Editors Note


Volume 4, Week 1

Editors Note

Brilliant!      Greetings good friends, RF is back after a longer than normal resting period during which this humble follower performed countless bizarre rituals, spent hours walking through deserts looking for Indians, sacrificed luxuries, drank some mysterious potions and even attempted to move some cheese in fervent hope that this will be the year of SA rugby's return to sanity! 

After all it is a leap year and the one Sangoma’s bones added up to six and was strewn in the form of a Springbok’s horns! Oh well, the money budgeted on going to the normal end-of-year tour and annual England hiding was well spent on all the black crafts and if that gypsy woman with the funny accent and oval crystal ball’s prophecy rings true – Ladbrokes better watch out!

SA rugby has undergone more changes in the last two months than David Beckham’s hairstyle, three of the ‘faces’ are gone; Silas Nkanunu, Rian Oberholzer and Rudolf Straeuli all resigned in the aftermath of a disappointing RWC campaign and some nasty pre tournament ‘scandals’ like ‘Kamp Staaldraad’ and ‘Geo-gate’. In a separate but significant move, Corne Krige the World Cup captain announced his retirement from test rugby.

Silas, you will not be missed. Rian, maybe you will be missed by some but somehow the following words ring true, ‘nobody is bigger than the game’. Rudolf, at least we will be spared all the variations of spelling of your name and surname – you were tested and you failed. ‘Judge me on the World Cup’ was the resounding refrain, well Rudi, thanks for trying big guy but you were out of your depth. Appointing somebody out of his depth was a huge mistake but remaining out of depth was criminal.

The new ‘broom’ is one Brian van Rooyen – a ’self-made’ man, whatever that means and he has come out with plenty to say in order to right a ship rocked by wave after wave of trouble. Financial irregularities, director’s resignation and a coaching shortlist, which included ludicrous contenders, subsequent withdrawals and then further expansion, are a clear indication of an organization in serious disrepair. Is this guy capable of ‘fixing it’? Only time will tell however he has so far managed to confuse most with the process of restoring Springbok rugby to the top. Does Springbok supporters have the patience required for yet another ‘process’? What are the chances of changing a truly archaic organisation?

The Super 12 kicks off in a few weeks, the 20/21 to be exact and somehow this, by now ‘grizzled’ armchair supporter predicts a better Super 12 than the usual pathetic effort from the SA teams. Why so? There is hardly any pressure, most supporters expects failure and the players should thrive without the enormous expectancy usually apportioned to any South African rugby player. Laissez faire should prevail I say, what will be will be, if players do not realize what it is to be the best and professio nal then heck, enjoy the sight of teams that are and there will be plenty of them visiting our shores; Blues, Brumbies, Crusaders and Highlanders.

The new season also brings a new contributor to RF in the form of Dave Marshall, who as an Australian (not his fault, he was born there!) will bring an interesting variance of opinion to RF and complete the Southern Hemisphere troika.

We here at RF are looking forward to a big season with some interesting developments, more of which next week and look forward to your brilliant letters making their way to our inbox. 

Oh yes, did I mention the gypsy woman spoke with a bray and there was a shout of ‘bliksem’ followed by a growl?



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Netball Please by Desmond Organ
Just when you thought that the brains trust under the shadow of the mountain had completed its implosion, a new round of eruptions occurs. The recent resignation of one of the few remaining people with any credibility from the Board of what now appears to be a completely defunct professional arm. We welcome back the control of the old f@rts and the compromisers as we engage in yet another round of appalling decision making. 

If the Springbok team returns to some level of credibility this year it will be on the backs of the individual brilliance of the players. It has become increasingly apparent that the older the players are the worse they become. Quite simple really, put anybody through the socialisation process of SARFU and you are going to end up with a money grabbing player that has no vested interest in damaging a potential lucrative career overseas. It is hardly surprising that anybody with the courage to speak out is quickly reprimanded and sent to the sidelines. I am not going to bore readers with the details of the decision making of the last month or so, read the Internet, it is all there.

What is more important from a South African sporting perspective is the decision by the cricket administrators to adopt a more lean strength versus strength structure in order to improve the quality of the players. This is at a time when the national team is at least showing signs of developing into a very competitive team in world cricket. It appears simply as if the decision makers in that game are yet to go through the so-called empowerment process in South African sport, or perhaps they made su re that the people in charge are somewhat competent. Nobody can forget the almost psychotic behaviour of several administrators in team selection and beverage consumption, but at least the man at the top appears to have some level of competence.

The previous power holders at SA Rugby were very efficient in traveling around the globe, organizing superb compensation packages for incompetent and psychotic coaches and bringing the game into disrepute. The current bunch seems intent on slapping each other on the back and completely undermining the decisions of the previous group. 

Let’s face it, any Board member with knowledge of the pit dwelling activities before the World Cup should resign for failing to take action. My memory may be wrong here but I have a hunch that the current acting MD of SA Rugby Pty Ltd might just have been aware of the camp. If this is the case what is he still doing at SA Rugby, or is he still waiting to negotiate his package and the use of a company car?

Previously I have been very critical of some of the limitations of the report produced by a consulting company hired by SA Rugby. There is however some critical components of that report that have now quite simply been swept away with the unworkable governance model that accompanied them. It still appears as if governance is the key problem within South African rugby and until this is dealt with the game will stagnate. Perhaps the words of Uli Schmidt when he resigned should be understood for what they perhaps were, a man honest enough to explain why he could not continue in the current set up.

If South African rugby must be completely transformed then it should not only be the colour of the administrators that is important but also the quality of the people in these positions. One thing appears to be clear, the past round of transformation led to severance packages, company car scandals and chicken plucking activities, what lies in store for us with the current round, a truck load of back slapping officials heading all over the world to watch a team managed by consensus and incompetence. One only has to look at the football administrator’s fraternity in the country to imagine what the outcome might be. 

In a day or so the South African football team will in all likelihood be eliminated from the Africa Cup of Nations without even qualifying for the knock out stages. Perhaps netball is the sport that we should all begin to watch, oops that has already been transformed into obscurity.

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Super 12 is just around the corner by Dave Marshall
The 2003 Super 12 final was completed in May of last year. It feels like an eternity ago. There have been plenty of major rugby related events, including a couple of scandals, between then and the impending kickoff of the Super 12 on Feb 20. There was a Currie Cup won by Northerns (they won just about every trophy on show), Camp Staaldraad featuring naked Springboks performing all sorts of unusual exercises and drills, a World Cup won by England for the first time when they downed hosts, Australia, in extra time, Rudolf Straeuli lost his job as coach of The Boks and SARFU top dogs Rian Oberholzer and Silas Nkanunu fell on their swords. What a way to finish 2003.

Another year, another guaranteed feast of rugby from all parts of the globe. Feb 20, 2004 marks the starting point of Super 12 season number 9. Plenty of unanswered questions: Will an SA team break their duck? Will NZ teams dominate proceedings once again? Will the Reds or the Waratahs emerge as the leading Australian team?

The Australian teams of the Reds, Waratahs and Brumbies have been building up to this month’s season opener by playing a series of warm-up games. The Waratahs announced their intentions in an emphatic manner by thrashing The Chiefs 85-19 last Friday in Newcastle when they scored 13 tries to 3. Matt Burke was tried at fly half and did a good job until he injured his shoulder in the first half. Burke, NSW’s most capped player, is fighting for the number 10 spot along with Tim Donnelly and Shaun Berne . The Waratahs complete their pre season fixtures with a final trial match against reigning Super 12 champions, the Auckland Blues, on Feb 11 at Aussie Stadium. The Waratahs opening game is against the powerful Crusaders outfit away from home.

The Reds took on their archrivals; the Brumbies at Ballymore last Saturday, in front of 13,000 patriotic fans, and won this encounter to the tune of 33-21 (without Ben who is on the sidelines after another operation to his troublesome knee). Elton Flatley and Nick Stiles make up the new captaincy team and both were upbeat about the win without getting carried away. The Reds also tried a new candidate for fly half, Julian Huxley and he seemed to go a good job in his first game in a Reds jumper in t his position. The Reds are aiming to turn their home ground into ‘Fortress Ballymore’ according to fullback Chris Latham, by encouraging the fans ‘to really get behind the team.’ The Reds take on the Auckland Blues this Saturday night at Ballymore in what is certain to be a cracker of a game. The opening game of the Super 12 for the Reds is against the Highlanders at Invercargill on Feb 20.

The Brumbies management wasn’t too concerned by the weekend’s loss to the Reds, as they were able to blood some of their lesser-experienced players. One of the major changes was moving Steve Larkham to fullback, switching Joe Roff to the left wing and then bringing Matt Giteau into the number 10 berth. It bodes for an exciting season with these 3 playmakers in such pivotal positions for the Brumbies. Clyde Rathbone, formerly of the Natal Sharks, has forced his way into the team wearing the number 12 jersey. The Brumbies round off their pre-season games with matches against the Hurricanes and the Chiefs. The squad for the Hurricanes encounter contains 9 Wallabies so there will be a surplus of talent on show for the fans to enjoy. 

Ben Darwin has been forced to retire from all forms of rugby due to a neck injury he picked up during the World Cup semi-final win against the All Blacks. He played 28 tests for the Wallabies and was a member of Bledisloe Cup triumphs in 2001 and 2002. He expertise will be missed on the field but the Brumbies are keen to utilise his experience in a possible off field coaching role yet to be finalized. There was no need for Darwin to agonize about his decision. ‘Upon review of my injury the doctors have decided that it is necessary for me to retire from rugby. There was no decision for me to make, the doctors; advice was very clear.’

As an aside Australians have always been very keen on using nicknames for people. There are some interesting ones amongst the 3 Australian teams involved in the Super 12:

Reds – Tim Atkinson is known as ‘Weasel’, Nathan Sharpe as ‘Calfie’ and Nick Stiles is endearingly referred to as ‘Nelson’ (from the TV show The Simpsons).

Waratahs – Nathan Grey has been coined ‘Mad Dog’ (for obvious reasons) and Chris Whitaker ‘anthems’ due to his selection in over 50 tests for the Wallabies as back up scrum half that has only translated into 18 test caps.

Brumbies – Clyde Rathbone is called ‘Rats’, Owen Finnegan ‘Melon’ (his large head), Steve Larkham ‘Bernie’ (after the movie “weekend at Bernies” as he is so laid back his team mates wonder if he is alive at times) and Stirling Mortlock is known as ‘Snork.’

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This has been a big decision for me but perhaps it is time for a change of leadership. A strong commercial foundation has been established over the past few years and Sarfu and SA Rugby are in a stable financial state. Much has been achieved at many levels and I am satisfied that the new leadership will have a solid basis from which to move forward.      Rian Oberholzer 

I'm embarrassed about the publicity surrounding 'Kamp Staaldraad' and would like to apologise to the board and the South Africa public for any offence caused in the process.    Rudolf Straeuli 

The man who heads up the operation has to take overall responsibility for the performance of the administration, just as happens in big business elsewhere.    Brian van Rooyen

There must be accountability. You are running a company with a turnover of R300 million. You cannot distance yourself from things that happened, like Kamp Staadraad. And if you say you did not know about it, then that is gross negligence. The buck has to stop with you.    Brian van Rooyen

The contracts of the coach of the Springbok team will be performance driven.    Brian van Rooyen

I can be an arrogant son of a b*tch and maybe I've been loyal to the wrong people. My time is up, it's been too long, too hard.    Rian Oberholzer

We have not fallen behind in world rugby; other countries have got ahead of us.     Rudolf Straeuli

People think I earn a big salary and watch Test matches all over the world. The truth is that rugby has f****d up my life.    Rian Oberholzer

Rugby breaks our young players, and it would be criminal of me to advise parents to let their children take up the game.     Uli Schmidt 

I keep on telling my sons that confidence is something that needs to be built drop by drop. Unfortunately, the whole bucket has been kicked over and we've got to start from scratch to win the confidence of the rugby public. Morné du Plessis

I'm surprised it's still in one piece, you've been carrying it around for several days!     Queen Elizabeth to Martin Johnson regarding William Webb Ellis trophy

We take full responsibility and if they don't work, don't fire the coach, fire us.      Brian van Rooyen

I have thoroughly enjoyed playing for the Springboks and it has been a dream come true to play in the green and gold and to have captained the team was an incredible experience.     Corne Krige 

Forget the dirty perception, he's just harder than everyone else. If I went to war, he is the guy I'd want at my side.     Joel Stransky on Martin Johnson

Everyone wants to be first to beat the World Champions.     Matt Dawson 

Are you guys making a complaint or aren't you? If you are, fine. If not, then please stop all this stuff.    Letter from Syd Millar to RFU re Woodwards continuous complaining of Andre Watson's handling of the RWC final

The Scotland Rugby Union (SRU) have announced plans to play an alternative national anthem alongside the traditional 'Flower of Scotland' when Scotland face France in the RBS Six Nations at Murrayfield in March. Reported on Planet-rugby.com

After milking them, I came to the following conclusions: that I knew very little about front-row play before I spoke to them. That I knew very little about front-row play after I spoke to them.      Andre Watson after chatting to Sean Fitzpatrick and Andrew Blades on front row play.

I don't know anything about accounting but I'm told they are areas where this kind of thing would normally happen.       SA Rugby deputy MD Songezo Nayo 

SA Rugby says their board is looking for 'a charismatic leader with a strong commercial track record [and an] unwavering commitment to restoring [Springbok] pride and passion. Advertisement for new Sa rugby MD.

I can't accept accountability for that which I have no influence over, and it's misleading for the rugby public to think otherwise.       Morne Du Plessis on his resignation from the SA rugby board

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