Editors Note


Volume 2, Week 32

Editors Note

Brilliant!      And so the end of the namby pamby wishy-washy rounds of the Currie Cup. Admittedly the past two weeks provided some sterling stuff but it was strength v strength and now with the Top 8 we should see a few weeks of closely fought (metaphorically speaking!) duels between teams playing for the most prestigious trophy of them all. Cannot wait!

The overwhelming positive feeling in South African rugby at present has a lot to do with the performance of the Springboks and the new crop of heroes unearthed in part by Rudolf Straeuli. The Russells, van Niekerk’s, Greeff’s and Pretorius’ are out there, what is needed is astute selection and talent spotting. The old masters, ‘Oubaas’ Makotter en Dok Craven believed in footballers and did not shirk from elevating unknowns into the cauldron of test rugby.

The magnificent crowds at all the matches over the weekend is a simple vote of confidence in the product and playing in front of 40,000 people no doubts inspires many a player to perform even better. The most difficult stadium to fill is arguably Ellis Park, not only is it situated in a slightly unsavoury area – the unsavoury area inevitably lives up to its reputation! It was therefore a fantastic site to see all the supporters in black and red waving their flags and André Pretorius can be forgiven for thinking it was an away match, such was the volume of Sharks' support.

Talking of Ellis Park, the Lions/Sharks u/21 match was televised just before the main dish and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen such brilliant rugby played. The Lions have a magnificent team and their 76-10 drubbing of a hapless, outclassed Sharks team was an absolute joy to watch. The tries were crafted by hard working forwards, superbly skippered by Roland Bernard, SA u/21 star and the backs flourished with the superfluous ball. The tries were all good enough to appear in a try of the season competition, there are plenty of young talent out there!

The “big boys” inspired by their juniors, also dished up a thoroughly enjoyable affair with quality rugby and some stellar performances from the likes of van Niekerk, Pretorius, Daniels, Labuschagne and Loubscher. The Lions deserved their victory and the class of their Springbok incumbents was the difference. The Sharks missed captain, Mark Andrews and they need to press any advantages gained on the field into points and retain the pressure, the last few weeks have revealed “walkabout” periods in t heir play.

The Cheetas from the Free State beat champions Western Province convincingly and with Kennedy Tsimba finally displaying top form against top competition cemented their place at the top of the Top 8 round. WP struggled and they are clearly missing a few vital players like Krige, Gerber and Visagie/Rautenbach. 

The less said about the much-maligned incident involving Fleck and Venter the better, there were two offenders, punishment was meted out, end of story. There is one problem though and that is consistency in punishment. Like any normal hearing involving lawyers, judges etc there is argument and counter argument based on evidence and testimony. Professional players all have lawyers, hopefully the judge(s)/committee hearing the cases are/include men qualified in the law, this will ensure some type of stare decisis or law of precedent for the future.

The whole referee debate has created an “openness” last seen with the crumbling of the Berlin Wall. Everybody is talking, explaining and things are hunky dory or just about - critics have failed to address one serious problem and that is the influence of the commentator. The commentators are all splendid fellows but they are blissfully unaware of the laws of the game! Their pronunciations conspire to many of the prejudices and misinterpretations of the general supporters. All commentators should be given a lawbook to study, exam to write and then only allowed to “educate” their millions of listeners and viewers.

The coming weekend will see one of the most mouth-watering clashes of the local calendar, WP v the Natal Sharks. The fixture has since the late nineties replaced the old WP v NTvl rivalry of the eighties for intensity and emotion. Saturday at Newlands will be no different. Both teams lost crucial matches over the weekend and this game is vital for confidence and momentum leading up to the semi’s. The Cheetas take on the Bulls in another huge clash in Bloemfontein and Rassies’ men will want to consolidate an unbeaten Top 8 record and a home semi final.

Next week, Mark Foster will return with a weekly round up of the Top 8 matches. Get out there and support your local team live at the park! Enjoy!



Visit www.rugbyforum.co.za for statistics, all the quotes and an archive of previous issues

Let's Get it On! by Tom Marcellus
Being a fellow who shares a name with Cassius Marcellus Clay, sometimes known as Muhammad Ali (sadly no relation), and a birthday with his mortal foe, one "Smokin' Joe" Frazier, I have never been one to shy away from a spot of (as the inimitable Bill McLaren would put it) "How's yer Father". Although my own personal experience of the noble art of fisticuffs is limited to a vicious thrashing by a jealous husband in a carpark – totally unprovoked, of course – I have, since a boy, had an abiding interest in this most basic of contests.

In fact, only this weekend I was reminiscing with my Guv'nor about the time that he climbed through the ropes to spar with the then Rhodesian heavyweight champion, one Ringo Starr, because my Dad (at the time a Master Mariner who fancied his ability to take a good blow to the head), after looking on at an earlier sparring session, had rather brazenly decided that the Champ's sparring partners had about as much mongrel as a soggy biscuit. Needless to say, the old man, despite his eagerness, took a thorough beating!

But I digress. Of course, the relevance of this wee aside is the fact that those two Bok colleagues, Andre Venter and Robbie Fleck, had quite a meaty set-to at the Free State stadium on the week-end. Now I am no out-and-out fan of thuggery, and I would like that placed on the record, M'lud, but in this rather sanitised age, it was quite refreshing to see two players totally disregard all other influences – the reff, fellow players, prying TV cameras, stern-faced adjudicators, a week in the dog-bo x – and really sort out their issues, manu e manu.

Although my days as a swashbuckling flyhalf for the under 15F's taught me to avoid rucks, mauls and generally any gathering involving more than five sweaty forwards, I should imagine that there is something to be said in favour of these blatantly carefree physical confrontations between men. Grumbling Gavins may well argue in their nasal accents that the simple fact that we can condense what is essentially a vicious battle into an afternoon's entertainment, not to mention that we no longer eat eac h other and have found alternate uses for sheep, separates us from wild animals.

Judging by my own Internet meanderings, however, I think that I am not alone when I confess that I do occasionally hanker back to the days when the laws of the jungle seemed to prevail in rugger matches: when both the match and the fight were settled on the field, and the reff’s were mainly there to keep time and to ensure that neither side resorted openly to machine-guns and gas warfare. Although this weekend's punch-up was regrettable, as it elevated a game of rugger to the status of a Kempton P ark bar-brawl, I, for one, am relieved that the powers-that-be exercised their discretion and merely rapped the 2 players over the knuckles. I do not know what it is like to play in the cauldron that is Currie Cup rugby, but I can imagine that human nature simply demands that, occasionally, a grab and a tug quickly escalates into a full-on rumble. Let's not over-react here, people.

The gritty Mr Venter, rather surprisingly, seems to come off second best with his altercation with the far more spindly Fleckie, who, granted, resorted to rather desperate measures to avoid what appeared to be certain death. But then the big Free Stater is not renowned for bearing a grudge – and, hell, it's not like the swelling, bruises and 12 stitches have affected his looks. And by that, of course, I mean that he looks even more grizzled and manly.

Join the OFFICIAL SPRINGBOK SUPPORTERS CLUB by contacting 021-438-8185 during office hours or mail info@springboksupporters.co.za and take advantage of special offers, members discounts and great competitions and prizes!!

Stop the Brutality by Desmond Organ
Over the past few weekends the aggression that has always been a part of rugby appears to have taken on a new face. Ever since the criticism of referees and the actions of the under censured Mr. Van Zyl, we are perhaps even more aware of actions that do not meet with our approval.

The pictures of a blood drenched Andre Venter is hardly the type of thing that encourages parents to allow their children to play the game. Yet at the same time there is also an argument that this is a part of the game. I say so because their will always be the unintentional contact between heads and boots that are unintentionally directed at the opponent. South Africa is arguably at the forefront of trying to be the most law-abiding member of the IRB. 

Whether it is dealing with doping scandals or the criticism of referees by coaches and players alike we are extremely efficient at applying the letter of the law. There will always be the so-called unnoticed events on the field of play, a high tackle, the use of the boot that goes on without censure. Now that we have the citing procedures it is even more likely that a person could highlight the fact that some action should have been dealt with more effectively.

Rugby is a physical sport and by far the majority of injuries are caused as a result of the inability of the human body to deal with the repetitive onslaught of being bumped and bruised. There are those events that all of us watch on television that bring a gasp to our mouths and send the critics into an exercise of slamming the game. What is most important is the way that we deal with the events on the field.

This becomes difficult when the citing procedure is used to disrupt a team’s preparation or to play some kind of psychological battle with the opposing coach. This year we have seen no fewer than three events that have hardly received the censure that they deserve. There has been a manipulation of the finer print to minimize the impact on the offender. 

I can say without any reservation that if a South African had been involved, the world would have been screaming bloody murder. Rudolf Straeuli has absolutely the right approach when he deals with the pre match psychology that is part of the modern game. His mentor might have preferred total silence but the game is now more professional and a modification of one’s approach is inevitable. 

The Springboks were brought under the spotlight when there were several high tackles committed by a few of our players. These were censured on the field and some would say that it was a bit harsh. I think that this is the right approach, stop the brutality and the incidents that occur will be less likely to be categorized as deliberate. 
Butch James faced the letter of the law and it appears to have had the desired effect. It is a pity that several of his critics in the coaching and playing arena do not apply the same principles to their own situation. 

In my opinion the physical nature of the game and the speed at which it can be played are the hallmarks of South African rugby. It is after several years and modifications in approach that we are finally getting it right again. The South African forwards are definitely as physical as ever, despite a few regressive steps in the last few years. Combined with this we have some of the fastest and most skilled young backs in the world.

If the defensive process is optimized we are going to be in for some devastating rugby that no amount of psychological warfare will be able to undermine. It is important though that we do not engage in acts of deliberate brutality, even in the heat of the moment. There is a difference between being aggressive and being a dirty player. The time has come for offenders to be given their marching orders from the field of play. This needs to be applied evenly and not just to players who have been “popul arised” in the media. The Springboks should be prepared for a lot of attention as far as foreign coaches and commentators are concerned. It might even get worse, simply because they are extremely concerned with the possibility that the Springboks are about to dominate.

Join the SARUGBY news and discussion group for the fastest sarugby news and the most intense debates around the South African game. Send a blank email to sarugby-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Get rid of André Watson. Whom do you put in his place? Get rid of Paddy O'Brien. Whom do you put in his place? Get rid of Stuart Dickinson. Whom do you put in his place? Get rid of the whole of the top 16 referees in the world. Whom do you replace them with?       Law Discussion on www.planet-rugby.com

There is a lot of talk (about the referees) at the moment, which is not necessarily bad. This will hopefully pick up the levels for everyone, and maybe the intensity as well.      Gert Smal

It was an enjoyable year, but certainly if I was looking to gain anything to bring back to the Brumbies from French rugby, I couldn't really put my finger on much that would be worthwhile.      Joe Roff

There is no bad blood between us. Such things do happen in the heat of battle.      André Venter

Captain and coach must be seen to be banging the same drum.       Clive Woodward

Referees must stop the idle chatter, familiarity has no role to play on the field.      Rian Oberholzer

I play every game to win, it is not in my nature to throw a game.       Heyneke Meyer

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
14/10/2002 Cheetahs 31 26 Western Province Vodacom Park
14/10/2002 Blue Bulls 48 50 Elephants Loftus Versveld
14/10/2002 Lions 46 37 Natal Sharks Ellis Park
14/10/2002 Falcons 51 20 Griffons Pam Brink Stadium
13/10/2002 Pumas 48 16 Eagles Puma Stadium
13/10/2002 Griquas 27 18 Bulldogs Absa Park

Currie Cup Top 8 Log
Team Played Won Lost Draw Pts
Cheetahs 3 3 0 0 14
Blue Bulls 3 2 0 1 11
Western Province 3 2 1 0 10
Lions 3 2 1 0 10
Natal Sharks 3 1 1 1 8
Griquas 3 1 2 0 5
Pumas 3 0 3 0 3
Falcons 3 0 3 0 2

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

On behalf of the new Official Springbok Supporters Club I would like to respond to the 'simple case of extortion' article in last week's issue of Rugby Forum. In summary, Mr Organ's article focused on 4 main issues being the establishment of the new supporters club, benefits to international members of the club, ticket costs to England vs SA in November and the end of the supporters club franchise concept. 

1. The 'change in approach' that Mr Organ makes reference to is based on what came out of the Accenture report in that Springbok supporters both at home and around the world are core to the future success of the Springbok brand and the reality was that supporters were getting no value from the old supporters club. On this basis, the new Official Springbok Supporters Club was launched as of June 1 currently offering supporters in South Africa 3 membership package options, for UK and Europe currently 1 membership option and internationally 1 option.

2. In terms of the international membership package at $85 per annum, Mr Organ has his facts wrong in that included in this membership is an exclusive monthly supporters club magazine called "AmaBokke" which is mailed directly to members around the world. Over and above this we question whether he has seen the new Supporters Club T-shirt and Cap as they are unique and of the highest quality. Re benefits, we understand that currently many of the discounts, added value and monetary benefits are not re levant to members outside of the UK and SA but obviously these can be redeemed / utilised when international members are next in SA or the UK.

3. Regarding the ticket issue for the Twickenham test, herewith is a copy of a response from the Official Springbok Supporters club in the UK which has been communicated to South Africans in the UK via the SA Times newspaper. 

"There are a few HUNDRED thousand South African's living in the Greater London area, and TENS of thousands of members of the Springbok Supporters in the UK and South Africa, and yet the club get less than 2,000 tickets for Twickenham to satisfy ALL this demand - in the end there will be MANY people who do not get a ticket, and therefore disappointed. Given that demand will always outstrip supply for this match, we believe that the most equitable distribution policy is to provide 1 Twickenham ticket per Springbok Supporter Club member until we reach a maximum - thereafter even our members will have to go into a ballot.

For the record, NO MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC can purchase tickets directly from the RFU at Twickenham - you must either be a debenture holder (in which case your ticket costs at least GBP 100 each) or be a member of a rugby club (in which case you have a 1 in 50 chance of getting a ticket in the ballot). Alternatively, official Twickenham hospitality costs GBP 250 per person, or tickets are available on the black market at GBP 300 and upwards."

As can be seen from the above and in response to Mr Organ's comments, tickets are available via other sources at prices way in excess of the UK Supporters Club and without any of the Club benefits.

4. Regarding the franchise issue, once again based on the Accenture report, a business decision has been made to stop franchising the Supporters club brand both locally and internationally as franchisees were not offering any value to supporters and in many instances were involved in activities that had a negative impact on the Springbok brand. In terms of this necessary change in business strategy and in response to Mr Organ's 'reliable' source, the Springbok Supporters Club in the UK is not a fran chise but a joint venture with SA Rugby and the South African Supporters Club.

Thank you for the opportunity to clarify the issues raised in Mr Organ's article 

With kind regards

Selwyn Lewis
Managing Director
Official Springbok Supporters club

Hi Lucas

Brilliant to Freestate!! And a bad reflection on the WP boys. The PRIMA DONNA attitude of some Springboks playing Currie Cup rugby is shocking. Percy has taken badly to being tackled, lately. Once tackled, a fracas always followed. Funny that that did not happen Saturday. But, it was the turn of 2 other Province boys this time.6 minutes prior to the Fleck/Venter issue, young Jean Smith tackled De Wet Barry, legally, followed immediately by a punch from Barry. Just a word to young master Barry, if can dish it out, you must be able to take it.

This brings us to the second incident: Fleck/Venter. A perfectly legal tackle from Venter saw the Iron Man being punched whilst getting up. Yes, Venter retaliated with a punch, but what followed should see Fleck suspended for quite some time. Pushing his boots in Venter's face then racking his face does not make mother want their boys to play the game we love. Skinstad's charge into Venter does not bid well, and as the law clearly states, players charging in in a situation like that, should receive s evere punishment.

It would be interesting to see what SARFU will be doing about the issue, especially since nothing was done to Pedrie Wannenberg after his WWF power slam on Deon Kayser.

It is a hard and unforgiving game, but this type of hooliganism is totally unacceptable.

Good Luck to All in the S8

JB (Cape Town)

Hi Lucas,

Thanks again for your Forum. It is one of the few that I look forward to receiving as your comments are unbiased and viewed through a fairly informed eye.

My thought for the day is on the ref's. There is this huge furor about how bad/old/cheats etc that they are. My point is that when your team is winning you don't notice the errors but if not the ref gets abused or better still assaulted out of the game.

I do believe that there is a discrepancy between the interpretation of the North and South refs, but then there is only one ref's manual. One set of rules and the supporter has to be content with that.

Comments that the refs are not in position and miss forward passes or bad try decisions has merit but how many refs must control a game?

When a touch judge raises his flag to report an infringement the spectator moans, if the ref misses an infringement, the spectators moan. What is it that we want? The ref's are probably the fittest guys on the field at any given time, (they run their asses off )but there is also only so much he can see at any given time.

My belief is that they do a fine job and much like a cricket umpire has to make a decision in a split second. He makes a bad one his boss will see it. If he is unfit, his boss will see it, the ref is always accountable no matter what. Should he cause the game to go the other way because of a decisions that was borderline, then the players have to take partial blame.

How often do we here the ref shouting at players to leave a ball, or ruck! hands out !! etc? Players push the rules to the limit . They know the rules but still disobey them. We moan about AJ Venter or Robert Skinstad causing untold penalties then blame the ref for blowing the game to pieces? A little harsh I think.

Andre Watson is to me one of the better refs in the world and has taken flack for the way he has blown the last couple of games. Yes the decisions were borderline, yes the TV monitor picked them up after seven or eight replays. Bang! bad decision bad ref! He didn't have the constant replays but believed in his decisions. So be it.

When a player has been pushing his luck for the past 70 minutes I think that a ref should be allowed to chance his arm a little too. Sorry for Mehrtens who voiced his discontent but then how many times must a professional player be warned about an ongoing misdemeanor before the ref gets totally piss off?

I think we must give credit where credit is due and let the IRB tend to their own. They are not powerless to deal with the problem and I believe that is what they will do. We still need to have someone do the work and like cricket, one bad decisions could throw a game. The umpire has to make the call and then stand by it, so should the ref.

No one promised it would be easy but as long as they are consistent we have nothing to complain about.

James Sleigh

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