|Volume 2, Week 19|
Brilliant! The first round of international matches for the Southern Hemisphere teams provided their ardent supporters with comforting victories and a taste of better things to come. Let’s face it, the real thing is the Tri-Nations and Elizabeth
Hurley! The so-called “warm up” games are basically there for fine-tuning - to be taken seriously off course as few can afford the “embarrassment” of losing these
matches, sort of like being caught on the "Boulevard".
The All Blacks beat a spirited Italian team 64-10, they (AB’s) were not at their formidable best and even though their forwards dominated exchanges they tended to overdue the wedging rolling maul a bit. It wasn’t pretty but sure as hell effective and the backline reveled with the ample ball provided. By resting his first choice players, Mitchell emphasized the magnificent depth available to the men in black. This weekend against the Irish there are 13 Canterbury players in the starting XV, one wond ers if he would have gotten away with that was he the South African national coach? It makes sense though as they (Canterbury) are arguably the best side in world rugby today.
Rudolf Straeuli registered his first win as a Springbok coach and in his parlance it was mission accomplished - to win the first test. The Springboks struggled in the first 30 minutes and the Welsh turned in a solid display however, a wonderful few minutes from man of the match (and moment) Johannes Conradie swung the test in SA’s favour. The half time speech cleared up a few hiccups and the second half was a better effort however short of the general public’s expectations of a 50 point rout. The Welsh will be disappointed but definitely not disheartened, watch out Saturday. A win is a win though and we will take it - SA’s back to the roots philosophy will reveal that they hardly ever made mincemeat of any foe in the same fashion as the All Blacks by raking up cricket scores.
The team for Saturday’s second test was revealed today and to many pundits surprise and certainly a few of RF’s readers’ dismay Bob Skinstad was retained as captain, with Corne Krige on flank. The loose trio did not “gel” at all in the first test but the likes of Krige, Skinstad and Venter has enough mongrel coupled with flair to become as successful as the Erasmus/Venter/Teichman combo of the late nineties. In a country blessed with loose forwards it all depends on the correct combination.
A quick word on SA’s new star, Bolla Conradie; the very first facet of play had me worried, the ball was available at the back of the ruck but there was no sight of the young upstart. Luckily it was the first and last time as for a moment I thought he watched too many Joost, post 1999 videos. The young man was excellent and the simple tasks he performed and was lauded for (deservedly so) are the bread and butter of any scrumhalf, as a matter of fact it is his primary functions. The only “downside” is that Breyten Paulse will have to learn how to play wing again!
SA rugby look set to receive an overall on structures and varied other things after the acceptance of Accenture’s proposals. There is one sincere wish though, that Andersen, Accenture’s previous holding company is not tasked with auditing the changes.
The coming weekend will see all three the Tri Nation partners in action and the Wallabies’ match against the Maoris will be very interesting indeed, there is also the French against the Argies and should prove a cracking game. As for other sports, the US Open golf will be in full swing and hopefully Retief and Ernie can fly the flag, pity that the World Cup Soccer team Bafana Bafana was eliminated.
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|Is local always "lekkerest"? by Tom Marcellus|
I suppose adopting the label "professional", when referring to an international sportsman, can be likened to being pregnant or being wet: either you are, or you aren't. It is not something that one can or should adopt in half-measures. Following this kitchen-logic, then, if one feels compelled to cast aside the old-school amateur rugger ideals of carefree fun and camaraderie, then one might as well seize the professional cudgels unreservedly and roar off, full steam ahead, in the resolute quest f
or zero defect.
But as the rugby community still comes to grips with the notion of pay for play, the question arises of precisely how ruthlessly do we pursue the new-fangled professional ideals of on-field glory and off-field riches? This chewy issue reared its pimply head again recently with Big Rudi's utterances on whether Percy Montgomery would be entitled to don the Green 'n Gold no 15 jumper again, despite the fact that he has now signed on the dotted line for Newport.
Straeuli has stated unequivocally that forex-hungry players will not be entitled to selection "if they are not committed to the Springbok jersey" (or words to that effect). So much for my little theory espoused in the opening sentence: it would appear that Straeuli's policy goes something along the lines of "Play the game for reward, for sure, but just don't tear the ring out of it by mooching off to the far-flung corners of the globe".
Herein lies a fundamental double standard. What if the Natal Rugby Union had, in their wisdom, adopted a similarly hard-nosed policy when selecting their coach, following the Reece-Edwards debacle of 2000? What if the NRU had stipulated, for example, that all candidates had to reside south of the Pongola River, to ensure that the eventual appointee was "committed" to the black 'n white of Natal? Where would that have left our meaty new coach, as he shivered in his thermal under-rods in far-away Bedford?
It's all well and good for our new coach to re-generate a feeling of pride for the jersey in his charges, but there are a number of ways to skin a cat.
After all, Straeuli is, courtesy of Rupert Murdoch and his troops at Sky TV, as able to assess the form of a player who turns out for the Newcastle Tykes, deep in Geordie territory, as one who plies his trade at the Pam Brink stadium in Suspension City, Mpumalanga. Also, the recent re-emergence of trial games, as well as the coach's squad rotation policy, will allow him to form his own opinions on a player's form, before picking that player for his test XV.
It's all well and good to emphasise traditions and the glories of the past (as any long-suffering reader of this column will tell you), but one must still retain a residue of hard-headedness and pragmatism. In a reasonable world, it seems perfectly natural for old geezers like Montgomery and Slap Tjips to hop onto the first 'plane to Heathrow, to earn valuable Pounds as the shadows of their careers lengthen. But losing grizzled old-timers with 100 caps between them is one thing – what about all t hose young players who are leaving our shores with disturbing enthusiasm? What will the long-term effect of this brawn-drain be on the depth of our provincial game and the competitiveness of our future international teams?
Daniel Vickerman and Pieter de Villiers are two very obvious examples of fine young local players who are about to carve or have carved out very successful rugby careers in distant lands. These two lads have shown us that, despite what sentimental old-timers may think, the lure of playing for the Springboks is sadly not quite enough, when Mr Long Dollars comes along with a walletful of ready cash. As that well-known rugger-b*gger, Oscar Wilde, once observed: "I can resist all things, but temptati on".
Surely the only solution, as disagreeable as it may seem to Mr Straeuli (and even to this armchair critic), is to allow these young bloods to earn their foreign loot, but to retain the right to play for the country of their birth. Despite the well-rehearsed platitudes that Vickerman, De Villiers and every other foreign legionnaire that we have produced may offer, under the bright lights of TV, about the alleged honour of jogging out for their adopted teams, I have my doubts whether, in their heart of hearts, this can ever be true.
To this watching fan, Stefan Terblanche confirmed once and for all on Saturday what every little barefooted 8-year old Japie knew years ago: that nothing compares to having that little leaping antelope above one's heart.
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|A Tale of Two Halves by Desmond Organ|
Saturday’s test matches involving Southern Hemisphere giants South Africa and New Zealand failed to unearth any earth shattering performances from the favourites, if anything it was the underdogs who sprung a few surprises. The combination of untested players and resolute defence saw a scenario where it took
the All Blacks and Springboks a full 60 minutes to stamp their authority on the game.
In South Africa’s case, one could argue that it was not until the 70th minute that the game was put beyond the reach of the Welsh. Even then there must have been a handful of players and spectators wondering if the 2002 season was to start in cataclysmic fashion. The most disappointing aspect of South Africa’s play, irrespective of the number of green beans on the field was the way in which they kicked aimlessly for touch and failed to let the ball do the work in several situations. The first three kicks from the halfbacks failed to reach touch and gave the Welsh an added advantage to their forward supremacy.
The Welsh forwards were like a combined force as they attacked the advantage line, loose rucks and mauls in numbers, something the All Blacks took to another level, especially the way in which they formed a perfect wedge in the direction of the opposition goal line. If anything the All Blacks were superb in that area of play and their recycling also gave the backs plenty to run with. It was extremely disappointing to see South Africa’s loose forwards not making initial tackles and even more horrendous to see only one to two players in the green and gold at the point of breakdown. In contrast the Welsh, Italian and All Black forwards attacked as a unit.
It was in the backs that the South Africans were extremely creative and save for a few wayward passes and missed tackles there may well have been a few more points on the board. The All Black half back combination tended to drift across the field instead of running at right angles to the line of defence and the less said about the Welsh flyhalf the better, as was the case in the Six nations, he drifted, offloaded slowly or sent a loop pass out to the centres, little wonder that Marinos became obsesse d with retaining possession. The All Blacks, despite their early lead have several areas that need to be worked on, the tendency to bang it up the middle through large centres is not going to bring the several phases of possession that they need to reward the forwards with. There was also a tendency for key players to run away from their support and lose the initial advantage.
The Welsh back three showed what pace and straight lines can do for the attacking team, combine this with the missed tackles of several South African backs and you have tries scored that normally should not have been conceded. It was fantastic to see the All Blacks utilizing the skip and loop maneuver to great effect. The Italians too showed that given the opportunity and the fine tuning that their coach has provided, they can cross the advantage line. I was not surprised to learn that Cullen and Sny man had been axed for the next game. Cullen has clearly got exceptional ability, but his failure to link up with support has seen him relegated. Snyman to be fair has paid the price of being played out of position as was the case in the test against England last year.
South Africa appear to be entering a new era of play with attacking backs who are capable of turning possession into more than a bashing at the advantage line, their ability to break down the opposing defence with angled running could serve them well in the Tri Nations.
The less said about South Africa’s forwards the better, the lingering in the backline and the failure to remain bound in defensive positions is going to negate the developments made in the three quarters, bigger and better prepared forward units will make a meal of the Boks if they continue to play without numbers at the point of breakdown.
The second half of both games saw a greatly improved performance from the Boks and the Blacks, not only did they secure good possession, they turned it into points. The Welsh faded to altitude and the Italians could not tackle all day without letting in a few. The South African forwards approached the breakdowns in far greater numbers, but it was the mauling that saw the greatest improvement. Two tries were scored by the forwards retaining possession through their presence in numbers. The All Blacks were awesome in this regard, providing a mountain of possession for the “Incredible Hulk”. This form of attack may not work against better teams, but it led to a flood of points.
Tactically the Welsh lost the game in their inability to break down the opposition defensive line, save for the breaks up the middle caused by South Africa’s very loose, loose forward trio. People were worried about the defensive channel created by Skinstad, Conradie and Pretorius; well it came home to roost. Tackle they must and I would expect a far better performance from the loose forwards next week.
The All Blacks deserve praise for their ability to let the ball do the work, whether it was Lomu up the middle or the long passes to the wings, they kept the ball flowing. One can only wonder what could have been had Wales possessed the backline ability of South Africa or New Zealand. To their credit they never gave up and were it not for some indecision in the flyhalf channel, they could well have sprung a surprise.
Clearly the best performance of the day goes to the entire All Black forward pack, a great all round performance. South Africa possesses some explosive backs and if one can single out players then it is Conradie and Joubert who win the most accolades. The Welsh were the most impressive kickers of the ball. Time after time touch kicks were executed without fault and the other teams can learn from this. Italy deserves credit for never giving up, no matter how big the odds were.
As for the coming weekend I do not expect any surprises. The All Black pack will dominate the rucks and mauls and provide a mountain of possession for their backs. Ireland has too many changes in the backs to warrant a serious threat and will battle to fully utilize the brilliance of O' Driscoll. Wales will be hoping for a wet field and will attempt to dominate up front. If South Africa wins the forward exchanges their backs should dominate.
|Wales in “Bloem” by Mark Foster|
The first test of Rudolf Straeuli’s tenure is best described as
“satisfactory”. The Bloemfontein faithful attended an exciting match
where seven tries were scored and more importantly their own team, in the
end, won convincingly. The Springbok class of ’02 did not start very
well, understandable with 5 new caps and a first outing as a team but they
did end well and as the saying goes – all’s well that ends well! It is
never that simple though - here follows a short analysis of the first test
The Welsh tight five dominated the first quarter and they were superb in the set phases making the Springboks look disorganized. One of the basics neglected by the men in Green was the clearing out at the point of breakdown and precious ball was lost to superior Welsh numbers. This in turn prohibited the exciting young backline to attack instead it was the Welsh wing, Morgan who managed to dot down with a simple step around some very ordinary defense. The second quarter belonged to the Springboks with a late flurry of tries after some excellent recycling and inspired option taking by debutant Conradie.
The Springboks produced a better second half in the set phases especially the lineouts where the “back to basics” conventional tactics created some quality ball for attacking forays and clearance under pressure. The breakdown remained a bit of a challenge and this will be the area Straeuli will target most for improvement this coming weekend. “Runners” out wide, where most of the Springbok forwards were camping are useless without the ball. The identification of ball carriers is important and it is part of the game plan to set up phases for these players to have an effect however not everyone is a ball carrier!
The Springbok forward’s used the maul to good effect, not only did it produce a couple of tries it helped a lot in setting up a decent platform for the sniping runs of Pretorius, Russel, Joubert et al. After all, the shortest way over the advantage line is a few yards forward via a cohesive forward drive, “fringers” are forced to curb the momentum and therefore space opens up wide. Simple really and with Conradie, a conventional scrumhalf in charge, expect big things from a talented backline with space to maneuver.
The positives are easy to list and need no explanation:
* A Springbok victory.
* Emergence of new talent.
* Johannes Conradie and Andre Pretorius.
* Only the first test of the season.
The negatives were:
* Discipline – although better than last season, some players disregard the referee's calls, quite simply if he shouts, “leave the ball” or ”no hands” an immediate response will prohibit a penalty. Player’s need to listen and think, easier said than done but it is possible and at this level expected.
15 Ricardo Loubscher – 5.5 did not last too long before he was replaced due to a rib injury. Made some good touchfinders but was not really tested by the opponents.
14 Stefan Terblanché – 5.5 had a few opportunities but botched his best chance with a weak chip kick that almost resulted in an opposition try. His support was invaluable and defence strong but his line kicking not very good, the reason being his right foot along the right touchline angles the ball away from touch.
13 Marius Joubert – 8 the young midfielder was quiet in the first 20 minutes but his thunderous defense impressed although he conceded a penalty or two. On attack he looked the most dangerous of the backs with the space created by Pretorius and with his provincial partner, Barry back in the fray he will be even better in the second test. Also scored a fine first test try – for backline players’ confidence, scoring tries are very important.
12 André Snyman – 5 he is not an inside centre, this was not Snyman’s best test and his defensive lapse was very unlike him. A far better outside centre he still has a role to play in the future.
11 Breyton Paulse – 6 not much opportunities for the winger and left wing does not suit his favourite left foot. A reprieve from his usual “scrumhalf” duties made him less involved in the general play. He needs to run himself into position more now that he has a scrumhalf that performs his primary role; the result will be more tries for the little winger.
10 André Pretorius – 7 a solid start by the pivot before he was moved to fullback where he also proved to be exciting. His touchfinders was good and safe with only one or two that did not find the line, luckily no tries were conceded. He will need to improve his goal kicking; the swirling wind at Vodacom Park did not help combined with first test nerves. He is a classy flyhalf though and needs a few matches to settle and then dominate like he did in the Super 12.
9 Johannes Conradie – 8.5 the best performer on the day, the little scrumhalf made all the correct decisions and the only negative was his slow service in the first few minutes but when the forwards did their job his confidence was supreme. His sniping breaks produced two tries and his vision was exemplary, needs to work on his kicking from the base as an added weapon in an already formidable arsenal.
8 Bob Skinstad (captain) – 7 the captain played well and looked dangerous on the break, a handling error or two has become a trademark, he needs to eradicate that. His lineout work was excellent and his defense around the fringes strong. His captaincy was good and man management excellent as usual, he could have changed the lineout shambles earlier by returning to basics. A satisfactory outing and a very good running angle for his try.
7 AJ Venter – 6 the tough flanker did not settle very well and although he did a lot of the donkey work, the loose trio did not perform very well as a combination. His discipline was a bit shady and he was lucky nobody noticed his one shoulder charge, that was yellow card stuff. He will improve with Krige back in the pack.
6 Warren Britz – 5.5 the “fetcher” was not at his best in this game, nerves may have played a part and he was beaten to the breakdown by the Welsh with their bodies on the ground. The game was not ideal for his talents; he requires an imposing tight five display.
5 Victor Matfield – 5.5 the “star” lock did not do too much and struggled in the first half in the lineouts, it seems like a season with the Bulls has finally caught up with him. Although he did improve in the second half and scored a try, nothing came from the promise to play a tighter game.
4 Jannes Labuschagne – 6 the young lock carried the ball well and provided some “go-forward” when used as runner. His lineout work is still under scrutiny but that is obviously not the main reason for his inclusion. A satisfactory performance needs to be improved upon unless he wants his position usurped by returning injured Springboks.
3 Willie Meyer – 6 the old “geezer” did well although nothing terribly exciting however the main focus for a prop should be the basics of scrumming supporting in the lineouts and cleaning up in the rucks. Willie’s experience will come in handy against the “giants” like Oz and Kiwi as long as he curbs the penalties.
2 James Dalton – 7 mistakenly appointed man of the match, “Bullet” played very well but not m.o.m stuff – arguably with Skinstad the best forward on display he was a bit clueless in the lineouts in the first half (attribute this to bad calls and making the phase more complex than what it is!). His commitment and “go-forward” was excellent and if he can instigate more of his fellow players the Springbok pack will be fiery. His discipline was very good.
1 Daan Human – 6 a very good test for the debutant, he was solid in the scrums and generally did what was expected of him. With a few more tests under his belt he can develop into a great prop for South Africa.
16 Ollie le Roux – 6 not a classic hooker but there was no faulting his lineout throwing and movement around the pitch for a big man. Many believe that his props cannot bind around his big body but the Springbok scrum was certainly solid!
17 Faan Rautenbach – 6 scored a try on debut and with a few more second half appearances to bolster his experience expect him to start with schoolboy friend Human in the Tri Nations.
18 Quinton Davids – did not play
19 Joe van Niekerk – 5 came on for Warren Britz and got stuck in but he is not yet the super sub that will make an instant impact. The problem is, what is his best position?
20 Craig Davidson – did not play
21 Brent Russell – 6 replaced Pretorius at flyhalf and looked very dangerous with the ball in hand, he tended to do a bit too much by himself – the reason being that in international rugby the same gaps exist as in a “normal” match the difference is the speed at which they get closed down. He will learn with every outing and remain a potent strike force, a good investement.
22 Adrian Jacobs – 5 replaced Andre Snyman but also provide very little in the form of an impact.
Match Rating – 5.5
The second test will be a different prospect with both sides far more aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The Welsh did very well and will have more self-belief and hope to build on their first 30 minutes. Heavy weather is a distinct possibility and they should fancy their chances of winning if it rains at Newlands on Saturday. The Springboks will never live up to the expectations of a demanding and mostly unrealistic public. For a very young team a first win was vital, they now know what test rugby is about and with that realization can go out and perform to their true ability. From what we have seen, this side has a lot of ability and the inclusion of Krige and Barry will strengthen them considerably. Easy it will not be and they need to impose from word go, improvement on a weekly basis will eventually be rewarded.
|Upcoming International Fixtures|
Don't hit him in the honeymoons. Andre Watson
Both referees are having bad games - Mr Turner's having a shocker and George Gregan isn't doing much better. Darryl Brohman
Losing to NSW is like masturbating, or losing a golf ball. You feel really remorseful afterwards. But you know it will happen again if you're not careful. Chris "Buddha" Handy
Nobody doubts Victor (Matfield) as a line-out forward, even though the line-outs were an abortion at the weekend, but you must first gain control before you can start standing loose. Kobus Wiese
We are going there as CANNON-FODDER and I fear that over the course of two Tests, Wales will concede more than 100 points. Barry John
|A few more quotes from the footballers|
My parents have always been there for me, ever since I was about 7.
We lost because we didn't win. Ronaldo
You've got to believe that you're going to win, and I believe we'll win the World Cup until the final whistle blows and we're knocked out. Peter Shilton
|Letters to the Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)|
This is my first response to Rugby Forum and I'm not sure about the address, so I hope that it arrives at the right place :)
The letters in your latest Rugbyf Forum motivated me to write. It seems to be the "Pick on Bob Skinstad" edition. To the venerable gentlemen who wrote to criticise Bob, I would like to say the following:
1. A wide variety of coaches - Viljoen, Mallett, Solomons, Straeuli - as well as a number of acknowledged rugby icons - Morne du Plessis, Divan Serfontein - have either selected Bob or spoken well of him. Are we to assume that all these persons, who have proven themselves at the highest level, are so ignorant that they will choose a player who just does not belong in the Bok team? Or are we to assume that provincial and/or personal jealousy and/or a lack of knowledge formed their opinions? I suspect that the latter is closest to the truth.
2. I'll bet that many people were glad that Straeuli was appointed Bok coach, because they thought that his first
action would be to drop Skinstad. Gee, what a disappointment it must have been. And now the glory boy is STILL captain. My suggestion is that they go tell Straeuli that he is an idiot. But, please not by letter, phone, fax or email. Do it in person.
3. Skinstad did not and does not pick himself. He plays rugby. The rest is up to the coach. And, as pointed out above, we have had our fair share of coaches over the last decade with varying degrees of success. They all have made some mistakes in their selections. Are we to assume that these men, considering their intimate involvement with rugby, all made the same WRONG decision, i.e. Skinstad? Is it not more likely that this is the one decision they all got RIGHT?
I find these personal criticisms of Skinstad petty and, frankly, upsetting. It is one thing to criticise a player objectively. Players like Montgomery, Rossouw, Joost have all been justly criticised at times. But when it descends to a personal level, the critic says more about himself than he says about the object of his criticism.
4. Finally, referring to the A-Z in this issue of Rugby Forum by Somebody Crowe - I find the snide little digs at Skinstad in bad taste. It may have been done in a lighter vein, but unfortunately it requires a better writer than Crowe to make it work on that level.
Again we have a new coach and again some players are chosen as they were before. People are always complaining about players who don't belong there. Percy played 51 tests and was chosen by by every coach since Carel and Gert. The same goes for Bob since he was chosen the first time. What does that tell you? Either all the coaches see something in these players that we don't or they all think alike about these players. I can't understand how people can still attack the players so much if they have abs olutely no say in who gets picked or not. Hottie Louw had again a great Super 12, but he is still not in the team.
Why don't people say anything about that? It is time that we support all the players who gets chosen, irrespective if we like them or not. If all these people "knows" more than our coaches, then go and become a trainer and then you can choose who you want. I bet most of these complainers stopped to play the game after school. That my friend doesn't make you an expert. Not even if you have played the game until you were nearly 34 years old like me or if you were a Springbok. We are all people and each pers on has his own ideas and own vision who will give him the best results when he chooses his team.
So stop attacking players, irrespective who they are. They don't pick themselves. Rather support them and make a positive contribution towards the game by getting involved with mini rugby etc. Then you will also start to understand the complexities of choosing a team of 10 players out of 20 brilliant young boys who just want to play the game.
Thank you for a great forum and may it go from strength to strength. The more we talk, the more we understand each other.
Many thanks to Tom Marcellus for his tribute to Hansie.
With regards to his comments on the so-called match-fixing the following:
We must not forget that the only match in which any attempt at "fixing" was involved, was an insignificant tribute match that the cricket boards forced onto the SA and Indian teams, on a day which the teams were scheduled to have a rest day. It was not a test match, nor was it an ODI; the statistics of that match would have been meaningless. It was nothing more than a friendly, played against the players' wishes and as such the result did not matter to anyone except the bookmakers. In the end no " fixing" took place anyhow.
With regards to other money that Hansie received... who amongst us would not have taken it? I would have said to myself: "It's easy money, it has no effect on me or my team, I'm not giving anything away that these idiots could not have gotten themselves and, besides, at the same time I'm financially punishing these stupid vultures who keep on bugging me!" Hordes of international cricketers were doing it anyway, even though only a few names were exposed.
The uproar that followed was pure lunacy. To me, the whole episode has been erased from the memory bank and I shall only remember Hansie as the valiant cricketing warrior, bold leader and gentle people-person that he was. End of story.
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