|Volume 1 - Week 35|
Brilliant! And the winner is... Western Province! Congratulations or commiserations to all supporters of the teams that provided all and sundry with one of the best finals in recent years. The rugby was of a high standing quality with an almost test match like intensity, the faithful, fanatical WP crowd provided the perfect backdrop to a magical occasion for Corne Krige and his team.
The men from WP displayed a tremendous amount of courage to reduce and surpass an 8 -point difference at half time with Natal seeming in full control. Subsequent reports have mentioned the outstanding leadership qualities of Corne Krige and his acumen during the game; with two Currie Cup titles as captain few can argue that. The difference with so many games of this importance is individual brilliance and the turning point in this match was Chris Rossouw’s little chip and gather to score under the post. Braam van Straaten’s try and penalties were the kind of feats thats been expected of him for the last few years at all levels, he deserves a special mention.
Spare a thought for the Sharks; they played very well but the absence of Mark Andrews, both in decision-making capacity and brawn in the engine room was a big factor in squandering a healthy lead. The coach and players will justifiably be disappointed however there is no need for heads to drop or shoulders to hang. The team, with the character lessons instilled by defeat will be stronger for the experience and this augurs well for Super 12, 2002.
The Springbok squad appointed by the selectors for the tour to Europe contains the large majority of players doing duty in the Tri Nations, this is to be congratulated, consistency in selection has proved beyond any doubt a recipe for success. Yes, there are some dubious choices and the biggest question mark is once again the problem area of flyhalf. Braam van Straaten’s inclusion is well deserved after showing excellent form during the year (although a better choice as inside center) however his kicking prowess and the emergence of Trevor Halstead and Snyman as a potential super, midfield combination leaves only no 10 available to accommodate him. The fact that he is leaving is well documented, this tour is therefore ideal to blood a newcomer however with Joost nearing the end of his career, the opportunity to play combinations was therefore assigned to the South African A team.
The other inclusion that raised a few eyebrows was Danie Rossouw, young loose forward from the Blue Bulls, the rationale behind it is a “new” catch phrase called “go forward”. The man weighs 120 kg and apparently possesses excellent running and handling skills (note the use of the word apparently, even with all the rugby I have watched this year, I cannot single out one performance from the new man). The preceding Harry Viljoen’ inclusions like Conrad Jantjes and Joe van Niekerk was unmitigated successes, one outstanding feature of HV is his unnerving eye for talent and the ability to extract brilliance from a young player. Time and performance will tell but why experiment in the very area where we are blessed with an abundance of talent like "veteran" Rassie Erasmus, Corne Krige and a host of established stars?
There is a school of thought that is debating about “cheapening” the colours, there is merit in this statement however cast your mind back to the early nineties when the Springboks played against opponents where single players had more test caps than the entire team. The only way to get experience is to play and the confidence from a coach surrounded by excellent professional players can do wonders for any young talent. The big but is, young talent must be utilized within a squad of experienced test players something HV has managed to accomplish so far. A note, caps are only awarded to test appearances not tourists, there are players to learn and others to play.
An interesting article posted on the net described the size of the current Springbok squad compared to their predecessors of days gone by. The heaviest forward in 1906 was only 90 kg with the tallest player standing 1.91m. Even the heroes of the sixties and seventies like Colin Meads and Frik Du Preez, both giants of the game are relatively small compared to modern day standards. The game has experienced a radical transformation and like the 100m sprinting times nothing remains static except maybe the ability to outthink and maneuver on the field of play. Regardless of extreme size; skills and a rugby brain will always suffice these players are known as match winners who are born not bred.
The South African Player of the Year award went to Andre Vos and there will be few objections to this choice, an all round good guy, excellent rugby player and more guts and passion for his job than most. Congratulations Andre, it goes to prove that the greatest disappointments can be turned into victory. The most notable other awards were Players' Player of the Year to Lukas van Biljon and Most Promising Player of the Year to Conrad Jantjes.
Saturday is the final of the New Zealand NPC and the match is a much-anticipated game between South Island rivals, Canterbury and Otago. There seem to be a new zest in New Zealand rugby, no doubt due to John Mitchell’s appointment. The new coach is of strong mind and character and with all due respect to his predecessors will prove a far tougher opponent in test rugby. NZ however must beware of falling in the same trap as South Africa with a large turnover of coaches; short-term solutions never work for long-term results and in the heady days of yearly competitions, the Rugby World Cup must be seen as the ultimate goal.
The coming weekend will be a weekend “off” from the rigors of serious supporting (only an early NPC Final on Saturday) so set out and fulfill all your partners outstanding wishes as it is back to test rugby next weekend against the French.
Golf vs the Currie Cup Final by Mark Foster
The Currie Cup final is a special occasion in the life of most South African rugby fanatics; the opportunity to view a live match is as rare as a working political alliance so when the latest edition is scheduled in your hometown attendance is compulsory. Or is it? One sport has the lure to stray this writer from local rugby’s holy grail and that is the most civilized of all pastimes, golf.
When Jimmy J. Jimbob and the “okes” booked a Sun City golfing trip three months ago little attention was drawn to Naas Botha’s famous saying that “the Currie Cup is not win in May but in October”. The Gary Player Country Club commands a special affinity through the heroics of Ernie Els, Nicky Price and others in competing for the richest first prize in golf so the opportunity to play on the hallowed fairways must be seen as a must for a poor Capetonian, weekend golfer. The soon discovered clash of dates brought about the unenviable task of choosing which of the two to attend, a bit like deciding which one of Kerry McGregor or Ilse Nel looks better in the SASI Swimwear edition.
The lush surroundings of the Gary Player Country Club won the battle (deposit for the flight was paid!) and Sun City was the venue for the 41st Currie Cup Final. As a Shark supporter the 2000 final was a bitter pill to swallow especially when surrounded by a bunch of fanatical WeePees, the added chagrin this year was not only a repeat of said company but also the result! First things first, congratulations to Jimmy, Stu, Just, Sean, Mac, Mark and Paul for being the most vociferous WP supporters in the entire Pilansberg!
Secondly congratulations to Corne Krige and the entire WP squad who triumphed through sheer guts and determination. Braam you are a biscuit, worthy any day of the player of the season award for your contributions to both province and country. There were many great displays, unlike those on the lightning greens and special mention must go to Hendrik Gerber, Quintin Davids, Hottie Louw and Corne, their gargantuan efforts resulted in far more possession than the Sharks in the second half. The relentless attacks conceded penalties expertly converted by the leaving maestro.
The Sharks did not disgrace themselves they also do not deserve the tag of chokers as so many articles over the past few days suggested. The current WP squad has been together for more than a couple of seasons mostly through consistency in selection and faith from their coaches, two important factors that culminated in another excellent season. The Sharks will win a final, the boys are now men and it takes men to lift the cup.
Was the golf worth the final? Probably - as seven shouting fanatics were more bearable than the 40,000 at Newlands! No sour grapes though, the match was thoroughly entertaining and the two teams dished up a wonderful array of running rugby aided by Andre (hands in the air) Watson. A short note of condolences to Shark supporters especially the hairless ones, Graham, sorry boet!
I have often over the past few months used this publication to wax lyrical about the virtues of the mongrel player who eschews the more glamorous roles on the field and rolls up his sleeves manfully, pulls out his rusty old knuckle-duster from the bottom of his tog bag, and gets down to the serious business of mixing it up with the opposition down at the bottom of the rucks and mauls. In this unlikely fellow we have the unsung hero of the game: the rugged fetcher, his paws gnarled by countless encounters with disagreeable studs; the psychotic loose-forward, who pries the ball from the lifeless fingers of his foes; the battered frontranker, with his bloodied forehead and clenched fists. He is the pack-donkey of any XV – an honest labourer who toils where grizzled coalminers fear to tread, and who is not averse to the occasional twist of a stray sac or the friendly nibble of an inviting ear. As he told the panel of inquiry afterwards: Because it was there.
The true mongrel appears but once in a generation, and the clandestine nature of his on-field operations means that his gritty, self-sacrificial contribution to the team is often initially unappreciated. Of course the true aficionado, sitting in the stands with his pipe, mangy labrador and binoculars, may have an inkling of what our hero is up to, but only the fellows out on the pitch will really be in the know. You are advised to keep an eagle-eyed look out for the calling cards of this desperado 007 – a mangled body part, an occasional limp, a muted sob. Only then will you know that our man is on the job.
Muller, the stoop-shouldered, gaunt one-man demolition squad; Pelser, the original one-eyed psychotic flanker; Meads, the towering devil incarnate. While Don Corleone had his Luca Brasi to enforce the will of the Godfather, successive All Black teams could rely on the menacing, swarthy presence of the Pine Tree to apply some gentle pressure to recalcitrant opponents. As with these 3 splendid fellows, somehow this glorious rugby description, "mongrel", only ever sits easily with forwards. My own lacklustre displays in the no 10 jersey at school led me to conclude that backs were generally effeminate ponces, not serious about doing a real man's work.
On Saturday, I was lucky enough to find myself propped up at a Joburg watering hole, scoffing peanuts and raisins, and quaffing iced liquids to settle my nerves. The big game op Nuweland was about to kick off and I had a nagging suspicion that the Surfer Joes from Durbs, sans the regal presence of their skipper, were vulnerable. Sure, they had prevailed against the same opponents 2 weeks before, but, as any Wimbledon champion will tell you, a fortnight in sport can be an eternity. Like other Sharks fans around the world, I was concerned that the Province XV, eager to prove a point for their freshly demoted skipper, would rip into our manne. The spirits were bad, me thought, as I gulped down another mouthful of that mysterious golden juice.
As finals go, it was a memorable one. The losing side played well, the winning one even better. Even so, one player stood out above all others. Like the Scarlett Pimpernel, he was here, there, and everywhere. Here was a player to carry the torch of those noble savages of yesteryear. Scavenging in the rucks and mauls, hounding the flyhalf and centres, pile-driving disagreeable opponents into the mushy soil: the victorious skipper.
In many ways, I thought, as I looked up at the flickering images on the TV, Corne Krige is the local version of the immortal Rocky Balboa. Not from the streets of Philadelphia, granted, but the boondocks of Zambia; but the 2 share the same indomitable spirit in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. As if 2 career-threatening knee injuries weren't enough, the Lad from Lusaka had to get over a terrible car accident and a horribly damaged middle finger. With his trademark skewed smile, noble countenance, and warrior spirit, the comparison with the Hollywood boxer seems apt. I do not approve of hardened rugger-b*ggers making sentimental outbursts, but – unlike the sentimental dribblings of, say, an Agassi, so beloved by Americans – Krige's emotional tributes to the support given to his team by the legions of Province fans was heartfelt and touching. The Windhond, whose own glorious career was punctuated with alternating bouts of extreme success and despair, and who was known to cry tears of both joy and sorrow, would have understood.
Late that night I awoke in a state of high anxiety. My duvet had been chucked aside and I was sweating like a bush pig on heat. As I lay puffing with shock, I re-collected my thoughts. I had had a bizarre dream about the match. As with the earlier one, WP were up against the Sharks. Once again, the home team had prevailed. The victorious skipper approaches the podium. He raises the old cup in triumph, its handles adorned with blue ribbons. The skipper is presented with the microphone and asked to address the adoring throngs. Moved by the occasion, his mouth is crunched with emotion.
He lets out a forlorn yowl. "Adrie-e-e-e-e-e-e-nne!"
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A Comedy of Errors by Desmond Organ
Saturday’s Currie Cup Final brought smiles to the faces of the Western Province, a smug to the faces of Shark’s fans and hopefully a feeling of desperation for Harry Viljoen.
The number of meaningless kicks into the middle of the field, say’s that there are insufficient plans being developed for attacking moves by the rugby coaches in South Africa. The forward displays were as efficient as could be expected in a final. The line-outs were anything but efficient and the scrums were average.
A week ago, several of my fellow rugby friends said to me that the Sharks versus Lions encounter represented the worst game of rugby that they had seen since the early 80’s. They described the game as being on a par with the worst displays in the Five Nations.
I found it hard to disagree, looking for any positive elements to report on. The second game between the Cheetahs and Western Province was better, without being exceptional.
The Shark’s three-quarters were so predictable in the final that they were unable to cross the opposition goal line with their back three. Du Toit’s score was the result of another efficient display of ball retention by the Shark’s forwards. It puzzles me that the Sharks are not able to utilise their possession more efficiently. As soon as Province equalized them in the forward exchanges, they were at a distinct advantage. The Province three-quarters just looked that much better.
There have been changes in the coaching staff in Natal, coupled with new acquisitions and yet they are still so predictable. They have a multitude of talented players and yet I am speechless when it comes to finding them execute a planned move on more than one or two occasions.
The number of turnovers of possession after several constructive phases was distressing. The Sharks were surrendering possession because of a lack of support from the loose and tight forwards. John Smit lost the ball in the tackle on two occasions, which handed the initiative back to the opposition. Rudolf Straueli rang the changes in a desperate attempt to revive his team, who seem unable to break their pattern of “falling to sleep” in the first ten minutes after the break. I am amazed that Lukas van Biljon is given less playing time than he receives at the National level. He made an immediate impact in the loose, in the line-outs and on defence after being introduced on Saturday.
The Sharks have an exceptional record in all competitions; however they have now lost three Currie Cup Finals and three finals in the Super 10 and Super 12.
The Province three-quarters secured victory in the second half, but it was their loose forwards who secured several phases of possession at key points in the game. Van Straaten was as efficient as ever and continues to silence his critics. Ironically it was Monty who produced the game winning move which sent Van Straaten in to score.
The Province coaching staff turned around a lackluster first half performance and retained the trophy for the second successive year. It was no the final that many had hoped for. The few off the ball incidents were committed by the people that we expect it from and Mr. Skinstad is developing a tendency to imitate George Gregan with his wining.
There is a lot to be done in the tourist party if they are to return home without a defeat in Europe and the USA.
Maybe it's a good thing just to step back and say, 'Right, I got taught a good rugby lesson this season'. Robbie Fleck
Tiredness and fatigue is a mental thing. The body is capable of much, much more than most people think. I love rugby. I can't wait to play. Stay fresh mentally, work hard at something else, and rugby is a pleasure. Andre Venter
The impression I get from the guys is that they are happy to tour Europe, but certainly not Afghanistan or Pakistan. Pat Howard
We deserved to lose. I can't believe how many errors we made and I just couldn't believe what I was watching near the end. Clive Woodward
Letters to the Editor
I don't know what Harry's been smoking. But lets look at a few of his selections. Percy, he is hopeless and well past his sell by date. Koen, the Lions have a reasonable back line. But did any of their players shine? No. The new flanker, not because I don't like him, but what about a few fetchers, Brosnhan, Krige (although he has become a whinger), Britz. Lets consider Delport, Kayser as a utility backs, Gaffie at flyhalf cum full back (what Percy was selected for), Scrummies, Davidson, De Kock (Is Joost really that good? I believe his Bulls replacement is possibly better).
There is better depth in SA rugby so many other are over looked. But these are just a few that really stick out.
Graag deel ek my gevoel omtrent rugby in S.A.
Al die weersprekinge deur ons Springbok afrigters raak nou te dik vir 'n daalder. Eers het Markgraaf die hele Griekwaland-wes in sy span gehad. Oor Mallet en sy ego wil ek nie eens praat nie. Goeie afrigter, maar hy het ons rugby seer gamaak. Nou is dit Viljoen. Ons weet almal dat die beste span beskikbaar op die veld moet wees. Jy kan spelers langs die pad vervang, maar kan nie 'n span bou wat jy dink reg is vir oor 2|3 jaar nie. Almal is vervangbaar, maar tyd sal leer.
Feit is ons S.A. afrigters is provinsialisties en verwaand. Hulle dink hulle is reg en het die reg om spelers te breek en so 'n negatiewe gevoel onder toeskouers en spelers te kweek. Springbok rugby is vervelig. Currie Beker is lekker.
Oplossing: Daar moet weer Springbokproewe gehou word en die afrigter moet die span aan hom gegee deur die keurders, afrig sonder sy inmenging. Die paneel moet bestaan uit verteenwoordigers van die 4 groot streke - Transvaal, Vrystaat, Natal, Kaap.
Dit is 'n moet, want ons kan almal agterkom en sien dat ons afrigters nie die integriteit het om regverdig en opbouend te wees nie. Hulle is goeie afrigters, maar nie lojaal in hul denke nie.
Groot probleem huidiglik soos ook in wereldbeker is Bobby. Wat is een speler ? Duidelik sal Harry niemand kies wat vir Bobby kompetisie is nie, daarom die uitlating van 'n Korne en Rassie(nou beseer). Hy sal die span verswak met swak en ondubbelsinnige
antwoorde eerder as om die beste span te kies, want Bob is die sleutel tot sukses. Ek voel al Bob moet Egipte toe verban word. Nie heeltemal sy skuld nie, maar hy kan ook begin dink soos 'n kaptein en met Harry praat, die kapteinskap vir Mark gee of Engeland toe gaan.
Feit: Proewe met terug.
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