Editors Note


Volume 2, Week 7                                                 

Editors Note

Brilliant!      And before another reader lays the boot in for my use of this adjective, let me explain; no matter how bad our rugby perceive to be the game remains a wonderful spectacle that I as a supporter enjoy immensely. I think it is bloody brilliant to be able to watch this game we love and every time I watch a moment of sheer genius – and there is one in every match fro m tests to the Koekenaab under 9’s, I think it is brilliant! 

South African rugby is becoming like the old joke about the boy who never spoke about his brother and after some prompting he admitted that his brother was in jail, saying, “we love him but don’t really want to talk about him!” It is becoming more and more painful to talk or write about the South African effort in the Super 12 especially since every other frigging country’s experts are having a field day!

Yes, it is not moonshine and roses at the moment with all the Super 12 losses and I wont insult any of you by saying, it’s just a game but there are a host of positives as described by Mark Foster in his column today. It only takes one performance to catalyze a major swing in fortune; the Bulls almost accomplished the impossible and even though they failed showed the Stormers how to breach the Brumbies’ defence. 

The new Sharks coach is Kevin Putt and he will take over his duties on April 1, and let’s all hope he is no April Fool. There are many doubts over his experience as a coach especially at the Super 12 level, an international competition. Laurie Mains, the straight talking ex-Cats and Highlanders coach reiterated the need for experience in the competition, both in playing personnel and in the coaching structures. The wily old Kiwi’s been there done that, lost a World Cup and as far as experience go has plenty, and is not shy of parting with his thoughts and beliefs. Roped in by the Otago Rugby Union after semi retirement, the New Zealanders use of their experienced coaches to part knowledge on the young is both commendable and makes a lot of sense. South African administrators, take notice and oh yes look at the results!

The Six Nations continue and France need to conquer Scotland at Murrayfield to keep their Grand Slam hopes alive, England play the Welsh while Ireland take on the Italians. The competition is one of the best in ages and the kind of rugby produced by France, England and Ireland is serious food for thought. The northern hemisphere is craving a first win in the World Cup and maybe just maybe a win is within their grasp. Blasphemy I hear you say? 

The whole argument about the Super 14/Super 12 and the bad performances by many of the teams (mostly ours) have sparked an interesting debate about promotion and relegation. Since it’s all about money - TV revenues, sponsorship etc. teams are incentivised to play in the Super 12 competition. A concept where by the bottom two teams on the league “lose” their franchise or something similar has been thrown around. Firstly, the Super 14 wont work, the competition will be devalued and the players cannot h andle all the rugby. A promotion/relegation system does wonders for standards but all it will entail is a change of guise and the same players will be chosen by different coaches and once again from a South African point of view we lose all continuity. 

One last thought, rugby has changed in many ways over the years but it is strange to see so many old ideas reappear. Playing from deep behind the advantage line was seen as a sure way to lose field position especially against strong tackling backlines. Watch the Brumbies play from miles behind the advantage line, their backs are well disciplined in delaying their runs and they attack the ball, not the advantage line at speed and with great hands and innovative play create space with pace and passing élan. The Waratahs – same thing, when last did you see a player (Matt Rogers) beat his man (Danie van Schalkwyk) with pure speed in a one on one situation? The counter for this rugby was Pieter Muller and Japie Mulder style of defence, there are few Pieter Muller’s around hence the success of this tactic – can we revive the crash tackling Springbok please?

The weekend promises excellent matches and none more than the clash at Newlands, the Stormers need all the luck they can get and with their best game and the TV ref may just spring a surprise. The Bulls took one little step in the right direction, they now need two or three more. 
Enjoy all the rugby on offer!


"Lessons from the Louisville Lip" by Tom Marcellus
With all the death and destruction going on in our rugby, I have had to find solace in other sports of late. It may well be a bit like Hugh Grant having to resort to a 10-dollar wh*re for his kicks (not that I know much about such things), but motor racing has provided some stirring moments, and the curling at the Winter Olympics was a real treat. Cricket, however, remains about as enticing as an Ebola-infested swamp.

I must admit that the highlight of my sporting month was my viewing a week ago of Will Smith's tour de force in "Ali". The movie was like a cup of cool spring water after a long trek across the Kalahari, and I (and millions of moviegoers around the world) were treated to scenes of Ali in his sporting and verbal-jousting prime. For the record, let me say that I am no ra-ra-ranting fan of Smith, whose smarmy, "Fresh Prince" mouth and beanpole frame seemed inappropriate for the portrayal of a superman like Ali. But I was pleasantly surprised by the final product: it is no lie that Smith moves like Ali, looks like Ali, and (perhaps hardest of all) talks like Ali. Whether he was portraying the young, over-excited Cassius Marcellus Clay at the weigh-in before the first Liston bout, or Ali sauntering down downtown Kinshasa 10 years later, Smith managed a more than passable impersonation of the great man.

With the benefit of hindsight, how splendid it would have been if Ali had hung up his gloves immediately after his eighth-round KO of the lumbering, seemingly dull-witted Foreman. He was 32 by then, and it was already apparent to boxing aficionados that he would never again display the sublime form that he had shown before the Vietnam War debacle. Enoch Powell once wrote that "All political lives, unless they are cut off in mid-stream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs". The same is true of sporting careers, none more so than that of Ali.

He continued to box for another 7 years after his African odyssey. In fact, as he went down in defeat to Larry Holmes, Ali cut such a wretched figure by the end that many fans in the audience were in tears. Even his hardened opponent, who had once been his junior sparring partner, did not want to hit him any more. As one commentator said at the time: "This fight was billed as 'The Last Hurrah', but it should have been called 'Death of a Salesman'"

Of course it does not always have to end that way. Although his last test series in the All Black no 5 jumper ended in disappointment, as he was the losing skipper against the all-conquering '71 Lions, the great Pine Tree Meads was at the height of his playing powers when he retired from test rugger at the ripe old age of 35. Similarly, our own great Frik du Preez, despite having played countless seasons of top-flight rugby, ended off his career in triumph, with an away series victory against the '71 Wallabies.

Kim Shippey relates the story of Frik's farewell gathering in the change-room after the last test. His Springbok team-mates gathered 'round the old war-horse in tribute, after he had donned the Green 'n Gold in anger for the 38th and final time. Speeches were made in his honour, and his fellow Boks awaited his response with suitable reverence. Beloved throughout the rugby-playing world for his wit and flair, the giant lock, for once, was silent. And so he remained, sitting on a bench in the cor ner of the change-room, twirling a can of Castle in his banana-like fingers. Returning his silence with their own, his team-mates paid mute tribute to arguably the greatest Springbok of all time. As Shippey later recalled, "It was the most eloquent non-speech I have ever heard".

Some great sportsmen, the golfer, Bobby Jones, Bjorn Borg, and the Welsh wizard, Barry John, all spring immediately to mind, end their careers at the height of their powers. Sadly, those 3 luminaries are the exception rather than the norm, and many great sportsmen, from Ali to the more recent examples of Sampras, Gascoigne and Jordan, linger on in the spotlight long after their glory days have passed them by. As Winston Churchill once wrote of one of his own political contemporaries: "The morning was golden; the noon brass; and the evening lead". A last hurrah, indeed.

With a new coach now in charge and bearing in mind the pitiful Super 12 performances of some of our leading players, it doesn't take an Edwil van Aarde to realise that there is going to be blood on the streets of down-town Doornfontein after the first Bok selection meeting in a few months' time. Perhaps some of our trusted old war-horses had better do that DIY course that they had always wanted to do, but had put-off till later. "Later" may be upon them, and they may soon find themselves with a l ittle more time on their hands than ever before.

If so, they can at least take solace in the plight of the man from Louisville, Kentucky; the man they still call "The Greatest".

Six Nations by Desmond Organ

Following another predictable weekend of Super 12 rugby, it will be refreshing to watch some action from the Northern Hemisphere. The Six Nations has been anything but boring this year and this Saturday should provide us with some interesting post match debate.

The last round produced a dramatic result in Paris where England was favoured to win. The French can never be underestimated in Paris and they proved the theory correct. The French were hurried at the lineout and still managed to secure valuable possession. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the form of England’s no 8. In the previous game Worsley was outstanding, yet the French loose forwards completely dominated the proceedings. It was not a surprise when Woodward announced his team for Wa les that he lost out.

In the rucks and mauls, the French were far more organized and the speed with which they got to the point of breakdown and the quality of the ball returned; gave them a distinct advantage. England also appeared to be going backwards on several occasions, indicating that the French had well and truly done their homework. In the backs the French were a class act, it looked as if England had finally met their match, the space, time and options were not available to match maker Wilkinson and as a result we were given a clear look at the weaknesses of the England centre pairing. This may sound somewhat bizarre, but I have maintained for several weeks that the English do not run straight in the centre.

The French by contrast ran straight at the opposition and this resulted in several probing runs from the scrumhalf. France varied their attack with speed of hand and the effective use of the skip pass. Perhaps the most defining moment of the match was the occasion on which the French broke around the fringes and marched up the field to score in sensational style. The big debate around Martin Johnson was a mute point as his presence did not make that much difference to the England effort. France is th e one team that has the forwards to challenge England and they made the point superbly. 

England will be much more comfortable against Wales and they will hopefully run at the opposition. They would also do themselves a huge favour if they get more than one player to the point of break down; in the vital seconds after a move breaks down. France will travel to Scotland in the knowledge that they have a chance at the Grand Slam, injuries to several prop forwards should not hamper them from performing yet again. I think we will see both England and France stretching the opposition wide on S aturday and using the speed of their backs to wear down the opposition. We will have to wait and see which French side turns up at Murrayfield.

The Scottish rugby fans will be hoping that they have seen the last of the jittery performances amongst their backs. In fact the recall of John Leslie could be a final desperate move to restore some credibility to the Scottish cause. If there is any parallel to be drawn between the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere, then it must be the performances of Scotland and the Coastal Sharks. Both teams are blessed with sufficient possession by their forwards, yet the backs pontificate to the po int of paralysis. Scotland produced one of their worst ever performances against Ireland.

The forwards continuously went off their feet in the rucks, their lineout was scrappy and there was far too much tapping of the ball from their jumpers. The less said about the lineouts from the match the better. Perhaps the key difference between Scotland and Ireland was the number of basic errors that were made. Scotland forgot the basics, their cover defense was appalling and this led to two Irish tries that should never have been scored. Scotland will need to tighten up on the basics and hope tha t the French have an off day as they did against Wales. Ireland will continue to impress amongst the backs and the individual brilliance of O Driscoll is paying huge dividends. If you give him any sort of space he will punish you. Against England he was shut down by the England defense, more as a result of the slow ball coming from the forwards than as a result of the English midfield. Ireland should find Italy a welcome prospect and could score as many points as they did against Scotland. 

The game between Wales and Italy was a great display of running rugby and any youngster with an interest in the game would have found this entertaining. Wales have responded in impressive style to the appointment of their new coach. The game against France was lost in the final move of the game and they were organized and effective against Italy. It will be interesting to see if the Welsh will be able to counter an England team that will be intent on running at every opportunity. Wales will be able to hold their own in the set pieces, but if they think that the basic style of scrum, pass and score will work for them as they did against Italy; they are in for a big surprise. The biggest challenge for Wales will be in the no 10 position. The Welsh no 10 is pedestrian at best, Wilkinson is likely to exploit this to the full. 

For what it is worth, here are my predictions for Saturday.

Wales vs. England
England by at least 15 to 20 points

Scotland vs. France
France by at least 10 points

Ireland vs. Italy
Ireland by at least 15 to 20 points


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The Power of Positive Thinking by Mark Foster

Positive, think positive – this was my thought before writing this weekly column. Of course it is easier said than done and the famous quote from Boy Louw “looks at the scoreboard” is a chilling reminder of another result less weekend for SA rugby. Yes for those of you in Outer Mongolia - no victories for the second time in four weeks and the nightmare that is Super 12, 2002, continues… 

The pundits and analyst out there are having a field day trying to assess the reasons for the demise of South African Rugby, here are a few: a foot long injury list, player burnout, the “unfair” quota system, “unwanted” political interference, “hapless” administrators, “useless” coaches and “passionless” players. The list goes on and to remain positive is very difficult indeed.

To buck the current trend of South African teams slagging, lets identify positives, those factors that can be used to strengthen our resolve for an obvious painful three months to come.

The Stormers – the team may have lost two matches, both at home but coach Gert Smal has conjured a team of no-names, with all respects to the individuals, into a very combative, disciplined unit. Young players have risen to the occasion through hard work and by seizing the opportunity, there are very few stars in this team but their teamwork and spirit is reflected in their defensive record, the best of the Super 12. 

The support at Newlands is another massive positive sign, in three matches at home for the Stormers there has been a staggering 120,000 + people through the turnstiles. The support of rugby is strong in Cape Town and Laurie Mains, outspoken Highlanders coach commended the Newlands faithful for their “sporting” behavior during his team’s visit. The “Capies” may boo and whistle during a kick at goal but good play received a generous dose of applause.

The Cats – written off effectively by self same Laurie Mains, Frans Ludeke has committed on a path of youth and exuberance, by selecting exciting young talent like Andre Pretorius and Rudi Coetzee and starting with Lawrence Sephaka. They may be losing matches but rather a defeat with a young gun learning than some old guy shrugging. Follow the strength of your conviction Frans, with the return of your stars the tide will turn and the experience will guide the team to victory.

The Bulls – an excellent display against the Brumbies from an attacking point of view provided other teams in the competition with some food for thought about the so-called invincibility of the Brumbies. With better defence… who knows what upset there could have been. Also for the management of the union to become involve and demand better results and performances, the old players association are not a bunch of losers but a very strong group of highly respected players who spilt litres of blood for t he Blue Bull cause. This can only be seen as positive meddling and surely any positive input from the administration’s side can only improve on a disastrous record.

The Sharks – this is a difficult one and for the millions of supporters world wide their performances to date is a sad reflection of a very good team. A positive is the eventual appointment of a new coach, Kevin Putt. There are very few more stressful situations than job insecurity but the positive signs from Putt should filter through their play and expect a huge improvement come Saturday.

On an individual basis there are many positives, the return of a few of the injured Springboks are imminent, Breyten Paulse will tour with the Stormers, maybe Skinstad, Vos and Erasmus await the Cats return from Australasia and signs are good that Halstead will be in action soon for the Sharks. Existing Springboks are showing maturity and responsibility like Montgomery, Rossouw, Corne Krige and Dean Hall. There have been some refreshing newcomers showing incredible positive actions on the field over the past four weeks like Bolla Conradie, Tjoepie van den Heever, Werner Greeff, Bobo (before his injury), Daan Human, Giscard Pieters in his first match and Quintin Davids. 

Generally losing is unacceptable but the current losing streak may just be the right tonic for a Springbok coach to extract the best out of a group of players ready to show a doubting world the true worth of South African rugby. There is enough pride there and with the correct selection and here Straeuli’s affirmation of the best available is a huge positive sign for South African rugby.

Doom and gloom never lasts forever but sometimes it is needed to spark a train of positive, both in thoughts and deeds.


Super 12 Log


Played Won Lost Bonus Points Points
Brumbies 4 4 0 3 19
Waratahs 4 4 0 3 19
Crusaders 4 4 0 1 17
Highlanders 4 3 1 3 15
Stormers 4 2 2 3 11
Reds 4 2 2 2 10
Hurricanes 4 2 2 2 10
Blues 3 1 2 1 5
Cats 4 1 3 1 5
Chiefs 3 0 3 1 1
Bulls 4 0 4 1 1
Sharks 4 0 4 1 1

Rugby Forum Super 12 XV

After 4 weeks in the competition there has been some stand out performances by various individuals however, consistency in selection is a sure way to success!

1. Bill Young (Brumbies)
2. Jeremy Paul (Brumbies)
3. Greg Somerville (Crusaders)
4. Justin Harrison (Brumbies)
5. Chris Jack (Crusaders)
6. George Smith (Brumbies)
7. Owen Finnegan (Brumbies)
8. Toutai Kefu  (Reds)
9. George Gregan (Brumbies)
10. Tony Brown (Highlanders)
11. Graeme Bond (Brumbies)
12. Aaron Mauger (Crusaders)
13. Matt Burke (Waratahs)
14. Jeff Wilson (Highlanders)
15. Matt Rogers (Waratahs)

What has happened to the South African sides? It was suggested to me by someone who knows the South African rugby situation well that many of the front-line players have accepted contracts to play in Europe and that other Test players find the Super12 so tough they go on the "injured" list until the end of the tournament. Spiro Zavos, Sydney Morning Herald

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising each and every time we fail.    Confucious

Sport is about fielding your best team but long-term gain may be greater than short-term pain for South Africa. John Connolly

I think I've always had the shots. But in the past, I've suffered too many mental lapses. Now, I'm starting to get away from that and my mental discipline and commitment to the game are much better. I think I'm really taking a good luck at the big picture. That's the difference between being around for the final or watching the final from my sofa at home.       Andre Agassi

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

I was just thinking the transformation process is working and that we should include more players of colour in our national teams. Look at Ashwell Prince in the first test, Paul Adams and Makaya Ntini (again) in the second test. Then we can take it further to Bobo, Jacobs, Conradie and Davids. These guys perform under the cloud of quota players. They have a point to prove.

I was jerked out of my merry political correct day dreaming when the Bulls played the Waratahs. Maccie Hendriks was pathetic and has never and will never be more that a quota player. Same goes for Passens. Though he has pace, he has little else to offer. The former Freestate Flyer, Wylie Human, looked out of sorts in the Bulls side. Where did his enormous potential go? Conrad Jantjies was the direct result of Bobo's injury. His half hearted tackle caused Bobo to his job for him and get injured.

Bolla Conradie, now there's a find. Brilliant. I just wonder how Straeuli is going to pick his quota for the test side. There are stories going around that he should include 5 players of colour. Well, Conradie and Paulse pick themselves. Bobo is injured, Human lost form, Jantjies is the worst number 15 in the Super 12 (but the man currently in possession of the jersey), Etienne Fynn (he never looked like a Bok, even in the tests he played), Sephaka (not there yet), Kayser is getting long in the tooth, Davids won't let the side down. Jacobs does not even want to play for the Bulls, and who can blame him?

Now, to the Bulls. What are they doing to talent? Naka left FS for the Bulls, and lost his spot in the Bok Side, Same goes for Boeta Wessels. Jorrie and Chris Kruger, promising young FS backs joined the Bulls ranks, never to be heard of again. Marius Goosen, the man in line for Bok colours whilst at Boland, joined the Bulls and subsequently lost form. Is Wylie Human and Tokkelos Coetsee on the same path? Lets take it further, Derek Grobler, Jacques Olivier, Conrad Breytenbach etc all went on to play for the Falcons and the Pumas. This revived their careers and, if I'm not mistaken, the Falcons ended higher up on the Currie Cup log than the Bulls, with the Pumas just below. How does Meyer justify 80% of his side coming from the Blue Bulls. Where is the logic in splitting the paring of the year at centre for 2001 - Botha and Jacobs. He is currently struggling to find a paring that works.

The Stormers` win over the Hurricanes gave us a bit of a smile, but that was against poor opposition. The Cats does not warrant any comment. The Sharks will win more matches if their attack is on par with their defence.

Enjoy the rest of the Super 8 plus the rest.


Dear Ed.

I am a great believer in the p's of rugby....pace, power, position and possession and the rugby played in South Africa has all of these in abundance, however none of them are any good without the most important one of the lot...passion.

The passion in our rugby has been replaced with pay, the more pro we have become the less passion we have to the detriment of rugby, the only passion left in rugby is in the stands and that is starting to wear thin, Shark fans are tired of seeing all that talent on the field coming to naught and the only Red that they are seeing now is in their hearts, these guys are not having any fun they are just doing there jobs so they can get there pay and get free drinks and meals and strut their stuff off the field rather than on it.

Pro sport is full of examples of pro's who lost it and refound there passion to rise up again, Ernie Els being a resent one. For years the southern hemisphere talked about how bad the northern hemisphere played rugby and guess what they did? They used that to ignite the passion in their game, all they really want to do is kick sh*t out of us from the south.

I had a chat to Garth Giles, the director of coaching for the NRU the other day, a man who coached me in a small country town and it is still spoken about to this day how with limited resources achieved so much through passion for the game and was shocked that a man of such passion said to me that we must realize that the game is now pro, this from a man who we would have crawled a mile over broken glass to win. South African rugby has too many Bob Skinstad's, guys with great talent but no heart and who's love for rugby is as deep as the cheque they get.


Andre van Rooyen

Andre, my guess is you played for Ixopo? I remember Garth Giles from my school boy rugby days, he was a legend as you said and it is indeed sad to hear how "things have changed".    Ed

Geagte Leser 

Graag spreek ek my uit teen mnr. Mbeki se verloor taktiek vir Suid-Afrika:

Tegnies en sielkundig gaan ek nie raak nie. Selfs 'n laerskool kind sal nie met so 'n toekomsplan tevrede
wees nie.

Die fout vir transformasie moet verder as net by ontwikkeling gesoek word. Ek glo dat krieket en rugby nou genoeg geld daarop gemors het.

Alles begin by geleenthede. Geleenthede wat sekere mense konsuis nooit gehad het nie. Vergeet asseblief nou die politiek, want dit het niks met my skrywe en standpunt te doen nie.

Het witmense al die geleenthede gehad? Ek glo dit sluit fasiliteite in. In Stampriet, Namibie, is 'n skool met 'n gruisbaan vandag nog waarop skool- en klubrugby gespeel is. Ek self het gedurende 1974 in Bloemfontein op 'n geploegde land rugby geoefen.

Het dit my en ander daarvan weerhou om te speel ? Nee, ons het dit geniet en daarom volg ons die sport vandag nog geesdriftig.

Wat is die rede vir my en ander se entoesiasme ? AFRIGTERS. By blanke skole het onderwysers sport afgerig met of sonder kennis. Hulle het gelees en hulp gevra by kenners.

Vandag nog by veral swart skole doen die onderwysers niks. Nie eens sokker word afgerig nie. Die wat dit wel doen, weet nie wat hulle doen nie. Kyk na ons sokker in S.A..

Kinders het op skoolvlak nie ordentlike afrigting gekry nie, daarom is die gehalte van ons sokker swak. Dit is waar die probleem by ons sport le. Nie by rugby wat te wit is nie.

Die probleem le by lui onderwysers in sekere groepe wat nie die kinders in enige sport afrig nie. Dit is nie fasiliteite en te wit spanne se skuld nie. Wanneer almal begin gee en ophou om net te wil ontvang, sal ons sport en aansien in die wereld verbeter.

Verder moet feite erken word. Ek het by 'n ou blanke skool gewerk waar rugby die sport was. As gevolg van veranderinge en die feit dat die skool later nog net 'n 1/4 van sy ou blanke leerlinge oorgehad het, het rugby gesterf. 

Nie omdat daar nie fasiliteite of afrigters was nie, maar omdat die swart kinders en ouers gevra het vir sokker. Die chaos by wedstryde en die organisasie sal ek nie beskryf nie. Net dat op aandrang van die ouers is dit gestop. Nou speel die kinders wedstryde teen mekaar by die skool.

Ek doen dus 'n beroep op almal en die regering om op te hou diskrimineer en kla. Leer darem een positiewe ding by Zimbabwe. Laat sport sy gang gaan. Moenie kla oor wit of swart nie. Wees trots op jou ambassadeurs.

Kies ook asseblief administrateurs wat wil werk en nie net vet word nie. Hulle verswak ons aansien in die wereld. Ek glo dat na 8 jaar, almal genoeg tyd gegun is om aan te pas en te verbeter. Net die wat wil en dit verdien moet ons op alle vlakke verteenwoordig. 

Kry die wortels van ons sport reg en ons sal nie meer kleur sien nie, maar sportmanne en -vroue wat ons land trots maak al is die span te wit of swart.

Ek hoop die land lees my skrywe en dat iemand dit sal publiseer. Ek wil net he ons moet vorentoe gaan en sal graag met mnr. Mbeki wil gesels.

Met Dank
Tjaart Coetzee

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