Editors Note


Volume 2, Week 30

Editors Note

Brilliant!      Welcome to Week 30! Phew, the year has flown by faster than a Brent Russell sprint for the try line! August was by far the most successful month for Rugby Forum to date, the website www.rugbyforum.co.za attracted its most ever hits, there was a host of new subscribers and the letters from readers were just phenomenal, thank you! RF will aim to continue with its entertainment value as well as creditable unbiased rugby analysis, well sort of! Feel free to send me your opinion and/or suggestions on how to make it even better, and yes… you to Chris!

The Currie Cup is in mid swing but unlike the poetic fluidity of Ernie Els’s golf swing the past weekend produced a few hiccups in both results and performances. The Lions played some very ordinary rugby against a highly committed Puma side and Louis Koen, the test incumbent less than a year ago, was both villain and hero by missing easy kicks but slotting a monstrous 50 meter effort for a win they hardly deserved. The relief on captain Andre Vos and coaching staff’s faces were clear for all to see , this win probably ensured their continuation in next year’s Currie Cup but they need to have a hard look at their efforts and why with the talent available mediocre performance follows mediocre performance.

The Cheetas was good value for money in an easy victory over the Falcons and in this game it was not the continued improvement of Rassie Erasmus and Andre Venter that impressed me but the excellent match played by Hanyani Shimange and Kennedy Tsimba. The two have been returning some awesome performances over the last few weeks against admittedly the minnows of the competition and hopefully they can prove as effective against the big guns. Free State continue to play the free flowing rugby that they are famous for and it is easy to see why young players stand out in this team, there are patterns of course but players are encouraged to use their flair and natural ability. Many seem to “lose” these skills when wrapped up in the bigger unions and forced to play in a “certain manner” or make way for another equally gifted player that does conform.

The biggest disappointment of the weekend was the Bulls Sharks match in front of an excellent crowd in Pretoria. The match was tough and there was a lot of niggle but the bad option taking of players robbed spectators of some glorious running rugby. Gone was the dancing rapier and back was the blunt broadsword – Northern Transvaal rugby was back in full force only Jaco van der Westhuysen failed to dictate with the kicking boot as his more illustrious predecessors. However both teams will be bitten, chewed and swallowed by a team as dominant up front but with backs that punish mistakes with tries. There is one team capable of that feat and they are the double defending champions Western Province.

WP scored ten tries against Griquas, and sparked the defeated coach Swys De Bruin to proclaim them better than the Springboks. Hold on Swys, that is a big call!! But remember the heady days of the Aukland team, the Transvaal team and even the Natal Sharks of the late nineties. These provincial teams were arguably better than most if not all the national outfits of the time purely because they played seasons of rugby together. Look at the WP team, they double as the Stormers in the Super 12, that is 13 weeks and 11 matches not to mention the preparations and warm ups then a lot of them play for the Spri ngboks and then the Currie Cup – repeat this for a few seasons and it is easier to believe or even make such a statement. 

One of the few barometers was international tours, when the All Blacks and British Lions played against provincial teams and on occasion lost. It is good to hear that the powers that be are trying to resurrect the longer tours and a three match series. It is a similar scenario as cricket, one-day internationals against the five-day tests. Give me back the tours any day!

The weekend is the final round before the Top Eight section kicks off and the next round will be a fairer reflection of player and team abilities. Enjoy the weekend matches and support rugby live!



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Those fighting Irish by Tom Marcellus
With apologies to the Bulls and Sharks, the lull in the domestic rugby season this past weekend afforded me the luxury of engaging in one of my favourite past-times – and no, I am not talking about an afternoon spent ogling that blue-nippled waitress down at The Spotted Dick. The idle past-time in question was far more cerebral than such mere mindlessness, and combined two of my key interests, namely the study of our beloved oval game and of the art of combat.

I have, on a number of occasions, referred in these noble pages to the kinship between these two savage but inherently noble endeavours, with their common emphasis on team-spirit, communal effort, and pluck, not to mention old fashion grit 'n determination. In fact Brian Forsyth, in a splendid article titled "The Fearless Opponent" (see www.rugbyforum.co.za/Week16.htm) writes in glowing terms of one Tommy Crean, who played with distinction for the British Isles during their tour of SA in 1896, and subsequently won a Victoria Cross for his gallantry during the Boer War.

The illustrious Mr Crean aside, no rugby player (in the mind of this humble armchair correspondent) more epitomises the mongrel qualities required of both the top-grade international rugger player and the grizzled fighting soldier than Lt Col RB "Paddy" Mayne, DSO and three bars, formerly of the Royal Ulster Rifles. His short life is well-deserving of a brief biography in this august publication!

Blair Mayne was born in 1915 and played test rugby as a lock forward for Ireland and the British Isles in the years immediately prior to the Second World War. Mixing brain with brawn, he was a qualified Belfast lawyer, and, in his youth, was also the heavyweight boxing champion of Irish Universities. The culmination of his sporting career came in 1938, when he toured South Africa as a member of Sam Walker's British Lions team that was beaten by Danie Craven's Springboks.

Craven, in later years, spoke very highly of the skills of Mayne, and in the 1950's selected Mayne as one of the finest lock forwards that he had ever seen play. This was high praise indeed, considering that Mayne's fame, by then, had extended far beyond the carefree rugby fields of those pre-war days. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to suppose that, upon his tragic death in 1955, Mayne was the most decorated soldier in the British Army.

Paddy Mayne joined No 11 Commando as a lowly 2nd lieutenant in 1940, and soon found himself "mixing it with the Hun up North" in the invasion of Syria. 11 Commando was landed at the Litani River mouth and captured all its objectives, but lost over 100 men killed. In a harbinger of glories to come, Mayne was mentioned in despatches for his gallantry in action.

This skirmish with Axis forces over, Mayne then settled into the traditional past-times of the off-duty Paddy soldier, and his enormous capacity for drink and violence soon got him into hot water. In fact, he was still under close arrest for punching his commanding officer when a youthful commando officer called David Stirling recruited him for a fledgling troop that he wished to have sent in covert ops behind enemy lines. A legendary partnership soon formed between the visionary Stirling and the combustible Mayne, as the two men provided the nucleus around which the famed Special Air Service (SAS) soon developed.

Stirling had promised action, and Mayne soon found himself leading one of the SAS patrols in the Regiment's disastrous first operation in the Western Desert, and on subsequent more successful but equally brazen raids onto enemy-held airfields. On one occasion, when the SAS' supply of homemade bombs had been expended, Mayne disabled an aircraft by ripping out its control panel with his bare hands. Poor Fokker.

Later on, when the SAS found itself equipped with jeeps, Mayne was in his element. Although he enjoyed shooting up German aircraft with the fast-firing Vickers machine guns, undoubtedly his favourite party trick was to drive a jeep through the Officers' Mess after particularly heavy drinking sessions in camp at Kabrit. But his antics were not limited to his fellow Tommies, and on one occasion, deep behind enemy lines, he admonished an Italian sentry in broken Dago for not challenging him: "I might be a British agent", he told the startled sentry.

By 1943, Stirling, who had earned himself the sobriquet of "The Phantom Major" because of his elusiveness, was kicking his heels at Colditz Castle, and Mayne had become the most coolly efficient leader of fighting troops in Monty's 8th Army. As one contemporary wrote: "As a fighter he was unsurpassed, for his very presence in the full flood of his wrath was enough to unnerve the strongest of human beings".

After the Regiment's baptism of fire in North Africa, Mayne lead his troops with distinction through Sicily and up the boot of Italy, and then hand-in-glove with the French Resistance after the Normandy landings in 1944, when 1 SAS was the first full squadron ashore. Once again showing a matchless aptitude for fighting, Mayne was always in the thick of things, leading his men on countless raids and ambushes into German-held territory. He had a number of close calls during his months behind enemy lines, and on one occasion his patrol arrived to hide-up at a farmhouse, only to find it occupied by Jerries. A short firefight ensued, but Mayne was a fearsome fighting soldier and his skills never let him down – the luckless Huns were soon dispatched to a warriors' paradise!

By the time Mayne was demobbed from the Army in late 1945, he had received four Distinguished Service Orders (DSO's) for his courage and leadership under enemy fire, and latter-day historians have often expressed the view that, had it not been for his occasionally abrasive personality, he would have been awarded the Victoria Cross. Bearing in mind Mayne's all too apparent talents for mayhem and destruction, it is no wonder that Doc Craven was such an admirer of the young Ulster lock back in 1938.< br>
Cricket may have its style and grace, soccer its speed and agility, but none of the great sports can match the rugged, manly qualities required of the top class rugby player, as typified by those two magnificent Irishmen, Crean and Mayne.

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Never a Classic by Desmond Organ
Saturday’s game between the Bulls and The Sharks was described by several writers as a classic Currie Cup encounter typifying a top of the table clash. That it failed to produce more than a handful of positive points has me thinking that there is a need to market the sale of newspapers irrespective of what actually happens on the field. 

Websites and newspapers alike have spoken of the revival in the Currie Cup encounters since the Tri Nations, well hold your horses, the revival might be a marketing strategy and not much more. Naas Botha always used to say that the Currie Cup is not won in the month of May; I can say quite comfortably that a revival cannot be based on a last minute victory in a test match. We will need quite a bit more time and commitment if the positive elements of the Springboks are to filter down to the Provinci al level.

Several of the evils that hampered the Boks were there for all to see in this stereotypical exercise in opponent bashing. Let’s consider the comments of a colleague who whilst not being a rugby genius has a very good understanding of the game on a global level. 

“A year has passed since I last watched the Sharks and Bulls in action in the Currie Cup and it was just as awful as a year ago, no wonder the Springboks are battling to build on the individual brilliance of a few players.”

Several weeks ago I highlighted some of the major problems confronting the Springboks. Kick offs, ball protection and interplay between the forwards and backs were at the top of the list. Neither side on Saturday did much to give me the impression that anything is being done to rectify the problems. Both teams seemed content to hoof the ball down the field and leave a backline player to compete with a single forward who had finally decided that somebody has to go for the ball. The Sharks were reall y awful at the restarts and one wonders whether their lock hopefuls did their national aspirations any good at all. 

The securing of possession was another area where significant work has got to be done. The Sharks were dominant in the scrummaging department in the first 55 minutes of the game but were not able to clear the ball quickly enough. The scrumhalf was more often than not trying to protect himself from the opposing set of forwards, something that plagued the Boks up until the test at Ellis Park. Only in the second half did we see the positive aspects of the pick and drive game that has been employed by the Bulls. But success in one sphere of the game is not going to ensure victory against more refined opponents. 

If anything the Sharks are plagued by the same evils of their Super 12 campaign. The only real area of improvement is the fitness of the individual players. So instead of the Bulls being walloped because of their stereotypical play and the Sharks being in it until the last 15 minutes; we are rewarded with a draw. Now is that not great news for the positives that have come out of the Tri Nations campaign. The Bulls are about as imaginative as a boiled egg, let’s hope that Rudi Joubert can do more fo r the region than the current incumbent who for my money is so one dimensional as to be predictable. The interplay between forwards and backs was awful. At least the Sharks showed some good intention only to be undone by handling errors and inconsistent decision making.

There was a lot of hype before the game concerning the national aspirations of several of the players on show; well there were a few who did increase their chances purely on the basis of individual commitment. In this regard one has to highlight the efforts of Warren Britz who was tireless in the loose; so much so that the much spoken of Wannenberg and Wasserman were only able to operate once the Bulls had intimidated the Sharks and killed off any chance of creativity with their negative style of play. There were flashes of distributive brilliance from James and Keil but nothing to suggest that they are going to be able to step up to the national level. 

The Bulls were impressive in the lineout and in the pick and drive, but the Sharks defence was able to quell any threat and a team like the Brumbies would have killed off any Bulls revival well before the interval. The Sharks were not quite able to get it together. The scrummaging was superb, but so it should be with the players at their disposal. John Smit is looking better and better with every game, however his inability to find his jumpers is a repetitive problem. Van den Bergh used to steal at random, now he is more a spectator, the same can be said of Andrews who is looking like a good candidate for retirement. 

The Sharks backs are somewhat more creative than during the Super 12, but there is a continuing problem with utilising scoring opportunities and Mr. van Rensburg may be looking for a new coaching post before the season is out. The less said about the creativity of the Bulls the better. Had the Sharks executed more precisely they would have been buried before the interval.

Let’s all share a collective sigh of relief in the belief that Mr. Straeuli and company can further utilise the brilliance of individuals and stamp out the problems that are continuing to plague several of the major Currie Cup hopefuls. I for one hope that I can be spared the embarrassment of having to watch another 80 minutes of missed opportunities.

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Normal Service Resumed by Vinesh Naicker
The NPC first division competition finally seems to be starting to follow the script. The Super 12 franchise holders all came through with wins this weekend.

Wellington played Northland at home in Wellington and although they won comfortably in the end there is still a lack of fluidity in the team. Northland lacked hunger, once again, seeming to sit back and expect their two Fijian wingers to pull out some sort of miracle. It didn’t happen and they went down 51-18. Wellington put on 21 points in the last 20 minutes so it was a bit flattering to them in the end.

Taranaki vs. Waikato was the game of the round for me. I couldn’t pick a winner for this one. Waikato should have been the stronger team due to the number of Super 12 players in their team, but Taranaki dealt to Auckland and Otago in the first couple of rounds, they also boast the hard working Hurricanes forwards. Waikato really surprised Taranaki though, instead of taking them on in the backs they drove through the middle repeatedly. One particular rolling maul drove 40 metres down the field onl y stopping two meters from the try line. Taranaki were shredded and new kid on the block Reagan King playing his first NPC season at centre scored 3 tries. Waikato winning 48-19 and remaining top of the table after 3 rounds with 15 points.

I went to see the Auckland vs. North Harbour game. The first half was pretty uninspiring with each team only scoring one try, both long range efforts. Harbour led 7-5 at the break. The only explanation I have for what happened after the break is that “Susie” of WC95 fame must have been giving the Harbour boys cups of tea at the break, because they fell apart in the second half. Auckland moved up a gear but Harbour made them look good with poor defensive alignment. The second half was a rout with Auckland winning 43-7.

Canterbury defended the Ranfurly Shield against a feisty Southland team. Prudently Canterbury brought most of their All Blacks back and although they looked rusty they did the job. Canterbury winning 48-27. Special mention needs to be made of Southland No 7 Ben Herring (who scored an intercept pass against Wellington last week) he scored a double this week, one involving a 35 meter dash for the line. Southland finished with a bonus point for four tries. How many teams have scored four tries against Canterbury (i.e. the Crusaders and All Blacks) this season?

Bay of Plenty (BOP) went down 46-31 to Otago but scored a bonus point for four tries.

It’s good to see the potential cellar dwellers making it tough on the big boys this year. Surprisingly Northland is below both Southland and Bay of Plenty. Neither BOP or Northland have won a game but BOP has five bonus points while Northland has none.

In the second division Balie Swarts’ Nelson Bay team went on the road to take on Counties-Manukau. Counties Manukau is keen to get back into the first division continued after being relegated last year. Nelson Bay started well scoring a try in the fifth minute. However they made a number of mistakes and three tries resulted from missed tackles. Swart felt they played well in the first and last 20 minutes but “mucked it up in the middle two 20’s”. Their job doesn’t get any easier next week, playing Hawkes Bay who won the second division title last year.

Rumours are flying about Taine Randell leaving to play in Britain next year. A lot of people feel sorry for him and are saying we need to keep him in the country. I struggle to understand this.

From an All Black and national point of view, what should the NZRFU do to make him stay? I agree that having him around is good for the NPC but at the end of the day he is not the best No 8 in the country. According to John Mitchell, Scott Robertson and even Sam Broomhall are better. Ron Cribb before he was injured was rated better. At NPC Rodney Soaialo is going great guns. At No 6 Reuben Thorne, Troy Flavell and Jerry Collins all must rank above Taine.

Taine is a great bench player and that has probably been his downfall. John Mitchell has been stating all year that he is looking for specialists. The only utilities he wants is one at centre and a lock/flanker, Taine is neither. If Taine had shown some spine in the last four years and chosen a position, stuck with it and improved he’d probably be in the All Blacks, instead he is still the same soft player and captain he’s always been. His downfall is that he’s got a great amount of talent but has never shown the hard edge necessary against the big test teams. Taine has had his chances but let’s not forget that he holds several records.

· The only captain to lead the All Blacks to five consecutive defeats.
· The captain when the All Blacks had their largest losing margin.
· The captain who lost both the Bledisloe and Tri-Nations tournaments in 1998.
· The captain who lost the 1999 World Cup
· The only All Black captain to lose two matches at a World Cup.

Cold hard logic says that Taine gets paid a large sum of money to play a game we all love. If he goes to Britain he will play against lesser opposition and will easily earn three times the amount. Where is the downside for him? Why should we feel sorry for him again?

The only trouble is my legs are not as strong as they were. I can't run any more.      George Daneel, the oldest living Springbok (98).

It was a real old-fashioned game and there is no doubt that the Bulls bullied us. You don't often see rugby played like that nowadays and it was an important lesson.       Kevin Putt

When it comes to the issue of me retiring, don't believe any crap you read in the papers until I actually make the decision myself.      Martin Johnson

That it was hardest Currie Cup game I have handle in the last two years.      Andre Watson on the Bulls sharks match.

We do have the respect of our opposition, but above all, we're bringing the people of South Africa back to rugby. Rudolf Straeuli

Rugby is a very social sport, and it conjures the image that when the game is over, you roll the keg of beer onto the field and go to drinking right away. Well, that's not a myth. That goes on and has gone on for a very long time at a variety of levels. It's part of the mystique of being involved in club rugby.         Frank Graziano

THE REAL BOB SKINSTAD: Get the October issue of SA Rugby magazine now for an inside look at SA's golden boy. To subscribe to SA Rugby phone 021-418-0141 or e-mail monarchc@mweb.co.za

Currie Cup Results
Date Home For Against Away Venue
31/08/2002 Blue Bulls 17 17 Natal Sharks Loftus Versveld
31/08/2002 Griquas 24 68 Western Province Absa Park
31/08/2002 Falcons 15 47 Cheetahs Pam Brink Stadium
31/08/2002 Cavaliers 44 19 Griffons Boland Stadium
30/08/2002 Pumas 35 36 Lions Puma Stadium
30/08/2002 Leopards 10 37 Eagles Olën Park

Letters to the Editor (letters@rugbyforum.co.za)
Dear Sir/Madam

Re: Extortion of UK-based Springbok fans

I am writing this letter to point out the ridiculous charges being levied on UK-based Springbok supporters. The only way to obtain tickets for the Twickenham test for Springbok fans is to enrol at the Springbok supporters club (£40 - renewable yearly of course), then £30 for the ticket, a £3 "handling fee" (which, due to "assistance" from SA Rugby (PTY) LTD has been cut down from £10), a surcharge of R100 and finally the postage. Rough guess, this will all add to £80 for a £30 pound ticket. 

Of course I will mention the other "advantages" of joining this club:

· Your personal membership card (wow!)
· A mouse pad (riveting stuff) 
· The chance to obtain tickets
· A golf day (sorry, I don't play)
· Future access to a "Springbok supporters club credit card"
· Merchandise (probably overpriced)
· Win Castle Lager cases
· Club competition
· Electronic newsletter
· Special offers

Now all this sounds great, but all I want (and can afford) is a ticket to the game (of course, members only allowed one ticket each - sorry wife, girlfriend, work-colleague, flatmate). In my 6 years here I've been struck by the fact the most other South Africans around here in probably between 20 and 35 and on a short-term stay. Can we afford membership to things we'll never use?

I apologise if it comes across that I'm just having a moan, but SA RUGBY (PTY) LTD is pricing their own fans out the market.

Anyone got a ticket spare?

Ryan Spencer

Hi Ed.

Marius Stegmann hits the nail on the head! Strange how the Gautengers/Freestaters etc all have a funnel vision when it comes to W.P. players especially Bob Skinstad! We know he is a brilliant guy to say the least. 

E. Pennel 

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