|Volume 1 - Week 5|
Brilliant! Rugby Forum is now in its 5th week and surprise, surprise still going strongly! Thank you very much for the encouragement and kind words from all of you that mailed. A special thanks to the avid readers who put their fingers to keyboards and submitted views or articles, without you RF would be but a shell.
On to the serious business of rugby, a week in which foul play has erupted into a crisis situation demanding rapid action from administrators. The issue is quite clear in my mind (today being one of my better days!), take no prisoners. Guilty parties contravening laws of the game must be punished and the punishment must be defined regardless of country or competition and religiously complied with. We should not resort to a Spanish inquisition type witch-hunt however drastic action is necessary to ensure consistency.
The weekend’s Super 12 matches once again revealed a particular weakness in the lineouts. This set phase has become more hazardous than a minefield; teams are losing quality possession with the insistence on throwing the ball anywhere but their own jumpers. Is it so-called innovation, all the swapping about and exchanging players? The poor hookers whose primary tasks on the field are hooking and throwing the ball in the lineouts are in such a state of nervousness come lineout time I’m convinced therapy and a good dose of valium is but all that can help them. Analysts, please guys let’s stick to kiss and before the sniggers begin its an acronym for ‘keep it straight and simple’.
In the Cats Hurricanes match we saw one of the most courageous/stupid decisions from a captain yet, offered with a point blank penalty, two minutes to the end 15-18 down, Slater from the Hurricanes decided to go for a try. The match as it turned out was only the second in Super 12 history without a try. A winning team needs a fair amount of luck and the 2 “bonus points” could be the difference between semi’s or also rans. Slater apparently will be available fro the Cheetah’s from next season, driving the 50 km’s from his new farm near Bloemfontein in the Free State.
The Cats Hurricanes match did not even kick off before a bit of “foul” play was committed; the poor young chap bestowed with the honor of leading his heroes on the pitch was trampled before reaching the touchline. The now traditional appearance is obviously a tremendous event in any six year olds life but our young mascot will not forget this one in a hurry, he was uninjured and rewarded with a signed ball.
The coming weekend is mainly devoted to local match ups with no less than 4 out of 5 games played between teams of the same country. Needless to say there will be intense scrutiny on the players and their behavior, the halfway mark of the competition also raise the stakes so be prepared for a ferocious weekend of rugby.
Support your team and remember if at first you don't succeed, destroy all the evidence that you tried! Oh yes and write some articles!
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
Thanks for a nice publication - hoekom maak ons hom nie tweetalig?? Supersport het uitgevind daar is baie meer Afrikaanse ondersteuners as Engelse.
(For the benefit of international readers, the question is if RF can be made bi-lingual i.e. English and Afrikaans?)
I would love to incorporate Afrikaans however there are a few difficulties, the publication is distributed internationally and currently the output is a private enterprise with no money or reward involved, a lot depends on the participation of readers and my own time. What I can suggest is an addendum of Afrikaans articles if there is such a demand and supply. Please mail me your views and if viable, "dan hou ons Rugby Forum in Afrikaans ook!" Ed.
Congratulations on a superb effort, one question though why so few articles?
Please refer to my comment regarding participation of readers above, the more articles people send, the more I can publish, currently there are two columnist with weekly submissions and the odd article from you, the readers. If more people put thoughts to paper we could read a larger variety of articles. Many people may think that writing is only for those with vivid imagination and great grammar, wrong if you can talk about it, you can write it, all it requires is the effort to sit down and put thoughts to paper. I don't have "standards" for publication except foul language so don't be intimidated, write. Ed.
'dangerous play and the oscars' by mark foster
Another weekend’s rugby and more controversy regarding foul play than Jennifer Lopez’s dress at the Oscars, unlike the straight-laced cameramen of the 73rd Academy Awards the object(s) of discussion was broadcasted in full view of every man and his dog on television. I am talking about the stomping, punching and “dangerous” (ag please Mark Lawrence!) play of the weekend’s Super 12 matches. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Much has been said of ridding the game of the unsavory incidents however there is one thing we should remember and this old adage describes best, ‘soccer is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans where rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.’ The question one might ask following the recent run of bad behaviors, is this true? Is rugby turning into a hooligan's game played by a bunch of hooligans?
certainly lends to a fair degree of aggression and many a schoolboy or club
player has found himself between a fat slap and a Liverpool Kiss against the
locker door, all for the sake of “psyching up”.
The inspiration behind this primeval behavior has always been to
unleash pent up pain and frustration on the unsuspecting opponents, few ever
thought that they might be up to the exact same kind of mischief! The result
of all this “motivating” was a first ten minutes where nobody played
constructive rugby at all, only a bunch of emotions performing to the sound of
unlucky referee’s, historically were forced to deal with “emotional”,
read over aggressive players hence the tendency to blow the whistle the first
ten minutes in a non stop tirade of counter measures to prevent a full blown
brawl. The game I beg has moved on previews of the dressing room reveal most
players looking focused (some arranging their hair) rather than signs of pent
up frustration or anger like a pit bull kept on a leash with only Husky
biscuits for meals.
on field incidents therefore become difficult to fathom, the guys are highly
paid professionals with at least an IQ so good reason would therefore dictate
that committing foul play is taboo. Is it? Untoward play can be the result of
psychotic behavior, ill timed tackling or just plain “town thug” acts of
violence, what is needed is a criteria and punishment for every possible
offense to eradicate the problem. The
drug offense penalties are rather clear-cut, x amount in the blood as dictated
by the IOC equals a minimum sentence, end of story. Foul play in rugby
worldwide must be governed in similar fashion, left hook to the eye = 2 weeks
no pay, stomp on the head = 3 weeks no pay etc.
Players will soon realize that when a certain action is tantamount to a standard punishment and not some pussyfooting before a disciplinary committee both parochial and inconsistent, they will think twice before committing any foul acts. The IRB must govern with uniformity over all continents to ensure the same treatment of all offenders the sooner the better and rugby will, just maybe, turn into a gentlemen's game played by gentlemen.
(answers at the end)
Crusaders 32 Reds 26
The first match of week 5 began with many a handling error, the teams looked nervous and the usual aplomb of two of the games most successful teams were nowhere to be seen. The scrummaging was problematic and as we've become accustomed in the competition the referee was particularly severe in the tackle situation. The referee, Mark Lawrence of South Africa managed to endear himself to the commentators with his continuous referral to dangerous, every time there was a collapsed maul, hard tackle or ruck longer than a few seconds the protector of the meek called a halt to proceedings with referral to dangerous. A few questionable decisions did not make this a happy day for Mr Lawrence at the office.
First blood went to the Ausies after some good work by Dan Herbert and fast recycling, the key to efficient following phases, Rauluni managed to snipe through almost untouched in the corner, Flatley converted a difficult attempt. The first half was marred by many errors in all departments however lineouts are a proverbial mine field and the own ball has become a 50-50 situation and everyone knows that you must be 80/20 sure of winning the 50/50 ball! The handling errors, as Naas Botha pointed out seem to intensify in the evening matches however talented footballers like Latham should not be making as many errors as he did, probably his worst match of the season. Both teams had a few opportunities and the score would have been far higher had those passes stuck, as it turned out an error attributed to the Crusaders first points and sheer speed after a great pick up of a spilt pass allowed So’oalo through the gap for the Crusader's first points. Ben Blair left his kicking boots at home in the early exchanges however a penalty after some good pressure by the home team's forwards put them ahead for the first time in the match. A football tackle late in the first half by McDonald, Crusader's fullback who otherwise had a very good game was unjustifiably labelled as "dangerous" (surprise, surprise) by the ref and Spooner, on for Flatley slotted the penalty. The last acts of the half was fought in Reds territory and after sustained pressure and some continuity a penalty was awarded which Blair converted to put the champions 11-10 ahead at the break.
The second half began with the now customary high kick off and the Crusaders lead by Greg Somerville looked ready for business, this mobile prop once again underlined his credentials as the best in the competition with strong driving play, a early penalty put them a further three points ahead. The Crusaders played far better this half and their characteristic driving play and hard graft set up scoring opportunities, Blair's kicking was on target and the Crusaders deservedly led the match. The Reds had their chances and they can kick themselves for spilling the ball in prime scoring opportunities, one of the chief culprits being Nathan Spooner who had more success in kicking than catching. Daniel Herbert tried his outmost best to inspire the troops with bollocking runs and creating momentum however this was not the same Reds of old. One of the better passages of play was started by Justin Marshall and also ended by him with a well worked try round the short side, the conversion was taken by Blair. A replacement at this stage for the Crusaders was test incumbent Andrew Mehrtens, back from injury and after a tumultuous welcome Mr Mehrtens directed traffic. The man is a master and the Crusaders sensed his presence, although there were some good moments from the Reds their backline was not up to the usual Ausie standards, had they been the Reds would have walked away with the laurels. A few penalties were exchanged and McDonalds try effectively ended the contest although the Reds managed to score a try by Williams and sneak within 7 points to obtain a bonus point.
The Crusaders were solid at home and with the return of Mehrtens they have finally began the assault on the title, beware visitors - danger ahead. The Reds miss inspirational captain John Eales and once again the loss of great players vastly influence teams performances. For the Crusaders, Somerville was brilliant and the tight fives performance once again laid the foundation for victory.
Cats 18 Hurricanes 15
The Super 12's visit to Bloemfontein coincided with the first rain falls in six weeks, the pitch was absolutely soaked and it was clear that the match was never going to be the spectacle of running rugby everybody expected on the hard surface of the Free state Stadium. The teams as are customary for duck weather spent more time kicking and spilling the ball than holding on to it.
The first half presented very few scoring opportunities, most of the players including locks were quite happy to chip kick to non-existing gaps or try the old Garryowen to force errors. There was however passages of play when the ball was retained and both sets of forwards did their best to provide a platform for attack. Unfortunately a high percentage of errors put stop to that and the soaked crowd was left with very little to chew on. Clinton van Rensburg replacing Louis Koen on flyhalf for the Cats was maybe not the correct player for the circumstances and a few missed touches could have cost the Cats dearly. In one incident a kick was misdirected at Jonah, no-one knows how you can miss the man and he made a storming run down the field bumping off old RWC ’95 nemesis Japie Mulder. The big man could not however penetrate the defence as errors contained the dangerous backs of the Hurricanes.
One player who made a brilliant impression was Steinmetz in for Jason O’Halloran, the man had a very good game with some fine breaks. The Cats loose trio once again performed a lion share of the work and the efficient combination allows Erasmus to reign supreme on the field. The man dominates a game like few other players and his value to the Cats is extremely high. A late flurry in the first half after sustained Hurricanes pressure was only stopped by a great tackle from Vos on Umaga and shortly after a scuffle erupted between two of the game’s powerhouses Jonah Lomu and Dean Hall, a promoter’s dream! The Cats had to wait till the 38th minute before scoring and the teams gladly took refuse in the changing rooms with the Hurricanes leading 9-3 at halftime.
The second half opened with a penalty to the Cats after some great work by Vos and Koen slotted the chance on an evening where penalty kicks were vital. Holbeck had an exceptional outing with the boot and his 4th penalty shortly after stretched the Hurricanes lead to 12-6. The match like many the past weekend was not immune to dangerous play and the Jerry Collins tackle on Eugene Meyer forced the midfield dynamo to leave the field. In a strange tactic Chester Williams replace Hall for his first Super 12 touch of the season and it was exactly that, a kick straight into touch!
The Hurricanes employed some great driving mauls from New Zealand era’s gone by and forced the transgression from the Cats to present Holbeck with a standard kick at goal and at 15-6 the Hurricanes looked in charge of the match. A further kick straight into touch from Chester Williams created unnecessary pressure and Japie Mulder, once best defender of Springbok rugby turned shoulder charge exponent extraordinaire conceded a stupid penalty in what could have put the game out of reach for the Cats. As it turned out, Holbeck missed for the first time and the Cats may have sensed a turn in fortunes. A promising Cats attack was foiled by Alcock taking the wrong option, the scrumhalf had loads of players on the outside yet chose to go by himself resulting in a turnover penalty and lost opportunity. An astute move saw Werner Swanepoel replace Alcock and the springbok provided some much needed direction. The referee, Peter Marshall was forced to dish out loads of penalties as a result that the game never really flowed, this as much as the weather and the mistakes was the reason for poor continuity.
The Cats did well to turn around a few promising Hurricanes moves and with Koen on the field quickly reduced the deficit, a long range penalty from halfway underlined the value of a good kicker to a team. The score was eventually 15-15 after Swanepoel once again utilized the long raking kick to the corner. The game was on and after a terrible spill from Tromp the Hurricanes used Lomu to great effect only to be foiled by Erasmus. A Lomu knock on didn’t help the Hurricanes cause and after consistent pressure from the Cats they conceded a penalty, which was converted by Koen, a great pressure kick! The restart was crucial and with the end drawing near the Hurricanes led by Tia Tia threw everything but the kitchen sink into their attacks, the Cats defence was under tremendous pressure but held firm. A sweeping backline move and an unnoticed forward pass forced a penalty to the Hurricanes, in a bizarre decision the captain refused the opportunity to equalize and opt for the try. The Cats clawing for dear life managed to keep them out and a Mulder hack up field after a loose ball saved the day for the Cats.
The Cats were lucky to win the match and they must be worried for their lack of commitment the entire 80 minutes, one plus point is the successful return of Werner Swanepoel and the form of the loose forwards. The Hurricanes is in a precarious situation second from bottom and can now only create upsets to other fancied teams.
Highlanders 32 Bulls 10
The match saw a spirited Bulls team play some of their best rugby for approximate 10 minutes of the first half. The forwards drove well, phase upon phase was forced and there was strong running from both loose forwards and backs. A rarity in modern rugby occurred, a try from first phase saw Danie van Schalkwyk score after a deft touch from Franco Smith. The Bulls looked like a Super 12 outfit that could command more respect. The bubble unfortunately burst soon after and the Highlanders playing without stalwart Tony Brown was too good for the Bulls. The midfield was a lucrative area for Alatini and he looked sharp slicing up the non-existent defence to create a wonderful try. The Highlanders controlled the match from here on and the Bulls were reduced to damage control. Voihofala had a great game again and his strong driving is an asset to the team’s offensive strategy, they should try and create more opportunities running off this powerful gamebreaker.
The Bulls’ Jacobs had a influential match and his diminutive size and age belie a good rugby brain explosive speed and the ability to summarize and react at speed. One of the better moments of an entertaining half was Lombaard’s turn of speed to round his opposite number, always good to see a wing beat his man on the outside without resorting to chip kicks or grubbers. Mr Erikson had his best match to date and this more sedate version can only benefit the game. The Higlanders were too good for the Bulls and deserving leaders at halftime.
The wind and rain played a large influence in the second half and the Bulls as if ordered refused to use the up and under or kick the ball at all. This was commendable but as the Highlanders demonstrated and ably led by Laney the conditions must be used to every advantage. Victor Matfield again towered above his peers and this man is having the season of his life, his efforts though were not enough as the Bulls lacked any plan in their running or build-ups. The Highlanders were presented with easy targets on defence and they never faltered, was it not for the lack of experience from the new flyhalf their attack would have held more venom. The weather eventually took its toll and the good handling of the first half was spoiled by elementary knock ons.
The match had it’s own fair bit of niggle and in one incident Aisea Tuilevu, the right wing lost his mind completely and aimed a kick at Naka Drotske’s head. As the commentator professed that was not the last we heard of the incident. It was one of many over the weekend that fuelled an ongoing discussion over punishment of transgressors.
Ultimately the Highlander won this game however against the bottom of the log team. This performance was not good enough and they will seek a vast improvement to challenge for semi final positions. Tony Brown should return and a fir Jeff Wilson will make a world of difference. The Bulls? They are back at home and should now focus on making life as difficult as possible for teams visiting Loftus.
Brumbies 40 Stormers 25
Brumbies celebrated the return of mercurial flyhalf Stephen Larkham, this man
did not play rugby for almost six months and he stepped in with a flawless
display of his own formidable brand of deception.
always sensed that the Brumbies were going to win this match even though the
Stormers provided a ray of hope through a Montgommery try and Braam van
Straaten’s superboot. In fact his phenomenal kicking helped the Stormers to
stay in touch as much as their defense and dogged determination.
Brumbies with customary slick handling rushed in for early tries and what must
be worrying to Eddie Jones seem to loose momentum midway through the match
before as they did against the Cats and the Bulls. The team’s character
however once again transpired and their ability to move into a higher gear in
the last 10 minutes saw them accelerate away from the Stormers.
so easy to get carried away by the brilliance of a player but Larkham is a
special breed and his great repertoire of tricks and slight of hand create
untold problems for opposition defense. The tacklers are forced to watch him and
think of the many decoy runners attacking at clever angles, to assist is the
formidable organizational ability of George Gregan. The captain highly respected
as player is becoming a bit offensive with his cheeky demeanor as captain, he
must stick to what he does best, running the game through playing and not
yapping at the referees.
Stormers attempted a physical approach however the maneuver can only work if you
possess physical intimidating players, apart from Kempson, none of them strike
as particularly “scary” players especially if you look at Owen Finnegan! The
big flanker spent ten in the bin and Kempson and Murphy shared their ten, I
wonder who was intimidated most? There was a lot of niggle and the Stormers
probably still felt affronted by the Wallaby behavior in their city in the
corresponding fixture last year.
whole Percy Montgommery played well at flyhalf, not as good as Larkham and Neil
De Kock had an excellent debut yet not as good as Gregan. Krige was at his
formidable best and easily the best loose forward on the park but the
combinations of the Brumbies beat a willing Stormers outfit outgunned but not
completely outclassed. The Stormers take a well deserved rest and the Brumbies
prepare an Assault from under performing Reds.
Sharks 42 Waratahs 17
The Sharks retained their enviable unbeaten record after five matches; they are now the only team unbeaten in the competition. They are also the only team to have played all their matches on home ground, an impressive feat for last year’s whipping boys.
The match was attended by a capacity crowd of nearly 52 000 people who enjoyed a game bristling with tries and exhilarating attacking play from their heroes. The Sharks team boasted a few changes from the previous week’s line up and coach Straueli once again displayed astute selection policy. The touring squad now contain a host of players both confident and with valuable match practice.
The Waratah’s after a narrow defeat in Johannesburg was disrupted with the withdrawal of inspirational captain Matt Burke. The team was as Bob Dwyer explained the best available and a strong selection on paper however the lack of a pivot cost them dearly. Nathan Gray was not a success at flyhalf and the man’s strong running and elusive eye for the gap only returned when switched back to center. The damage however was done already; the Sharks had piled up enough points in the form of some great tries by Justin Swart and accurate kicking from Gaffie Du Toit.
The Sharks have changed all preconceptions held of a boring one-dimensional team incapable of using their backline. The tries they scored were all from turnovers and reminiscent of All Black teams of the past they exploited the errors from the Waratahs unmercifully. The Australian team rued the quantity of errors they made and the complete off day experienced, their first in the competition. Unlike previous matches their forwards struggled to gain ascendancy and Phil Waugh brilliant in the loose was not quite as influential as always however still the best loose forward on the field. A player similar in style has worked himself into a very valuable player for the Sharks, SA sevens captain Warren Britz with his brilliant vision and speed he is the catalyst to many a Shark counter attack.
The match had its fair share of errors however far less noticeable than other games probably due to the entertainment factor of superb running tries. The now traditional fireworks after the match was eventually matched on the pitch and the home team can look forward to a successful tour of the Antipodean. First up is the Cats in Bloemfontein, a huge game from many perspectives, log points, Springbok contracts, local pride and off course all important momentum before playing four matches overseas.
unsuccessful on their “African” tour will contemplate their position and
reflect on lost opportunities however they are a young team with mouthwatering
talent who will only learn from their sojourn in South Africa. Watch them, they
will soon be back to their winning ways at home in Sydney.
The log after week 5:
Sharks 22, Brumbies 20, Cats 18, Waratahs 16, Highlanders 14, Crusaders 10, Blues 9, Chiefs 9, Reds 8, Stormers 6, Hurricanes 5, Bulls 2
opinions and views
Foul play/disciplinary committees:
New Zealand rugby is a colourful game since you get all black... and blue. Anon
There is far too much talk about good ball and bad ball. In my opinion, good ball is when you have possession and bad ball is when the opposition have it. Dick Jeeps
After being asked if he has anything to add to an inspiring teamtalk, "Ja, anyone know where I can get an engine for a Toyota Corolla?" Frans "Domkrag" Erasmus, late Springbok prop.
Front Row - Without a doubt the manliest men on the pitch. Large, often hairy, beer swilling carnivores that can and will smash anything in their path. Revelling in the violence inherent in the scrum, they are rarely considered "nice" people, and in fact to some they aren't even considered human's at all. Front rowers tolerate this attitude far and wide because they recognise their role at the top of the food chain and are used to suffering the fools that surround them. Accused by some of simply being dumb, I prefer to think of this group as "open to unconventional ways of thinking." Peter Fitzsimmons
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
NIGGLE When tempers, especially amongst the forwards, start to get frayed and little scuffles start to brake out, then there is said to be some niggle creeping into the game. Eg: In the 1994 NPC final Mark Carter was a constant source of niggle and eventually he got the treatment he deserved.
ONSLAUGHT A period of play where one team constantly attacks the opposition's goal line for several phases of play. Usually, an onslaught provides few points as the necessary speed of play means that a cough is likely and turnover inevitable, especially considering that only a weak team could spend so long on the goal line without doing any good. EG: "What an onslaught by the Canadians - how long can the Springbok line hold?" (Long enough, as it turned out)
POKAI Richard Loe's nickname after sticking his finger in the eye of Otago fullback Greg Cooper in the 1992 NPC final. It is now used for any instance of a player being poked in the eye. Eg: "Aaawwww... that's a real pokai if I ever saw one."
QUICKY *NOT* what you might think - nothing to do with rugby groupies or cheer leaders! A quick throw-in. Usually taken when... (i) there are no opposition players nearby when you have the ball (ii) there are, but they are cleaning you out horribly, because... (iii) the ref is not pinging them for lifting. Eg: "They have to resort to the quicky again in order to compete."
REFEREE The stupid jerk who tries to enforce the rules of the game. The only job in the world where you have to start out perfect and get better (sadly, few achieve this lofty goal). Eg: Greg where's my walking stick and spectacles McCallum was sadly rated the number one referee in the Winfield Cup.
(Borrowed from David Warner's DAVE's RUGBY AND LEAGUE PHRASE GUIDE VERSION 4.6, 1995)
cool rugby sites
www.superrugby.co.za Dan Retief from The Sunday Times fame is the editor of SuperRugby and it is a very informative site indeed.
Answers: 1. Mike Hall 2. Pieter De Villiers 3. Michael Jones 4. Will Carling, Rob Andrew and Jonathan Davies 5. 27 6. Ellis Park 7. Marika Vunibaka 8. Frans Erasmus 9. Randwick Rugby Club 10. Howick, Scotland
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