|Volume 4, Week 13|
Brilliant! The search is on for the elusive R 1.8 million men - that is R 1.8 million each and not the sum total of the entire Springbok team! After yet another disappointing weekend for South African rugby (for those readers who stopped watching after last week – four defeats, again!) the season is beginning to look quite similar to previous years – dismal! At last there is consistency in South African rugby!
In selecting a team one usually look at the incumbents and decide if they performed well enough in the last match and what their current form is like. In theory the incumbent must play himself out of the team… that is theory and based on the premonition of the self same coach and selectors making the selection. There are other criteria like injured players returning, retirements, the uniquely South African conundrum of having to select players of colour and foreign representation.
The last Springbok match 22, against the All Blacks in Melbourne (29-9 defeat) were:
1. Faan Rautenbach
2. John Smit
3. Christo Bezuidenhout
4. Victor Matfield
5. Bakkies Botha
6. Corne Krige (c)
7. Danie Rossouw
8. Juan Smith
9. Joost Van Der Westhuizen
10. Derick Hougaard
11. Ashwin Willemse
12. De Wet Barry
13. Jorrie Muller
14. Thinus Delport
15. Jaco Van Der Westhuyzen
Reserves: Jaque Fourie, Neil De Kock, Richard Bands, Selborne Boome, Schalk Burger Jr., Danie Coetzee, Louis Koen
From here, my selection with comments and close runs (players have to be fit for play this weekend if required).
1. Christo Bezuidenhout – A tremendous scrummager and his work in the loose is very strong with the added advantage of being able to play both sides of the scrum. Gurthro Steenkamp has improved in leaps and bounds under the tutelage of Os du Randt.
2. John Smit – as player he is solid and does the hard work however after the Sharks last few matches there is a question mark over his ‘inspiration’ factor as captain. The backup and probably the best hooker in the country is Gary Botha who lifts his team mate Danie Coetzee from the squad.
3. Richard Bands – getting fitter all the time and will be in peak form come test time, a solid front row is required against the Northern Hemisphere to take the battle up front.
4. Victor Matfield – one of the best lineout jumpers in the world and a great contester of opposition ball. An able support is Selbourne Boome who underlined his value to the Stormers efforts this year and he can cover as a ball carrying flank.
5. Bakkies Botha – probably the only SA player to command a place in a Southern Hemisphere 15, he played a brilliant World Cup and has learnt to channel his aggression.
6. Schalk Burger Jr. – a wonderful player with loads of potential, quick to the ball and with a high work rate, needs to work on his penalty count. Luke Watson is not playing up to his standard of last year’s Super 12 however he is more experienced than Roland Bernard.
7. Juan Smith – the ideal ball carrying loose forward, great on the run, loads of speed and his good vision to support has resulted in a few tries.
8. Jacques Cronje – excellent in the beginning of the season, he does the classic eightman’s job very well.
9. Neil De Kock – technically the best scrumhalf in the country, his last few games have been poor but the Stormers forwards were not at their best in providing front foot ball. Fourie Du Preez is the best back up and the long-term option but will bow to Johannes Conradie as one of the current Springboks.
10. Butch James – at his best a very good player and goalkicker who has averaged 80% in the Super 12, better than any other SA kicker.
11. Ashwin Willemse – he is the incumbent and has never played a bad match never mind a bad test. Henno Mentz is on top form however, the incumbent cracks the nod.
12. De Wet Barry – the best defender in Springbok rugby and his partnership with Joubert is vital, he does have game breaking ability and organizational capabilities. Wayne Julies as backup for his partnership with Marius Joubert at Boland.
13. Marius Joubert – the most valuable player in South Africa after Bakkies Botha, an excellent defender and a brilliant attacking option, he needs a bit of space and his tactical kicking has improved tremendously.
14. Breyten Paulse – had an excellent beginning to the season, always been a dodgy defender but he has experience and an excellent left boot.
15. Jaque Fourie – a player that has been forced out of his best position due to team needs, he is a brilliant attacking option, solid defender and good punter of the ball. Brent Russell is an impact player and Werner Greeff too inconsistent.
The team selected is the run on team, with reserves being; Gurthro Steenkamp, Gary Botha, Selbourne Boome, Luke Watson, Johannes Conradie, Wayne Julies and Brent Russell.
There we go. As for this weekend, some salivating clashes await, two semi-finals spots are very much open and it will take a good effort to fill them.
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|Jakes Dilemma by Desmond Organ|
Perhaps the time has come for “Brilliant” to refer to the continuous ability of South African players to produce abysmal performances on a repetitive basis. Brilliant would be the descriptive component of the regularity with which highly paid professionals transform themselves into amateurs. There is clearly a case for supporters to abandon the stadiums and the lofty ticket process associated with visiting them.
Clearly the resurgence of players like Rathbone, Montgommery and van der Westhuizen, combined with the interest in establishing a South African presence in the English structure is a clear indictment of both the administrators and players in South Africa. No wonder there is a desire to relax the ban on selecting foreign players for the Springboks. Without this option we might be forced to keep the new head honcho aware of his election manifesto. Whether the political climate in South Africa is as h onest as that in other parts of the world remains to be seen. I for one cannot see a leadership that awards lavish salary increases voting itself voluntarily out of the hot seat.
Jake White has a real situation on his hands, a contract that does not exceed two years and a pitiful bunch of performances with which to play his first hand. I can just see him relying on the overseas bunch to re-vitalise the motivation of the local rabble and improve the basic level of skills in the starting fifteen. What an indictment of professional rugby in South Africa; a country which produces arguably the best schoolboy players only to turn them over to the Australians and English to become world class. It is nothing short of embarrassing and calls for a complete overhaul of the regional competitions that the South African players are involved in. The need for a more professional set up is beyond doubt and maybe in the mould of SAB and De Beers, going to London is the only way to operate in a world class manner.
Based on the performances in the Super 12, a number of incumbent Springboks deserve nothing less than public humiliation. The fact that they have not performed with any motivation is a clear indictment of their level of commitment and good enough reason to keep them far away from the Springboks. The cancer that they bring with them should be kept from the healthy state of players that are plying their trade overseas or in local teams that at least have commitment and guts. The Sharks, despite their run of losses deserve more credit than any member of the domestic cats that represent the Lions and the Cheetahs. The only redeeming factor for several Cats is their history of motivation and a playing record under Jake White. Those that suffered the horror of Straeuli are not in the mix and should be sent to the Vodacom Cup as punishment for their performances.
The make up of the Springboks should not be seen only in the light of performance; clearly the need for representation is going to result in a few disappointments. However, if Jake White selects the right combinations there are no reasons why he cannot pick the best 15 players available and still meet the political agenda through the reserves bench. I am quite confident that there could be as many as three players in the starting fifteen with several others in the match 22. Not only will this be as strong a team as could be selected, it would also keep the politicians in check for a while. There have been some outstanding performances from several players who are players of colour and on determination alone they will deserve their place.
Unfortunately we have to live with the reality that some players will feel hard done by, but there can be little dispute when the best fifteen start the game. It is with this in mind and the fact that the South African teams have no more international opponents that I am going to attempt to be a selector and throw the appointed ones a few ideas as to what will work for us against Ireland.
Fullback – Percy Montgommery
There can be little debate here as we need experience and we need a motivated group of people to inspire the younger players. There simply is no other choice, even if Werner Greeff has been extremely brave in his last few matches.
Right Wing – Breyton Paulse
The man has a load of experience and he gets the nod ahead of others because of the need to have a representative side. He has the experience, so if you have to keep the politicians happy, why not use somebody who arguably has the ability to inspire others. He also deserves it because he was denied the opportunity several years ago when he clearly deserved it.
Outsider Center – Marius Joubert
Nobody else has come even close to him in terms of weekly performances. His combination with De Wet Barry makes him a definite.
Inside Center – De Wet Barry
The best defender in South African rugby and a weekly performer who has a lot more to show than he gets credit for. Wayne Julies would be a good back up, provided that he can be kept injury free.
Left Wing – Ashwin Willemse
He has not had the best of seasons and has been done no favours playing for the Cats. He is a capable player on either wing and his selection in this position opens up the other wing position for Paulse.
Fly Half – Butch James
This is probably the biggest gamble that one could make. However, I believe that with the right coaching and the right temperament he could be a huge force in the critical fly half channel. His defence is rock solid and will open up space for players like De Wet Barry and Marius Joubert. Jaco van der Westhuizen is the other candidate for this position along with Werner Greeff.
Scrum Half – Fourie Du Preez
He has the business and has been the most consistent of the South Africans. My heart goes out to Craig Davidson as he has so much motivation. My back up is Bolla Conradie because he is as good as the rest and we have to invest in the future. Starting with Du Preez and using Conradie as a replacement will not in any way weaken the team.
Eighth man – Joe van Niekerk
He should be fit by the time the Irish tour, we just do not have another player in his class at the moment and he has to be selected. Juan Smith is not an option at eighth man because of his inability to control the ball at the base of the scrum/ruck
Flanker – Schalk Burger
A huge asset in the mould of a Skinstad and van Niekerk combined. His fetching capability and his height in the lineout make him a definite starter.
Lock – Victor Matfield
Despite a questionable Super 12 there can be no substitute for experience. He is one of the best jumpers in the world on opposition ball and he knows how to get the hard work done.
Lock- Bakkies Botha
He is a mountain of a man and provides the physical presence that is needed to intimidate other packs of forwards. His familiarity with Matfield makes him an obvious choice.
Flanker – Juan Smith
This is probably going to be laughed at, but there can be no denying his natural athletic ability and his speed around the park. He has the ability to play on either side of the scrum and combined with van Niekerk and Burger you have one of the fastest back three in the world. Roland Bernard is a good option as a back up.
Loose Head Prop – Os Du Randt
The disappearance of Lawrence Sephaka and the need for experience has created another opportunity for the big man. He has the strength and the knowledge of the game to compete with any tight head and if this is where the Irish are weak then he is the man.
Hooker – John Smit
He has all the goods to be a good leader.
Tight Head Prop – Richard Bands
A quiet start to the Super 12, but this is a critical position and he has the ability to ensure a good right shoulder. Eddie Andrews is just not ready to make the starting fifteen.
Bolla Conradie – He is a capable replacement and if you start with Du Preez he is as good as any of the rest at this level.
Brent Russell – He can turn a game on its head.
Wayne Julies – He is a playmaker and he deserves a chance to make an impact at the highest level.
Selborne Boome/AJ Venter - I just cannot separate these two players. Both have the experience to play either flank or lock.
Eddie Andrews – A great Super 12 as far as effort is concerned. Having selected Bands and excluded Sephaka there is no real alternative here. John Smit can also play in the front row which negates the argument to include Sephaka.
Gary Botha – A quieter Super 12 than expected but a far better long term prospect than Danie Coetzee. I also think that he has issues with the Bulls coach which has affected his performances.
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|Round 11 by Vinesh Naicker|
Chiefs vs. Bulls
I fully expected the Chiefs to win this game and was quite surprised when in the first twenty minutes the Bulls scored three quick tries and put 19 points on the board. The decision to play De Waal at first five seemed to be an inspired one by coach Joubert.
The Chiefs seem to be out of sorts at the start of the game with Glen Jackson missing at least two touch finders and Todd Miller once again carrying on his usual run of form, which alternates an adequate game with a very bad one.
Twenty five minutes into the game and I was picking that the Bulls might run away and beat the Chiefs badly. However in the last ten minutes of the first half the Bulls looked to visibly tire and the Chiefs were able to get back into the game, scoring a try to go into the break just down 19-10.
The Bulls totally changed their game plan in the second half. Some of it was due to an injury to the fullback requiring replacement, but the decision to play Hougaard at fly half and put De Waal at fullback was a huge mistake. De Waal was ineffective at fullback as was Hougaard at fly half.
The Chiefs were thereby able to gather themselves and get back into the game. They showed quite a bit of guts and determination to be able to come back from that many points down. The Bulls players looked to be out on their feet and it was quite evident, later in the game with the Chiefs hard on attack and the Bulls forwards just walking back to some of the defensive rucks.
I had always assumed that these players coming off the high veld, where the air is generally much thinner than in most places in New Zealand, would have much greater stamina than the New Zealand players. Instead the trip overseas seems to have become more and more difficult for the Bulls as it is quite evident that their energy levels have dropped throughout the tour.
In the end the Chiefs were able to win the game by two points and are now only one point away from a guaranteed spot in the semifinals. Their final game however is against the front running Brumbies.
Waratahs vs. Highlanders
I only watched the first 25 minutes or so of this game as South African referee Shaun Veldsman ruined it as a spectacle for me. I do try not to say bad things about the referees as I realize they have quite a difficult job out there; however this guy was particularly bad.
It may have been his first big game, but his display in the 30 minutes that I did watch was so bad that I have to question whether this guy was picked on merit or is a “quota” referee. Perhaps a bit harsh but in my defence I saw one movement in which the Waratahs not only threw two forward passes but also knocked it on, only for the referee to award them a penalty against the Highlanders at the end of this movement. The number of forward passes and knock-ons that this guy and his two touch judges missed was astounding, especially as he only seemed to be policing the Highlanders.
I turned the TV on only to watch the last five minutes of the game and discovered to my amazement that the Highlanders were actually winning. Needless to say, only a minute after I had turned on the TV the Waratahs received a penalty right out in front and Matt Burke was given the task of winning the game for them. I don’t think that anybody could believe it when he missed the goal.
It almost beggars belief that a team could blow a 28 to 7 advantage, especially when the other team has a player sent off and are down to fourteen men for at least 50 minutes of the game.
It’s going to be a hard task for the Waratahs to come back after that defeat and beat the Reds at Suncorp Stadium, especially considering that they have never beaten the Reds in the entire history of the Super 12.
Crusaders vs. Stormers
The Stormers have no one but themselves to blame for losing against the Crusaders. Once again this was a team that had a one man advantage for a substantial portion of the game. They were unable to capitalize on this advantage and in fact were actually pushed backwards by a scrum of seven men on at least one occasion. This has got to be embarrassing for one of the bigger packs in South Africa.
The Stormers now return to South Africa, and based on what I’ve seen, and taking into account the loss of Krige, will struggle to beat the Sharks at home.
Falling afoul of the low
There have been quite a few players going before the judiciary in the last few weeks and there have been a number of questions about the consistency of the judgments that they have received.
In my view the sentence handed down to Corne Krige was too light because his action was premeditated. He not only tried to head-butt the guy once, but then grabbed him by the head, lined him up and took another shot at him. The three blind men of the judiciary chosen by the NZRFU did rugby a great disservice by suggesting that Kriges actions could in any way be excused. The exemption allowing him to play for the Barbarians was an incredible joke and the head of the panel has only further tarnish ed the reputation of the qualification of QC by his actions.
If, however, we are to assume that Kriges sentence set the benchmark, then A J Venter's sentence of five weeks is not unreasonable as his action was only a single heated attempt.
When you compare this against Mose Tuali’i's sentence it may seem harsh that Tuali’i's got off so lightly, but you have to consider the fact that Venter has been found guilty of the same crime before, and hence his repeated action warrants a harsher sentence. This was Tuali’i's first appearance before the judiciary and in reality the contact that he made with his forehead was purposely very light.
The sentence that Levi and Harrison received are indeed jokes. In my view Levi should have received at least ten weeks and Harrison a couple for his part in the fracas. For some reason the penalty laws in rugby are rather strange and a head-butt carries a greater recommended sentence than a punch.
The Sharks have got to be hurting after their defeat by the Reds. Three weeks ago it looked like the Sharks had an almost guaranteed place in the semifinals; they had done well on the road and were looking quite strong with four consecutive home games. They have only themselves to blame for blowing it and Kevin Putts excuse that they are tired and he has trouble getting them up every week just won’t wash, every other team in the Super 12 has played as many games as they have.
Two teams have now been decided for the final and the remaining two teams will obviously be settled in the final week of the round robin. I’m hoping that the Chiefs get at least one point off the Brumbies, if they don’t beat them, while the Waratahs lose to the Reds and the Stormers lose to the Sharks. This would mean that with a win and a bonus point the Blues could qualify as the fourth place team in the semifinals. I know they don’t deserve to, but I still have a soft spot for the Blues.
|Team of the Week|
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It's a shame really because he's always been such a big part of the Stormers since I can recall, he's a massive competitor and off the track he's a great bloke - what impact that has on them, who knows?
Psychologically, it has been good for our players to realise that we can win in New Zealand and Australia. The importance of the Stormers' 50-point win at Eden Park in Auckland cannot be over emphasised. Jake White
We don't want second-rate journeymen coming in and picking up good contracts while quality England talent that's marginalised is eventually lost to the game because they can't get first-team rugby. Damian Hopley
I've made it clear to the players this week that they cannot afford another slip-up. Gert Smal, pre-Crusaders game
He's just not up to it. I'm afraid it's as simple as that. John Drake on Derick Hougaard.
I told the judiciary I wasn't wanting to continue the altercation after the game, I didn't know it was a Highlander until I was shoved from behind, I thought it was a member of the crowd. Justin Harrison
This latest ruling (by an ARU tribunal) is astounding, unacceptable and laughable. Brian van Zyl, CEO of the Sharks
We may still speculate for years about what exactly went wrong, but in my heart I feel that we were over-confident. Kevin Putt on the game against the Reds
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|Letters to the Editor|
After having to endure 2 equally forgettable matches at Kings Park I'm bravely about to venture once more into the Shark infested waters. Of course, I do this not out of sado-masochism but in the vain hope that I manage to reap some return on my hopelessly overpriced season ticket!
Last weekend was indeed a study in mediocrity and cause for much consternation. However, maybe, just maybe, some good might come of it. Up until then we were basking in our glory of having 3 teams languishing in the top four and life was looking good. SARFU, Jake White, the fans and even the ever pessimistic voyeur Mark Keohane were silently optimistic. The reality, however, is that whilst the SA teams had managed some good performances we completely overlooked the fact that the opposition were putting in poor performances. It was only a matter of time before the bubble burst. (Although, we would have preferred a slow leak rather than the huge blow-out we encountered last weekend!)
The point is, Jake White now knows, that whilst we have shown some promise, that's all it is - PROMISE! Nothing more, nothing less. The truth of the matter is that the antipodean sides have actually underperformed with the exception of the Chiefs. Consequently, the 3 SA sides have looked a little above the ordinary.
I still believe, however, that we have the talent to produce a competitive Springbok team. The problem lies, in my humble opinion, in the coaching and this is where Jake White is going to have to Stand up and be Counted!!! So much of our success lies in his ability to transform our players into a World Class Team. At least, in White, we have a coach that has successfully won 2 World U21 titles which must stand for something.
One of the biggest worries though, from a SA perspective, must be the skills level (or rather lack thereof) of the SA players. If people are'nt convinced then they need look no further than young Clyde Rathbone whose skills level has probably doubled, if not more, since playing for the Brumbies. When he played for the SA U21 team and the Sharks I was quite impressed with him but cannot, in all honesty, say that I rated him significantly better than any other of the local players. However, his performances so far in the S12 have been simply awesome and he is now streaks ahead of his SA compatriots.
I'm not sure about you, or anyone else for that matter, but the improvement in Rathbone's skills is cause for great concern. It certainly shows that we are far behind the rest of the professional world when it comes down to pure technical ability. The up side, however, is that if Rathbone can be improved so dramatically then so too can all our other players!
Your invatation for a national side here it is:
15. J. vd Westhuizen
14. A. Willemse
13. J. Fourie
12. E. Botha
11. H. Mentz
10. B. James
9. C. Davidson
8. J. Smith
7. J. Cronje
6. P. Krause
5. V. Matfield
4. B. Botha
3. R. Bands
2. J. Smit (Only because Jake made him captain Gary Botha gets my vote)
1. O. du Randt
(If Rathbone declines the invatation, if he accepts then I would play him at centre with Jaques at fullback and Jaco on the flyhalf relegating Butch to the bench instead of Halstead)
16. G. Botha
17. C. Bezuidenhout
18. S. Boome
19. S. Burger
20. T. Halstead
21. F. du Preeuz
22. B. Russell
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