Editors Note


Volume 4, Week 11

Editors Note

Brilliant!       Well, well, well the Super 12 continues its most exciting edition ever, largely thanks to the SA contingent who have finally joined in on the party. Away wins are no longer a rarity and are sort of like the Beckham ‘sex, lies and SMS’ saga – there is promise of more to come!

The Stormers, earned two victories on the road, the Reds match was dour and not much of a spectacle and in the end 1 point separated the teams but as a ‘targeted’ match, it was a vital away win. The Blues match had tongues wagging for days; the outrageous victory at Eden Park was probably one of ‘the republic’s’ sweetest of modern time! The ‘men in black’ played sublime rugby with fortune favouring the visitors with every bounce of the ball, intercepted pass and charged down kick. Make no mistake, tries were carefully crafted and mistakes ruthlessly exploited and it was nothing like the ‘kick and chase tactics’ one well-known Aussie scribe credited for their victory.

The Stormers are in with a realistic shout for a semi-final as long as they can keep their propensity of a good game, bad game in check. Coach Gert Smal, has distinguished himself as a very good tactician and the players need to maintain their confidence in the gameplan and their superior defence, so far the best in the competition! Who would have predicted a South African side to lead those stats after the ‘open gates’ of the past seasons? 

The young Tonderai Chavanga played very well indeed, his blistering pace and good defence marks him as a player of the future. It is a bit pre-mature certainly to be calling him a Springbok after two games but he certainly catches the eye in a competition of high standard especially on the wing. Can South Africa exploit Zimbabwean rugby to the same effect the New Zealanders did with the Islanders? If Kenny Tsimba and this lad is anything to go by and who can forget those distinguished Springboks of yore t hen hell yes, offer them millions of Zim dollars (i.e. a case of beer and a new suit) and get them over here!

Two weeks ago the Sharks managed one of the better South African victories of this year’s Super 12 when they downed the ex champs, the Crusaders in Durban. They were nuggety and fearless in playing their determined workmanlike fashion that brought a fair amount of success in Australasia. The Crusaders, admittedly was hampered by the flight and the humidity prevalent this time of the year on the east coast but a win is a win and Putt and his men took it.

Fast forward a week later and the Chiefs visit was marked with a certain confidence that the Sharks would collect 5 points pasella especially after the NZ outfit lost against the lowly Cats. One local writer even described the Chiefs as ‘the worst-ever Chiefs line-up’ and after playing like the Maradonna of 1986 the week before they looked like the Maradonna 2004 version – flat and fat between white lines. The exception was a good effort by Henno Mentz who is advancing at a rapid rate into a Springbok contender.

Jake White must be very ‘chuffed’ by the way this young lad has grabbed every opportunity presented to him. He needs work, there is no doubt he is the finished article yet but he possesses a few vital ingredients no one can coach, speed (tons of it), attitude (of the good confident variety) and a try scoring instinct. Witness his actions after scoring a try and there has been a few of late, he calmly dots down the ball and runs back to his position, that is in between fending off the likes of James , Watson, Davidson et al who make Italian soccer celebrations look decidedly mild mannered affairs. How soon before the shirts come off or we see 15 players in a row doing the Macarena? But I digress, Henno Mentz comes with no baggage, heaps of talent and a will to win – in other words Springbok material.

Saturdays are reserved for rugby however this disbelieving Thomas switched off the telly midway through the first half of the Cats when they looked more lost than Livingstone in dark Africa. Believe it or not, the hanging of a new curtain in my living room took precedence over yet another gutless display when luckily a small window contributed to a far swifter return to ‘see the score’. Huge was the surprise when the Cats were running the Crusaders of their feet and actually took the lead with a go od chance of winning! A remarkable comeback was engineered, how? Nobody will know but in the end the reliable boot of upcoming All Black great, Dan Carter saved a few blushes in Canterbury. 

The coming weekend promises yet another exciting round of matches and with the semi finalists very much in doubt a few teams can assure their participation in the knockouts with victories. Enjoy the rugby and next week a look at who Jake White should be selecting for the Irish tests, send us your run on Springbok team.



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Another team bows out by Vinesh Naicker
This has got to be one of the most evenly contested Super 12 tournaments ever. With only the Blues, Reds, Hurricanes, Highlanders and Cats having bowed out of contention at this late stage. It is great to see the South African teams starting to hold their own. From what we hear over here, about the way the game is run in South Africa, this revival may be akin to the period of remission that a patient with a terminal illness has, where they appear to rally before finally succumbing. I sincerely hope not, but if there really have been no improvements in structures and systems then this renaissance could well be a false dawn, retiring Springbok captain Corne Krige certainly seems to think so.

Blues (23) vs. Stormers (51)

I call myself a Blues supporter but this weekend I really wondered if I am one because I enjoyed the last 40 minutes of the game way too much. I know that if I had been a Stormers player I would have spent the last 50 minutes of the game asking the Blues players what it was like to have lost the Super 12 title.

In the first half, in a phenomenal 20 minute burst of scoring, the Stormers made about 30 unanswered points to seal the game. The Blues, for the entire year, have favoured what can charitably be called a high risk game. More critical people call it “Hail Mary” rugby where they throw a lot of 50/50 passes, speculative kicks and no look passes and leave the results in Gods hands. Last week we saw what happens when all the breaks go the way of the Blues, they put 50 points on the Bulls. This week they played the same type of game, and the breaks didn’t go their way, so what happened? The Stormers put 50 points on them.
Perhaps the Blues shouldn’t bother actually playing the remainder of their games but just ask the other team if the result can be decided on a coin toss, because so much of their game plan depends on luck.

Despite all the obvious signs that this season would not pan out the same as the last the Blues continued to have blind faith in their high speed game plan. The two major factors that have been the difference between last year and this year, for the Blues, are firstly, that this year they haven’t been paying attention to the basics of the game. By this I mean: gaining dominance in the forwards; taking the line-outs cleanly; cleaning out rucks quickly; and, committing players to the breakdown to d raw in opposition players. Secondly, there has been absolutely no progress from last year in terms of a game plan. In a professional competition like this opposition coaches have the entire off season to come up with ways of combating the Blues play. Thus the major point of difference the Blues had last season, which was playing the ball right on the advantage line has been successfully combated by flatter and more attentive defences.

Due credit, however, must also be given to the Stormers who consistently made their first up tackles with devastating effect. This completely shut down Spencer and denied the Blues forward pack any momentum.

After scoring 8 tries, and with nothing left to play for, the Stormers must have just been looking forward to the end of the game. However, they were professional enough to keep their defensive screen up and deny the Blues a bonus point for four tries, a bonus point which would have been totally undeserved.

The game was sewed up by the half-time whistle, and as I said at the start, I got way too much pleasure watching the Blues players go through the motions for 50 minutes, knowing from the looks on their faces that they were fully aware, for the first time, that their campaign this year has been a miserable failure.

Scarlets (30) vs. Connacht (33)

I also happened to watch a game in the Celtic League over the weekend. This is the first time I have watched one of these games and what struck me the most about it was the strictness of the refereeing. On at least two occasions, in the first ten minutes that I watched, the Scarlets were called back for forward passes that in the Super 12 would have been called “flat”, on both occasions the Scarlets would probably have scored if allowed to continue. If that level of strictness was applied in the Super 12 teams like the Blues would struggle to get out of their own half.

The standard of skills in the game was very high too, the lack of “Hail Mary” passes being in direct contrast to the way that the Blues play. Here in the Southern Hemisphere we have assumed for a long time that we have the best provincial competitions in the world. If that is true, and it’s a big if, then the Heineken Cup and Celtic League games are not far off the pace. In addition the style of rugby they play is very similar to test match style so the transition for their players should not be as tough as it is for ours.

Reds (17) vs. Bulls (23)

This was not a game to watch more than once. The highlight of the game was probably the great grubber kick by Nick Stiles which set up Hynes to score the Reds first try in the corner. All I can say is ‘Eat your heart out “Droppie” Dunning’.

Cats (37) vs. Crusaders (39)

The first try of the game went to Scott Hamilton, making one of his rare starting appearances in the fullback jersey for the Crusaders. Coming into the backline, from a set start scrum on the Cats 5 metre line, he powered through the tackle of two defenders to dot down over the line. The diminutive Ben Blair would never have been able to score that try.

The third try from the Crusaders was a result of Hamilton giving Vunibaka the ball in space, a great kick ahead by Vunibaka and scorching pace made a great try look pretty easy. Vunibaka has been looking a bit porky in the last couple of years and age may be starting to catch up with him, but when on form he is still one of the quickest wingers in the business.

The fifth try was another gem, the Crusaders moving it right from a line-out on the left touchline and then shifting it back left from the ensuing ruck for Carter to dot down virtually untouched.

The Cats replied within minutes with their first try, and watching the scenes on TV of the Cats fans celebrating I’ve got to admit to being incredibly impressed with their continuing enthusiastic support of the Cats, who are probably the most unsuccessful team in recent Super 12 history. I take my hat of to them, they are true supporters who don’t seem to suffer from the vicious “bunker mentality” against other teams which so quickly seems to surface in Sharks and Bulls territory.

Their first try really seemed to spark the Cats, and they scored two more tries in quick succession as a result of: quick cleaning out of the ball; running onto the ball; and, some deft passing. A game that had looked so well in the bag for the Crusaders that they had taken off Marshall, and captain Thorne, suddenly looked alive again with the Cats closing the score up to 27-36.

The Crusaders failed to widen the gap with a penalty attempt and eight minutes later the Cats scored their fourth try from a brilliant run by Fourie which Pretorius duly converted to bring them within 2 points at 34-36 with 12 minutes still to go.

A drop goal from Pretorius and the Cats took the lead for the first time and things were looking a bit grim for the Crusaders. They managed to hold it together and earn a penalty in the last minute of the game for Dan Carter to slot it over and win the game back for the Crusaders.

Although, disappointed with their first half, as usual, the Cats have to take great heart from the way they played. They look to be timing their run in time to interfere with the play-off hopes of the Bulls and Sharks but most probably to give their players the chance to put their hand up for Springbok jerseys.

On a side note, how dangerous is that wire fence just past the dead ball line at the grounds where the game was played? In Super 12 matches I have twice seen players pile up against that fence, seemingly lucky not to suffer major injury. I’m pretty sure that a fence like that in NZ would attract the attention of the government health and safety department, and prosecution would result if a player was injured.

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The Super 12 is getting down to the business end! by Dingo Marshall
The Super 12 log has once again become jammed as teams concertina together with 3 games to go. The Brumbies cling to top spot after a bye on 30 points, the Stormers are second on 28, the Crusaders ahead of the Sharks on points differential on 25, the Chiefs on 23, the Waratahs ahead of the Bulls on points differential on 22. The Hurricanes, Blues, Highlanders, Reds and the Cats make up the remainder of the table. It is hard to imagine any of the last 5 teams being able to make the final 4.

That leaves 7 teams vying for 4 spots. It is going to be a massive end to the season. Some of the very big games this weekend are: Brumbies vs. Waratahs in Sydney (a very big grudge match as the rivalry between these two Aussie teams is massive), Chiefs vs. Stormers in Hamilton, Crusaders vs. Bulls in Christchurch. All 12 teams are involved this weekend and this remains the case each weekend until the final round as all teams have had the benefit of a week off in the form of a bye. Get your beer su pplies updated, stock up on biltong and chips and inform your loved ones that this weekend will be spent watching quality rugby on the box.

Australians love their use of nicknames and I am no exception to this rule. Some classic nicknames that I heard about recently were: Chris Whitaker – ‘Hobo’, Mat Rogers – ‘Rat’, Sterling Mortlock – ‘Captain Insanity’ and Phil Waugh – ‘White Orc’. You can just imagine these names being used on the field and any spectators close enough to the action scratching their heads and wondering what on earth is going on.

Enjoy all the action. Until next week

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It's my responsibility to get my head back around football, it's been a tough week but we're all professional enough to know that we've just got to get on with it and finish our preparation for a really good performance on the field tomorrow night.    David Nucifora

Our teams are definitely more disciplined and are being applauded for their image. It's been a welcome change Jake White 

I cannot see any of the South African coaches bringing South African rugby back to the top three in the world game. Yet they have the players to do it. There is a tremendous amount of scope and talent. Look at schoolboy rugby in this country and you see thousands of kids playing this game. But South Africa must improve their scouting system to give youngsters a chance, not just turf them out at the first opportunity.     Roger Young, Ireland international and a British Lion in New Zealand in 1966

The major difference, though, between the Heineken Cup and Super 12 is the weather. Conditions make the Heineken Cup a very physical competition between two powerful packs with a big emphasis on defence. These factors do not have as much influence on the Super 12, which features a lot more running and making use of the width of the field.     Gregor Townsend

We still believe very strongly that you can't win the Super 12 if you play 10-man rugby, we want to win this tournament and in order to do that we have to be able to use our backs as well.      Victor Matfield

Props are the only people in the world who can run off head injuries.      Tony Johnson

He's having some real fun with the Bulls forwards!      Ian Smith on Carlos Spencer

If you play correctly against the Blues they can be beaten.       Gert Smal, pre-match comment

They're [the Stormers] a side that likes to take teams on, and if you do that often you get results to go your way. It's going to be a really fascinating match out there, because both teams play a similar style of game, both teams have got game-breakers and I think we're going to see a pretty electric sort of game.        Xavier Rush

It was always an ambition of mine, but I never expected to be an All Black at such a young age.       Dan Carter

We knew that we had to be prepared for anything when playing against South Africa - even genitals aren't safe. Stephen Larkham in a new book, Stephen Larkham's World Cup Diary

They're good enough players, but at the moment they're not hungry enough. It is time to feed them some rugby perspective and starve them of the political propaganda that has them believing being black guarantees them five seats on the Bok bus.      Mark Keohane on the weak performances of SA's top 'black' players

It was totally unacceptable and every single Reds player would like to apologise to the Queensland fans. Queensland coach Jeff Miller after the 23-17 defeat to the Bulls at Ballymore.

A school of thought says that the arrogance and attitude of former All Black coach John Mitchell has stayed with many of last year's World Cup squad. Combined with being the defending Super 12 champions and widely tipped
pre-season to repeat this year, it's suspected to have contributed to a self-destructive attitude.     Chris Mirams in New Zealand's Sunday Star-Times

There are no bloody forwards in Auckland anymore.     Bryan Williams 

Super 12 game plans are very similar, whereas in the Heineken Cup there is variety in terms of attacks, defences and refereeing. That variety prepares you for Test rugby far better than the Super 12, and, like the international game, the 'shutdown' comes very quickly in terms of the contest at the breakdown and the speed with which defences press.       John Mitchell

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Letters to the Editor
Hi Lucas

I was just pondering your comments regarding young Rathbone and I recalled an interview with Japie Mulder a few weeks back. He was of the opinion that Rathbone was dispatched to an academy upon arrival in Oz. Whilst he was at pains to state that these were unconfirmed reports he was, nevertheless, fairly sure about their authenticity.

By all accounts the Aussies were not that impressed with young Rathbone's skills and off to 'school' he went. Now, as a Sharks supporter, I watched Rathbone during that watershed season of his when he made his debut for the Sharks in the S12. I also watched him closely during the U21 tournament in which he played at centre. One thing is definitely certain - his skills have improved immensely and he is, by far, a more consummate player than before. This man is going to come back and haunt SA - mark my words!

The comparison with Jorrie Muller is also interesting as this was a player that I rated very highly during that U21 tournament. He was a pleasure to watch and played with absolute ease and confidence. However, as you rightly pointed out, he is not the same person now as he was then. In fact, he has been downright disappointing (much like Johan Roets for the Bulls!) and appears to be regressing rather than progressing!

Skills are still, in my opinion, a major cause for concern from a South African perspective. We tend to rely so much on guts and determination. (Much like the Sharks did in winning those 2 matches overseas!) I certainly do not believe that our backs are anywhere near as skilled and talented as those from downunder. In fact, they're nowhere near as skilled as the English, French and Irish either. Most of our backs tend to have one particular strength but lack in all other areas. Very few, if any, can be regarded as been well rounded players that offer the best on both defense and offence.

In fact, this coming weekends match between the Bulls and Blues should provide all the evidence we need. The Blues backline is amongst the most dangerous in the game and it will be very interesting to see how the Bulls cope. I have no fear with the Bulls forwards - they will stand up to the best and could, possibly give them an edge. But, the mighty Blues backs are a talented bunch who simply ooze both pace and skills. What a match this should be.

Now, if only our U19's can overcome the Kiwis and not throw the match away like they did against the French!!!

Campbell Fuller
Sports Talk

Hi Lucas

Eerstens net om 'n klein sakie reg te stel moet ek aan Marius Stegman laat weet, ek het nie suurdruiwe oor die Bulle se loesing in Kaapstad nie. Wat my dwars in die krop steek is die arrogansie van Katzenellenbogen om na die blapse wat hy gemaak het, nog te sê hy was reg. Gaan kyk na die video voor Breyten Paulse se "drie" en besluit dan self of die ref reg was. Dieselfde geld die "drieë" wat Juan Smith gedruk het. Daardie man kan nie 'n skeidsregter genoem word nie! Dieselfde geld die grensregters. As ons wil kan ons sommer die klomp wat vir die onder-19's geblaas het hierby insleep. 

Ek is nie 'n provinsialistiese ondersteuner nie. Ek ondersteun die Springbokke tot die dood toe, en enige span wat goeie rugby speel. As die wedstryd teen enige buitelandse span is, ondersteun ek natuurlik die Suid-Afrikaanse span. Speel twee SA-spanne teen mekaar geniet ek die rugby wat gespeel word deur beide spanne. As 'n ref egter sienende blind is vir die foute van een span, sal ek elke keer die ref aanvat. Ek was self 'n skeidsregter in my jong dae, ken die reëls darem nog en weet wat op die ve ld aangaan. Toegegee, daar is dinge wat die ref nie sien nie en hy kan foute maak. Maar wragtag, om vir 80 minute lank nie te sien nie, moet die man 'n witkierie én 'n gidshond dringend kry. Hy staan 'n kans om homself baie ernstig te beseer tussen 30 rugbyspelers!

Waarom is ek nie provinsialisties nie? Die provinsie waar ek groot geword het (en op hoërskoolvlak vir die provinsie gespeel het) is jare gelede in twee verdeel. Dit het reeds 'n hele paar naamsveranderinge ondergaan en bestaan vandag nie meer nie. Rugby bestaan gelukkig nog en daarom sal ek altyd die spel ondsersteun.
Tweedens aan Freek Burger 'n woordjie van advies na aanleiding van die "quotation" in week 10 se RF. Freek, moenie soos Nick Mallett wees en dink ons Suid-Afrikaanse rugbypubliek is onnosel nie. Meeste van ons is tweetalig en sal beslis verstaan wat in 'n skeidregter se evalueringsverslag staan, as dit net gepubliseer word. As die verslae natuurliik is Chinees of Hindi geskryf word sal ons nie weet nie, maar komaan man, jy bluf niemand nie.

Mag week 11 vir ons BRILLIANT wees met 4 SA spanne wat oorwinnings behaal het!

Kys de Wet

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