Editors Note


Volume 4, Week 18

Editors Note

Brilliant!       The 2004 international rugby season is now declared open and dare I say it was a marvelous weekend of rugby that pitted the best of north vs south, excluding the froggies of course. The results were as lopsided as a general election in an African state and two of the much vaunted Northern Hemisphere teams, England (World Champions) and Ireland (Triple Crown Champions) encountered defeat.

After a glorious week away from the hustle and bustle of working life and devoid of any Internet or newspapers, it was quite refreshing to attend a test match without the benefit of exhaustive pre-match analysis. Bloemfontein was in a merry state and the friendly people of this city provided a carnival atmosphere and a keen sense of anticipation of yet another new dawn in Springbok rugby.

The stadium, Vodacom Park was splendidly turned out and for the first time in many years a full house witnessed a Springbok test. The large crowd was not disappointed as the men in white dispatched the 5th best team in the world, 31-17. The match was not a brilliant one, there were too many mistakes from both sides but the Irish especially will be very disappointed by their showing. 

The conquerors of England at Twickenham played well below the usual lofty standards they have maintained for the last two years or so. The set pieces, previously the mainstay of the side’s success crumbled as Os du Randt buckled their scrum and Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield contested the lineouts, ultimately scoring a try from a misdirected throw. The mongrel of Schalk Burger and the tenacity of Jacques Cronje in the loose added to Irish woes and with this performance the Springbok eight acquit ted very well.

In the back division there was one man who stood head and shoulders above any other on the field, Brian O’Driscoll carries the mantle of ‘best player in his position in the world’ with consummate ease. What a pleasure to watch a genius at work, it was a pity his phenomenal talent, that step off either foot and frightening acceleration was not utilized on more occasions. If the Irish forwards establish parity in the next test and this man is allowed some space, it will be good night nurse. No wonder the Irish say, ‘in B.O.D we trust’.

The South African backs were not a fluid rhythmic entity but rather played like they only practiced together for the week. Barry’s injury was calamitous and few actually believe the hard centre CAN get injured. Fourie du Preez was worth his weight in gold, for the first time since Johan Roux a Springbok flyhalf received a good fast spin pass, delivered from both sides without a step, turn, time wasting or hand-in-the-air throwing. This ability, dear reader creates space and time and it never looked like anybody placed any pressure on Jaco or Gaffie when they kicked. Du Preez’s kicking was also solid and expect in the next test to see his strength around the scrum and a few breaks to keep the flankers honest.

Talking about flyhalves, Jaco had a good game, nothing flashy but he did the basics well although he needs to keep the opposition defences guessing with a break or two, but this was his first game at that level in the position. He will improve. A lot is/was said about Wayne Julies, he missed a couple of tackles and it was a blessing in disguise that D’Arcy left the field and BOD went to outside centre. Few centres nowadays defend the jink or the step, they are up so quickly and with such good align ment that by default stepping is neutralized however not with the caliber of ‘Waltzing’ O’Driscoll. Don’t worry Wayne, better players than you in world rugby are still wondering which side the young wizard went pass them. 

Marius Joubert was brilliant on defence and his tackling with a nose 2mm from breaking earlier in the week but with big cuts on took a lot of guts and bravery. He marked O’Driscoll later in the match and the two were pretty much tied although Marius will claim a hand off on the Irish captain that indirectly led to a try. The wings were quiet and few balls actually reached Mentz and Paulse however it was Paulse who got involved with good defence (yip believe it or not, that is why it was raining in Cape Town this week…) some excellent kicks and a few runs when he looked for work – a satisfying outing.

Lastly for Gaffie it was a great day, if he was not the front line goal kicker. There was very little rhythm in his ball striking to the posts where as every other kick were absolute monsters. The poor Irish though they would pressure him with kicks but the amount of interest he returned the favour with, would attract Warren Buffet to rugby. The goal kicking was however his prime task and he failed to meet international acceptable standards – a pity as he had an ideal opportunity.

The Irish was despondent and disappointed at their performance and for a very good team with a lot of personal pride this coming Saturday’s match will be an entirely different story. The team has been changed somewhat and like the Springboks most of the changes came at the back. Talking of which, Percy Montgomery returns to the Springbok fold to bolster the goalkicking and at Newlands his old stomping ground will be a huge and carefully observed factor.

The match Saturday will be a lot more even, the young Springbok team has the pedigree to become a very good team, the Irish are and therefore it is too difficult to call. The weather will play a role, it is sunny and bright at the moment but with contrasting opinions on what will happen on Saturday. Cape Town however is renown for rain on any major sporting occasion and as occasions go, this will be major! So pack the raincoat.

A quick word on the All Blacks – what a phenomenal display from Henry’s men. England was poor and they had no answers to a gargantuan forward effort and fast running backs. They did not learn from the Super 12, which so many of them scythe but would have provided answers on how to close down ‘King’ Carlos. They may bounce back but it will only be a poor All Black performance that will rob them from a 2 zip series win.

Enjoy the weekend’s rugby, the Springboks need your support and with three tests in a row on Saturday, this armchair supporter will be immovable from his couch. Enjoy!



Check out sarugby.com for the lastest rugby news, opinions and entertainment

Injury Crisis by Desmond Organ
Just when you thought that the Springboks might overshadow the crisis in the administration of the game they are hit with a run of injuries that might just wreck their chances in the remaining test matches. Jake White was handed a heavy blow when he first got the job and now he might just wish that he had considered “greener” pastures. We might still get another big surprise performance from the team on Saturday, but I am not that optimistic.

My pessimism lies in the fact that we have inexperience and unpredictability in several key positions. The selection of Eddie Andrews is rich reward for a player that put up his hand during the Super 12 series, however this is the key position in the front row and I pray that we do not see a repeat of the fiasco on the front row when another debutant took the field several years ago in the same position. Harry Viljoen despatched him to the not wanted list in a big hurry, lets hope that Andrews prov es us all wrong and continues to step up into the role. If anything the level of emotion displayed by the man during the national anthem was worth a million bucks and it is something that made me extremely proud.

The selection of the new number 09 and 10 combination was a gamble, but in the context of what has happened to James and the raving of the English press over Jaco we should perhaps be a little less concerned with this area. If there is a change to the team at inside centre then there is little doubt that we might see Du Preez benched in accordance with the political agenda. There is a general rule that experience wins test matches and that is something that Jake White cannot underestimate. The rest of the backline is a bit of a sorry story from an injury perspective. Losing Willemse and Barry left us with Joubert as the only player of real talent, nobody is going to convince me at this stage that Julies and Paulse are on top of their game and this is a huge concern. 

In the age of “quotas” you are only as good as the talent at your disposal, Willemse made a mockery of any reference to the quota concept whereas currently Paulse and Julies simply do not. Julies despite scoring a well-worked try was out of his league and I am just waiting for the people that say he slipped in making that first pathetic attempt on O Driscoll. The reason he lost his footing is because he was mesmerised by the movement of O Driscoll, that he was left for dead and this was not the on ly time that it happened during the game is testimony to his inexperience and lack of genuine pace off the mark. He is currently a liability to the rest of the backline. The defensive ailments of the rest of the backs may have a lot to do with the players dashing up in defence and so losing their defensive lines, something that will cost them dearly against the likes of New Zealand.

The forwards do have an aura of experience as a whole and I do not think that anybody is too concerned about the make up of the loose trio. Burger has heaps of talent and Bakkies and Matfield have been there and done that. The same can be said for players like Smit and DuRandt and lets not forget that Wannenberg is not new to the fray. Juan Smith has a lot to prove as impact player performance in a sad Super 12 outfit are not the same as playing for 80 minutes. I am sure that this unit could develo p into something really special and should more than hold their own against the Irish and Welsh forwards. Further injuries in this area would be devastating for the Boks and would trash Whites selection consistency strategy. 

The biggest disappointments on Saturday were Smit and Matfield, Smit is great at scrummaging but his throwing in is not great and he needs to focus on this area of his game. Matfield despite being somewhat of a presence in the lineout was still foraging in the backs and his attempts to drive the ball up were rescued by the support play of his loose trio. I still feel that we lacked real pace to the breakdown and we might have to forgo brute strength if Ireland play a more expansive game this coming weekend, which surely they must do if they want to square the series. Playing around the fringes against the likes of the Boks is not going to work in your favour. This is especially the case if the players making these forays are isolated and standing upright in their attempts to bulldoze over the advantage line.

If we are going to win again on Saturday then the forwards had better set up a very solid platform. The backs just do not have that familiarity or experience to compete with O Driscoll and company, in fact the Irish look very solid from 10 through 13, despite the injury to their inside centre and that is not something that can be said of the Springboks. I am praying every day that Julies does not f…k up again on Saturday and for two reasons. We need a reliable back up to De Wet Barry and I think th at Julies has the potential. Real talent as referred to earlier is something that is proven on the playing field over time and in that sense he is still wet behind the ears. I am not going to venture into the debate around Gaffie, he kicked like a moron on Saturday and was clearly out of his depth from a positional perspective, so he can kick the length of the field. As far as I am concerned we need Percy and Greeff with Fourie as a back up.

We are clearly at the beginning of a new era of mediocrity as far as the administration of the game is concerned and if the Springboks do not perform well in the first few tests of the year then it could very well be a long dry season. I would feel a lot more comfortable with the likes of Barry, Willemse and even Percy than I do with the players that have taken their places.

Subscribe to Sharkmail, weekly E-Zine sent to you from the heart of Natal Sharks Rugby. Get the latest news and competitions. Subscribe at sharksrugby@mweb.co.za

The current contract negotiation process is akin to a mosh-pit at a rock concert.     Australian Rugby Union Players' Association president Tony Dempsey

We're the No.1 team in the world, we hold the World Cup and we don't want to go there and get beat.     Clive Woodward

At the international level you come across very physical people and Finegan is a person people are wary of. He encourages the opposition to be sensible.     Alec Evans, former assistant coach of the Wallabies

I know that everyone is tired of the overpaid and under-delivered scen-ario, but I'll still repeat that it's time for the players to say 'Let's show them we are better players and play a better brand of rugby'. And if they do that, they will certainly reap the rewards.     Naas Botha

Will the new-look Kiwis be able to punch their way out of a wet paper bag, let alone knock out England?  Stephen Jones

You can't build a future for SA rugby if you have someone like [Sarfu president] Brian van Rooyen running the show, his behaviour is inexcusable. How can he expect players to be dedicated,
committed and loyal?       Hennie Le Roux

It's the liars leading the blind, and the blind are in control of rugby.          Hennie Le Roux

I am sick and tired of the artificial use of sport quotas as window dressing.     Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile

I am sure it's going to be very taxing against the Springboks, but we look forward to that challenge. Playing in these big games and having difficult situations in front of you is what you play rugby for.      Brian O'Driscoll

I know the Irish centres are very good. I'm going to play the best I can and see what happens.     Wayne Julies

We have heard they (Ireland) have told the media that they expect a really physical approach from us and I would like to think that we won't disappoint them.     Bakkies Botha

Size is no good if you can't use it, timing, good lifting, there are techniques that can combat that. I'm not sure about the size of them (England) or anything like that. I know they're world champions and we'll see on Saturday night how big they are.      Keith Robinson

I want them to play well and win. At the end of the day, I'd like to start the season off with a win. I think the players know that and they know the Springbok side is going to get more exposure tomorrow (Saturday) than they've had the last couple of years.     Jake White

We have got to front up, look in the mirror, re-group and try and play better next Saturday.     Clive Woodward

We'll take something from this game. We feel we didn't perform in any shape or form. We will just have to perform next week. There is one game to go in the series and we having nothing to loose, so we'll go all out for it.        Brian O'Driscoll

When you have a guy behind you kicking the ball that distance it makes it so much easier for the forwards to stay on the front foot and after this game we all like Gaffie very much.       John Smit

Join the SARUGBY news and discussion group for the fastest sarugby news and the most intense debates around the South African game. Send a blank email to sarugby-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Letters to the Editor
Hi Lucas

Five Nations!

I could not agree more with last week's column by Vinesh Naicker. The Tri-Nations tournament in its current form is merely an extention of the Super-12. It needs new blood. Enter (please!) the new South Pacific team and Argentina, and a Five Nations tournament will be a whole new ballgame. I have been suggesting for some time that Argentina should be somehow accommodated, as the cross-pollination would also benefit the traditional three nations, particularly in their forward play (much better pre paration for northern hemisphere sides).

The point about travel inconveniences is taken, but with proper logistical planning (e.g. one match between each side instead of a home and away fixture) this could be overcome. Other interesting scenarios also emerge, such as a "triple crown" between the three original members and, of course, a "grand slam".

Perhaps this could even allow a bit of time for (shock! horror!) tour matches against provincial teams?

Vinesh's description of Carlos Spencer as a game breaker and Andrew Mehrtens as a match winner is also spot-on.

Colin van Rensburg

Hi Lucas

Gister spesiaal vroeg weggeloop by die werk om die Springbokke in aksie te sien. Kon maar net sowel by die werk gebly het, want dit wat ek gesien het het my nie be-indruk nie.

Lofliedere, die span het as 'n eenheid in die tweede helfte vlamgevat. Komaan, hierdie sogenaamde Sentraalspan was niks anders as 'n gelapte span nie. Waarom die Bokke altyd teen van ons eie spanne moet speel, sal net die ringkoppe weet. Verlede jaar was dit presies dieselfde. Geelkaarte is aan die orde van die dag, want onnodige aggressie en intimidasie is nou belangriker as die "toets" vir die groenes.

Nee wat, Jake en al sy helpers het nog 'n vrag werk om te doen voor die 1 ste toets teen die Iere. Gister het die span, met uitsondering van 'n paar spelers, niks gedoen wat my opgewonde gemaak het nie.

Sterkte manne
Das Villoen

Copyright 2004 Rugby Forum. All rights reserved. This e-mail may be freely distributed, provided that the document is left in its original form. Submissions are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of the editor or owner.