Editors Note


Volume 2, Week 1                                                 

Editors Note

Brilliant!  Your favourite rugby newsmail is back after an excellent two month break from rugby. Phew! I thought the season would begin with a little bit of banter, all sorts of drivel and plenty of speculation before a keenly anticipated Super 12 – fat chance! South African rugby is once again in turmoil with the resignation of Springbok coach Harry Viljoen, rumours of disparity in the newly formed SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd, sports minister Ngconde Balfour threatening with political muscle, players subtly holding the future national coach to ransom and injury lists longer than Lance Klusener’s run of bad form. 

The inevitable happened quicker than most pundits anticipated, Harry Viljoen, not reliant on the salary paid to him by SARFU, decided his privacy and state of mind is far more valuable than continuing the most unforgiving job in SA sport. Smart man is Harry; he knows his percentages and can do his sums – as a businessman his strength is realising and capitalising on the bottom line. Good riddance? Yes and no and this is not sitting on the fence, the positives are: the timing of resignation, some good work on the management front in establishing a business unit, faith in many promising youngsters and commitment to transformation. The bad things may sound few but they are important, a failure to present a definitive Springbok game plan, naivety in selection and tactics and more losses than wins against credible opposition.

The pretenders to the poison chalice, the “suckers for punishment” are few and the obvious are Smal and Straeuli, the two leading lights on the local front. Ian McIntosh may be ideal for the RWC in a caretaker role, as the only real contender with international experience and many a trophy the wily old man of Natal assisted by Smal or Straeuli could be a great mentor protégé partnership. Mac is one man well aware of strengths and weaknesses and brilliantly adept at exploiting them with the personnel at hand; ask Naas Botha and his 1990 squad of “Blou Bulle”. One other very important plus, he is an active coach in touch with modern rugby and with the way things are turning around in the game today he might just revert to his old battle plans of yesteryear as the solution for breaking down modern defence systems.

The personnel at hand lead to the most important factor as dictated, yes dictated by our Sports Minister to the new coach and SA rugby in general, transformation “uber alles”. All “patience” is now “officially” gone, the political heavies omni-present in SA sport has spoken out and declared that the winning of the World Cup should take second priority to transformation. The question begs, why compete if you are not planning on winning? In fear of rupturing a political carbuncle the many so-called bla ck, coloured or transformation players must come to the party. The world and more is at the fingertips of anyone willing to put in the hard work, there is talent aplenty, opportunities in abundance but the commitment as shown by the likes of Paulse, Kaiser, Jantjes and Jacobs are sadly lacking amongst their fellow “transformation brethren”. At least the coach elect will have some advantage – Harry did some of the hard work, the public and critics embraced and even encouraged his selection of Jantjes and ev entually Jacobs. There are enough stars on the horizon it only takes one Sherlock to realise the tent is gone.

SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd vehemently denied rumours of dissention and unhappiness with Rian Oberholzer accused by many as the real “drol in the drinkwater”. The man has created a company who by all accounts are very profitable, wields enormous power, walks the political tightrope like a seasoned trapeze artist and commands the support and respect of established rugby men on his board. In a sport historically controlled by only two men since the fifties, Danie Craven and father in law Louis Luyt, Oberholzer has a difficult act to follow. The product of the company is the Springbok rugby team and even though old Louis will beg to differ - you cannot make money out of sh*t. A losing team will alienate supporters and sponsors and at the end of the day this is where money is generated for most of the transformation. Cut your nose to spite your face as my mother use to say. Rian knows all this, he is not stupid but he will be stupid to allow it to happen, as a head of a company he needs to produce the goods in other words shape up or join the many ex-CEO’s on the job market. 

The latest absurdity is Springboks who sign “if” contracts, ‘I will play for your club where I can earn zillions of rands in our current currency despondency “if” I’m not chosen for the test squad.’ What utter bollocks, the sad fact is that agendas, politics and the non-selection of the best personnel available by previous coaches have forced top players to hold the future coach to ransom. Right or wrong? The choice is simple, play your rugby in this country, vie for your place in the national side i f you are good enough you should be chosen on merit, the squads nowadays are big enough to include a blend of brilliant players with transformation duties accommodated for. The coach can only be honest and if he does not see a future for a player a la Markgraaf/Pienaar, fair enough adios amigo but what is a greater achievement than to emulate the Nel's, Muller’s, Gainsfords, Du Preez and Du Plessis’s of this world and represent your country? There are enough players out there with the will and the want.

The year 2002 promises to be as exciting and action filled as its predecessor and for honest and open opinions on events in the world of rugby ensure you are on the RF mailing list and that your friends are too. I look forward to the many replies and opinions, feel free to do so again, this is a forum and every offering is appreciated and aired. Last but not least, Rugby Forum 2001 a printed and bound book of the past year’s issues is available for purchase – please refer to www.rugbyforum.co.za for further details.




"Gentlemen, start your engines" by Tom Marcellus

I read a few days ago that "Big Brother" had been awarded that much sought after prize, "SA Newsmaker of the Year", at a gala banquet in Sandton. In doing so, the show has followed in the footsteps of such luminaries as Max the Gorilla and Eugene's green under-rods.

As newsworthy as Ferdie and his jittery bowels were, I could not contain a groan of disapproval, for I felt that there were far more deserving candidates, especially as I surveyed the desolate moonscape that was once the SA sporting scene. As far as jittery bowels went, I felt that I could offer a robust argument that the most newsworthy Jittery Bowel for 2001 belonged to that full-time scallywag of the paddock and part-time Bok coach, one H Viljoen, he of leather jacket and spikey hair fame. (In m y enthusiasm there, I had been tempted to thrown in my all-time favourite adjective of "sexual deviant", but, alas, my sources do not extend to such depths of depravity.)

In the grand scheme of things, 2001 was indeed a melancholic international season, with only the occasional bullocking run by the Welkon Juggernaut, Lukas van Biljon, to shake us out of our weekly beer-induced miseries. Happily, we Japies can take heart from the goings-on across the pond in the woolly Land of the Long White Cloud. There, the appointment of a menacing, iron-willed coach who in many ways seems to epitomise the Kiwi approach to test-match footy, has led to a minor revolution in their game. Beware the Men in Black.

Regarding our own coaching merry go-round, I have no preference between either of the 2 leading candidates. But what does comfort me as I ponder the on-coming season is the fact that each was a fine, rugged international player in his own right and each appears to show the hard-nosed mongrel spirit and commanding presence that some of our coaches over the last 10 years have lacked. I feel that, in many ways (as in the NZ example cited above), a coach ought to be the physical manifestation of the at titude and the style of play that he is trying to infuse in his troops. This is an obvious lesson from WW2, where Monty was the epitome of his battle-hardened, gritty Tommies from the 8th Army, Rommel his steely by chivalrous Afrika Korps, and the swaggering Patton, with his pearl-handled revolver, his ebullient American GI's.

Just like a French coach, in my eyes, ought to look like Jean-Pierre Rives, wear a fawn cashmere coat at all times, and have a Gauloises dangling from his lips, as a physical manifestation of the dash of the play of Les Bleus, the coach of Het Springbokken should look like a rugged man of the soil, as at home on the touchline op Loftus as he is in the pilot's seat of his John Deere. A face like a slab of lazy-aged steak would be a bonus, and one can never underestimate a set of gnarled fingers, espe cially at the interview stage. An Oubaas Markotter moustache would be nice, but let's not be greedy.

I digress. Luckily, before we have to go through the emotional meat-mixer that is international rugby, we can enjoy 3 months of some of the best provincial rugby in the world. The gladiators of the oval game have been honing their match skills over the last couple of months, and an explosion of all-action rugby awaits us. The Sharks are making the right sort of noises in their build up to the tournament, and my scouts tell me that those perennial under-achievers, the Stormers, are "in the groove" . Personally, warm-up success just makes me nervous. A festival of rugger is in store for us – so enjoy!

A last word on reality television. I hear that the judges for Idols, the new reality show that is set to take SA by storm, have set a basic criteria for their superstars-in-training that includes a groovy hairstyle, funky dress sense, and the time-honoured ability to mumble like a Geordie stevedore after 6 Newky Brown Ales.

Eureka! methinks. Take a bow, Mr Viljoen.


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Keep it Straight by Desmond Organ

The Six Nations is up and running, the Super 12 awaits and rugby lovers are lapping it up. Many of the writers will be focusing on the weekend that has just passed; I on the other hand shall focus on one of the more controversial articles that appeared in the press last week.

South Africans are all too well aware of the role of the press in South Africa, past and present and the political undertones that are associated with it. One particular sports writer has chosen to consistently highlight the current issues in South African rugby and has done so from what appears to be a clear political standpoint that is either intended to feather the nest or generate controversy. It is clear that there are always two sides to a story and many readers appreciate consistency and controv ersy when it is delivered in a consistent manner. 

I have been stirred by the article about the sport’s ministry that appeared on the Supersport site last week and would like to provide an alternative perspective.
The main issue at hand is the claim that the sports ministry should be lauded for clarifying their desire to have transformation taking priority over performance in the contract of the new Springbok coach. This is clearly a controversial subject and one which will generate interest and debate, one wonders though if the writer was looking for the support of the political bosses, rather than providing a balanced perspective. 

In the last two weeks the same said writer has openly stated that he was ill informed when writing for a Natal Newspaper, that the next coach should come from the Cape and that the politicians are correct.

The claims about the guts of Harry Viljoen in supporting certain players in order to drive transformation above performance are one sided. In reality Viljoen could have achieved both development and performance with a few wise selections and a consistent coaching and management ability. Some of his selections and contract decisions are weird to say the least, just look at the denial of contracts to the Currie Cup player of the year, a day or so before he quits the job, that after he got the complete su pport of Riaan Oberholzer.

The bosses in South African rugby face the pressures of transformation because it is part of the way of life; Laurie Mains was controversial because he did not have to answer to a political establishment intent on keeping itself in favour with the masses. The lack of structure in South African rugby has just as much to do with inefficiency as it does with intransigence, or maybe we are supposed to believe that players like Erasmus and Halstead are in some way opposed to transformation.

I find it hard to believe that the politicians are trying to save the future of rugby ahead of maintaining their control over the make up of the political landscape, the number of outbursts from the Sports Ministry and the factual inconsistency of some of them leads me to believe they have chosen a tune and are sticking to it. The national rugby, cricket and football team have all had their fair share of selection controversy in the last few months and most of it has more to do with corruption and inef ficiency than the transformation trumpet.

There is enough talent and ability in South Africa for us to have representation and performance. The contract of the coach should focus on performance and the broader strategy should focus on transformation. If the selection of out of form players and the decisions of former coach, Nick Mallett, to leave Teichman out of the World Cup are logical then I have clearly lost it. The failures of South Africa’s sporting teams are not just caused by the performance or transformation clauses in a contract; the y are also caused by the inefficiency of the administrators and the political bantering of the politicians. 

At a time when many of our competitors are focusing purely on performance, we are debating politics. We should focus on supporting the sport’s men and women who wear their national colours with pride. The journalists are there to debate the issues and write the stories, hopefully without feathering their political nest.


 An Official Start by Mark Foster

The year is but an embryo and rugby is back with the Super 12 only two weeks away and the Six Nations into their first round. Great stuff! The last few months were wonderfully relaxing and hopefully the players received some rest to recuperate their poor battered bodies. Down to business.

The 2002 South African build up to the Super 12 resembles some kind of officialness previously lacking. In the past few years the teams played against under strength local combinations but there was little much sense or value going into a competition many regard as the toughest in the world without facing decent opposition. This year all the franchises were pitted against a fifth team, nicknamed the “Renegades” coached by Tim Lane and arguably the next tier of playing talent took on the “big guns”. The experiment paid of handsomely as players, the four coaches were exposed to in a match situation, replaced the many injured players in the official squads.

The Cats played in a “friendly” fixture against the Sharks and this kind of warm up matches makes a lot more sense and something both the Kiwis and Ausies been doing for years. The Sharks are even jetting to London where they face the famous London Harlequins in what will be a huge money-spinner for the marketing men. I dare say the horde of Sharks supporters in London will easily outnumber the traditionalists at the Stoop.

The four squads are near to finalisation, with the exception of the Bulls the other three teams have a very similar look to the previous year. There are many injuries and the list of prominent stars include Springbok captains Skinstad, Vos, Van der Westhuizen and Erasmus, most capped flanker Andre “Iron man” Venter (his first non start since the inception of the competition), influential Mark Andrews, controversial Butch James and a host of other players. The lost experience may be humongous however as always it opens the way for new and exciting talent to prove their worth remember Lukas van Biljon, Victor Matfield and Adrian Jacobs?

The competition and results are way too early to predict but this year will be a watershed for South African rugby. It is about time to notch the first win in a competition dominated by New Zealand sides and with a new Springbok coach – there is so much more to play for.



As the Springbok coach you've got to expect to take some flak. Maybe Harry just wasn't enough of a rugby person and he took some of the media comments too personally.   Nick Mallett

I had discussions with London Irish when Harry Viljoen was still the coach and it seemed that despite my best efforts I would not get picked for the Springboks. My first priority at this stage is getting back on the field and I'd certainly never jeopardise the chance to play for my country if I knew I had one.    Johan Erasmus

I suppose once upon a time a Test match was something you looked forward to go and watch. It's very hard to get the quality these days because the focus is more on quantity.    David Campese

The Olympics are every four years and I think every athlete who competes in the Olympics wants the gold medal, and I think that's what the World Cup is for a rugby player - it's the gold medal.    George Gregan

Letters to the Editor (letters@rugbyforum.co.za)

Dear Editor.


* SA supporters has realized that it is time for the "oldies" to go onto pension, as we need young players to take us through the World cup.
* Newcomers I fully agree with, but HELL, why did you not mention Hottie Louw in one of your letters. Were you blind or what?. He WILL BE Springbok next year - guaranteed!!
* No one mentioned that we are ALWAYS on the bad side when it gets to Super12, compared to the Aussies and NZ. What a hectic season it is for players to travel that far and away for such long periods. Secondly, why do the administration not manage the players better. You cant play 10 of the 12 months full time rugby with NO rest at all. The tour to the Northern hemisphere is a absolute waste of time. If the players get rest in this time period, they will be eager to play, and the results WILL be ther e. Did anyone think how much bruises and niggling pains the players have at this time of year. GIVE THEM REST!!!
* Can anyone give the coach the bad side, after he ONLY has one week for preparation. Come on, be real, it takes weeks for players out of different provinces, to start playing together.

Hein Groenewald

Geagte Ed

Met alles wat nou gebeur rondom die bedanking van Viljoen wil ek graag die volgende kwytraak:

Eerstens moet SARVU kalm bly en baie mooi dink voor hulle weer n besluit neem. Daar moet gedink word oor hoekom die vorige afrigters misluk het en wat die oplossing sal wees.

n Dinkskrum is nie genoeg nie. Miskien moet hulle n maatskappy soos Paragon Generation skakel wat spesialiseer in probleemoplossing en kursusse aanbied. Hulle gebruik die bekende Edward de Bono se tegnieke en kan by 021 9144646 geskakel word. 

Graag lig ek n paar probleme uit:

Daar is goeie afrigters in S.A. Markgraaf en Mallet is albei uitstekend. Die mag om spanne te kies moet net van hulle weerhou word. Ongelukkig het alle afrigters na Kitch die mag misbruik en moet n keurkommitee die span kies en die afrigter afrig. Die hulpafrigter moet ook aangewys word, want die boetie-boetie stelsel werk nie.

Ek glo Markgraaf en Gysie Pienaar sal n goeie keuse wees. Hul ouderdom en ervaring is goed en sal dissipline en trots afdwing. Iets wat ons spelers huidiglik nie het nie. Dan moet ons in S.A. tog net afsien van stormram binnesenters en manne soos Jacobs grootmaak en gebruik. Verder moet ons ophou se n speler is te jonk of te oud. Die beste moet speel en die afrigter moet aanpas by sy spelers en hulle sterkpunte gebruik.

Ons ouens op die kantlyn sal weer positief raak en juig as al die swak verskonings vir verloor ophou. Niemand gee om vir verloor solank dit met durf en moed gebeur nie. Ons wil nie modelle met mooi gesiggies he nie. Kies rugbyspelers wat kan en wil speel.

Met Dank
Tjaart Coetzee 

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