|Volume 1 - Week 9|
Brilliant! Yes, isn’t unbelievable, we here in South Africa have another long weekend! April is therefore officially the holiday month, easily outstripping December. The long weekends apart from stifling our economy present us with ample time to “relax” in front of the television and watch our favourite game rugby!
I can’t imagine the days without television when most fans could only read about matches. Devoid of any visuals much depended on the quality and ability of writers to provide atmosphere, describe the moves that created and scored tries and generally regale the reader. Today we are spoilt for choice, not only are there webpages and newspapers but to you, a selected reader there is Rugby Forum, so, make full use of it and participate!
A few things happened over the weekend that’s worth noting, primarily the change in fortunes of the South African teams and the density of the midtable teams. The semi finals are not yet cut and dried although it seems unlikely that the Cats and Sharks will lose out. The next batch of teams is fighting for two positions; this may result in one of the most entertaining rugby weekends to date. The month of May is upon us and a genius called Naas Botha once remarked that the Currie Cup is never won in May, true but the Super 12 will be and wow I can’t wait for the knock out stages.
The Lions are causing a stir and even though they are only playing in Australia, this series will be vaunted as a best of the best between North and South. I for one am a great fan of this tradition and look forward to a great series but more of that closer to the time.
A bit of sad news was the passing away of Wium Basson, young lock from the Bulls, at 25 he was far too young to leave the game so early.
Have a great weekend of rugby and remember, support your team if you can make it to the stadiums.
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
The letter of James Bester refers; Mr Bester made a very good point. He mentioned the importance to excel in your own era to be remembered in another and what true words they are. Inevitably somebody always rise above the rest of their peers and break the “unbreakable” records however you are only as good as your opposition or the team you play for. There has been many a brilliant player who in different company or teams may have reached different heights. Unfortunately due to a lack of chances as the larger part of our community are so well aware of we only remember those who we know of, we should also remember those who were not so lucky.
Thank you for an excellent publication and be assured that there are many of us eagerly awaiting Rugby Forum on a Thursday morning. PJ Holmes’s effort was, to say the least rude and uncalled for, clearly this individual has nothing better to do with his or her time than criticizing other people’s efforts. Be assured of my support and I’m sure many others like me. Keep it up!
The following story was heard during the week, the police arrested a few people climbing over the fence at Minolta Loftus during their match against the Reds. Their punishment? The police forced them to stay and watch until the match was completed! Thank you for the weekly mail it is good fun keep it coming.
The Bulls, what can you say, it's like a relative in jail, you know all about them but don't want to talk about it. Ed
Dear Mr. Editor,
Thank you for sending me the Rugby Forum mail, as an avid rugby supporter your match reports and articles are refreshing and very much different from those in the newspapers and on the websites. I would like to suggest that you remain as unbiased as possible as there are many of us more interested in reading about the game and the players than the blatant provincialism typical of the media.
Will try my best Jonathan. Ed
Who Let the Dogs Out? by Mark Foster
Who let the dogs out? Anybody joining me for a quick chunder? This nefarious song however popular it may be on the hit parades will forever remind me of the Bulls and their sad demise as a once proud and immensely successful team.
Well with that of my chest and no, I’m not a closet Bulls supporter, let us look back at a weekend where tactics or is it arrogance played a major part in the defeat of two South African teams. The Stormers, after a win hailed as the best by an SA side in the competition ever, met with mother earth in a debilitating way. The Blues played wonderfully well and their tactics were sound and more importantly, there. The poor Stormers forgot that creative flair only materializes on the back of hard graft by the forwards and some structure in their ways. What was different to last week? David Arlidge, exploiting confusion in the backline as to who covers where and when and some of the toughest defence seen on Newlands. The crowd was morbid and as so often they reflect the mood on the field accurately and way before the players realize it. If I was Solly, I only need to watch the crowd to gage the feeling on the pitch but alas I’m not Solly and 42,000 people are difficult to fathom maybe at Wellington it will be easier!
The Sharks, well they lost but was it not for sloppy defense and a propensity to hack the ball away Rudolph’s theory would have worked, it didn’t and this could prove fatal in the run up to the semis. Shame on the Queenslanders for attacking Deon Kayser after scoring a try, I guess the pocket money awarded to him will come to good use and he got away with punching a fan unlike Eric Cantona a few years ago. The Sun’s headline was quite apt following that incident, “The Sh*t hits the Fan!” maybe Sunday’s could read something like “Fan struck by a Shark”.
The competition remains open and there are a few teams in the running for semi final spots, this is wonderful after an auspicious start and such a hooha about foul play and the rule interpretations. The referees to their credit are far better and allow the players to get on with it, Andre Watson as an example did not apply the rule to the letter but interpreted it as the situation demanded. Fair call, now all we need is more of that and we will salivate during the remaining fixtures.
One last thought, the Lions team will be known this week and everybody must be looking forward to this series. The boys up north will no doubt hail this as the strength decider and we can look forward to some great rugby.
This weekend, important matches for the middle of the log so expect tough affairs with uncompromising winning rugby. The pressure to add bonus point will however open defences up a bit and we should see high scoring affairs.
Please, please Loftus no more dogs!
Humility in the Face of the Lion by Brandon Scott
Southern Hemisphere provincial rugby has been dominated for the past six years by the “toughest” competition in the world. Amongst the many virtues of the Super 12 competition we find exciting rugby, nail biting drama and a fair bit of patriotism. The natural progression from this is the Tri Nations all the same and more apply. A distinguishing feature of these competitions is the belief amid the three nation’s teams and supporters that a certain superiority is imposed on the Northern Hemisphere.
The extent of this superiority has transformed Ausies, Kiwis and South Africans into becoming pseudo Americans. Let me explain, the Yanks defied their founding fathers by spelling their own way and more horribly inventing their own sports. As if this is not enough they have the audacity to call any competition their own, a world series! They tend to forget that the globe is exactly that, but I digress and regress. The supporters of the Super 12 and Tri Nations, my friends are fast turning into the same cluster of cretins, with some respect to the Americans. Humility and a shut mouth, my old grandfather taught me, guarantees a whole mouth. Is it not time we discover some humility in the face of a Northern Hemisphere onslaught disguised in the form of the famous British Lions?
History proved that the red jersey is more than successful on this side of the world and even with a disease interrupted Six Nations “the great redeemer” Graham Henry, well versed in our ways, can draw on some formidable players to prove Northern Hemisphere ascendancy. Make no mistake, that is how this series will be seen, the best of the North against arguably the best of the South, Australia. Call it an unofficial best in the world decider because unlike the one off format of the World Cup this title is fought over a few tests.
The British Lions tour of 2001 probably holds the most significance of any similar tour in history and with all respect to the great teams of the seventies and the conquerors of 1997 this tour will set the standard for the new millennium. Should the Australians win, a proven fact will be reestablished, that after four World Cup victories the South remain firmly entrenched as the leaders in world rugby. A Lions victory will create euphoria and a confidence to beat the “big three” with more regularity because players from weaker countries like Scotland and Wales return with incredible belief and confidence. This in turn motivates their teammates at home to rise to the occasion when playing the Southern Hemisphere. A good example of this, Wales’ first ever victory over the Springboks and England’s blatant disregard of so-called Springbok power is the direct result of the experience gained on a Lions tour.
The Australians, in carrying the flame on behalf of the Southern Hemisphere has an immensely difficult task ahead and one trust they will not fall in the same trap of complacency as their fellow triumvirate, South Africa. It is time to prove that the imposed superiority has merit.
(answers at the end)
Highlanders 16 - Brumbies 9
The first match of week 9 was an excellent match between two sides determined to play attacking running rugby. The weather was foul and the poring rain would have made a difference to less skilled sides but the Brumbies and Highlanders proved that with application and concentration the weather should not be a factor.
The Brumbies is a brilliant side at home but seem to struggle when playing away, this was no exception. The very core of their success is the speed of their second phase ball combined with the phenomenal skills of their halfbacks who distribute and organize the play. The opposition, naturally need to disrupt this system for eighty minutes ‘cause added to the halfbacks, brilliant players like Roff, Walker and Finnegan can turn a match around in a blink of an eyelid.
The Highlanders played superb and although the match was a team effort it was the gargantuan role played by Byron Kelleher that ensured this well deserved victory. The All Black was more than a match for Gregan, he stuck to him like bubblegum in hair. Every time the Brumbies tried their moves Herculean defence stopped them, in particular Alatini and Clarke. The advantage line was hardly seen and to a side that thrives on momentum it was very disruptive.
The Highlanders displayed exceptional recycling and their continuity was the best seen by any Kiwi side this season, the Brumbies famous for attack also know a bit about tackling and the way they kept the Otago forwards at bay on their try line displayed ample character and guts.
Ultimately there was only a converted try separating the teams but the Highlanders had most of the possession and control and Tony Brown missed a few opportunities but such was the ferocity of their onslaught that the Brumbies could never cross the line, a rare sight indeed.
Another telling factor was Andre Watson who had a great game, for once a referee was not “intimidated” or bootlicked by George Gregan to nauseating extent. The little scrumhalf with Kelleher on his case hardly had time for his usual banter and when he tried it, was cut short immediately by a no-nonsense, experienced Watson.
The Highlanders are worthy of a semi final spot and their tenacity and workman like efforts in the final matches should prove enough to secure a spot. The Brumbies need to consolidate and with two Kiwi teams on the agenda, the going will be tough although they should make it through to the semis.
Man of the match: Byron Kelleher
Bulls 37 - Chiefs 49
The match between the Bulls and the Chiefs was quite a strange affair, the final result reflect a reasonably close match however the two halves fashioned a varied performance from both teams.
The Bulls, in the first half produced their most unprofessional and lacklustre performance yet. The way they played made one wonder if they deserve to get any wages for their effort, ‘cause there was no effort. Simple kicks in front of the post was missed, tackling was non-existent and the lack of commitment frightening.
The Chiefs enjoyed the chance of playing against a team equivalent of the local school side and the forwards, sensing the crumbling resistance ensured that the backs received quick ball. Players like Randle and Reihana flourished in the wide-open spaces and scored some beautiful tries it is a pity that they would not be taken seriously as the opposition was pathetic.
The second half saw the Bulls score a few tries and produce a far better performance than in the first, difficult not to though. The Chiefs always had the better of them and it is a tribute to a team who has struggled over the years and now wins away matches easily. The Bulls might want to look at the way the Chiefs has turned fortunes around and follow suit for next season.
Once again, it is not worth writing much about the Bulls’ display, they owe a better performance to all their supporters and other players in the country who would relish the chance to play.
The Chiefs can look forward to Newlands and another South African side struggling in this competition.
Men of the match: Roger Randle and Bruce Reihana
Stormers 12 - Blues 26
This match began as one of those grand occasions; the stage set for a Stormers’ revival following the previous week’s result, a large boisterous crowd arrived expectant of the champagne rugby the Cape side so often produce. Somebody forgot to hand the Blues the correct script and as so, as it occasionally happens, the party was spoilt in spectacular fashion.
The Stormers were outplayed on the day and their tactics were questionable against a highly motivated Blues outfit. The Kiwis, from the outset were in no mood for frivolous “innovation”, they had a plan and an attitude to match. Alridge, the young flyhalf dictated with an excellent tactical display filled with acumen that belied his tender age. The Stormers’ creativity was subdued and with the “in your face” defence the advantage line was seldom broached, this lead to a succession of turnover ball that made it impossible to create attacking opportunities usually present after the 3rd phase.
In contrast to last week the Stormers’ tight five never dominated exchanges in turn causing the loose forwards to assume a different role and nullifying a “distributing” flyhalf’s options and abilities. The lack of a person to summarize the game on the day and adopt the current plan A to plan B, C or D was apparent. It is not the captain’s job, especially if he is a forward deeply involved in the murky depths of mauls and rucks, to dictate the play, it is one of the flyhalf’s primary roles. The confusion within the ranks as to who makes decisions is undermining the potential role of the creative players, only once a pattern is established and enforced can the “creative” players come to the fore. The Blues did exactly that and they entrusted a twenty year old to accomplish this against seasoned international test stars.
The Blues forwards can rightfully claim this one and the tackling of the centres was inspirational, De Wet Barry coughed up every ball he received and Monty was more than transparent at first receiver. On attack they ran with aplomb and Vidiri and Howlett is just one of the impressive wing combinations the Kiwi teams possess. Vidiri’s job is to score tries and few come close to his finishing abilities, speed and power is a dangerous combination and he was well worth his wages after scoring a magnificent try.
The Blues, out of the competition wasn’t playing for anything but personal pride and an inherent respect to a legion of heroes who wore the famous jersey before them. The joy of the victory was apparent with old hands like Kirwan and Fitzpatrick smiling brightly after the match, they knew that this could be the start of a renewal in fortunes for the once premier New Zealand side and the final two matches will be very difficult for their opponents.
The Stormers’ out of the running face difficult times ahead, the Chiefs are a good side with a wily coach sure to do his homework. The team can only play for personal higher honors and for the individual to enhance his Springbok aspirations they need to perform well as a team.
Man of the match: David Alridge
Crusaders 31 - Cats 32
What a wonderful match! As far as excitement and drama goes this was a thriller, both teams displayed a willingness to run the ball and the large crowd in picturesque Nelson Bay was shown a treat.
The first half was dominated by the Cats, they scored all the tries and made the most of their opportunities. The Crusaders were low on confidence following their defeat a week ago and maybe the long flight home played a part. The forward pack of the Cats, once again played magnificently and exerted tremendous pressure on their counterparts, this forced the Crusaders into mistakes and their retreating defensive lines allowed Wylie Human in for a good early try from a snipe by Werner Swanepoel. Human scored another try after some flatfooted interplay and a bad pass was intercepted, the Cats were comfortably in the lead.
The great flanker, Erasmus scored one of the best tries of the afternoon after the Crusaders were in a good attacking position seconds before half time. A quick tap and chip ahead into space was followed up by Koen who then soccer style dribbled ahead for Erasmus to gather and sell a cheeky dummy to score under the posts. The move nudged the Cats ahead by 11 points at the break and they looked comfortable with their lead.
The second half saw a Crusaders resurgence and was it not for tremendous defence and the untimely sending off of Norm Maxwell, the result would have been different. Both teams continued to throw the ball around and with quality players pitted against each it was a joy to watch the thrust and parry.
The final 5 minutes produced a tense and thrilling finale, after relentless waves of attack the Crusaders were kept at bay with the score pitted at 32 –26, they threw everything and the kitchen sink at the Cats’ line but somehow they could not penetrate. With 2 minutes to spare the Crusader almost scored but conceded a penalty 2 meters from the tryline, Clinton van Rensburg only needed to find touch to secure a famous victory. Shock horror, he missed the simple touch kick and the Crusaders given a last breath of chance scored in the corner through Vunibaka. Aaron Mauger was left with an extremely difficult kick to win the match, he missed.
Great game, excellent rugby and although there were many mistakes it was as entertaining a game as any seen this year. The managements of both sides are maybe guilty of making unnecessary substitutions. Mehrtens may have slotted the last attempt but then Koen would have kicked the penalty out. There were great performances from players in both teams, notably Meyer, Ackerman, Human, Vos and Erasmus for the Cats and Marshall, Maxwell and McDonald for the Crusaders.
The Cats are now second on the log and looking exceedingly confident as they peak towards the semi finals. For the Crusaders, the season is over.
Man of the match: Johan Erasmus
Reds 32 - Sharks 27
The much debated affair at Ballymore was actually a nice game of rugby and both teams all be it second stringers or whatever produced a fine entertaining match for the Brisbane crowd.
Rudolph Straeuli, shrewd coach of the Sharks identified the game against the Reds as one to rest his main players and make full use of the squad. Ok, it backfired in the sense that they lost however the “young guns” only have themselves to blame for squandering a more than sufficient first half lead.
The first half was a lively affair with both sides using the width of the field to give their wingers some running space. There was quite a bit of kicking and the set phases were pretty even but the defence from both sides was brilliant until Terreblanche broke the deadlock with an intercept try. Deon Kayser scored shortly after this compliments of a Halstead burst through midfield, suddenly the Sharks were 17-0 ahead. The Reds attacked with vigour for a sustained period however excellent defence saw the half end with the Sharks leading 17-3.
The Reds, continuing their attacking play, turned on the gas and pressurized the Sharks line, opting to kick penalties to the touchline in the pursuit of tries. The policy was rewarded and Pelesas scored an easy try in the corner, which Flatley converted with an excellent kick. The young Sharks failed to gain ascendancy in the forwards and some valuable ball was kicked away too often, the Reds remained positive and streaked ahead for the first time thanks to a vintage Dan Herbert try. Deon Kayser who had a good game retaliated after a sweeping backline move, proving that the Sharks were dangerous when they received quality ball from their forwards and utilized it properly. It was however the Reds day and two more tries ensured victory.
The Reds with all the pressure and possession deserved to win this match and the try scored by Latham not only won them the match but also provided a shimmer of hope for the semis. The Sharks may yet rue this loss but 10/10 for the coach in believing and testing the young players as part of a squad rotation system that will only strengthen the team.
Man of the match: Deon Kayser
The log after week 9:
Opinions and Views
Coaches are best when people barely know they exist. Not so good when people obey or acclaim them. Worse when they despise them – fail to know people – they fail to honour you. But of good coaches who talk little – when their work is done, their aim fulfilled, their charges will say – ‘we did this ourselves’. Adapted from LAO-TZU, Tao Te Ching, sixth century BC
On losing - In Wales the half backs, especially the stand off half, always get the blame. Neil Jenkins
On violence - It's the nature of the game to have aggression. Take on people physically and then have a beer with your friends. Gareth Chilcott
Look here, I'm afraid being tryless is always totally irrelevant. The object of rugby is just to score more points than the opposition. End of story. Geoff Cooke
On the sending off of Colin Meads for kicking (and missing) the ball or a player, both in close proximity - For one with Mead's world-wide reputation for robust play, this was like sending a burglar to prison for a parking offence. Michael Melford
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. Carisbrook, Dunedin 13 August 1921 2 Gareth Edwards, 20 3. 1968 4. Thierry Lacroix 5. 50 6. R.P. Keyes 7. England 8. Harlequins vs Richmond, 1909 9. Tiaan Strauss 10. Ireland
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