Editors Note


Volume 4, Week 16

Editors Note

Brilliant!       The Super 12 is done and dusted and the team who played some of the most scintillating rugby seen in a long time each collected a paltry pewter for their gargantuan efforts. Heck after that magnificent display in a final one hopes there was a little cheque enclosed… 

The awesome Brumbies again employed the kind of Panzer tactics that would have made Guderian and Rommel green with envy when they simply rolled over a confused lot who, before the kick off, was the most feared side in any final. Robbie Deans must have woken up on Sunday morning with quite a sore head, thumping in fact after his team was drilled in exactly the same fashion as the Chiefs the previous week. Little did he know though that Ben Blair would roll over and play Polish and that his forwards were as effective as the Maginot line – not taken by force but effectively surrounded.

The match was over after 20 minutes and a whole paragraph can be devoted to the Crusaders comeback however the truth is that it did not matter the game was lost. The Brumbies always seem to have the edge and the ability to score at will. But back to that wonderful opening stanza when Gregan played a phenomenal role in exploiting the blind side. A coach once told this young scrumhalf that if and when you break down the blind side it MUST result in a try. Well the best scrumhalf in the world confirmed the sage advice and ‘overdid’ it to initiate two brilliant efforts with such intricate interpassing that most traditionalists grabbed for the Lafite Rothschild. Yes, again the theory was confirmed, the ball is quicker than the man and good effective passing will always beat the defence.

The men from Canberra, vociferously supported by a maximum crowd played very intelligent football and were just so much smarter than the visitors. This couch potato particularly enjoyed the contributions of Mark Gerard – boy is he good! and ole Joe Roff who is off to Oxford (as said, these guys are smart!) and his second try to beat Cullen’s record was a stereotypical Roff assist. Cullen was always the more spectacular and dare I say his tries are more vivid than Joe Cool’s in the memory bank but o ne Roff try will always remain right up there, the scalpel like thrust through the Sharks defence to set up his teams victory in the 2001 final. Mr Cullen never played in a Super 12 final, Joe did, in a few and he did the business. Farewell to a great.

So, the Super 12 is over and it was a good game with a bit of fisticuffs near the end and the best team won. Across the Channel, Wasps won the European Cup courtesy of one of the biggest blunders ever seen in a final. Forget poor Ben Blair, this guy Clement Poitrenaud is not showing his face near Toulouse in a hurry, he is on an extended holiday in England. For those in the dark, picture this: 2 minutes of playing time left, score 20-20 and the French team looking strong and the more adventurous, Howley (a brilliant player) kicks around the scrum and the ball rolls parallel to the touchline, the young Frenchman shepherds the ball all the way, waiting nonchalantly for it to go over the touchline and eventually when it did not happen (damn the oval ball!) waited for it to roll over the trylin e. It did not pan out as he anticipated.

An experienced fellow would have stepped one foot over the tryline, collected the ball and dotted it down, he was not experienced… the slowmo showed it best and it was almost comical, when he bent over to dot down, a hand (Howleys) appeared from nowhere a few inches below his and beat the Toulousian hand for an unlikely try. Merde! was probably heard for a few miles and to nail the coffin shut, van Gisbergen converted from the side with the ball bouncing on the crossbar and OVER! England is World C up and European Cup holders.

There is a lot of drama around the current Springbok setup, with more merde around than anything else, particularly the bull kind. The SARFU head honcho, Brian van Rooyen has now stepped in and taken over the running of the Springbok team after a public (Internet) dressing down of the SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd, MD Songezo Nayo for not doing his job. Nayo responded with what equates to a “what do you mean? what is my job?” statement. 

This is not good. First and foremost, the Springboks and rugby in South Africa is suffering from public displays of unprofessional behavior from its so-called guardians. If they cannot administer their own affairs how is it expected to deal with a sport that is not only a massive business but one of the essentials of South African sporting life. And they expect the players to conduct themselves as professionals? Without even going there, 10 players apparently failed their fitness tests. The whole s tory looks like a job for Michael Eisner, as head of Dysney because rugby in SA is nothing more than Mickey Mouse!

This coming weekend is a rugby free weekend and this writer will certainly be called to do all those things ignored for the last 14 weeks! Most enthusiastic Super 12 supporters suddenly realize this first weekend after the final that they no longer have a wife or a girlfriend or that it is time again to look for one. A word of advice, your Stormers/Sharks jumper is not cool to go out in, good luck!



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Choosing the right players for the team by Vinesh Naicker
I’ve said it before and am going to say it again the Australian rugby players may not be the biggest or the fastest, but on balance are the more skilful and more intelligent, especially the ones that play for the Brumbies.

The Brumbies have been the form team of this year’s super 12, as they were in 2000, this time, however, they have learned from the mistakes of the past and planned adequately for the tactics of the Crusaders. The Crusader team of 2004 was not, however, of the same calibre as the team of 2000. The primary difference in the Crusaders has been their failure to fill the gaps which were created by the loss of senior players, primarily at fly half, centre and fullback.

The loss of players such as Gibson, Robinson and McDonald is only now being realised. Aaron Mauger is a gifted player but he’s not a centre, playing him in that position in such a crucial game is akin to the stupidity of playing Leon McDonald at centre in the World Cup. By contrast the systems used by the Brumbies are so good that new players such as Gerard, Rathbone, Wilson and Giteau have slotted in almost seamlessly. The key has been playing these players in positions which they have trained for all season

My advice to the Brumbies would have been to take the ball to the line and, when possible, to put up the old “up and under”, to test the defensive capabilities of Blair and Vunibaka. Despite the work that he has done Vunibaka's defensive frailties are apparent. Blair is too short to challenge for the ball in the air and also lacks that single minded fearlessness for consequences, which is becoming a prerequisite for the fullback position. He also lacks genuine gas and a side-step in attack which means that he rarely beats the first defender unfortunately highlighted by the tackle that lead to the shocking pass he threw, which in turn led to the Brumbies second try. He has also failed to make a single try saving tackle this season, which is unforgivable as the last line of defence. The only positive thing that you could say about him is that he has a good kicking game. The saddest thing about Blairs game in the weekend was that he was not really put under pressure by the Brumbies at all, he just self destructed.

Cameron McIntyre may well be a player of the future but unfortunately the fatal flaw in his game that has become apparent in the latter part of the season is that he has a tendency to take the ball up, get isolated, and lose it in contact. It looked like at least two of the turnovers that resulted in tries to the Brumbies in the first twenty minutes came from turnovers by McIntyre. His defence, the primary reason he was in the team ahead of Mehrtens was also woeful in the weekend. It was great to see the difference that Andrew Mehrtens made when he came on the park, although he himself is the first to admit that he has lacked fitness over the last year or two, he is still all class.

The main thing that the Crusaders have taken from the game is the way that they came back and outscored the Brumbies in the final 60 minutes, but to be brutally honest no team could have failed to do that, in the same circumstances. The Brumbies had effectively won the game in the first 19 minutes of the game and all that remained for them to do was to keep the points gap between them and the Crusaders and this they managed to do superbly. The Chiefs result of the previous week doesn’t seem that b ad in retrospect.

At the end of the day, however, the game was not all about the Crusaders mistakes. The Brumbies, by putting on the pressure that they did, created those turnovers and were ruthless in exploiting the opportunities presented to them. There can be no question that the best team of the tournament won.

The Springbok squad has been chosen in the last week, but before this happened a number of the letters to the editor I read have gone on about the lack of skill level of the prospective Springbok players. Many people expressed the hope that the Springbok coach will be able to get the most out of these players, as the Super 12 coaches were not able to do. In my view this hope is forlorn; these players should have learned the basics of kicking, passing and tackling at the club or provincial levels. Springbok training camps are no place to be learning these skills, the time duration available to prepare for the first test only allows the coach enough time to instill team patterns and calls for line outs and back line moves into the team. You cannot expect a hooker that has struggled to find his jumpers all season long to suddenly come right when he reaches the international level. It’s just not going to happen. Only players who have demonstrated consistent ability all season should be selected.

The two teams for the All Black trials have also been named. This will not be a true trial, in the sense that the majority of players have already been chosen, and, at most, there are three or four players who can force their way into the team.

Tana Umaga has been named as captain; the justification from the coach for not continuing with the captain of last year is that he is not an automatic selection for the team in his position. It will be interesting to see if he does make the final team. My biggest problem with Reuben Thorne is not his skills as a player but those skills that he fails to show as a captain. In my view it is the captains job to not only rally his troops when required, something which Thorne fails to do until too lat e on most occasions, but also to question the referee when he feels that his team or any of its members have been unjustifiably penalised. It is very rare to see Reuben Thorne doing this, he is so deferential to the referee that it is annoying, especially when you see players such as George Gregan or in fact any of the Brumbies continuously haranguing the referee. To his credit, Andre Watson does not allow the continuous stream of advice that he is given by the Brumbies or Australian players to affect hi s judgment to any large degree. Unfortunately Watson is retiring and the same cannot be said of the other referees.

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Team of the Week

2003 Super 15

2004 Super 15


Name Team Position Name Team
15 Joe Roff Brumbies 15 Joe Roff Brumbies
14 Doug Howlett Blues 14 Clyde Rathbone Brumbies
13 Tana Umaga Hurricanes 13 Stirling Mortlock Brumbies
12 Paul Steinmetz Highlanders 12 Dan Carter Crusaders
11 Rupeni Caucaunibuca Blues 11 Lote Tuqiri Waratahs
10 Carlos Spencer Blues 10 Stephen Larkham Brumbies
9 Justin Marshall Crusaders 9 Craig Davidson Sharks
8 Pedrie Wannenberg Bulls 8 Xavier Rush Blues
7 Jerry Collins Highlanders 7 Richie McCaw Crusaders
6 George Smith Brumbies 6 George Smith Brumbies
5 Victor Matfield Bulls 5 Simon Mailing Highlanders
4 Geo  Cronje Bulls 4 Bakkies Botha Bulls
3 Richard Bands Bulls 3 Greg Somerville Crusaders
2 Anton Oliver Highlanders 2 Jeremy Paul Brumbies
1 Carl Hoeft Highlanders 1 Os Du Randt Cats

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I'm satisfied with what I've seen. There's a few players whose fitness levels could improve, but everyone will be ready before the Test.      Jake White 

It doesn't matter if you're playing your first or your 51st Test, because it remains an honour to represent your country.     Percy Montgomery

I would like to spend time with my family, experience life without rugby, a braai on a Saturday afternoon and to teach my son how to fish. I would love to make a contribution to help the Springboks get back among the top teams in the world - but not with coaching.    Mark Andrews on retirement from rugby

There is no certainty about this game. We do know there's going to be a lot of surprises. It's certainly going to be dramatic.     Crusaders' coach Robbie Deans before the final

I'm enjoying my rugby again. Carel du Plessis of Western Province has a lot to do with that. He means a lot to me and did wonders for my self-confidence.     Gaffie du Toit

He took up an abnormal chunk of our medical and management team's time. He was very high maintenance, not just with injuries but across the board.      Blues chief executive David White on Rupeni Caucaunibuca 

It's really a shame we didn't win because a win would really kick this team along and it's probably the first time I can say I've felt we deserved to win.     Matt Williams, Scotland coach after the defeat against the Barbarians

We talk in psychology of getting into the zone - our players don't know how. They have so much passion, but aren't good in their execution. I'll definitely focus on that.     Henning Gericke, Springbok psychologist

The results of the fitness tests opened a lot of players' eyes. They have seen just how far behind they are when compared, for example, with England's players.      Jake White

I am very unhappy with the way that this has been dealt with, if I hadn't spoken to Songezo Nayo this morning, the first I would have heard would have been this morning through the media release. I still have not been given any reasons for why these steps have been taken.     Springbok Media liaison, Anthony Mackaiser on being 'relieved' from his position

SA Rugby are not doing their work. Songezo Nayo, as MD, must take responsibility. I told Theunie (Lategan), who is at a Sanzar meeting in Australia, that his MD is not doing his work and will have an urgent meeting when he gets back. I can’t live with this (non-performance) and in consultation with the chairman (Theunie Lategan of SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd) decided to take over (the running of the Springbok side).      Brian van Rooyen

My response is that if he (Van Rooyen) blames me he should have raised his objections with me directly. He should put to me what he is aggrieved about. I still do not know what it is that I did not do or was supposed to have done and I would have expected it to be raised with me.      Songezo Nayo

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Letters to the Editor
Hi Lucas

Well done, referees

I have been one of the fiercest critics of certain Australian and New Zealand referees in recent seasons. But I can also give credit where (and when) it's due.

I believe the quality of rugby in this year's Super-12 has shown a marked improvement on prior years. Sure, the rude awakening of a northern hemisphere side being crowned world champions has something to do with it. So has the players' own commitment to improving their repertoire of skills and discipline. But a much improved performance by all the referees involved also played a significant part.

Yes, three blatant blunders by Andrew Cole probably cost the Stormers a place in the final. Yes, Craig Davidson probably crawled in for one try. Yes, Jonathan Kaplan's timeless TMO decision probably demoralised the Sharks for the remainder of their season. But one never got the impression that these errors were anything but honest mistakes. Even our old nemesis, Stuart Dickinson, appears to have matured beyond recognition.

So take a bow, gentlemen. It just goes to show that you can when you put your minds to it.

It has been a privilege, honour and great pleasure to have been part of such a magnificent competition, even from the point of view of a humble spectator.

Colin van Rensburg

Hi Lucas

SA Coach

Well, since the Brumbies coach Dave Nucifora has been sacked after winning the Super 12 , why don't we get honest and ask him to coach an SA team? He might also coach our notoriously conservative and thick-skinned "coaches".

The Brumbies final performance was rugby at an altogether trans-human level, like they had landed from another planet. Brilliant,wonderful stuff that no team in SA or NZ has a hope of emulating. But we can borrow the coach and start from there.

Peter Giraudo

Nairobi, Kenya

Hi Lucas

Just a short responce to Shultzy . I think its fine to support any team you want but one gets the feeling you only do it for the effect and your carrying on and complaining about SA Rugby and all its short comings has a real lack of understanding of the reality of the past and the present. In fact I think he is probably a closet racist !


Hi Lucas

Om meet e begin kan ek nie glo dat SA Rugby so 'n bespotting geword het nie.Ek was en is nog altyd 'n Springbok ondersteuner maar somtyds wonder ek of dit nog die moeite werd is om so aan te gaan.Weereens is daar spellers gekies wat glad nie eers 'n inpak op die spel gemaak het nie.Dir spellers wat wel het is in die SA A span.

Mentz het deur en deur bewys hy het die talent om enige speller voor hom te klop en kyk net op die bank.Nou wonder Jake White hoekom wil Clyde Rathbone nie sy aanbod aanvaar het nie.As dit so aangaan sal al ons jong talent die land verlaat,net omdat daar geen geleenthede geskep word om te wys waarna toe hulle instaat is nie.

Wel wat kan ek sê.Dit sal seker nie lank wees nie dan gaan die koppe weer rol soos wat ons almal maar van weet.

Ek hoop maar ek is verkeerd.

Nogal bekommerd 


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