
The Wallabies began the second half with their customary gusto and clever use of the blind side yielded a penalty after Jantjes erred in fielding a grubber. Eales opted for the lineout and from the resulting movement Skinstad slapped the ball out of Gregan’s hands for a second time in the match. Burke missed the pointe blanc penalty and was it not for Smith’s timely charge down, Paulse may have tested their defence with another counter attack from the Springboks. The Wallabies maintained their relentless attacks and Larkham ghosted through grappling arms on more than one occasion. Eales again opted for a lineout after the umpteenth penalty against the Springboks for spoiling the ball at the breakdown. The Springboks managed to hold off wave after wave of attack and after ten minutes in the South African 25, the Springboks managed to break the siege without conceding any points, remarkable!
One of the turning points in the match came when the Springboks almost scored from a good attacking position which was foiled by a Joe “he’s fast but no banker” Roff interception. The resulting breakaway led to two incidents from an already cautioned Butch James, an attempted trip on Joe Roff and a so-called high tackle, he got binned for the second but deserved the punishment for the first and other offences throughout the match. South Africa reduced to 14 men with 25 minutes left was in for a tough time.
The referee’s dubious calls at the tackle situation created frustration for both teams and did not contribute to the kind of spectacle expected but then this was test rugby at its toughest best. Thrust and parry Larkham launched many an attack at the Springbok line but Vos, Venter and Skinstad was Herculean in their defensive efforts. The Springbok lineout placed loads of pressure on their opponents but an offense from Matfield, “leaning” onto Eales lead to one of the plays of the day, Breyten Paulse tackled Nathan Gray millimeters from the line to deny a certain try.
The Australians were rewarded with many penalties but John Eales refused shots at goal. Rather opting for lineouts, a questionable call but under the circumstances one would expect the World Champions to score against 14 men. History will judge but in hindsight Eales should have taken the points.
Butch James returned to the fold with an Australian team attacking deep in the Springbok 25 through another scathing run from Larkham. Quick recycled ball was passed to Cockbain who was soundly tackled. Skinstad, scavenged for possession but Cockbain held on long enough for his support to arrive in tune to Steve Walsh’s refereeing all evening and when the ruck call came Skinstad was adjudged guilty of killing the ball. “Jnr” sent him to the bin for killing the ball after numerous early offences and warnings the Springbok captain was off! Skinstad was lucky to escape a red card after a sarcastic applause of the decision. Back to 14 men and Burke slotted the penalty, 8-6 to the Springboks.
Referee Walsh completely lost it with the kick off by pinging Cockbain for interference, retribution perhaps (?) but the refereee made too many iffy calls during the entire match. Van Straaten slotted the penalty to increase the lead to 5 points. The Springbok forwards defended heroically but continuous pressure opened a gap for Nathan Gray to score a try shortly after the kick off, making up for the earlier miss. In the build up to the try Butch James, was spotted by the referee for an early tackle, one thought that if the try was not scored the man would have received his red card. After 230 minutes of rugby the Springbok’s magnificent defence was broken. Burke inexplicably missed another easy opportunity, 11-11 with 10 minutes to play.
Accustomed to 14 men, the Springboks attacked from the re-start and managed another van Straaten penalty after a Wallaby indiscretion. The pressure was intense any mistakes could cost the match. The Wallabies attacked relentlessly, with every ball runners managed to gain precious yards, a desperate Ollie le Roux tackle resulted in another penalty in front of the posts and Burke made no error this time, 14-14.
Larkham attempted a trademark drop goal and for 1999 World Cup veterans it was almost déjà vu. He missed, the match was a draw.
Rob Kempson: Rob played his part in a convincing forward display, the man has worked considerably on his discipline and his tackling count is impressive. Seldom mentioned in a match, he does the donkey work.
Lukas van Biljon: The human battering ram was once again impressive, he does the basics right and is an important ball carrier for the team, unfortunately he had Gregan (one of the best defenders in world rugby) in front of him after a great move with Mark Andrews. He did not deserve to be replaced and Harry Viljoen is forfeiting hard earned ascendancy by replacing this man every match.
Cobus Visagie: The best prop in the world was rightly confused with many of "Jnr's" early calls and apart from these penalties the man was an absolute rock. His normal scrumming prowess was complimented by some big tackles at opportune moments, undoubtedly the meanest scrummager around.
Victor Matfield: The young giant did it all, tackled, poached, jumped and thumped the Australians. A very very good player indeed and more than welcome in a club of distinguished Springbok locks over the ages. A great in the making.
Mark Andrews: The big guy scored when it mattered, regardless if his massive "stewels" dangled over the line and his massive influence around the park is an inspiration to the team. As enforcer he is always near the "action" intimidating opposition and protecting young team-mates.
Andre Vos: Avos has a heart like a lion and with his performances over the past few weeks proved to be consistently the best Springbok player on the field. A phenomenal 18 tackles in the match reflects his workrate and worth to the cause.
Andre Venter: Andre once again provided the brawn, he needs to make more yards but as a support player and general play on the field as solid as always.
Bob Skinstad: Captain Bob played a good game, he was clearly tasked to spoil the ball at every opportunity, something he succeeded admirably with and copped 10 minutes in the sin bin for his troubles. His performance however will pale in regards to the "handclapping incident" after his yellow card. This was not the right gesture, regardless of the good, bad or ugly call made by the referee, Skinstad will know that. The Springbok captain is responsible for the team's discipline and he should at all times set the example, not serious though, Bob will learn from this. As somebody mentioned, he had the bottle to do it in Walsh's face.
Joost: His best match of the season, monumental on defence and dangerous on attack he has finally resorted to his primary functions on the field.His kicking game was not great but he exercised the correct options and need only to work on his execution.
Butch James: The "phantom tackler" has sparked massive debate after his performance in this match. The question begs, can we afford a yellow card and at least three penalties per match for one skip past that yielded a try? His attacking flair is evident yet not exploited enough but his defence is, well shocking and non-existent. The young man obviously cannot get it right or might he be under orders or downright ignorant? Butch is a good player, it is time to repay the faith shown in him by legions of supporters, coach and more importantly the teammates he is letting down with every illegal attempt.
Dean Hall: Dean Hall was solid and although presented with very few opportunities he gained yards every time he touched the ball, His defence is very good but he needs to fall back more in support of his fullback.
Robbie Fleck: Robbie looked dangerous but left the field too early to have any real impact on this match.
Braam van Straaten: The kicking ace struggled with his kicking but his defence was phenomenal and he gained valuable meters on attack, he will be disappointed with his kicking statistics the difficulties with the ball might have influenced him.
Breyten Paulse: The little man was dangerous at every opportunity and was it not for a few bad breaks, he might have come close to scoring, he will be remembered in this test for his brilliant try saving tackle on Nathan Gray.
Conrad Jantjes: The young man made a few errors but he has great attacking flair and hopefully once can unlock this potential more often. He will gain experience with every test and be the better player for it. He should be utilised for touch kicking as he has the most accurate and longest boot of all.
Deon Kayser: The small center tackled magnificently in the place of Fleck but does lack the physical presence on attack in tight test situations.
Albert van den Bergh: The tall lock played well in his first match back from injury, his remarkable speed and lineout prowess makes him the ideal impact player.
John Smit: The man does well to replace a very good player with little time and massive pressures, great for the team to have someone as good as him on the bench,
Ollie le Roux: Played well but conceded a vital penalty with a tackle infringement in the dying minutes.
Moments of the match: Mark Andrews' try, Paulse's tackle on Gray, Larkham's running with the ball in hand
Man of the match: Andre Vos
We want consistency, but we don't want a consistent referee to consistently blow the whistle. Murray Mexted
I asked a ref if he could give me a technical foul for thinking bad things about him. He said, of course not. I said, well, I think you stink. And he gave me a technical. You can't trust 'em. Jim Valvano
In the end, it’s extra effort that separates a winner from second place. But winning takes a lot more that that, too. It starts with complete command of the fundamentals. Then it takes desire, determination, discipline, and self-sacrifice. And finally, it takes a great deal of love, fairness and respect for your fellow man. Put all these together, and even if you don’t win, how can you lose? Jesse Owens
Sportsmanship for me is when a guy walks off the court and you really can't tell whether he won or lost, when he carries himself with pride either way. Jim Courier
I would rather win than have good sportsmanship. Allen Iverson
Letters to the Editor
Thanks for the Forum, it really does brighten the day. The 14 all draw on Saturday was, in the end, a fair reflection of the game. The only improvements that I see that we need implement are:
1) more pro coaching for Skinstad - he did infringe (as most Australians) do - but he needs to be a better class of actor like little Georgie. Wonder if a ref will ever send someone off for 'conning'?
2)Better clean out in the ruck situation - especially if it leads to passing the ball before diving at the feet of the opposition!
3) Media participation in some objective referee assesment. Like cricket umpires, linesmen & referees are far too untouchable! Walch had a shocker, but the linesmen assisting when James was sent off was a little blind.
Dankie vir jou gereelde forum, ongelukkig is ek nie altyd in n posisie om terug te skryf nie, want teen die tyd wat ek die brief lees het die volgende wedstryd al plaasgevind. Nietemin, dink ek die berigte is uitstekende leesstof.
Net n paar gedagtes: Ja, ek dink ook die boek "Kapteins" is uitstekend, afgesien van die feit dat ek dit nog nie klaar gelees het nie. Een saak wat my egter opval is die feit dat die boek nie goed geredigeer is nie, en n paar spelfoute en taalfoute het ingesluip. Dis egter nog nie halfpad so erg soos Max du Preex se een foto van Louis Luyt met die Currie Beker in sy boek, waar die onderskrif lees..." Louis Luyt with the Web Ellis trophy", Myns insiens gaan dit nie so maklik gaan met die Bokke Saterdag nie, want ons het gesukkel in Perth die vorige keer toe ons daar gespeel het. Ja, almal hoop die SA'ners sal opdaag in groot getalle, maar dit bly nog steeds Australie. Hulle(austr) was te veel op hulle gemak, drie weke terug in SA. As Latham speel, dink ek dis n uitstekende kombinasie, met Burke op heelagter. Australie se lynstaanspel was van n swak gehalte teen ons en NZ. Hulle sal net beter kan doen. Ook n skeidsregter van die S-Halfrond as ek reg is, Ek sal n telling waag, nie iets wat Naas gereeld doen nie, Austr 19 SA 12,
Kom ons kyk wat gebeur,
Groete Robert Harris
In must say your Rugby forum is something I look forward to every week. Very informative, please keep up the great work.
If I can take this opportunity to wish Jo van Niekerk from all his mate's here in JHB. Keep it up boet, were all so proud!
Go Bokke Go
Thanks for an awesome column every week. Brilliant as you would say.
Keep up the good work , We are all behind Bob and the boys.
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