Rugby Forum
  Volume 1 - Week 26  
Editor's Note
Brilliant!    The word best describe the performance of All Black flyhalf, Andrew Mehrtens. The kicking ace’s virtuoso performance in wretched conditions in Auckland sank all Springbok hopes of capturing a second title in the Tri-Nations. Victory in the land of the Silver Fern proved one step too far for Bob Skinstad and his young team and they return without a victory in Australasia for the third year running.
The defeat should not leave the Springboks in ashes, the campaign may be over, a few battles were lost but there are positives to come out of this and they are worth lingering on. The most significant of all was the defensive web spun by Australian Les Kiss; the emergence of young stars like Conrad Jantjes, Lukas van Biljon and Victor Matfield; a strong showing in the set phases thanks to Cobus Visagie and a refreshing captaincy from Bob Skinstad backed up by strong lieutenants in Andrews, Vos, Fleck and Joost. There is one more worth mentioning, the “gees” or camaraderie of the team, this very important ingredient seem to be present and will come in good stead for the future.
The final and deciding match of the competition is promising to be a humdinger in front of a capacity crowd; it is also a final farewell to John Eales. To pick a winner will be difficult, both teams possess in Mehrtens and Larkham pivotal players at flyhalf, the battle up front will determine who plays with the most and better quality possession. The decisive factor in the game will be the performance of the scrumhalves; in their previous encounter Kelleher got the better of Gregan in a Super 12 match however this is hard uncompromising test rugby a situation relished by Gregan. The statistics reveal that the visiting team dominated over the past two years and so far the tendency continues, Saturday might see the Wallabies buck the trend.
The focus is back on Currie Cup rugby for South Africa’s top players and the search continues for those “special talents” that national coach, Harry Viljoen is seeking. The flyhalf berth, a massive point of debate will bring about intense scrutiny of the contenders, as many pundits believe that Butch James is not yet the complete article. The message is quite clear that there is nine weeks in which to play yourself into the end of year tour to the Northern Hemisphere, is that not more than enough motivation for a cracker of a competition? You bet your grocery money on that!
An interesting drama is busy unfolding with the transfers or supposed transfers of players to Northern Hemisphere clubs. There are all kinds of interesting questions surrounding this issue; the major role players, agents, prospective client/club and the current employer/province/union all of course have “the player’s interest” at heart but is this not a thinly veiled excuse for Jerry McGuire’s pursuit of “show me the money!”? The fundamental issue is a contractual one and even with all the potential ethical debates the matter should remain contractual.
Enjoy this issue; my gratitude is owed yet again to all contributors for their articles, readers for their mails and supporters of Rugby Forum. Also, support your local teams by watching the Currie Cup action live at the park.

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South Africa's Mediocrity by Mark Foster
Part I of South Africa’s international season came to a rather abrupt end with a disappointing loss against the old foe, New Zealand. The margin of defeat was a surprise to many, this writer included after the spirited and encouraging displays against Australia.
The norm after any Springbok defeat especially against the All Blacks is to sharpen the knives, dip the feather into the poison pot and reshape the team, coach, management and for good measure kick the poor neighbour’s dog for snarling. The question begs, do we as South Africans demand and expect too much from our national team?
What a silly, dumb ass question, of course we do, the rugby public in general and the press in particular are scathing in their attack on the Springbok team after any defeat. It is important though that the old common sense dictum of comparing apples to apples is applied in analyzing the Springbok’s performance.
The statistics below is particularly revealing and relevant to assessing the season thus far; the study is of all Springbok matches since 1992, arguably the birth of the modern era. The significance of the date is obvious, the importance essential because before 1992, statistically SA was the best rugby nation on the planet. This reputation was built on the back of magnificent performances over the years from various great teams. Apart from the Cavaliers Tour (1986), unrecognized as official tests, the last time the Springboks played against any of the top 5 rugby nations were England in 1984 and New Zealand in 1981. Arguably an entire generation missed out on test rugby against the best in the world game.
Since readmission SA’s record is dismal compared to its illustrious past, the reasons are varied and definitely another story. In comparison to the other top rugby playing countries, Australia, England, France and New Zealand we should not kid ourselves as to what is the pecking order. It is evident that both supporters and scribes live under an illusion of grandeur, the truth of the matter is that in all matches since 1992 SA rank last in winning percentages. Against the top countries (included are Lions series as all three Tri-Nations teams played against them) SA are tied for third spot with England and have a winning ratio of only 43%!
A year by year analysis reveal two glory years in 1995 and 1998, with a 100% and 83% winning percentage against the top 5 respectively, apart from that the average winning percentage for the rest of the years is 32%. 2001 with a 33% winning percentage and a few more games in hand suddenly begins to look more respectable!
The picture painted is not meant to create a doom and gloom perspective of Springbok rugby but more a realistic yardstick for measurement. The old adage is very true, ‘there are lies, damned lies and statistics’ but you cannot escape the truth in the figures presented. The best we as South Africans can do is to realise our mediocrity and use that as a foundation to build and achieve excellence. There is no better goal to work for than the 2003 Rugby World Cup but it is short-term goals that determine the outcome of the greater. The best short-term achievement will be to create a winning culture and there is no better opportunity than the end of the year tour to the Northern Hemisphere.
      Summary of all test matches played by the top 5 countries since 1992         


Total games







 Australia vs All








 New Zealand vs All








 England vs All








 France vs All








 South Africa vs All
















 New Zealand vs Big 5*








 Australia vs Big 5*








 South Africa vs Big 5*








 England vs Big 4**








 France vs Big 4**








                                                        *   The Big 5 are Australia, British Lions, England, France, New Zealand and South Africa
                                                        **  The Big 4 are Australia, England, France, New Zealand and South Africa
                                                        *** Stats are correct as of 28/8/2001

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Questionable Crusade by Desmond Organ
The Crusades in Europe are a topic of ongoing historical debate. One consistent theme has emerged and that is that it was really a geographical stalemate over time with both sides claiming victory on a continuous basis. Each foray into enemy held territory was as much an exercise in the practice of new battle techniques as it was a voyage of discovery to establish the new techniques of the opposition. The Springboks of the first half of 2001 have resembled a crusade, with the battle weary troops returning home for a traditional break before they reassemble to once again depart.
Perhaps the most appropriate analysis one can embark on is a critique of the players and coaching staff and hopefully this will shed some light on what the new techniques of the traditional enemy are and what we have learnt about our own battle techniques. 
The final South African game of the 2001 Tri Nations was far from inspirational and we resembled a battle weary group, luck had run out, the fuel tank was on empty and yet there was still a battle being fought. The tricks and strategies of our coaches were at an end and it was time to regroup and return home.
Coaching Staff 

Harry Viljoen – It is a case of mission accomplished as far as he is concerned. Considering that he was on the brink of either dismissal or resignation, I am sure that he is happy with the results that have been achieved so far. On the positive side he has learnt that you cannot forsake your traditional strengths without a new plan and yes victories are important in the short term. Full marks for uncovering some great new talent, but I suggest a trip to a Covey seminar to learn the habits of highly effective people. 

Tim Lane – The jury is still out as far as this Australian import is concerned. Far from creating a new plan of attack, we were left with two tries from the forwards and a defensive unit built by somebody else. Consistency in selection may have played a part here, but at least spare us the indignity of not having the wings score tries. 

Less Kiss – Full marks to you sir and a humble apology from myself for having doubted the benefits of learning from League. I am sure that our limited success is attributed to the impressive defence that was there for all to see

Jake White – The silent computer games specialist. I can only hope that he has had a role to play in the defensive set up. The fact that the media has said so little about him may suggest that a career at Nintendo selling PlayStation may be on the cards.

Mark Keohane – Included here as part of the coaching staff because he was originally hired by the Coach for his knowledge of the politics of the game in South Africa.  Harry needed all the help he could get in the area of communications and I cannot say that I am impressed with the results. Congratulations are due to you for rising to such an important position without the formal qualifications. Studying the resumes of players may help you with the names that you consistently have a problem with.


15. Percy Montgomery – A victim of circumstance, but at the same time you really have not lived up to the faith that the coaches had in you. The debacle at Newlands was too late for many of the armchair critics. Many New Zealanders will miss being able to applaud your inclusion.

15. Conrad Jantjes – A man of the future. The pressure of playing in Pretoria was immense and the young man came through with flying colours. Some work on clearing the ball with more rapidity and the exposure to a consistent back line will help.

14. Breyton Paulse – Outstanding, please will somebody find a way to get the ball to him more often.

11. Dean Hall- Impressive on defence but stereotypical on offence. I think that somebody else will be playing in this jersey at the end of the year.

13. Robbie Fleck – The turnaround player. After a pitiful Super 12 you have shown that you have the attacking flair that South Africa needs. I only hope that they find you some effective company in the back line.

13. Deon Kayser  - A committed player of the highest order, the company you find yourself in may be the reason that you are not as effective on attack as in defence. 

13. Andre Snyman – Time will tell

10. Butch James – The attacking move during the second half of the game at Eden park was the first we have really seem of him since the opening move against France. I am not sure that we have the right attacking options in this player or he is in the wrong halfback company.

9. Joost van der Westhuizen – The money of the Northern hemisphere looms. Inspirational in defence, enthusiastic in attack. However, the ball left at the base of the ruck and the inability of the back line to gel may be attributed to his style of play.

8. Bob Skinstad – Considering the circumstances of his appointment as captain, one cannot deny his leadership ability. The fact that he is more suited to an attacking style may pose problems when we are on the back foot, as was the case on Saturday. 

7. Andre Venter – The Peacemaker for his efforts on Saturday. I think that the experience he brings to a young team is invaluable, but as they gain experience the need for a person who can play the part will be required.

7. Joe van Niekerk – One of the players of the future. 

6. Andre Vos – Richard the Lion Heart is all that I can say.  You make us proud of the Springbok Jersey. Pencil his name in the no 6 Jersey.

6. Corne Krige – The successive head high tackle attempts against France may have put an end to your chances in the Tri Nations, alongside an unfortunate injury. Rassie Erasmus may have his name on the No 7 Jersey so where does that leave you?

5. Mark Andrews – A tower of strength and a veteran for the cause. I am sure that the company you find yourself in will motivate you to continue giving 100%.

4. Victor Matfield – One of the finds of the season and arguably a key part of the forward resurgence.  This could be another John Eales in the making.

4. Johan Ackerman – He did a sterling job in Pretoria deputising for the injured Matfield and surely deserves another chance this year

4. Albert van den Bergh – He is one of the best jumpers in the world on the opposition throw in, but I believe that he needs to focus on the tighter aspect of his game, too loose against the All Blacks when he came onto the field.

3. Cobus Visagie – Whether he has the support of the Minister of Sport is irrelevant to the majority of rugby supporters desperate for a turnaround in the tight five. He is one of the best in the world at this position.

2. Lukas van Biljon – The surprise package in the Super 12 and the find of the Tri Nations. His line out throwing is outstanding, his driving in the loose was a revelation and he was an example to his contemporaries on what it means to be a Springbok.

2. Jon Smit – He was lifted from his position by his teammate at the Sharks and really has not had the opportunity to impress. His line out throwing led to his relegation and he needs to utilise a lower body position on the drive, something several of his fellow team members could also benefit from.

1. Robbie Kempson – What a turnaround after being dropped against France, he is a key part of the front three and his discipline has improved greatly, one can only hope that he is able to maintain his focus this time round.

1. Ollie Le Roux – A crowd favourite and certainly his overall fitness has improved. I think that he could well be the No 1 Starter in the near future. His influence in the scrum in the last 10 minutes at Eden Park will not have gone unnoticed.

Butch Explained by Mike Amm
What surprises me most is the amount of emotion (pro & anti) that Butch evokes in strangers that don't know him from a bar of soap. Posts (opinions) that I can remember variously categorised him as follows:
1.     An ultra-aggressive player out to injure as many people as possible with his murderous style of tackling.
2.     An habitual substance (crack) abuser in a chronic 'roid rage.
3.     A mentally retarded person unable to think clearly or quickly.
4.     A born tactical genius capable of exercising control at test level without any experience.
5.     A conceited prat who needs to be brought down a peg or two.
6.     A distributive genius who can turn bad ball into good.
7.     A slow stumblebum who kicks too much good ball away.
8.     A genius of tactical kicking.
Andrew James is not any of the above. He is a fairly successful junior flyhalf with an unusual style and a high defence workrate, who caught the attention of Sharks management in club games. Rudi Straeuli saw that he could build an effective defensive style around James and suddenly he was a Shark.
Straeuli's defensive style succeeded and bought him time to mould an attacking style around James' rather peculiar style, using the talents of Davidson and Halstead. The attacking style also bore fruit and in the absence of any standout flyhalf, suddenly James found himself wearing the green 'n gold.
Unfortunately the national coach failed to grasp the fundamentals of Straeuli's success formula and tried to use him in more conventional (some will say outmoded) manner. Needless to say they both saw their "gat" quite comprehensively at times but James is no longer what he was.
He has been wrongly used and shockingly abused because he was not what they perceived or wanted him to be. He has lost all his confidence and may never be the same again but if he does recover, he will be a much better player for it; sadder but infinitely wiser.
The best thing Viljoen did this season was making Skinstad captain and empowering the players to devise their own strategy. Effectively he abdicated coaching in favour of Skinstad/Andrews and gave Fleck the backs. Maybe if he allowed the player power to select the team, the backline would function properly as well.

Match Review
New Zealand 26 - South Africa 15
A wet and damp Eden Park greeted the protagonists in the latest edition of the greatest rivalry in test rugby. The New Zealand authorities did well to find the most wretched singer ever to perform the South African anthem, in retrospect this was probably the reason for their (Springboks) poor rhythm from the start!
The match began with predictable football in the wet weather; both teams tried to drill the ball to the corners and gain positional supremacy. Any opportunity to attack was snuffed by good and eager defence. The first look in on the tryline came after a prolonged passage of play and an excellent break by Tana Umaga, the forwards of the All Blacks handled superbly to send Cribb galloping down the far touchline, caught by Braam van Straaten he popped a perfect pass to big Jonah but alas the “Big Fella” yet again missed an opportunity to score his first try against SA by looking at the opposition and knocking the ball.
This exciting piece of play set the tone and the All Blacks confidence was evident by the way the forwards rampaged afterwards. After sustained attacks around the fringe of the ruck Kelleher found Alatini with an inside pass and he scored a great try. The Springboks did well in the set phases by stealing All Black lineouts and holding their own in the scrums however mistakes and great offensive defence spoiled the little possession gained. One of the few times the backline crossed the advantage line was when Jantjes attacked on the blind side and found a gap to sprint through, a high tackle from Cribb provided van Straaten with his first and successful penalty.
The All Blacks relentlessly attacked and pressurized the Springboks in remaining in their own half, inexplicably wrong options were taken like kicking cross field (Jantjes) not finding touch, running from their own line (James) and feeding a lock (Andrews) who had no choice to kick and the resulting return from McDonald yielded a penalty which Mehrtens easily converted.
There were few attacking opportunities for the Springboks, one created by an excellent weighted kick from James produced an attacking lineout in the All Black 25. After a questionable decision from referee Marshall, van Straaten again slotted the penalty. The Springboks continued to under utilize possession by kicking mindlessly at the back three, they (Lomu, McDonald and Wilson) enjoyed the opportunity to run at the Springboks and one Lomu charge from a Jantjes chip was vintage stuff and had Umaga run the ball and not chip kick it could have spelt trouble.
The match was as intense as expected between these two teams and a little scuffle resulted in a few bloodied mouths and the Springboks coming off second best in the fight. It was great discipline to refrain from retaliating but bad to lose the game and the fight! The All Blacks continued their territorial advantage with Mehrtens adding the points after a mistake from the Springboks. A good passage of play followed the kick off and for almost 4 minutes both sides kicked, missed touch, counter attacked and gambled, magnificent stuff! 
One area riddled with penalties was the lineouts and after another indiscretion from Maxwell, van Straaten added the penalty to make the score 13-9, in favour of the All Blacks. A few high-risk moves from the possession deprived Springbok backline players in their own half almost cost them dearly and they were lucky to escape a try and a penalty attempt as Mehrtens missed his second attempt of the game - halftime.
The second half saw poring rain make conditions even more treacherous and kicking was inevitable yet the All Blacks attacked magnificently with sweeping backline moves. Jantjes’ soccer skills kept Wilson at bay after a well judged Umaga nudge ahead from a third phase attacking ball. The lineout and attacking move with Jonah Lomu created a penalty opportunity for Mehrtens in front of goal.
A good scrum produced one of the Springbok’s best attacking moves with Joost taking the gap and Hall making yards before the expected turnover.  The Springboks played much better with the ball in hand but rash decisions and unnecessary relinquishing of the ball proved their downfall. 
Both teams tried their best to run the ball and play creative rugby, the Springboks under more pressure territorially probably tried too much instead of working at the phases. Mehrtens kicked a tremendous long-range penalty after a Springbok indiscretion and the All Blacks had a ten-point buffer. Mehrtens continued his devastating, raking touch finders and after another beauty referee Marshall made a crucial error in adjudging a South African knock on from the lineout. The scrum produced a bollocking run from Umaga, advantage was played for off side and a magnificent break from Mehrtens left the touchline open for McDonald, van Biljon interfered with the runner and the referee had no choice but to award a penalty try, the score, 26 – 9.
The All Blacks continued to dominate exchanges even though van Straaten managed a few penalties and considering the conditions, the skills were brilliant. The Springboks, inexplicably sustained the tactics of kicking at the All Blacks with the meager possession available, the All Blacks attacked with this gifted ball at every opportunity and only magnificent defence kept the score in check. 
The Springboks reserved their best move of the match with only 7 minutes left on the clock, a simple loop around the inside centre by James created a massive gap and James opted for the chip ahead for Hall to chase. Against Wilson a bit futile and maybe in hindsight it was better to hold on to the ball. The Springboks suddenly found some rhythm with great attacking play and 12 phases almost yielded a try, Murray Mexted commented that the Springboks only spent 2 minutes of the entire match in the All Black 25! A case of too little too late. The last few minutes were tremendously exciting and the Springboks played their best rugby of the match. The All Blacks remained calm and easily disposed of the threat. 
The Kiwi forwards were magnificent and dispelled any questions there were after their below par performance against the Australians a fortnight ago. Jack played a massive game in his first start as lock and Flavell although not the answer at the side of the scrum played a very good match indeed. Their counterparts struggled inexplicably and the dominance of the past month was none to be seen. Bad tactics cost the Springboks dearly and the eventual score flattered them. Mehrtens was the man, the thorn in the flesh, the Springbok’s nemesis and architect of their downfall.
Player Performances:

Rob Kempson:     Rob played well in this match, making some important tackles, his back chat to referee Marshall his only blemish in what was a very solid and impressive Tri-Nations.

Lukas van Biljon:     The man was clearly earmarked for special attention and the All Blacks certainly did their homework on him this time around. A few unfortunate knock-ons restricted his usual effective driving play but his accuracy in the lineouts ensured that this department remained a strength for SA. His early tackle or jersey pulling was unfortunate, McDonald had his work cut out to score but the offense made the try look like a certainty.

Cobus Visagie:     The pack took a bit of a beating overall but there was never doubt about the tight phases, Cobus's territory. This was arguably a mooted performance from the big guy and a few missed tackles contributed to AB momentum. SA cannot afford losing this man to the Northern Hemisphere.

Victor Matfield:     The busiest player on the park, he had the highest tackle count, poached balls in the lineout and even found time to run around a bit. The young man played very well and even when he copped a beaut from Jack, he took it like a man on the chin and refused to retaliate, testimony of an excellent temperament and discipline. He will be very dissappointed at dropping a high ball in his own 25 resulting in a AB penalty.

Mark Andrews:     The big man was my Springbok man of the match, his telling tackles and brilliant work in the lineouts confirmed his competitiveness even in his 75th test. The experience of playing the AB for the X time is invaluable to all the youngsters around him, he will be dissappointed by the loss though as victories in NZ are rare and this team had a chance on potential.

Andre Vos:     Avos played another good match and he has grown into the flanker role with success and commitment, the foul weather and a dominating AB pack made it very difficult to perform, this man however never stood back.

Andre Venter:     Andre was there in most situations and tackled very well, he also took the ball up a bit more but tends to go down in the tackle too quickly, it is fine to do that if the rest of the pack is clearing out but they were not.

Bob Skinstad:     Captain Bob played well, he shared the most tackles with Matfield and performed a fetching role however this neutralises his natural attacking flair and with a pack in retreat it becomes very difficult. One memorable tackle stands out though and that was on the big man Lomu after an excellent Jantjes counter attack.

Joost:     The other most capped player struggled a bit behind a pack that was not dominating and once again found himself away from the ruck due to tackling and fetching commitmments, his general play around the field was exemplary. As a scrumhalf his passing was fine but his tactical kicking was non existent and his dangerous breaks were carefully watched by Kelleher.

Butch James:     The most talked about SA player was given a lesson in tactical nouz from the old master, Andrew Mehrtens. Butch hardly tackled and his channel, once "safe" is now the vulnerable point in the SA backline, opposing teams will target his tackling style hoping to win penalties and cards. He had a few deft touches in the match with excellently weighted kicks to the side line and a great loop run but with a lack of quality ball he did not make enough of an impact. An unfortunate knock on at the end of the match cost SA a certain try.

Dean Hall:     Dean Hall defended brilliantly and on the few occasions he received the ball made a few meters, under utilised like most of our backline he does very well to look for work and add value around the park.

Andre Snyman:     One of the strongest and fastest bacline players in the country and the ideal man to run at the AB's never received the ball! The pressure was concentrated on the inside of him and he was cut off like an island in a storm. His tackling was solid as one would expect, let's hope he will feature in HV future plans as he is one of the best.

Braam van Straaten:     The Adidas ball seem to present no problem to Braam who kicked every opportunity presented. The AB's clearly concentrated their defending pressure on him and, as he has said before in interviews and admirably so, he refused to pass the ball to a teammate in a worse position, he took the tackle. His own tackling was excellent and his quick hands provided the ball for James' looping run. If this was his final match for the Springboks it will be a pity that it passed without the fanfare deserved by a man totally committed to the cause and a proven matchwinner.

Breyten Paulse:     The little wing was once again under utilised and this might be the ongoing story of his career. The lack of opportunities seemed to have installed a bit of the kamikaze spirit in the man. We do not deny his talent, ability or commitment but trying to beat three hungry AB thundering down on you in your own 25 is looking for trouble. As HV said the challenge must be how to involve players like Breyten in attack more often, that is the key to success.

Conrad Jantjes:     The young full back was critisized for not kicking out and into the hands of Mehrtens but in his defence, not enough Springboks came up in defence they all rather stayed back to cover "high balls". His touch kicking is excelent and yes he wil learn to maybe depart with 10 meters and find the D row to avoid quick throw ins but if it is 60 meters down the field and there is pressure on the receiver, a totally different scenario unfolds. His attacking play is excelent and should be involved in more moves from the back, that is when SA have an abundance of posession. A clear head with good vision and a calmness under pressure make him my find of the Tri Nations. 

Joe van Niekerk:    Spent a bit of time on the park, he is a wonderful player and his size for such a young man is remarkable. He has a lot of heart and his tackle on Jonah Lomu was probably a highlight in a short career. Blessed with good hands, speed and a step he needs to be exposed to top flight rugby in both the Currie Cup and Super 12.

Moments of the match:     Lomu's knock on to once again remain tryless against the Springboks and Mehrtens tactical supremacy

Man of the match:    Andrew Mehrtens

Test Teams
              Wallabies All Blacks
Matt Burke         15 Leon MacDonald
Chris Latham         14 Jeff Wilson
Daniel Herbert         13 Tana Umaga
Nathan Grey         12 Pita Alatini
Joe Roff         11 Jonah Lomu
Stephen Larkham         10 Andrew Mehrtens
George Gregan          9 Byron Kelleher
Toutai Kefu
         8 Ron Cribb
George Smith          7 Taine Randell
Owen Finnegan          6 Troy Flavell
John Eales (captain)          5 Chris Jack
David Giffin          4 Norm Maxwell
Rod Moore          3 Greg Somerville
Michael Foley          2 Anton Oliver (captain)
Nick Stiles          1 Carl Hoeft
Brendan Cannon         16 Mark Hammett
Ben Darwin         17 Carl Hayman
Matt Cockbain         18 Mart Holah
Phil Waugh         19 Mark Cooksley 
Chris Whitaker         20 Justin Marshall
Elton Flatley         21 Tony Brown
AN OTHER         22 Christian Cullen

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.    Henry Ford
The problem with referees is that they just don't care which side wins.     Tom Canterbury
I don't like this new law, because your first instinct when you see a man on the ground is to go down on him.      Murray Mexted   
When we beat the Springboks or France there's a general feeling of 'so you bloody well should', rather than 'that's a really good achievement'.    Wayne Smith

Letters to the Editor
Dear Rugby Forum
Thank you once again for a very informative and highly entertaining article. I always look forward to reading your magazine and always forward it to as many people as I can.
Wow what a test match we saw last Saturday with the All Blacks coming out on top against the Springboks!!  You guys at Rugby Forum have known for a long time that I am an All Black fan.  I must say however that the Bokke played well and contributed to a fantastic 6 minute spell of open play. 
In reading the press this past weekend though I was surprised to have seen all the criticism on Butch James.  Yes he may not be the class of Mehrtens when it comes to tactics but then does Merhts have an equal in World Rugby when it comes to this, ask Bobby Skinstad.
James will grow into his role at First five eight and I believe that he will be one of the world's best as soon as he learns to use his arms in the tackle.  There is no mistaking that the boy has much talent and hey guys experience can only be gained with matches played and with that will come class. 
Anyway I must say that from where the Boks were and to where they are right now is a major improvement and to the boys take a bow.  We are not worthy.
All Blacks (Wayne Smith) I hope you realise that Merhts cannot be left on the bench during a game and also that Kelleher is currently in much better form than is Marshall.  I was glad to see you guys playing with pride on Saturday which in the Previous test match at Dunedin you didn't seem to be playing with.
Here's looking forward to a great game in Sydney and Rugby Forum staff keep up the good work.

Dear Ed,


After watching the match I have as usual avidly read all the reports in the papers and watched superrugby.
I almost invariably agree with Naas's comments but in the case of this test I must differ from him and many other commentators. These people have said the reason for the loss last Saturday was the lack of a decision maker at fly half and poor scrum half play. The centers have also been blamed for their play. It may well be that the backs lined up too shallow but when the forwards fail to win the ball who can blame them.
The statistics of All Blacks with 70% possession is not a backs problem but highlights the main area of deficiency in the Boks play which has been evident for some years. This is our ineptitude or unwillingness to drive the opposition off the loose ball. NZ did this time and again last Saturday with apparent ease.
The Boks on the other hand always seem to get to the loose ball or the tackle in ones and twos and then most of the guys hang around the fringes in the expectation and knowledge that the opposition are going top win the ball.I must say that I believe we have the players to do this clean out and drive and therefore it must be a coaching problem and not ineptitude that causes this to happen.
I agree we must sort out the backs but lets get the forwards coached so they win the ball in the first place.
I enjoy the forum. I suggest you use word to sort out your grammatical glitches particularly with was and were.
All the best
Drop Kick
Thanks for the tip, I do use MS Word and that is probably the reason for my grammatical errors!    Ed

Beste Red,
Ek is bereid om te erken ek het moontlik te gou kritiseer en die Springbokspan se kanse om hond haaraf te maak te bevraagteken. Gelukkig kan ek nou sê, ek het moontlik 'n fout gemaak. Jammer ek erken dit ruiterlik. Die span het besonder goed gespeel en wens ek hulle geluk. Goed gedaan. Daar is egter ook 'n wrang smakie in die monde gelaat. Die twee spelers wat afgestuur is, nl James en Skinstad. Het die manne nie ore aan hul koppe nie? Ek het al per geleentheid 'n e-pos aan James via die Sharks se webblad gestuur, waarop ek hom ernstig dog vriendelik aangespreek het oor sy op die veld gedrag/spel. Skinstad is meer as twee keer deur die skeidsregter gewaarsku en het hy nie ag daarop geslaan nie. Die skeidsregter is altyd reg al is hy hoe verkeerd. James gaan die Springbokke nog baie wedstryde kos as hy nie baie vinnig ophou met sy stormram taktiek nie. Iemand gaan hom nog baie hard slaan, maar dan sal dit te laat wees. Van Skinstad het 'n mens meer verwag. Genoeg gekla.
Ons kort egter net senters wat die middeveld kan penetreer, reguit hardloop en gapings kan maak of raaksien. Wat van Skinstad op senter, Albert van den Berg op agsteman, Breyten Paulse op skrumskakel want Mark Andrews druk meer drieë op vleuel as Paulse. Vra maar net.
Groete uit my losie
Chris Erasmus

Dear Ed,
Regarding Saturday's match between the Springboks and the Aussies: Unfortunately, we do not have MNet, and were unable to WATCH the game, but we DID listen to it on the radio.  All I can say is, I am DISGUSTED at the fans attitude! I couldn't even concentrate on the game properly, because all I heard was the crowd booing!  I hope that none of those rude fans were South Africans!
Thanks for a super newsletter.
Ruth Linington






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