|Volume 1 - Week 8|
Brilliant! Nothing like a long weekend to resuscitate the mind and body from the everyday grind of work. What a weekend, bamboozled with an array of sport including one of the world’s greatest road races, the Two Oceans marathon and six live rugby matches John Logie Baird’s invention worked overtime.
It is amazing how much the human body can endure, a glance at the Super 12 and we realize that rugby players are phenomenally fit athletes. Off course they get paid and do it professionally but imagine being tackled by Corne Krige 34 times in a space of eighty minutes! Apparently that was his tackle count for Saturday, add to that running with the ball supporting in lineouts and scrumming, an energy sapping exercise and we realize why these guys get paid the big bucks.
The weekend produced two of the best games this season, the Australian derby provided some of the most scintillating running and silkiest of skills from one Stephen Larkham. I would like to quote what an unknown scribe said about an England wing of the fifties, Peter Jackson’s running, "For sheer grace and artistry it would have done credit to Covent Garden." Thanks “Bernie” I think your grace and artistry would have done credit to the Bolshoi. The other match was a totalitarian display of teamwork from the Stormers which was remarkable after their dismal display a week ago in George, Capetonians support your team ‘cause I could see the difference, did you?
The rest of the fixtures all produced their own special moments and with the competition in its final lipsmacking phase you don’t need Melrose Place for drama and tension, Rotorua even provided a 13N rating! The brave young lady was the first streaker seen in a long time, who can forget Erica Roe at Twickenham?
On a more serious note, sportsfans were reminded of their own vulnerability and organiser’s responsibility during attendance of major sport events with the Ellis Park disaster. This must never happen again.
Many thanks to everybody for their commentaries/opinions both positive and negative, and remember speak and more important write your mind.
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
Referring to the letter by Cliff, mentioning the inability to access the superrugby network, I would like to suggest an alternative in www.sarugby.net.
This is apparently the official SARFU webpage.
Thanks Moz, you are quite correct, it is the official site with columns written by Harry Viljoen etc.
In response to Klondike Nel's article in your recent edition about the luckless Jack van der Schyff, I would like to add my humble opinion. Klondike's tribute to a man hard done by the often clueless selectors was a stirring article however his crack at a man described as "World Cup icon, respected elder statesman, rugby millionaire" in a rather sarcastic tone was unnecessary to establish an otherwise valid point. With all respect to Jack, he was never the player Francois turned out to be and his impact on the world stage will never be mentioned in the same breath. I believe you are comparing chalk to cheese. Francois should be commended for leaving the disappointmenT behind him and to continue making a difference even after his harsh treatment and again with all respect to Mr van der Schyff not fading into obscurity. Francois deserves and commands our respect for his accomplishments as does Jack van der Schyff but it reflects the character of the man to rise above the occasion and make life as Mr Nel so aptly described, not so bad.
Thank you Johannes, I don't think Klondike meant to offend Francois' status, he only emphasised the reversal of fortunes from the rugby of yesterday compared to today.
I would like to comment on "Ebbo Bedford's" article and the age-old debate of who was the best during different times in history.
The best one can do is look at statistics and once that comparison is done only resort to "irreverent speculation". It would be interesting though to compile an opinion of people like Bill McLaren, who must be a walking encyclopaedia and historians like Paul Dobson to reflect on all the different eras of rugby and who were the best they've seen.
I for one can only remember the brilliance of a Naas Botha, Carel Du Plessis, Michael Du Plessis, Johan Heunis and Danie Gerber in the backs and Uli Scmidt, Hennie Bekker, Morne Du Plessis and Rob Louw in the forwards, clearly from the eighties and onwards.
The likes of a Frik Du Preez, Dawie De Villiers, Tom van Vollenhoven, Hennie Muller and many others are impossible to fathom, as we never had the opportunity to witness these greats.
One thing we can be sure of though, as long as there are great players to debate about, our rugby is healthy and who cares who would have made what side in what era. The important thing is to make good in your own era in order to be remembered in another.
Good point James, I know there was a player of the century award but did anybody compile a team of the century? If anyone knows, please enlighten us as it caters for hours of fun and debate.
Dear Mr Editor,
Regarding your weekly mail, although you seem to try your best the articles are rather flimsy and a bit amateurish. I do however enjoy your quotes but then, they are the words of noted authorities on the subject of rugby, you sir and your publication is not.
Thank you for your "kind" words, if you would like to "delight" us "amateurish authorities" with a few articles of your own RF's credibility would surely rise in the opinion of like minded people. I guess the other estimated 2,000 readers are quite happy with the "flimsy" articles we produce, maybe you should; as my grandmother said when something troubled her, remove it! Wait, fear not, I will gladly do so for you after this, your moment in the sun.
Long Weekend by Mark Foster
A long weekend is the ideal time to do all those things you wanted to do for ages like clean the garage, overdue painting, re-arrange your stamp collection, visit friends whose only contact with you are crappy jokes on the e-mail and off course to restfully spend quality time with the family. Thanks to the Super 12 rugby competition all those good intentions are thrown out of the unpainted front door and you actually spend overtime in front of the telly with strands of biltong, bottles of Windhoek and the occasional expletive when someone dare to change the channel not to mention the stream of constant abuse at all and sundry participating in one of the six matches, televised live.
Wow, what a competition, those of you following the series live and not just the wonderful repartee of RF can probably claim some kind of record sitting in front of the television. Family members, those still talking to you, will attest that every time you are seen it is on the couch watching rugby. Exhausting, I know but hey, I love it, don't you?
Back to the reason for this column, damn not rugby... again! The weekend's matches were a potpourri of delight, two absolutely brilliant games, some great results from a South African perspective and not so great from a New Zealand perspective (the same thing, I know but the Editor said to include all countries and not be biased) The one person smiling at this stage of the competition is not the Sharks' coach, nor the Brumbies or even the Cats after their maiden win in Kiwiland but surely Rod MaQueen. I'm under correction but he remains in charge for the Tri Nations and not even Father Christmas could have promised a better display than what his test players produced in the Brumbies Waratahs clash. What an exciting match, technically the Brumbies were superb and their excellence will leave a man under no more pressure than a coogirl at Sandton City, to once again dominate the Southern Hemisphere test scene. There is a little matter of the Lions beforehand but it should prove a nice horse devourse for the main course in July/August.
MaQueen's adversaries on the other hand are under a considerable amount of pressure, established test stars are under performing and combinations are, to be truthful, dismal. It will be of great concern to both Viljoen and Smith the lack of a dominating flyhalf. Both countries have some great talent, admittedly more of it in NZ but nobody out there screaming to be included. Viljoen is thinking retreads with Montgommery and Smith can always rely on Merhtens if he is fit (but is he?) so at this moment the SA and NZ national coaches must be in a bit of a spin.
Well done Cats, finally part of the WWOT club (we won on tour) and if whispers are to be believed they accomplished it without the help of test superstar and best player on the planet, Johan Erasmus. I believe he is a great player but there are many who felt that when he left the field the Cats played much better and it was the reason they won...
The Stormers were magnificent and even those who don't really fancy the pancies from the Cape must agree that they were as good as you get on the day. The Crusaders, three time champions were made to look ordinary for a large part of the match, that takes some doing!
A final note, anybody willing to place some bets on the winner of the final? Nobody? I thought so, even with teams peaking and others falling short of the pace the difference in performances from week to week are amazing. The only thing that will have a massive influence will be home ground advantage but then if you read this column you will know that already. I'll get my coat...
"This was their finest hour" by Tom MarcellusThis was their finest hour" by Tom Marcellus
At the height of the Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons with the following stirring words: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to do our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will say, This was their finest hour”.
Well, a natural progression from this observation is to ask the following: In a thousand years from now, once the jury has settled Sir Winston’s thorny question, what will they say about the great moments in Bok history? What, then, was their finest hour? Here are some of my suggestions.
Was it –
Close, but no cigarello. My greatest moment doesn’t even take place on a rugby field. But it is in 1937, and it does relate to the famous series victory over the All Blacks. The Springboks are returning by ship to SA in triumph, hailed as “the greatest team ever to leave New Zealand’s shores”. Phil Nel has captained his team to victory, having been lured from virtual retirement from his farm in Kranskop to lead the Boks against their fierce rivals. The job has been done, a famous victory has been secured, and now, like Alexander the Great, he has no further worlds to conquer. With an immortal gesture, he tosses his boots into the sea. Yep, that’s the winner.
I saw Phil Nel in the flesh once in my life. I was about but 13 years old, a scrawny, impressionable youth, recently enrolled at the old warhorse’s alma mater, Maritzburg College. I happened to be playing in a tennis tournament in Greytown, which is but a stone throw away from Kranskop, and oom Flip, who was now old and infirm, was watching his granddaughters play mixed doubles. Despite my tender age, I was then familiar enough with rugby history to comprehend the old man’s significance: that this was the mighty lock who had worn the green ‘n gold in 16 tests, including the historic victory in New Zealand. But Old Father Time is remorseless, and I remember this noble old man wetting his corduroys as he sat in his deckchair overlooking the bustling courts.
But I’ll always remember the day I saw the farmer from Kranskop who led the Boks to glory on distant lands.
(answers at the end)
Blues 23 Cats 26
This match between two teams struggling to get things together was a bit painful to watch, the amount of handling and basic set phase errors were ridiculous and one wonders if they actually practice these skills! The first half delivered more low than highlights, Louis Koen's accurate kicking kept the Cats in touch who were forced to play catch up after an early intercept try from James Arlidge, debutant flyhalf. What a good game the young man played, he kicked, ran and tackled with aplomb unlike his far more experienced colleagues and foes.
The Cats’ backline, without Japie Mulder seemed to struggle, passes went amiss and good ball from the dependent tight five was wasted. Werner Swanepoel was rattled by Ron Cribb's menacing presence (remember Ellis Park in the Tri Nations last year when there was rumours of biting?) his service was slow and option taking not good enough for a test Springbok. The new hooker Van Niekerk must of forgotten the lineout calls 'cause in three instances nobody even jumped! The Blues, not much better were just not up to standard, they were getting stuck in and did their jobs, trying to keep errors to the minimum and exert pressure but at this level it is not nearly good enough to win matches.
The second half began with rain poring down and one thought that the game would really turn into a farce, wrong, the players woke up and both sides played some good rugby. Robin Brooke created a try with a deft little nudge of the ball into space a la Zinzan although referee Erickson and the touch judges missed two players ahead of the ball, the try though was well deserved for some good hard graft. Eugene Meyer, back in the team played much better in the second half and his line breaking is second to none, this man does not need to power his way through gaps, he creates them however weak play from the Springboks around him nullified most of his good work.
The Cats finally managed to streak ahead after the television referee adjudged Wylie Human's superhuman effort a try and this exciting winger did very well to dot the ball down. The play did improve somewhat but as a spectacle it will be remembered only for the weak play from both teams, the defence was good and only momentarily lapses or individual brilliance created tries.
The Blues’ season is over, in looking back upon a season that never really came to fruition they will be horrified by the difference in quality of their performances. In some matches, against the Reds for example they produced stunning rugby and signified their potential however it never materialised consistently every weekend, very unlike the great teams of the past. The Cats managed to overcome their travelling jinx but their performance was nowhere near the quality displayed at home. Hopefully they will improve after this confidence boosting win and play to their ability more often as that is what’s required from champions.
Mr Erickson, well done, for the first time the referee deserved the man of the match award on my score sheet.
Brumbies 48 Waratahs 21
Magnificent, what a brilliant advertisement for the state of the game in the World Champion's den. The match was punctuated by a fine array of attacking, intelligent football from previously labelled "the most exciting team on earth" the truth be said, the label is back.
The Brumbies played with what they claim their top xv for the first time this season and oh boy, are the other teams glad they took so long to get things right. Larkham was at his incisive best and the backline thrived under his masterful running and distibution. The forwards were not far behind and their speed to the breakdown thanks to George Smith create the fast quality second phase ball vital for scoring opportunities.
It is easy to get carried away with a match like this, to heap praise on individuals however the Brumbies as a team combined with the effectiveness of Rolce Royce engine. Every gear, cog and wheel was synchronized to perfection and the driver, George Gregan was as skilful as a Schumacher guiding the machine through the motions.
The Waratahs played their part in this saga and their positive play contributed to a free flowing match that could easily have been spoiled once it became clear that the men from ACT was in a different stratosphere. Every player did their best on defence and there were occasions when they kept the ball in hand and tested the Brumbies to capacity but without ace fullback Matt Burke it was always going to be a difficult task.
The scoreboard, without a remarks column, will reflect an easy victory for the Brumbies and indicate very little as to the quality of rugby on display. There were some great performances by the aforementioned players but also, Nathan Gray and Ingham, Phil Waugh and a flash or two from Dunning will send a warning to any would be contenders to Australia's Tri Nations, Bledisloe and World Cup winning team.
The Brumbies are back to their devastating best and a home semi and final beckons for the second year running. The Waratahs are very much in contention however they need to win a few more games to resurrect early season form and secure a semi final.
Hurricanes 35 Highlanders 33
The match was won by a superior performance from David Holwell whose 30 point haul, including a try, secured a win for a rejuvenated Hurricanes team. Fullback maestro, Cullen scored the other try and somehow when this man scores tries the Hurricanes, more often than not win the match. He is the top try scorer in the competition so one wonders why the Hurricanes are always pretenders and never contenders. With 19 points on the log they might surprise a few people come play off time this year.
The Highlanders scored four tries and managed to secure two valuable points from an away match and with 21 log points are the leading New Zealand side. They face a tough prospect against the Brumbies next week and the House of Pain will be their only advantage. A win is crucial with a weekend's rest scheduled after that.
Chiefs 8 Sharks 24
The Sharks managed to secure 5 points from a match where they did not play awfully well, the amount of mistakes and lack of finishing was worrying. The Chiefs will not be happy with their performance either and their first home defeat was an untimely one.
The boys from Natal came out of their blocks at speed and thanks to excellent forward pressure and throwing caution to the wind they were 12-0 ahead after less than ten minutes of play. The strong wind blowing in Rotorua made conditions conducive to kicking and Davidson exploited this with many a chip kick over the scrum. The young scrumhalf had a much better game apart from one mistake where his touchfinder missed and after some sloppy defence, Roger Randle scored an excellent try.
The Chiefs were dominated in the set phases and always on the back foot, their lineouts were dismal and Andrews ably supported by Smit created havoc in this department. Charl van Rensburg scored a soft try after the hooker missed his man and with nobody at home almost strolled over for a try. The Chiefs did however run the ball at every opportunity and only some rock solid defence kept out their dangerous backs. In some cases the defence was a bit over zealous with Butch James annoying the Chiefs players and commentators with his armless charges. Miraculously the referee and touch judges failed to see any malice in his play, it will only benefit the young man to curb his “natural aggression” and use his arms to thump opposing players. The highlight of the first half was a young lady doing an “Erika” in the freezing temperatures, quite nice too.
In the second half the Chiefs, with the wind from behind attempted to haul in the deficit but mistakes and turnovers combined with the inability to use the wind put pay to that. The Sharks managed to use the boot more effectively and their tactical play was superb. Mistakes robbed them of a few tries with Terreblanche and Van den Berg spilling while over the line already.
The Chiefs were robbed of a try and a player after an off the ball incident was deemed serious enough for a red card, one of the few shown thus far in the competition. The try was recalled and a penalty awarded to the Sharks. This was an incisive moment and allowed Terreblanche to atone for his early mistake by dotting down for the bonus point try. The Chiefs struggled with 14 players and the Sharks can thank Wayne Erickson for the change in fortunes, if that try was awarded the ball game could have panned out quite differently. In the end the Sharks outgunned the locals and established their hold on the top of the log.
The match was not the Chiefs best, Muir’s play and leadership is inspirational however they lack the firepower to consistently compete every weekend. The Sharks on the other hand has perfected a squad rotation system whereby everybody receives game time and their confidence remain high.
Bulls 19 Reds 29
The poor Bulls, when will they produce a performance worthy of a win? There have been glimpses this season and on their Austrlasian tour one or two of the matches may have ended in a win however the scoreboard never lies.
The Reds after a nailbiting loss against the Stormers in George travelled to the rarified atmosphere of Minolta Loftus where as Naas joked NASA are doing test runs due to the lack of atmosphere and escaped with a 5 points. Escaped is the term used because the Bulls dominated possession and a lot of the play but somehow managed to let the Reds capitalize on their mistakes with tries.
It must be very frustrating for the forwards who work hard for the ball and see opportunities wasted by inept personnel. The same old story, flyhalf, the swear word of SA rugby was once again the problem area. Boeta Wessels similar to Franco Smith are not up to it and Phil Pretorius must be blind not to realize this fact, if he is not blind he lacks the personnel to introduce somebody that can produce the goods. Andre Pretorius is not the answer, not that this man lacks the talent, authorities should not involve him in a situation where his confidence will be dented in a similar way as Gaffie Du Toit's was.
The Reds' backs where superb and every ball was used with the maximum effect to create opportunities to score tries, the reason for playing this game. It seems the Bulls can only concentrate on one thing at a time and the lesson for the day was ball retention, unfortunately the other aspects needed to win were forgotten.
The Reds showed remarkable composure under all this pressure and typical of Australian teams chose their moments well to use their possession wisely. The Bulls, well I for one has run out of things to say and best is if the team start their talking for us on the field and hopefully we can see a change of fortunes next season as the Sharks so admiably did this year. The say that the season is not yet over, it is now, for the Bulls.Stormers 49 Crusaders 28
Newlands, over a long weekend, disappointed with a "small" crowd of 35,000 people for this vital clash. The local team however was not interested in anything disappointing except to make the afternoon as miserable as possible for their illustrious opponents, three time champions, the Crusaders.
Miserable it was, the Crusaders ran into possibly the most motivated and committed Stormers side witnessed at Newlands. The champions unnervingly put 7 points on the board with an excellent try after an impressive sidestep from fullback McDonald. This was however the cue for a Stormers creative rebirth, the flair and panache lacking in their display was ignited by two of their mega stars. Bobby Skinstad, the man had a great game, spotted space in the far depths of the railway stand side and flung a long quick throw in to Van Straaten who set Breyten on his way to gallop in for a try before the Crusaders could wipe their eyes out.
The stage now set, the Stormers played inspiring rugby, no idiotic fumbles an errors of a week before and the tackling was phenomenal. Good recycling and fast effective service from the excellent Niel De Kock provided Monty and De Wet Barry with more than enough time to create havoc amongst one of the better defences of world rugby.
The Crusaders relived their opening match against the Brumbies when they were completely outclassed in every department. The Stormers tight five came to the party and subsequently turned it into a mardi gras! Krige, on the back of this solid display created havoc amongst the Crusader's backline and his turnovers provided vital open phase bal from where the backs launched their attacks. Bob, was very good in linking the whole game and provide the attacking spark or the continuation of a move when necessary.
The crowd was ecstatic and the players themselves could hardly believe what was happening, the Crusaders for one realised that the rest of the Super 12 has finally match their lofty standards and to their credit they played fine attacking football throughout, scoring some excellent tries by exploiting a weakness down the midfield of the Stormers. Ben Blair is an excellent player and his pace is exceptional, in the mould of Breyten he could be an asset to an All Black team bristling with big backs.
The Stormers will glance at this game compare it to a week ago and laugh, how the wheel turns and the relief of winning in such an emphatic style was there on their faces as they thanked a partisan crowd with a lap of honour after the match.
The Crusaders were again unlucky to face a team playing rugby on a different pane but managed to secure one point that could be very valuable come the last week of the competition. They are not out of it yet and back home could knuckle down and capitalize on 6 point earned from 2 matches in SA.
Stormers, bask in your glory, it is well deserved however the hard work is far from over and they now need to sustain this high standards for 4 matches to ensure participation in the play offs.
The log after week 8:
Sharks 33, Brumbies 29, Cats 27, Highlanders 21, Waratahs 20, Hurricanes 19, Chiefs 18, Crusaders 15, Reds 15, Stormers 15, Blues 11, Bulls 2
Opinions and Views
Locks - Slightly below the front row on the food chain. As with front row players it is advisable to put an appendage you wish to keep near this group's maw when they are in the feeding mode. This group of large, often foul smelling brutes is also more than willing to relish the finer points of stomping on a fallen opponent's body and will gleefully recount the tale ad infinitum. While they tend to take the tag "Powerhouse of the Scrum" a little too seriously, they can be useful if injured with the proper hatred of their fellow man. While members of this proud fraternity like to think of themselves as "open to unconventional ways of thinking" - they are usually just dumb. Peter Fitzsimmons
The lads say my bum is the equivalent of one 'Erica'. Bill Beaumont
After JPR Williams was involved in a road traffic accident - Bloody typical, isn't! The car's a write-off. The tanker's a write-off. But JPR comes out of it all in one piece. Gareth Edwards
Colin Meads is the kind of player you expect to see emerging from a ruck with the remains of a jockstrap between his teeth Tony O'Reilly
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
Answers: 1. Scotland 2. Web Ellis Trophy 3. Mark Ella 4. Rolando Martin 5. 10 6. Rudi Visagie, 131 kg 7. Australia 8. Murray Mexted 9. Cardiff Arms Park 10. Al Charron - 61
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