|Volume 1 - Week 3|
Awesome! Great to see that RF is reaching the far corners of the globe even though London is 12,000 miles away e-mail can cover it within seconds, eat your heart out Maurice Green!
The response so far has been mostly exploratory and feedback has been very positive (sounds like reports from the Bulls camp!) but what we need is for you to tap those keyboards and send me some mails so we can really get this bird flying.
The mixed bag of Super 12 results over the weekend signified a change of home supremacy and a couple teams sneaked in with coveted away wins. Expect more of this to happen in the coming weeks, the teams are far more aware of each other’s strengths and weakness. The correct game plan between the lines and not always the best team will provide the victor on the day.
An interesting question was posed to Jeff “Goldy” Wilson the other night on television about the swing in fortunes of a team from one week to the next. One answer to this is the inherent pride and competitive nature of sportsmen. They are all professional and apart from monetary gains there is a definite pride in performing their job successfully, which signifies winning.
The Six (or is it Five again) Nations resume this weekend and the clash I’m looking forward to is France vs Wales. The French seem a bit vulnerable at the moment and Wales’s “great redeemer” is surely feeling the pressure of producing a win at the Stade de France.
Soccer before rugby? The marketing men at ABSA Park, Durban is hosting a historic first, a soccer match as curtain raiser for the Sharks/Hurricanes clash. It seems the Sharks fans are getting use to winning by one point so soccer’s scoring margins won’t be foreign to the people of KZN. What next?
Have a brilliant weekend’s rugby, keep watching support your teams and write!
Ps: For all new readers, please mail RugbyForum@freemail.absa.co.za to include or remove your address or to request previous copies of RF.
Letters to the Editor:
I’m not a huge fan of footie, so I’ll stick to what I know best.
Thanks for your brief tribute to the late, great Don Bradman, the hero of all Australia, who, alongside Muhammad Ali, Pele and the Jamaican bobsled team, was one of the greatest sporting personalities of the 20th century. Just a side note to point out that your memorable anecdote last week about the Don’s remark that “I am in my eighties, y’know” is note entirely accurate. The Don’s immortal comment was not made during an ashes tour of Australia by England, but was during that team’s tour of the Caribbean in the 1990’s, when Brian Lara mercilessly lashed 375* against the English attack. You were right in another regard, though, as it was a “particularly poor English side” – is there another sort these days?
The “Boy from Bowral” will live forever in the minds of all true sports fans.
From Ned, Wagga Wagga, Aus
Thanks Ned, I assume you are talking about cricket because the English have a damn fine rugby side. - Ed.
Thanks for all the good stuff. I was interested to read in your latest Quiz that Campo made his debut in 1982 under Bob Dwyer. Didn’t Bob only emerge some years later? Also, you referred in the same Quiz to a racehorse named after Christian Cullen. Fair enough, but a horse back in the early 70’s was called Pine Tree after the great All Black from King Country. Unfortunately it was a nag, but then what do you expect when you name a racehorse after a colossal lock forward?
My sources have it that Dwyer had two stints as Australian rugby coach from 1982 to 1983 when he succeeded Bob Templeton and again from 1988 to 1995. - Ed.
"Ever heard of a game called “stats”?" by Mark Foster
The past weekend’s rugby was an anomaly of playing styles however the results proved one thing to rugby kin alike, the game isn’t over ‘till it’s over or to use communalisms, “until the fat lady sings“, “the glove fits” and “the final, final, final recount was done”, I’m sure you get the picture! The tense finishes as witnessed in the weekend’s matches is synonymous with every rugby competition over the years and one of the reasons why predictions are so difficult to make. A look at statistics, as they love to do at half time, is therefore a favoured method of attempting to predict future outcomes.
There is a true story of 2 guys that were somewhat amazed by the odds on offer for a hole in one during some major golf championship. The intrepid heroes “doing some homework” realized through the statistics of past tournaments that with a quality field of 128 of the best players, playing two rounds of golf, that is 512 attempts at a hole in one on the first two days alone, the likelihood of scoring a hole in one was virtually 100% - guess where the house, lifesavings, money begged and borrowed went? They won of course and the bookies, for once got hold of the short end.
Statistics make for interesting reading (somewhat like the London White Pages) and it can vary from the “80% of stats are made up on the spot”, “lies, damned lies and statistics” to the South African Crime statistics or obviously the analytical derived stats sponsored by some fancy consulting group like "TatterleyPomeloyandBurton previously trading as…" you know what I mean.
The official statistics are very helpful to both professionals and amateurs analysing sport. The heated debates at the workplace, schools and pubs regarding the best player of a sport is easily solved by some whizkid cranking up MS Explorer surfing the net and pronouncing Jenkins the greatest flyhalf, Campese the best player and Sella the most endurable in history and voila argument solved! Or is it?
Statistics are aligned to the law of a country; meaning it is the official version open to interpretation and debate. The similarity with law however ends prematurely, unlike most civilized countries sport and particularly rugby has no trias politica or in other words, segregation of power. The biggest or in some case the most fans are by and large correct in their opinion and they assume the duty of judge, jury and executioner! Anyone that’s been in a Kiwi pub in Acton when the Boks play the All Blacks, can attest to that!
The best thing however about statistics is; it assists in affirming a stance, anybody reading SA Sports Illustrated, the New Zealand Herald, the Sydney Morning Herald or The Times for that matter can, as novice rugby fans express a view based on opinions and statistics provided by the publication. The stance might be similar to the English’s at Rorke’s Drift, bloody but successful (remember the Kiwi pub) however the crux of the matter is that statistics only provide an unemotional view of what transpired in history.
If statistics never lie, how can they so often be defied on a rugby field? Possession, field position and penalties may all belie certain team’s superiority, how on earth do they lose a match? The examples over the weekend were significant; add the Blanco try against Australia '87, Lynagh's try against the Irish '91 and Stransky's drop in '95. The countless times that one deed changed the result of a match are indeed testament to the fact that rugby and statistics don't always go hand in hand. What makes rugby different?
A quick and easy answer; the players are human, the referees are human, there are emotions, temperament and individual talent involved, all integral to what makes rugby one of the greatest games on earth. Ever heard of a game called “stats”? I don’t think so! (Bit of a bad experience in Acton, Mark? Ed.)
The plight of the lowly Referee by Blokkies Joubert
The recent article by “Referees Suck” (an interesting nom de guerre) raised a number of interesting points, beneath its veneer of predicable fighting talk about incompetent, biased refereeing. The first point that any armchair critic of whistlemen must bear in mind is that rugger refereeing is an especially taxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Rugby is quite possibly the most complicated sport around, and only someone who has actually run around a paddock, whistle in hand, has, in all fairness, earned the right to pontificate so stridently on the subject of poor refereeing. It is an unfortunate matter of fact that the reff who is praised for “letting the game flow” is the reff who has boldly discarded 75% of the lawbook – but then, in that case, what is the book there for? Culpability, my dear Mr Suck, lies at the feet of the lawmakers, not their convenient scapegoats out in the middle.
I’m not going to sermonize any further (a gasp of relief from the peanut gallery!). The meat of Mr Suck’s article relates to the issue of reff’s favouring home teams, and in this regard he is quite correct. Also, the editor is accurate when he stated that a study was carried out in Wales about precisely this phenomenon.
I remember reading a detailed newspaper article about that study, which, as I recall, formed part of a PhD in statistics by a former Welsh referee. Unfortunately I no longer have a copy of the article, which was a thorough summary of the report’s findings. The study was an admirably detailed analysis of the performances of reff’s during a recent Five Nations championship, and, unfortunately, Mr Stuck’s suspicions are merited. The number of times referees favoured home sides, especially in the beginning stages of a match, was astounding and disturbing – especially to a fledgling referee (as I was at the time).
But even those findings paled when compared to some of the other conclusions drawn in the study. The study also carefully analysed each and every change in lead during each of the test matches played, and even more evidence of referee subjectivity arose. I am obviously unable to quote some of the report’s more telling observations, but suffice to say that time and time again it was found that referees were prone to awarding penalties against the team in the lead. Herein lies the nub of the matter –that reff’s, fearful of directly influencing a result, subconsciously opted for the easier route of allowing the losing team to play catch-up until it went ahead, at which point it, in turn, had to face the reff’s animosity!
The nature of rugby’s laws means that referees will always play a leading, controversial role in all rugger matches, even to the extent that the scoreline is sometimes unjustly affected by a reff’s performance. All Black supporters have, for example, long since argued that both the 1949 and 1976 series against the Boks were strongly influenced, even decided, by biased SA reff’s. That will remain so until the IRB, somehow, manages to simplify the laws (especially at rucks and mauls), and in doing so removes some of the subjectivity that will always be present.
Even so, have pity on that much-maligned character – the rugby referee. In fact, why not don your old boots and try it yourself?
Rugby, a global game
Rugby has evolved into an international game with a loyal and cross-cultured following; the game is no longer just for a bunch of toffs at some Public School. The expansion has much to do with the world becoming a much smaller place with the advent of the World Wide Web technology. The responsibility we face as rugby followers is therefore two-fold (a) support the game and (b) spread the word as far and wide as we can to accommodate fans everywhere.
The mission of this publication encompasses this responsibility that is to create a forum whereby rugby followers can express and read others views and opinions. The aim is to distribute it as far reaching as possible and to offer a service where by you receive the forum in your inbox every Thursday. Most people have access to e-mail however the Internet and websites are sometime unavailable and many companies’ Internet usage policy has become far stricter than it use to be.
I would like to implore on all readers of Rugby Forum to forward the publication to all friends and colleagues both home and abroad. The publication as is favors the Super 12 and Southern Hemisphere rugby because that is what we are exposed to and see on our pay for view channels however this is not necessary the status quo. Send us articles, opinions and views from wherever you are, after all we all share the same interest, and it is quite surprising how rugby fans no matter from where can sit down have a grog (beer) and talk about the game. Ed.
(answers at the end)
Hurricanes 15 Stormers 27
The match will be remembered for various reasons, great tries, deft touches and weak forward play but if the Stormers continue their Lazarus act and reach the final four this match will be regarded as their turning point. From a team that looked down and out in Sydney the Stormers were far more urgent and the cohesion amongst the backs was greatly due to an outstanding effort from newcomer Stuart Abbott. He was nippy in attack and his round the ankles tackle of Lomu was reminiscent of Springbok defence in the World Cup final. Pity for the Stormers the big fella took exception to this close marking and steamrolled to a magnificent trademark Lomu try; Breyten, Montgomery and Skinstad welcome to the Mike Catt club!
Christian Cullen, not yet at his sublime best was the creator of a breathtaking try by Lillee in the corner after collecting his agonisingly perfect chip kick and off loading at the very last minute before Fleck barged him into touch. The Cullen of old would have easily out sprinted the field however his rugby brain and skills are far more valuable than speed alone. The match was also a coming out party for Bob Skinstad, a try scorer plus his overall play should do a world of good for his growing confidence. The man whose tongue made him the sex symbol of South African rugby has not yet wagged the infamous muscle at crowds, could the tongue wagging be direct proportional to his performance?
The match was marred, as with many other over the weekend, with poor forward play and the way both hookers struggled with throwing in the lineout was like watching the under 10 team at Prestbury Primary. The Stormers will take heart at winning on tour and the points may prove very valuable come week 11. The Hurricanes really need to sort out their forward problems, with the class out wide it’s imperative they receive quality ball.
Crusaders 40 Chiefs 11
Welcome back to the champions, in a local match up the Chiefs were confident after their win last week and started very well against more favoured opponents but alas it was not to be. The class of the champions was punctuated by a solid performance from the young flyhalf Mauger. He managed to keep the old master Mehrtens on the bench with an all round performance of class and stature.
The Crusader’s forwards are like good red wine and they’ll only get better as the competition progresses. Blair is a solid goal kicker and with his accurate boot kept the scoreboard turning, always an encouraging sign for the rest of the team. The Chiefs tried hard but sadly they were outclassed and their attempts late in the match typified a broken team, unnecessary errors crept in their play but they are a team on the learn and with their captain Muir leading the pack will prove a tough nut to crack at home.
It was welcome back to Christchurch for the Crusaders and even the sacred pitch (a cricket test match was due to be played on the same ground) played a role in what was quite entertaining commentary, one of the gems was “Blair was tackled on a good length”. The Crusaders now take a weekend break to recoup and strategise their assault on the title. The Chiefs must contend with a rampant Blues team, at home in Rotorua.
Waratahs 53 Bulls 7
Wow, what a magnificent performance. Bob Dwyer’s men has bagged full points from 3 matches and the best of all is the way they are going about their business. The truth be said, they are at home and they’ve faced what will arguably be bottom half contenders but to use a captains’ euphemism, all credit to them for performing and collecting the “easy” points on offer.
The team played brilliantly and it is difficult to single out players in this effort but Phil Waugh once again was gargantuan in his labours, Nathan Gray is fast becoming the lethal player of a season or two ago. Matt Burke, as usual didn't put a foot wrong and even though his head prefect manner makes him duck shot for dislike he is an enormously successful player and that rubs off on the team. The team is combining superbly and their ball skills is above the competition norm, the coach is easily credited with the change of fortunes however the players must produce on the day and his (Dwyer) selections has so far been spot on.
The Bulls were bad and they looked exactly like a bottom of the log team bar a subliminal touch from one player and in all honesty almost worthy of the m.o.m award, Victor Matfield. Has Sydney ever seen a try of such skill by a tight forward? The big man bumped through the maul, charged down on Burke and unleashed a fearsome… chip kick, totally unexpected, over Burke’s head collected and dragged two defenders over the line for an exquisite score. The man was playing his heart out and one could sense if there were 15 Matfield’s running around, the scoreboard might have told a different story! The Bulls suffered the relic of outdated 1980’s play, big cholesterol bombs at prop trying to scrum the opposition to death. They have no endurance and there is no point in pursuing with that tactic, they are made to look silly by smaller, mobile and technically superior props.
The Waratahs have built a winning, confident team and even though they are playing in South Africa this weekend their good form will count in good stead for their two- week stay. The Bulls, sadly are again at the bottom however as many South African commentators hope, they could cause a few upsets at home to help their compatriots. The way South African teams "help" each other, well I don't know about that...
Cats 17 Brumbies 19
How the hell do you lose a match after leading 25-9 at one stage? Agreed the most exciting team on the planet looked out of sorts all match but as great teams tend to do they pulled the rabbit out of the box and clipped the Cats in the dying seconds. Agony for Laurie Mains after his very public tiff with Eddie Jones over the rules issue and his charges were sure to be on the receiving end of a severe tongue lashing after that performance.
The Cats inexplicably
decided not to take a leaf from of the Sharks book of great escapes and remained
passive on the Brumbies lineouts, their main attacking platform, they opted to
defend this set phase rather than use the guerrilla tactics of disrupt, divide
and conquer. The Cats backline was solid however as predicted last week Chad
Alcock was not a factor and actually committed some elementary errors. Erasmus,
Venter and Vos is formidable however they need to stay awake for 80 minutes,
previous performers like Tromp and Ackerman was not as good as they thought
and Ackerman’s missed tackle on Roff was expensive. Tromp gave Kafer more
penalty chances then any other player on the park and it is testimony to the higher
level players must adapt when playing in this competition amongst the top
players in the world. Who on earth told Vos and Erasmus that they are
better scrumhalves than Alcock, tightheads in modern rugby is a bit like chicken
teeth yet the Cats manged to concede a vital scrum in the Brumbies 25 to an
inept scrum feed from Vos. Is that what you call innovation?
The Brumbies looked lethargic and almost uninterested in the goings on until a certain part of the “new friendly” Ellis Park crowd decided to part with plastic bottles reminiscent of a Zulu impi two centuries ago. George “mate” Gregan led his team away and they suddenly seemed inspired by the hostile actions. Joe Roff for one must have taken personal affront to the actions and destroyed the Cats in similar fashion to the taxi in Cape Town a year ago. The match was settled in true Ellis Park fashion, a drop goal in final time and this time the crowd left with the bitter taste of defeat, strange enough Laurie’s mouth must of tasted the same…
The Cats are facing the Waratah’s this weekend and the build up is strangely similar to last week, Mains having a tiff with Dwyer… The Brumbies after a fruitful African safari and five points can look forward to home and a dejected Bulls side.
Sharks 30 Highlanders 29
Unbelievable, how many lives does a cat have? Mark Andrews’ men for the second time in a week received a get out of jail free card. Heartbreak for the Highlanders, 1 point was not worthy of a far better performance than the previous week against the Cats.
The Sharks never looked like they wanted to win this match, elementary errors were committed frequently and must be a source of concern to the coach who is surely a religious man now (if he wasn’t before). The boot of James was accurate enough to a point and Gaffie Du Toit once again underlined his potential to self-destruct in a tense match. He did however overcome jitters and slotted the all-important penalty to hand the Sharks the match. The Sharks forwards took a bit of a beating and they need to sort out the front row, Smit is not a prop, the way he was throwing in the lineouts put doubt on his credibility as hooker as well! The All Black front row is mean and they typify the “House of Pain” tag the visitors home ground carry. Randell did sum up at the after match interview, too many mistakes cost them and Wayne Erickson of the Oyster Bar variety was as pedantic as the IRB has sanctioned him to be.
A few good tries were scored and Halstead is becoming a master of the timed and angled run, other teams will work it out though and the Sharks' backs need a bit more initiative and variety to unleash the dangerous wingers. The Highlanders will not be happy with this loss as it was well in their grasp and Tony Brown’s kick in the dying seconds was an atrocious effort for a seasoned campaigner and prolific goalkicking machine.
The Sharks have more home games and could build up a nice little nest egg before their travels they’ll need it. The Highlanders are up against the Stormers and this will be a crucial tie in Dunedin.
Blues 39 Reds 35
Arguably the best advertisement for the Super 12, 2001 edition. The match contained glorious tries and the second half was as good a rugby as you will see anywhere on the planet. The old foes and the greatest teams of the early nineties did their best to create a memorable spectacle for fans and foes alike.
Tight defence characterized the first half and the match only really opened up in the second with some awesome tries created from first phase. The good thing about this performance was that both teams contributed to a dazzling display of skills and although there were errors the pleasure derived from watching this game was genuine. Carlos Spencer must be under orders, he seems to be the rebellious sort however team manager Fitzpatrick should know how to deal with him, the reason for this statement is Spencer’s insistence on kicking the ball. He is probably the most exciting running flyhalf in the game and when he resorts to running rugby the Blues backline seem to purr like a Bentley (sorry the Rolls title was/is taken by Andre Joubert). The opposing teams must thank their lucky stars that Carlos like his namesake (Carlos the Jackal) prefers the “bomb” (high kick or Garryowen) to the stealth and stiletto stuff of close combat.
The Reds played their part in this match and Ben Tune like Bob Skinstad returning from perennial injury is devastating on the run, Latham is arguably after Cullen the finest attacking fullback in the competition and his try was a gem. Previous matches between these two teams ended in a draw and it seemed like the likely conclusion to another titanic battle, enter Carlos who in a split second changed direction and created an opening for Malili Muliaina to score the winning try in the corner. Much to Latham’s disgust the tackling was sadly, for once not up to the task.
A great match and both sides will be more confident after the display; the Blues take the points though. The Chiefs will prove a sobering thought on Friday and the Reds can enjoy an off weekend to regroup.
The log after week 3:
Waratahs 15, Sharks 12, Cats 10, Brumbies 10, Blues 9, Reds 7, Crusaders 6, Highlanders 5, Stormers 5, Hurricanes 4, Chiefs 4, Bulls 1,
Opinions and Views
Missiles at Ellis Park:
Former Irish forward Fergus Slattery during the New Zealand v Ireland world cup game. Sean Fitzpatrick was being led from the field injured, the commentator explained, "I think he's broken his nose." Slattery corrected him, "No, I think someone broke it for him." (Submitted by Jon)
The rules of football at Rugby School, in a state of flux ever since Webb Ellis is said to have caught the ball and then run with it, have finally been codified in a set of decisions on certain disputed points. "Hacking" is permitted, but not above the knee. Holding a player carrying the ball is permitted, but with one arm only. "running in" - the Ellis method - is permitted, but passing with the hands is banned. And if no decision is reached after five afternoons' play, a match will be declared drawn. Article from Rugby School, 1846
The advantage law is the best law in rugby, because it lets you ignore all the others for the good of the game. Derek Robinson
super 12 barometer
The Super 12 team we should choose in case the Six Nations compiles a similar 1st XV for a match-up on neutral ground of course. What do you think? - Ed
Dave's rugby and league phrase guide
ATTACKING RUGBY An expression used to describe the brand of rugby that a team plays. It usually involves keeping the ball alive for as long as possible and using the whole team in phase after phase of play. The theory says that if you keep the ball alive long enough holes will appear In the opposition defence. NOTE: not to be confused with the style of rugby Richard Loe prefers. Eg: Otago is said to play a brand of attacking rugby.
BREAKDOWN (i) Where play momentarily halts, ie at a collapsed maul or a ruck. Eg: "The Waikato loosies are slow getting to that breakdown, John." (ii) Also used to describe what happens to the All Black loose forwards during a test match, they get injured so frequently. Mike Brewer has given new meaning to being first to the breakdown. Eg: "Whattaya mean, Brewers injured?! Has he broken down already!?"
COLLAPSING THE SCRUM When a scrum goes to ground (ie the front rows hit the deck) it is said to have collapsed. The reasons for this happening are many and varied, not even the referee knows why. Because of this the referee will tend to ping a player at random in order to continue the game if he has had enough of setting the scrum after each collapse. This is considered to be good refereeing, but most teams find themselves hard done by the decision. If a team has in the eyes of the referee deliberately collapsed a scrum in order to prevent a push-over, a penalty try may be awarded. Eg: "I think Otago deliberately collapsed that scrum in order to stop a certain try."
DOUBLE AROUND A rather useless and stupid backline move where a player passes the ball to the player outside of him and then runs around behind the receiver and gets on his outside. This has the effect of creating an overlap where one doesn't exist. However this rarely works as no else knows what is going on apart from the original passer and usually results in a cough or an intercept. Eg: "I don't know what Walter Little is playing at, but the Double Around is simply not his style."
EVER-PRESENT Refers to a player, usually the open side flanker, who is always "on" the ball carrier. This can only be achieved through being constantly offside all game. Eg: "The ever-present John Jeffery was always a real pain for any opposition half back or 1st five eigths."
FULL CREDIT A phrase used by players during post match TV interviews. It has been used so many times that it has lost all meaning completely. You can blame Fitzy for this one. Eg: "Full credit to the guys/boys/oppostion, they played their guts out for the full 80 minutes."
(Borrowed from David Warner's DAVE's RUGBY AND LEAGUE PHRASE GUIDE VERSION 4.6, 1995)
Answers: 1. France 2. Ireland 3. Serge Blanco 4. Munster 5. Thierry La Croix 6. Natal vs Aukland 7. Frederico Mendez 8. 1993 9. Matt Cooper 10. Bath
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