|Volume 1 - Week 31|
Brilliant! Every now and then there comes a time when you should sit back and reflect. Thoughts can be varied from your own position in life, your security as a person, world affairs, impending doom, life and death – all cumbersome thoughts especially relevant with the threatening situation in the Middle East. In context one comprehends that the current flyhalf debate is not really that big a deal in the greater scheme of things. However to allay from desperate times and thoughts there is no better tonic than sport and specifically our beloved game of rugby to the keep spirits light.
With two rounds remaining in the Currie Cup before the knock out stages the only certain permutation is that Griquas has no chance of making the final four. The Blue Bulls seem to have squandered yet another promising season with near losses and regardless of the good work, the brilliant play and excellent structures, the success of a team is measured in victories and trophies, sad but true. Heyneke Meyer although in possession of a strong core of bright–eyed youngsters for next year’s Super 12 is in desperate need of one thing, the winning feeling.
At the other end of the log the Blue Bulls’ archrivals Western Province seem to epitomize the winning feeling, many say that the champions have been lucky to win certain matches but like the Australians proved, no matter how bad you are or good the opponents play, winning is a culture borne out of confidence rooted in repetition. The men from the South has not yet played to their optimum best and this fact alone should cause a few shivers of trepidation from their close rivals.
The close rivals are; pretenders to the throne Natal, the omni-present Lions, the flying Cheetas, incredible Falcons and the outsider Pumas. The pick of this weekend’s clashes is at Newlands where the Cheetas will look to extend an impressive winning run, after their demolition job at Loftus last week. The men in white is hotly tipped for this year’s title, they have a powerfull scrum, brilliant loose-forwards tactically superb flyhalves and two clinical finishers in Frederichs and the man of the tournament so far, Wylie Human. WP will have their work cut out to first contain a rampant eight with some interesting duels between “we don’t have a problem with each other” Rassie and Bob Skinstad. The latter may not play due to flu but expect the Springbok captain to rise to the occasion. The type of game both teams aspire to will ensure a tough but exciting game and hopefully a dodgy forward pass call will not be the difference between the two teams come 9pm Saturday evening.
One other team that caught the eye over the weekend was the Lions who finally produced an excellent display with a victory against the Pumas. Although some sloppy defence from both sides gifted soft tries there were a few moments of sheer magic and funnily enough the exciting Gcobani Bobo was involved in most. The young man is playing himself into contention for the end of the year Springbok tour with a “tour de force” in the last few games. The Lions this weekend will play the bottom of the log Griquas and should entrench themselves in the top 4.
The most interesting clash this weekend will surely be between the Super 12 franchise partners, the Blue Bulls and Falcons, both coaches have see-sawed between the position as head coach and this clash might be more than a game between 30 players. The Falcons with everything to play for, a semi-final spot the most important will try their outmost best to upstage their “big brother” and for individuals it is the opportune game to stake claims for positions in the Super 12 squad for next year. The Falcons capable of scoring tries against the best defences and with a scrum “capable of many surprises” according to Guy Kebble will have to curb Matfield and improve their defence to secure victory.
The All Blacks have a new coach, John Mitchell the old Waikato stalwart, ex England assistant coach and current Chiefs coach was appointed until the 2003 RWC. It goes to show, one bad lineout from Anton Oliver cost Wayne Smith not only his job but also his credibility as a coach. The fine line between hero and zero is even more pronounced nowadays than ever, the only disparity is the amount of money on spell. No longer is it a game for gentlemen in their spare time, it is a full-scale business with big bucks to be made and lost. What was Smith and Gilbert’s loss of income one wonders? The two definitely did not get the same deal as disposed Springbok coach Nick Mallett did this time last year.
Staying in the land of the silver fern, Canterbury managed a victory in the final minutes over Wellington after trailing by 12 points with a quarter left in the game. Apparently Steve Walsh awarded 21 penalties to Canterbury and only 4 to Wellington, a cause for much speculation amongst Wellington’s fans this week. The country of New Zealand it seems is amid a mini-crisis as far as their rugby is concerned or so it seems. Experience over years and a grudging respect for their prowess on the field fills this writer with fear for the full unleashing of the Black machine and a turnaround from very good (they have a 71% winning percentage in 2001) to excellent with the ultra professional Mitchell in charge. Australia’s Eddie Jones inherited Eales and an Ausie team at its zenith, the expiry of experienced personnel does make a difference.
Enjoy the coming weekend’s rugby all be it NPC, Currie Cup, Premiership or the Koekenaab 0/15’s. Support rugby live and remember everything’s gonna be all right in the words of Sean Mullen!
Proper Name by Mark Foster
The game of rugby in the professional era is often criticized for losing the personalities that once graced the game in the “good old days”. Money, has been said changed the face of the game and there are very few opportunities for players to intermingle and create the legendary fables of bygone eras. One fact remain, there will always be certain chosen immortals simply because of their deeds and the accolades bestowed by supporters.
In the 21st century same as in the previous fans afford the ultimate compliment to their “chosen” greats: the loss of their surname, just as Frik Du Preez, Naas Botha, Morne Du Plessis and Francois Pienaar lost theirs. Players become, simply, Joost, Bobby and Breyten. If you mention Frik at the time and even now you don’t mean your brother-in-law, Naas is not your uncle and “Swys” not your best friend. Everybody knows Bobby is Bob Skinstad - Springbok captain.
The “greats” are always accompanied by the fisherman’s syndrome, the story is bigger and better than what it really was but this is part of the aura surrounding these players. Unfortunately the best stories and legends only become available once the player retires and some journalist ghostwrites a book. The supporters are therefore often deprived of the more human and humorous side of the game and its superstars.
Great stories however are always worth telling and this story about one of the future stars of the South African game and current form centre in the Currie Cup Gcobani Bobo is a gem. The young man from the Eastern Cape was the first “black” to captain the South African schools side, he played at flank during his schoolboy days and as a post-matric pupil at Rondebosch this honour befell him. After school he was engulfed in the under 21 structure of Western Province but his religious beliefs, he is a Rastafarian, caused him to fall foul of one of his coaches and a highly promising fledgling career was in ruins.
The disillusioned player then lived amongst Cape Town’s “bergie” community for a few years shunning rugby until none other than Rian Oberholzer, CEO of SARFU at the stage recognized him in the street one day. Rian, acutely aware of the man’s potential arranged with Eugene Eloff, current assistant coach of the Lions to nurture and coach this talent. The timely intervention of these “higher forces” retained this player as a potential Springbok for South Africa.
The story, wholly truth or not is a great reminder of the good of rugby and how it changes the life of people, hopefully soon Bobo will be classified amongst the elite rank of players recognized by one proper name.
Celtic Crossings by Desmond Organ
It is indeed a strange occurrence to have the benefit of 6 Nations, NPC and Currie Cup rugby concurrently. Fervent rugby supporters are surely happy that they have minimal weekends without sufficient television coverage. As an expatriate in the USA, it is a rare pleasure to have this feast of action combined with a new American Football Season and a potentially exciting baseball post season.
The last two weeks have provided a feast of high scoring games, the most noteworthy being the re-emergence of Scotland as a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps there is some resemblance between the pattern of Scotland in the Six Nations and the Natal Sharks in the Currie Cup. Nobody can doubt the success of the Sharks in the Super 12, yet it is the Scotland performance against Ireland that should have rugby lovers relieved.
Not only was it the best display by Scotland since their surprise victory against England two years ago but it also signified the fact that defence and forward superiority are the lynch pins of success in the rugby of the year so far. Gone are the spectacular try scoring feasts of the Super 12 of several years ago and with it comes a return to the traditional drive and possession strategies of the new era of rugby.
The new trend has not seen the complete demise of high scoring games as was evident in the Scotland vs. Ireland game. What this game proved to me is that there is still a place in rugby for securing of possession and the application of the basics. At the beginning of the year I predicted that Scotland would be a force to be reckoned with, alas poor handling and a run of bad luck in critical situations cost them dearly. The facts are there for those who take the time to observe. Scotland although losing to the All Blacks on there last trip to the land of the long white cloud showed tremendous flair in the forward exchanges, they actually dominated several aspects of the forward game. I know several pundits who were looking forward to the Ireland England game as the final determinant of European ascendancy.
The reality is that Scotland, as they have so often showed in the past apply the basics when it counts and when luck finally gives them their share of favours, they produce great results. It was their lighter forwards that beat England at the basics two years ago and it was their lighter forwards that completely outplayed Ireland. The rolling maul and the securing of several phases of possession gave the players like Townsend and Leslie the opportunity to impress. One can only hope that their luck continues when the All Blacks come to town. If they learn not to give Lomu the outside line, then we could be in for a great feast of rugby.
As for Ireland, it is back to the drawing board, their forwards appeared unfit and unable to compete with a technically superior pack of forwards, people who described the Scotland Ireland game as bad rugby missed the point and should wait for the Wales vs. Ireland game before defining Scotland and Ireland as poor. I personally believe that England’s greatest challenge is the fact that they have not got the opportunity of quality opposition before the Southern hemisphere arrives.
The Currie Cup Games from the weekend produced the expected results, with a twist as far as player and squad performances are concerned. The Sharks, Cheetahs and Lions are just starting to get into their stride. The Pumas and Western Province may have peaked too soon. Without drawing the wrath of South African rugby supporters I am predicting that the Sharks and Cheetahs will be the thorn in the flesh of Western Province.
There is also a strong argument that the center combinations in South Africa are leaving a message that the National Selectors and coaching staff should not ignore. Halstead dominates physically and secures the right angle of attack whilst the new sensation Gcobani Bono displays finesse and speed. Wylie Human is also showing us that the strength of Dean Hall is not a replacement for good options taking and that athletic ability without the correct application of skill is not necessarily desired.
Those concerned about the lack of black talent should consider the following list of people for the end of year tour.
1. Breyton Paulse
2. Wylie Human
3. Conrad Jantjes
4. Deon Kayser
5. Gcobani Bobo
6. John Daniels
7. Wayne Julies
8. Ettiene Fynn
9. Quinton Davids
I would have Paulse, Human and Jantjes in the back three positions for the tests. The rest of the list should definitely tour at the end of the year.
"Living in a Lawyer's Paradise" by Tom Marcellus
My lurking sympathies for that wretched sod, the lowly rugger referee who sacrifices his Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons to trundle around a muddy paddock, enduring the grumblings of the players and drunken mutterings of the spectators, were rekindled again on Monday evening. I was chatting idly to some cronies over a few Boksburg chardonnays after work, and we were discussing a very recent case of hard-core but demented rugby fanaticism that had emerged from those wild and woolly lands across the Indian Ocean.
Following the seemingly miraculous back-from-the-death victory by Canterbury over Wellington in a recent NPC match, it has transpired that a Wellington supporter is now considering the hitherto unheard of step of instituting a civil action against the referee! My mates – lawyers to a man – and I were uncertain of both the precise legal grounds for his claim and the damages he is alleged to have endured (pain and suffering, perhaps?), but it seemed as if the gist of the fellow’s claim was that the refe ree in question, the usually capable Steve Walsh Jnr, had erroneously awarded a penalty count of 21-4 in Canterbury’s favour and sin-binned 2 Wellington players in the final quarter. This, our rugger nut from South Island contended, caused his precious Wellington team to squander a 12-29 lead going into the final quarter of the match.
Although it is highly likely that this seemingly spurious civil action is merely the idle work of a frustrated small town lawyer, it does raise a number of rather prickly legal issues, now that even provincial matches have become so much more than 30 good ol’ boys mucking about in the afternoon sunshine. I should imagine that, in days gone by, an esteemed court of law would not have hesitated to chuck out a civil claim relating to a mere sporting affair. After all, in those days games were solely a m atter of pride and honour – matters, old chap, that could never be quantified in squalid financial terms.
But in these less sentimental times, it can no longer be taken for granted that a court will adopt so lassaiz-faire an attitude. For example, it is unlikely that a court will look too kindly on a professional referee who fails to carry out a boot inspection before kick-off (where a player subsequently suffers a severe rucking injury), or does not prevent a much stronger frontrow from decimating another (and a neck injury ensues). These are rather obvious examples of potential civil, even criminal, li ability for my old refereeing buddies, and have come about due to a higher standard of care being imposed on referees by courts because of their (refs’) new-fangled specialised training in the professional age.
But what about a claim against a referee by a Union for lost revenue, where the team in question has been deprived of a match-winning try because of refereeing incompetence? Imagine, if you will, the calamity at the Absa Stadium, were the Sharks to be deprived of a home Currie Cup semi-final in such circumstances. I have no doubt that Ian Mac and a dirty dozen of ex-Selous Scouts would be dispatched forthwith to ensure that the whistle-blowing culprit was brought to brook (hah - he would probably end up sleeping with the fishes off Addington pier!). Or what about a claim for lost earnings by a coach against a flyhalf who misses a sitter of a kick that would have won the match and saved the coach’s job? These examples seem fanciful, but, in these days where the voice of the bean-counter is loudest, who can say that such claims will not arise, to test the creativity of the lawyers, and try the patience and wisdom of the courts?
These are trying times indeed for Kiwi rugger fans. With the sudden demise of Wayne Smith yesterday, a new broom is about to sweep clean. Now that he has a spot of free time on his hands, perhaps the former All Black coach will reconsider that fateful lineout throw by his former skipper in the deciding Tri-Nations test match. If he were an ignoble fellow, which, sadly, I doubt he is, he may be tempted to find solace in the arms of a sudden cash windfall.
Picture it, if you will. The Otago high court is packed to the rafters, in a claim of damages for gross negligence in the matter of Smith v Oliver. The gallery is hushed, as the plaintiff commences his oral evidence: “My Lord, the trophy was all but won. If the defendant had just thrown that ball straight like I taught him…..”
You know exactly what he's going to do. He's going to come off his right foot at great speed. You also know that there isn't a blind thing you can do about it. David Duckham on Gerald Davies, Welsh great.
The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. Vidal Sassoon
For any England side to score six tries against France is an achievement. I can remember getting some real hammerings off them as a player. Clive Woodward
Sport is quite a simple thing. It is play, and in play, people of all ages find the chance to engage their most profound emotions love, fear, excitement, disappointment, anger and joy. Timothy Shriver
Top 8 Currie Cup Log
Letters to the Editor
Hi daar Ed,
Ek is 'n gesoute Bul-ondersteuner. In die verlede was my span amper soos 'n broer in die tronk. Jy praat nie juis daaroor nie, MAAR, van die Vodacom-beker af, nou ja, SAY NO MORE. Dit is 'n span om dop te hou.
Ons almal weet dat die skopwerk aandag nodig het, maar dit kan ons uitsorteer.
Aan my mede-ondersteuners, dis heerlik om te sê ek is 'n bul-ondersteuner. Coenraad Groenewald hoef nie agteruit te staan nie en ons kaptein, wel, skitterend.
Sterkte aan al die manne. Ons weet julle kan!!!!!
Gelukkig is die Super 12 en die Drie Nasies kompetisie verby sodat 'n mens nou die werklike talent van Suid Afrikaanse Rugby kan sien. Ek is 'n voorstander van Springbok proewe. Daar dink ek kan die keurders werklik sien wie het talent of nie. 'n Begaafde speler wat relatief onbekend is kan in groot geselskap dalk net na vore tree en sy stempel afdruk. Ek dink byvoorbeeld aan die senter van die Bulldogs, Heidtman, so ook die Olifante se agsteman. Die Valke is 'n span wat oorloop van talent. Goed, baie spelers is oud Bloubulle. Dit bring my by 'n ander punt. Hoekom is daar so baie spelers van die Bloubulle in spanne soos die Pumas en die Valke? Wat gaan aan in Bloubul land? Die Cheetas verloor elke jaar talentvolle spelers. Hoekom? Hang dit af van die grootte van die boere se oeste sodat hulle die unie kan borg of nie? 'n Ander bekommernis wat ek het is die getalle mense wat by rugbywedstrayde opdaag. Ek het verlede Saterdag op Loftus gaan rugby kyk. Daar was relatief min mense op die pawiljoene gewees? Wat is fout?
Ek kyk met spanning die volgende paar wedstryde.
Groetenis uiy my losie.
Thank you for your comments on the dastardly events in the USA.
It is tragic that such events have occurred.It is even more tragic that certain individuals in South Africa have been heard to celebrate over the mass murder of innocent civilians of many races, nations and religious persuasions.
Sincere condolences to all affected in any way by this cataclysmic disaster.
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