|Volume 1 - Week 34|
Note: Due to technical difficulties (like a PC crashing!) RF was forced to revert to an old mailing list, my APOLOGIES if you unsubscibed in the past. Please send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to unsubscribe, once again my SINCERE APOLOGIES for any inconvenience caused.
Brilliant! Maybe not. The message above says it all, the most dreaded visitor apart from a Revenue Services Auditor knocked on RF’s door this week! Needless to say the buildup to the Currie Cup final has been as tense here as what Rudolf Straeuli and Gert Smal’s teams are experiencing, hopefully their backups are more recent than mine!
The week before a final is always a very special period, supporters obviously and bystanders inexorably are drawn into the big debate, who will walk away with the Currie Cup? The 2001 edition is no different notwithstanding an exhausting year of rugby with many high and lowlights culminating in the end-of-year tour to Europe and the USA. The two finalists in a repeat of the 2000 final are Natal and WP, the best two sides in South Africa this year and just reward for their efforts this season.
The Sharks, impressive in their last few matches worked hard for their win over the Lions on Saturday in awful conditions. The match was not pretty, the rain made sure of that but the tight forwards led by Ollie Le Roux and AJ Venter established early control over probably the second most physical pack in the competition. Gaffie Du Toit kicked his penalties when it mattered, the opportunity to score was pounced upon and with rock solid defence from Deon Kayser especially the Durban boys booked their place in the final.
WP in the second semi-final played some sublime rugby in the second half to sink the Free State Cheetas’ dream of a final. The Cheetas were by no means a walkover and with splendid tries from Tsimba and Lombaard managed to lead the more fancied opposition for a large part of the first half. Braam van Straaten, place kicker extraordinaire once again proved his tremendous worth by keeping WP in touch, for good measure he provided the final pass after a magnificent break for a Paulse try. The Springbok’s strike rate is phenomenal, 49 tries in 49 matches - that takes some doing! The Second half was all WP and in the end they overcame the Cheetas’ challenge with ease to host their old nemesis, the Sharks at Newlands.
Who will triumph in the final? The match will be a hard, uncompromising affair but do not expect a dirty game as discipline is of outmost importance in winning a final. The two packs are different in their approach, WP seize upon loose ball with their hard working duo of Gerber and Krige and the ball carriers like Skinstad and Louw concentrate on creating opportunities to gain momentum and provide a dangerous backline with quality ball, going forward. The Sharks are brilliant in the tight phases, they use the scrums as launch pads for their big centers to create momentum and in the lineouts they are very adapt at challenging for the opponents possession. In Warren Britz the Sharks also possess a “true fetcher” and his one-on-one with Krige will be a very interesting duel, AJ Venter provides the muscle and new catchphrase “go-forward” with Smit and Le Roux. This will be a very even contest and difficult to predict who will gain the upper hand, the weather will be a factor but the Natal pack should be the stronger.
The backlines are both orchestrated by skillful flyhalves in Du Toit and Rossouw, both are extremely talented footballers, Gaffie might have the bigger boot but Chris has the deftness of hands to boggle any defence. The Sharks are very strong in midfield and the expected Springbok test combo of Halstead and Snyman wont let a mouse through, in turn they will test the channel around Rossouw and Barry after his bad miss against the Cheetas. Out wide WP hold a number of aces in the famous back three of Paulse, Rossouw snr and Monty (who once again played very well the past weekend), they are adept at running at the opposition and with Du Toit’s tactic of not finding touch will be in for a busy and hopefully lucrative afternoon. The downside is that their “flair” and unpredictability sometimes causes more problems to their own team than the opposition! The Sharks with Terblanche, Kayser and Swart is on almost equal footing and can be just as devastating given the opportunity.
What is the conclusion? The difference as in so many matches will be Braam van Straaten, as a proven high-pressure performer, he will win the match for WP. Gaffie Du Toit struggles when the pressure is high, hopefully he does not crumble but in a High Noon shootout, Braam’s the man.
The Springbok squad for the tour to Europe and the USA was announced and once again with a few surprises. Notably the axing of Krige, the inclusion of Danie Rossouw, Deon De Kock and Lawrence Sephaka. The continuous talk of a process and the inconsistency of how it is applied are very worrying however more about that next week.
My apologies must go to those of you that wrote letters this week, I’m not shying away from the issues, your mails are lost. I do however remember and acknowledge a few errors that crept into RF issue 33. Steve Macqueen should have been Rod Macqueen but sorry Duncan, the score was correct as reflected by Mike. Robert you were quite correct, Free State played in 2 finals in the past decade, pity it will remain 2. Another reader accused RF of insulting Stefan Terblanche by misspelling his name as Terreblanche, it was exactly that, a misspelling and no take on the political figure (this is a rugby news mail and not a political allegory, so chill bru!)
A last word, good luck to the two teams and as corny as it sounds, lets hope rugby wins and provide a sparkling advertisement for the game in the country. Congratulations to Ireland for defeating England in the final Six Nations match, one can only imagine the scenes in Dublin on Saturday evening! Go Lola!
(Copyright © The Author, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
My article of how the Currie Cup started and developed appeared in Rugby Forum Week 27. This article now covers the next period from 1930 through to 1966. During this era our rugby was held internationally in the highest regard and the game was developed and improved in all parts of the country forming a number of new provincial unions. It is interesting to see that the first tournament of the decade in 1932 consisted of eight sides being Western Province and Border who shared the trophy. Following them were Transvaal, Orange Free State, Griqualand West, Eastern Province, Natal with South Western Districts holding the wooden spoon. Some of the latter day provincial giants of our rugby such as Northern Transvaal, Boland and Eastern Transvaal did not exist. Transvaal in those days were selected from clubs in Pretoria, the East and West Rand as well as Johannesburg. Whilst Western Province could call on all the clubs who now fall under the jurisdiction of the Boland Union. It was said, not in jest, that when Western Province travelled to an away game the backs set off on the train from Cape Town station and the forwards climbed aboard at Paarl and Worcester.
Through out this period the Cup was only contested every second year with the proviso that if there was an international touring side visiting this country, then the competition was delayed for another year. In many cases there was a three-year gap, and in one period five years elapsed between the tournaments being held. It was only after the end of the period that this article covers, that the Currie Cup became an annual event.
To look at the provincial career records of some of the great Springboks of the 1950’s it is amazing, how few provincial games were played and how long their careers were. For example in Northern Transvaal, Daan Retief played for 11 seasons yet only managed 45 appearances; Jaap Bekker’s career covered 13 seasons, yet he only made 56 appearances. Another great of that period Fonnie Du Toit, the scrum half played for Northerns from 1940 until 1955 and eventually made 102 appearances.
Getting back now to the early 1930’s Western Province, who had dominated the early days of South African rugby, continued to do so through this decade. In fact the 1931\32 Springbok touring side to the U. K. consisted of 17 Western Province players out of the 29 taken and the only replacement called for was also from Western Province. The other twelve places in the side were made up of players from Transvaal – 6, and one player each from Border, Free State, Eastern Province, Griqualand West, Natal and South Western Districts.
Having shared the title with Border in 1932, Western Province was to do the same in 1934. In 1936 they were the outright winners. From this tournament teams were selected for the national trials – a weeklong event held in Cape Town. There were fifty players from the host union who took part. From these trials, the 1937 Springbok side, consisting of 29 players, was selected to tour Australia, where eleven matches were played. The New Zealand leg followed consisting of another 17 matches. This, by the way, is the only Springbok side that has returned from New Zealand having beaten the All Blacks at home. For many years the New Zealanders acknowledged that they were the greatest side to leave their country. Western Province were again dominant, having 12 players in the side but the tide was turning, at provincial level, for Transvaal provided ten players. When the Currie Cup was held next in 1939 Transvaal won the tournament for the second time seventeen years after their first win. This in nearly forty years of competing for the Cup.
The 1939 tournament saw Northern Transvaal and Boland competing for the first time, the former to dominate the competition in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Boland were a major force in the 1950’s hosting a Currie Cup final at Wellington in 1952. They went down to Transvaal by the narrow margin of 9 – 11. The Transversal fly half putting over the winning drop in the final minutes of the game.
The Second World War saw the suspension of provincial rugby and the competition only got under way again in 1946. This is not the five year gap mentioned earlier – that came much later. The teams who played the vital match were Western Province and Northern Transvaal. In the history of the competition this was one of the most dramatic. Western Province were leading by 9 points to 8, the referee having already taken up his position at the mouth of the tunnel leading to the players dressing room, ready to blow the final whistle. Hansie Brewis knowing that time was up booted the ball from his own half way down the field towards the corner flag. The Western Province full back Con De Kock, then a 21 year old Stellenbosch University Physical Education student who was confidently expected to be next Springbok full back against the 1949 All Blacks. He only had to tap the ball into touch for the final whistle to sound, but missed the ball completely! Johnny Lourens, the Northerns right-wing, had followed the ball and merely had to pick it up and cross the tryline for Northern Transvaal to record their first title. Con De Kock was never selected for Western Province again and within two years had retired from all rugby.
Province won the title back in 1947 but Transvaal won the next two tournaments. Their 1950 match at Ellis Park against Western Province was dogged by controversy. It has always been held that the legendary Springbok No 8, Hennie Muller, knocked the ball on when scoring his try but the referee allowed the try to stand. In those days the linesman had no say in the matter. If one looks at the photograph of the play it is apparent that the Western Province players had stopped moving expecting the whistle to be blown for the infringement.
Province regained the trophy in 1954, losing it in 1956 to Northern Transvaal. The next time that the event was held was in 1959 when Western Province were again successful. Then came the five-year break for in that period we had visits from New Zealand, Australia and France (twice), Ireland, Scotland and the British Lions.
It would be 1964 before the Currie Cup was played for again. The crucial match was at Loftus Versveld – Northerns against Province. It is remembered as Jannie Engelbrecht’s match. Early in the game he was heavily tackled by Louis Schmidt, the original Blue Bull and father of Uli. Engelbrecht had broken his collarbone. In those days substitution was not allowed and Doug Hopwood, his captain, implored him to stay on the field. He was only able to use his left arm; his right hung limply at his side. Notwithstanding this he scored two tries, the second a match winner, taking the ball in the crook of his left arm, within his own 22 metre line and sprinting the length of the field to dot down, broken collar bone and all. Western Province retained the title and successfully defended it in 1966.
This was the end of an era for it was decided that from 1968 the Currie Cup would be played on an annual basis. The game developed, the concept of finals was introduced, sponsorship arrived and South Africa went into a period of isolation. Through it however the Currie Cup kept our standards high – a story in itself, but that is for another time.
Sources: 1. Springbok Annals 1891-1964 – Danie Craven. 2. W. P. Centenary 1883-1983 – A. C. Parker. 3. Rugby in South Africa – Paul Dobson. 4. Northern Transvaal Rugby50 – M. C. Van Zyl. 5. The History of South African Rugby Football – Ivor Difford. 6. South Africa’s Greatest Springboks – J. E. Sacks.
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"Soccerite Thugs" by Tom Marcellus
Aaish, I grumbled, as I trundled up the stairway to my flat, after another anguished day down at the panel-beater’s yard. It was late and I was tired, and I had an itch at the back of my throat that needed scratching. As I walked in, I could hear that Dolores was watching something on the box. From up the passage, it looked like 2 teams of flat-chested women fighting over a bleached melon. Hello, that looks promising, I thought, as I quickly snatched a stray no. 17 from the fridge and oozed towards the inviting, flickering image. Maybe it’s the opening ceremony of a new-fangled lesbian Mardi Gras, I chuckled hopefully – Hell, those Brazilians think of everything. My boyish optimism was soon dashed, however, as the evil spectre of Beckham, Giggs & Co loomed large upon our grainy Telefunken. Soccerite thugs, I spat out disdainfully.
You see, when I was growing up in the backwoods of Natal back in the 70’s, life had been simple. Elementary choices had to be made, but they still seemed far-reaching: Ponderosa or South Fork, marbles or stingers, chopper or BMX, Scott or Amundsen. The current Benz-or-Beamer rage wasn’t even a scratch in its Daddy’s pants, and the timeless t*ts/ass debate was but leap years away from my monastic existence.
But especially regarding sport. At my humble Prep. school, your path through the school was defined by one fundamental selection that, at the time, in any event, seemed to have life-long ramifications. As I have already explained, it boiled down to 2 simple choices, and they were as follows: either you were a decent sort and washed behind your ears, were mildly literate, and didn’t scratch your jewelry in public, in other words you played rugby; or you were a beast, a fiend, a scoundrel, possibly a psychopath of uncertain fatherhood, unquestionably in-bred – succinctly put, you were a soccer naff. (Those rare birds, hockey players, were viewed as being akin to 3-headed aliens and didn’t even feature in the equation.)
In those days, the end of summer brought on a time of self-examination for many little men. Matey-matey friendships that had been forged to the sound of the Tonk! of bat on ball or over a shared peanut-butter zarm during the summer months soon evaporated in the crisp May breeze. The autumn chill was a time for allegiances – sporting and otherwise – to be nailed to the mast. The first day of the fateful second term of the year was invariably one clouded with bristling hostility, as we all lined up to make our sports selections. It invariably fell upon those hardy farm-boys, the boarders, whose youthful faces already seemed pitted by the remorseless Zululand sun, to glare at their more pasty-complexioned fellows (day scholars to a man) sidling up to the soccer ‘Miss’. “Naffs”, they would hiss in unison at the unwashed masses cowering behind the billowing skirt.
From the inception of my career at flyhalf, leather ball in hand, I had shown little or none of the skill, flair or mongrel qualities requisite for glory in the oval game. Despite copious quantities of ‘Crash Weight Gain’ by Joe Weider (“the trainer of champions”, the salesman had assured me) and hours spent practicing my line kicking, with the long-suffering hosepipe acting as an imaginary touchline, my hopes of rugger immortality perished on my Prep. school’s barren “D” field.
It has now been many years since it first dawned on me that I would never take that final ball to score in the corner at Kings Park, or flick a nonchalant pass over my shoulder to Gerber or Mordt. Those thoughts were the products of an idle, fertile and youthful imagination, and have long-since been consigned to the dusty attic of my recollection. But call me a sheep-shagger; call me a dirty, rotten scoundrel; call me a liar and a crook; call me anything; but don’t ever call me a soccer naff.
Root Causes of Provincialism by Desmond Organ
If the display of rugby produced by the Sharks and Lions over the weekend is indicative of the standard of play in South Africa, we are in for a big surprise at the end of the year. I can only assume that the slippery conditions and the physical aspects of the game were the major contributions to the circus. The number of aimless kicks in the game had me thinking that the teams were engaged in a game of “Gaining Ground” as so many of us did in our first years at school.
In contrast to this game, there was a festival of running rugby produced by the Cheetah’s and Western province. This was in complete contrast from the shambles at Kings Park. The one major positive factor to emerge from both games was the display by several key forwards who are part of the National Team. I am sure that the backs that we have at our disposal will appreciate that type of display in the test matches.
The common thread from both games is the desire of players from opposing provinces to literally bash each other’s brains in. South Africans have always been physical players but the number of unnecessary kicks at players on the ground and stamping has me wondering of the real problem lies with the Provincialism of the game. I am disappointed when I see key national players like Skinstad and Le Roux engaging in acts of aggression, which are clearly not necessary.
One of the major reasons for this Provincial aggression dates back to the years of isolation when there was no opportunity for International competition. The administrators of rugby did a fine job in maintaining the status quo regarding players of colour, manipulating the military draft to ensure certain players ended up in certain Provinces and above all, making people believe that the broederbond was no longer running the show.
As a result of the lack of competition, Provinces developed an absolute fanaticism with the Currie Cup competition and it is ironic that some of the minor Unions who were not dominant at the beginning of isolation have emerged far stronger after it. This is probably because they had no option other than to form a longer–term strategy to improve their position. The bureaucrats of the day had no interest in developing minor Unions, they wanted the money and that was about it.
Some of the minor Unions developed a passion for success and when it came their players and fans were ecstatic, the Natal team that won the Currie Cup in 1990, did as much for the breaking down of the status quo in South Africa as the politicians. The reasons for this is clear, the political and economic control of the game was shifting from the traditional bureaucrats to a group of marketers of the game who had longer term strategies. Unfortunately the desire to beat the other provinces was not effectively directed at the establishment of a national priority. We had flirtations with success in 1995.
The players themselves are not necessarily at the center of the controversy, sure there are personal conflicts and positions to play for. There is a lack of an integrated long-term strategy. The existing strategy is not consistently re–visited and updated based on the needs of the day. The number of players that have represented South Africa since re–admission is an indicator of our wealth of talent or our inability to select the best team with the best coach and the best administration. Players are forced to play for their positions excessively and are not given enough certainty as to their long term potential. This combined with the traditional rivalry within the Provinces creates a greater chance for personal confrontation on the field.
The administrators at the national level should learn from the mistakes of the past and apply a few simple professional practices.
Currie Cup Champions
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