|Volume 1 - Week 36|
Brilliant! The tumultuous year of 2001 is nearing its end and with the silly season in sight the annual European sojourns of the Southern Hemisphere giants kick off this weekend in London and Paris respectively. Silly or easy it won’t be, test rugby even against the likes of Spain, Italy and the USA are special occasions where country’s honours are at stake regardless of the abundance of international rugby on the calendar.
The Springboks against Les Bleus in Paris is one of the mouthwatering prospects for any player and supporter alike and with South Africa gaining ascendancy in the romantic city during the last decade it is both a happy and prosperous hunting ground. The old stadium, Parc des Princes use to be a phenomenal setting for some epic battles in true La Marseillaise fashion. The oval structure’s acoustics accentuated the whistling, singing and ear thundering noise omni-present at a French home game and in two visits to the stadium the outstanding memory was when a partisan crowd bestowed the ultimate honour on the Springbok class of ‘97 by shouting “ole, ole” with every well timed pass. The French are renowned for their valour on the field but few experience their graciousness of it, regardless of the outcome, Le "Bedford Arms" in rue Princesse will be alive with French rugby men till early Sunday morning. Manu, "bonne chance pour Samedi, mon ami".
The world dominating Ausies will take on the “wanabees”, England at Twickenham in what is billed as a “revenge of the Lions”. As is so often the case with marketing a sequel its hardly worth the time, money or effort spent on it. The two respective team’s supporters and scribes are so similar in their approach with the accusations of whining, choosing this or that league player and general namby, pamby hogwash it is easy to identify the direct link in forefathers. The sideshows are unnecessary; both teams are excellent rugby playing nations with proud histories and the mere fact that they are both in the top three should prove more than ample attraction for a lip smacking feast of quality rugby. The corresponding fixture a year ago produced a thrilling match with a high-octane finish but the television referee might not be needed to separate the winner from the loser this time around. Pithily, the English pack looks weaker without Johnson, Leonard and Dallaglio and the backline may have a potential weakness with inexperienced Roberts at fullback. The Wallabies, settled and rested should have the better of the possession to pilfer ate this one.
The new Kiwi coach, John Mitchell put his money where his mouth is and in spectacular fashion swept the broom for his first squad. Out are Wilson and Cullen and this bold step must be congratulated from a South African point of view. The two players have been instrumental in the NZ dominance over the Springboks during the last 5 years with Cullen especially the scourge. Thanks Johno, keep it up for the Tri Nations mate!! The Waikato legend also appointed amongst a specialist line out coach (for poor Anton!) a South African technical analyst to assist with computers or something. I wonder what Pinetree and Frik has to say about this latest collaboration… choice words I’m sure but anyway, good luck Nico it’s a professional era and maybe a South African can regain the All Black dominance of the ‘96/’97 season. The selection of Richard McCaw was just reward for a young player with a great future and it seems that more and more coaches are willing to invest in the future early.
Good luck to the Springboks, the team has a settled feel to it and all they need to do is utilize possession properly and create space out wide. The French are use to teams taking them on around the fringes, Magne is a specialist in this department, what they do not expect is the slick distribution of ball wide from the point of impact. The fullback is young and untested, this must be exploited in what will be cold and maybe wet conditions hence HV’s choice of Rossouw to assist Jantjes at the back and obviously in hope that the memories of 4 tries in Paris will perk him up.
Here’s to Charles, the name that will emblazon the Springbok jersey as the French employ a ban on any alcohol advertising, may he bring the same success to the Springboks as with his award-winning brew, salut!!
The position of national coach is one of the sharpest two-edged swords around and hardly ever is consensus found regarding the appointment. The “poor” incumbent is usually tasked to produce a long-term solution to secure the William Web Ellis trophy yet finds himself with the unenviable situation of having to win every match in the interim. Sounds like something between a rock and a hard place.
South Africa of late is the trendsetter in the coach appointment stakes and no doubt will remain so amid the pressures of duplicating its glorious past. One other country probably assigns the same pressures on the much-maligned spirit eager/dumb/foolhardy enough to take up the position of national coach and that is New Zealand.
The following, apparently was a letter written for the attention of Mr David Rutherford, CEO of the NZRFU.
Nothing in this world is easy apart from procreation and big talk, good luck to those characters popularly referred to as coach and who knows this intrepid writer may soon find himself in the post of communications manager for the national team!
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The Provincial season is over in the Southern Hemisphere; to be followed by the traditional Northern versus Southern Hemisphere clashes. There is a buzz in the air at local bars, people are hunting for tickets and the media is abuzz with speculation.
I waited with baited breath for my tickets to arrive in the Windy City. Last Friday I was finally rewarded with a knock at the door. I opened it to come face to face with the mailman. He was probably startled by my reaction, but I am sure he receives elated reactions from many customers.
I ripped open the package and there they were; two tickets for the England versus South Africa clash at Twickenham. This rivalry goes back nearly as far as any other, but there is something really unique when the Springboks play England. Many expatriates look forward to their team beating the English, many South Africans regard this game as an opportunity to get back at the English. This is by no means unique, I have witnessed many a Scotsman and Irishman celebrating wildly following a victory.
This year has been very unique, what with the classic tests between the Lions and Australia, the closest Tri – Nations and now the opportunity to see both Australia and South Africa play England. It puzzles me that the All Blacks are once again missing out on the opportunity. In the last several years we have only seen them clash on a few occasions outside of the World Cup.
The media has already started the endless barrage of predictions and rumours about team preparations. Several South African players have spoken openly of the desire they have to beat the “Poms”. Austin Healey and Justin Harrison have told us there is no animosity left from the Lions tour, Saturday will set the record straight.
Have England finally erased the stereotype that they are still playing catch-up with the Southern Hemisphere? I think that this has more to do with the rugby public comparing the different competitions in the Northern and Southern hemisphere than it does with any perception of a gap in standards. Clearly England, do themselves no favours when they are unable to consistently beat all the Home Unions in the Six Nations in the same year.
At the completion of the test matches the media will again talk about the North versus South issue. I believe that England have clearly established themselves as a world class rugby team. Their management is extremely professional and many of the coaching techniques of the modern game are due to the English Management. This is clearly to the benefit of rugby as a global game. The traditional clashes are no longer about traditional rivalries; they are also about coaching and management.
The IRB should be congratulated for their initiatives to expand the game of rugby. The matches between Australia and Spain; England and Rumania are not a waste of time. The scores are not a reflection of the desire to broaden the traditional base of the game. The South African trip to the United States at the end of an extremely long season will do great things for the game of rugby.
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Test Teams for Saturday
In the collective memory of this country rugby will always hold a place of pride for the role it played in nation building during those first years of our new democracy. Nelson Mandela
I have no doubt that we have the players, what we've lacked in the last 4 years is a strong, capable Coach. A Coach who is definitely the boss a Coach who MEANS what he says, a Coach who's not afraid to dump a big name player who isn't performing that's the sort of Coach NZ rugby needs. We don't need wimps, we need a MAN!!!!! Patrick Innes in Patrick on Rugby Vol 2119, 24 Oct
I thrived only in lineouts, those strange masonic rituals wherein everybody uniformly mistimes their jump for some reason I couldn't initially understand. Clarification wasn't long in coming. After two clean catches, the person opposing you in the lineout would just reach across and pull your hair. Beats gravity every time. Hair-pulling wasn't a very manly thing to do, but neither was weeping: "Ref! Ref! He's pulling my hair." I learned to mistime my jump like everyone else. Tom Humphries (maybe the real reason why lineouts are such a mess?! Ed)
Dit was nou 'n aangename, lekker opwindende Curriebeker seisoen wat ons die jaar belewe het. Geluk aan die WP span, al moet ek my trots sluk en dit aanvaar. Ek het nie nuwe vrae en kommentaar oor die keuse van die Springbokspan nie, maar hier en daar sal ek graag my mening wil lug oor keuses. Gelukkig is André Snyman en Trevor Halstead in die span. Ek het soos jy kan onthou, veral Halstead se insluiting propageer. Spelers soos Tinus Delport, Graig Davidson, Frederich Lombard, Gaffie du Toit, Heidtman van die Bulldogs en Wallie Hyman sou ek in die span ingesluit het. Om die posisie van skrumskakel te bespreek. Kyk hoe vinnig is die balle van die los en vasteskrums uitgegee in Saterdag se finaal. Handspoed is van kardinale belang vir goeie skrumskakel spel. Ek glo persoonlik dat indien jy nie meer by die spel kan byhou nie, dan moet jy dink aan uitree. Ervaring is goed mits jy kan byhou. Ek het ook reeds die opinie gehuldig van die keuse van spelers wat ek met die regerende party in die land vergelyk. Jy kan hoe droog maak soos jy wil, jy sal nie "gefire" word nie. Ek dink hier aan die naamgenoot van 'n Amerikaanse Tweede Wêreldoorlogse Generaal wat in die woestyn in Noord Afrika pak gekry het, asook 'n aartaappelskyfie se Engelse eweknie. Van die kaptein wil ek my ook nie juis uitlaat nie maar, ai tog. Soos dit 'n algemene uitdrukking van die skoner geslag is, hy doen niks vir my nie. Laastens is daar iets wat my nogal ontstig, is die storie, "Ons moet agter die span staan want dit is die keurders se keuse". Ek wil iets oorkom as ek daardie sin hoor. As die mense nie tevrede is nie, maak reg. Luister vir die publiek. Hulle betaal die SARVU sirkus narre se salarisse.
Groetenis uit my losie.
NS. Sterkte met die toer. Pasop vir die Ingelse.
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