Editors Note


Volume 4, Week 27

Editors Note

Brilliant!     And about time to! For the first time in the writing of 155 RF issues the intro is finally relevant to Springbok rugby! A victory over the All Blacks of late has been rarer than a drug free Olympic sprinter and with a South African gold medal in the 4x100m freestyle relay (beating the Aussies) can it get any better?

Readers must excuse the exuberance over 1 victory but to put things in perspective; RF dates back to the beginning of 2001 and since then the Springboks have managed the sum total of 4 victories! over opposition higher ranked than them in the world. (France in 2001 and 3 over Australia in the last 3 years). So, for the beaten down and trodden Springbok supporter the 40-26 triumph over the top ranked team in the world constitute a modern feat to rival Babe Ruth’s 60th home run of the season, Pele winning 3 World Cups, Ali over Foreman in Kinshasa and Kylie Minogue in Hyde Park…. well maybe not quite…. but you get the drift!

This writer was fortunate enough to be part of a wonderful occasion at Ellis Park and witnessed the test as a ‘normal’ spectator as opposed to a seat in the more sedate press box. Finally there was an occasion and an opportunity to shout, curse, applaud and cry altogether with 62,000 other fanatical supporters. The Ellis Park crowd must be one of the most intimidating factors any opposing team must overcome and being in their midst one felt that no Kiwi was going to get the upper hand on the day if they had anything to do with it. And so it was.

The day was a roller coaster ride of nerves, tension and incredible emotion; Nelson Mandela was introduced to a wildly cheering crowd, Claire Johnstone provided a stirring rendition of the anthems, Marius Joubert scored 3 tries, an unbelievable victory and finally a lap of honour (with a trophy) from a young Springbok side destined to live up to the pride and expectation of the famous jersey concluded a miracle afternoon bound to be remembered forever by those in attendance.

The match itself is worth analyzing and if the objective and unemotional cap is adorned this was a strange one. The All Blacks struggled and only in hindsight this observation is made. The defensive frailties around the scrum was exploited unmercifully by a rampant Joe van Niekerk. In midfield there was an uncharacteristic amount of errors by Umaga and De Wet Barry and Joubert was given free reign to attack space. 

Graham Henry’s men were not as ruthless and dominant as in Christchurch and it was a pity that runners like Rokococo and Howlett did not get enough opportunities on the fast Highveld turf. Muliaina did and he was spectacular in running in his long-range try, wow does he have gas! All in all it was a bad day at the office and the team has received a lot of flak back in NZ. 

What next for the All Blacks? They need to use their end of year tour to find the next Mehrtens/Spencer-Marshall axis. Forget the flat whatever and play the successful attacking game like they have been for years, the backs were woeful compared to last year’s lofty standards. The All Black pack has taken the strides forward as demanded by Henry in what he identified as the most prominent factor for the demise in the World Cup but his loose trio needs variation especially on the fast and hard fields of South Africa.

The Springboks, despite a brilliant victory made quite a few mistakes and in the opening 5 minutes the occasion threatened to overwhelm them. John Smit played an excellent captain’s innings in always focusing the players on the task at hand and slowly the game swung in the home side’s favour. The rather fortunate (from a Springbok’s point of view) early end to referee Nigel Williams’ match helped both the spectacle and the Springboks. The Welshman all be it correctly did not endear himself to the crowd with his over zealous whistle and one of the biggest roars of the day greeted his return to the shed for an early shower.

The forwards did very well in every department but the scrum and for players like Schalkie and Joe to be even more effective, the tight five will have to front up. As a layman, the problem seemed very much with the hit. Most of the time, the shorter All Black forwards got in early and managed to get the hit and the pressure before the ball came in and that second of imbalance affected the forward momentum. The Aussies will exploit this as well this coming Saturday.

The green-and-gold backs produced a masterful running and defensive display, their only blot being Muliaina’s try. Barry as the broadsword and Joubert the rapier combined very well with the excellent distribution from Jaco, which in turn created 5 tries for the backs! What a wonderful sight it was to see one of this writer’s favourite players score a hat trick and join a very exclusive club of players to accomplish this feat against the All Blacks. The others being Ray Mordt from SA in 1981 and Greg Cornelsen from Aus in 1978.

This coming weekend, the Aussies will provide a far sterner test for the rampant Springboks. Eddie Jones has never won in SA as a national coach and one can bet your last Rollo that he will be doing his utmost to rectify that stat. There is also the Rathbone issue. Shame - the young Aussie has benefited greatly from all the skills and conditioning training at the ‘Excellence centre’ in Canberra but obviously the ‘how-to-make-public-comments’ module is only due this coming off-season.

The Tri Nations is boiling down to 80 minutes and the winner will emerge as champion. For the Springboks, this will be a great bonus because lets face it; very few punters thought they would have a chance at winning anything never mind the whole shooting match. Another improvement on the last performance should secure a victory given their home ground advantage however this match will test them in ways very few of the players in the team has been tested before. This is not just about winning the te st match but also about greater glory and that kind of pressure is only dealt with proficiently by experience, focus and greater willpower. For the Springboks, Os Du Randt is again the key man – he has been there and done that. 

This writer will be part of the masses flocking to Durban and hopefully Kings Park can produce the occasion and the performance to elevate a very good team to the something special we all know they can be. Bring on the Aussies!



Select your own Tri-Nations Fantasy League team! Compete in a Private League with your mates....
Win massive prizes and some respect!  Register FREE on sarugby.com now!

A Piece of History by Desmond Organ
The Saturday 14 August 2004 will go down for many diehard Springbok fans as a piece of history, not because we are expecting to wait another four long years for victory over the men from the land of the long white cloud, but because it was a day in which a trend was reversed. It was indeed a day in which the tradition of Springbok and All Black rivalry was restored to a level not seen for many years. 

Thousands of young New Zealanders would have grown up hearing of the battles of the past in which heroes like Frik Du Preez, Bruce Robertson and others played such a key role. Many of these youngsters will only have seen a glimpse of the potential that lies within the rugby players from South Africa. A brief flirtation with success in 1995, along with the stories of Suzie the waitress, followed by a narrow victory in Durban in 1998 to secure our one and only Tri Nations trophy. 

In 2000 there was a similar flirtation, but it was all about one great game and this is why the game played last weekend might just be a little different. For one we are in the midst of a popularity revival, it has indeed been a long time since I heard people speaking admirably about the exploits of the men in green and gold and for those of us not in the thick of things in the short South African winter it was indeed a special thing to experience. I personally was surrounded by a large group of Al l Black supporters, the type that you want to watch a rugby game with; plenty of rivalry but a great deal of respect for the opposition and a feeling that no matter who won it was for the benefit of the game as a whole. 

Such an environment appears to be in stark contrast to my recent memories of encounters against the Australians who god bless them are quite a force in the modern era, but lack the nostalgia of the teams that have been playing at the top of the pile for over a hundred years. This Saturday might just be a case of they are the better team and they might yet again humble us in the Kings Park cauldron just like they did a few years ago and just like the Queenslanders did in a Super 10 final against Nat al. I for one will be hoping that the gods shine on South Africa for one more week because we need to be seen as a force in world rugby if we are to tackle the challenges that lie ahead in the administrative chaos that is SARFU.

There have been many arguments for and against the capabilities of this current All Black team and the coaching staff that surrounds them, but lets remember that every team has its ups and downs and maybe the All Blacks run is coming to an end, albeit it for a very short while for they will surely rebound with a ferocity that only true rugby lovers can comprehend. It was not dissimilar in 1999 when they were o surprisingly dumped out of the World Cup and it appears to again be the case this year. P erhaps the only difference is that Australia is perhaps peaking again and this was seen to be the case at the end of the last World Cup. 

The Australians with their band of South African brothers will provide a far greater challenge this coming weekend, they are defensively more astute and possess a firepower in the three quarters that the All Blacks had a year ago, the thought Rathbone and Tuqiri in tandom is a scary one. De Villiers has the skills to take care of Mr. Rathbone, but Paulse will need to be at his very best. We all know that he has the pace and tenacity to succeed and what he needs to do is focus on playing to his strengths which is to get off the mark quickly and not be duped into playing a rugby league style of game. He stopped King Joe in his tracks on the weekend and he will need the same and a little more against the likes of Tuqiri.

The biggest disappointment of the weekend continues to be the scrummaging capability of our tight five, somewhere there is a problem. It is not the size of the front row that is of concern but their inability to constantly get the initial advantage at scrum time. Is it a case of the right shoulder syndrome or a case of the locks are not providing the extra effort that is required if all is to go according to plan. The loose forwards were outstanding but you always thought they would be. The lineout s were leaps and bounds ahead of the previous game and so where is the final problem lies will either be resolved by Saturday or there could be some tears from the Springbok faithful.

Team of the Week

15. Mils Muliaina
14. Breyton Paulse
13. Marius Joubert
12. De Wet Barry
11. Joe Rockocoko
10. Andrew Merthens
09. Bolla Conradie
08. Joe van Niekerk
07. Marty Holah
06. Schalk Burger
05. Victor Matfield
04. Chris Jack
03. Eddie Andrews
02. John Smit
01. Os Du Randt

The pendulum swings by Vinesh Naicker
It’s amazing how the fortunes of a team can change in such a short space of time. Two weeks ago the All Blacks were looking like guaranteed Tri-Nations winners, now they are potentially wooden spooners.

A rumour currently doing the rounds in New Zealand is that Wayne Smith was so aggrieved at his sacking as All Black coach that when he left the country he joined Al Qaeda and has since returned to New Zealand as one of their operatives. Let’s face it you can do more damage to the New Zealand psyche by taking a world class backline and turning it into a dysfunctional rabble, then you ever can by simply blowing up a building or two. Now I’m not saying that there is any truth to these rumours but it does give you pause for thought.

Seriously though, perhaps the most galling thing about the latest All Black loss is that there was no visible improvement from Sydney. All the talk about finding redemption from the players turned out to be just that, talk. We saw the same lack of commitment from the forwards and there was even less coherency in the backs, the ball was like a hot potato to be tossed around willy-nilly.

A lot of people, including Nick Mallet, have been blaming Mehrtens for some of the teams woes, I think they are all way off the mark. Mehrtens was never going to be a panacea for the backline; their problems run much deeper than flyhalf. There have been four problem areas for the All Blacks this year they are number eight, flyhalf, half back, and the whole flat backline formation. The observation that the Springboks exploited Mehrtens defence at flyhalf is a puerile one. None of the flyhalves a ctive in world rugby at present are capable of effectively tackling a loose forward the size of Burger, van Niekerk or Britz. Mallet was blessed with an unusually tough and hard tackling flyhalf in Henry Honiball and so his judgement may be a little coloured in that regard. In any event he cannot reasonably assert that Spencer or van der Westhuizen would have been any more effective in the defensive role.

A further indictment on the performance of the All Blacks is that I do not believe that this was a particularly great performance by the Springboks as a team. The front row, fly half, half back and fullback all played well within their abilities. Frankly, if Montgomery had had his kicking boats on the Springboks would have won by at least twenty points.

The centre combination, the loose forward trio and Matfield at lock, all had good games, and hats off to Joubert for his hattrick, but honestly did any of them do anything particularly awesome?

Smit at hooker, and as captain, had an adequate game; he visibly improved in that game. In no way is he anywhere near the class of Sean Fitzpatrick, but he’s probably ahead of Anton Oliver. There is still a lot of room for growth within this Bok team.

With the win at Ellis Park Jake White has earned himself another year in the coaching role. Although, this could all change if his team does badly on the end of year Grand Slam tour, such are the fickle fortunes of a Springbok coach

Graham Henry noted before the first game with England that this All Black team was only 40% of the way towards where he wanted them to be. I would be curious to know where he sees this team now. If he rates them anywhere above 28% then he’s kidding himself. As numerous people have already observed, this team has been going backwards since that first half performance against England, in the first game of the season. The only briefly hiccup, in the backwards slide to date, was the forward effort in the first game against Australia.

Henry’s assertion that the pressure placed on the All Blacks by the New Zealand public is partially to blame for their performance is ludicrous, every player is well aware of the expectations placed upon him by the New Zealand public, this is why, in relative terms, they earn much more money than most people do in this country. Fame is a double edged sword; you cannot take all the rewards of fame without also taking all the liabilities associated with it. All Black teams throughout most of their history have coped with the burden of expectation placed upon them by the New Zealand public, when did this lot become so sensitive?

We are constantly told how the players do not listen to the media or read newspapers, in fact most of them do not even bother to review tapes of past games, so to blame their lack of performance upon the expectations of the public now is a cop out. Every single competitor at the Olympics should be a basket case on this basis.

The fact of the matter is that the All Blacks have been playing dumb football and have shown a constant inability to vary their game plan to suit the conditions and the opposition. Most players in the back line seemed to be instinctive players and unfortunately their instincts have been wrong for most of this season. The greatest criticism for Henry to come out of his stint at Wales was that he coached the spontaneity and ability to think on their feet out of players, this is apparent in the curr ent team. Admittedly most of this team were lacking in rugby intelligence to start with but players such as Gibbes, Howlett and Umaga seemed to have been dumbed down as well. It used to be that the Springboks were regarded as the dumbest players in the Tri-Nations; it seems that they have now handed over this crown, as well as the wooden spoon, to the All Blacks.

It may seem a harsh assessment of the team’s performance this year. If you had asked the average member of the New Zealand public at the start of the year what they would have settled for, results wise, they would probably have replied beating the English and winning the Bledisloe Cup. The English were well beaten and the Bledisloe Cup was retained so why are we so unhappy? That’s still a pass mark. The frustration is there because having at least the same resources and materials at hand that M itchell had, Henry has not at the end of the day achieved superior or even comparable results. He cannot even point to any good young talent that he has brought through yet. The New Zealand public would have been willing to allow a lot of leeway on the end of year tour, if the results so far had been better. Now the expectation will be that the team come home with good results and that new talent be unearthed which demonstrates that New Zealanders can have some hope that things will improve for the 2007 World Cup.

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 spirit (within the squad) is unbelievable and I'm just looking forward to pulling on that jersey. I'm ready.  Joe van Niekerk

He will bring a defensive quality to the team that was lacking against Australia.     Former All Blacks selector Peter Thorburn on Andrew Mehrtens

I'm striving to become a Springbok, but my first responsibility is to give my best to the Bulls. If I don't become a Springbok, I may be instrumental helping some of my team-mates to get their colours.     Gary Botha

Eddie and his team, rightly so, get these things out in the open when it happens to them (Accusations of eye gouging). When the opposition does the same they need the same balance.     Graham Henry

Just because they're not executing it right doesn't mean the idea is wrong.    Wayne Smith on the 'flat line' system

This week was our most important game, but now next week is.     Jake White

I hadn't been great in the past six Tests, I was average. I wanted to prove a point after the coach pulled me aside and simply said I must run hard and score tries.      Marius Joubert

A well-drilled, hardened team, well coached. The win was just reward for a lot of hard work and a lot of effort. Nick Mallett

That's the world we live in - you go from first to last in 80 minutes. So our motto for this week will be all or nothing.     Jake White

When we call in people to help it does not mean we cannot do it or cannot coach that aspect of play. It is just that no-one knows the intricacies of scrumming better than someone who has played there. They say a flyhalf reads a game, well a prop or hooker feels the game.      Gert Smal

We had no doubt the Springboks would win.     Nelson Mandela

The jewel which shone through, was that every Bok on the ground (except perhaps Percy) started to feel they had the measure of their opposites, and they hoed into them, and bested them with frightening regularity. So here we have the Boks in full flight, and supremely confident of giving these AB’s a first class lesson in playing dashing, running, but more importantly, winning rugby.      Patrick Innes

I know people may not think much of me over there [in England] but I would like to prove to them the kind of player that I am and show them. I hope they'll realise I'm a person of character and integrity.     Corne Krige

It seems that too often the public take All Black wins for granted. Those expectations, and the adverse reaction that can follow defeat, are inhibiting the players.      Graham Henry

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

This writer spread doom and gloom on the Boks until recent months, and why not given the "thickhead" rugby of past years? It is amazing that Jake White has moulded a fine team against a backdrop of injury plus comical, demoralizing and nasty Third World sports politics of a kind we are only too used to "up North".

The win against the All Blacks was impressive, but might not have happened until obvious Northern Hemisphere-style "whistle-happy" ref Nigel Williams ended up injured early on. The replacement ref from Ireland was for once fair to South Africa and the game.

No one would begrudge the immense effort and skill the Boks put in to restore pride to African rugby, but Australia will not be so stupid as New Zealand to adopt a woeful "flat" gameplan.

We cannot imagine either that they will fall to the rush defence. We can expect Larkham to chip and probe kick to open gaps in our defence. The emphasis must be on using extra defensive "sweeping" and the wings must expect an extra heavy defensive workrate. Expect also attacks from very deep angles by the Wallabies.

One's worries in the win? Where was the scrummaging and forward power and structure? Granted the Boks clawed back to even in setpiece compared to previous weeks, but there still seems a lack of structured power-play from the forwards in scrum and loose. "We have the biggest pack, but it keeps going back". Australia will be exceptionally focused on disrupting that area.

We did not demonstrate against New Zealand an ability to drive and suck the fringe players in though our retention is immesurably better that a year ago. Those who have coached know that a highly drilled and motivated smaller pack can easily devastate a bigger one and Australia will count on this.

However, I am confident the Boks can win and indeed very well because there is no doubt they are growing with every game and the score last Saturday, with a bit more polish, would have been something like 60-26! The hunger, the pride, the physicality and the passion is there again. 

Peter Giraudo
Nairobi, Kenya

Hi Lucas

As a humble All Black supporter, I must say that Jake White and the new-look young Springbok team need to be commended on their "in your face" approach in the Tri-Nations games to-date, coupled with the continuous remarkable progress they are making. This about turn has been most astonishing, even to the most ardent Springbok supporter, after having spent so many years in the rugby wilderness. The question must be asked, "why did it take so long".

It was always going to be difficult for the All Blacks at altitude and particular at Ellis Park with it's very partisan and robust crowd. However, to be blunt, the All Blacks had a shocker, not to take anything away from the Springboks performance. Where it not for the Mehrtens boot (the only reason why he played as it was a given that he would bag the points from the Springboks generally high penalty count), it would have been a most embarrassing defeat, coupled with the fact that Montgomery missed a few sitters.

All is not that well in the All Black camp and I can only concur with Vinesh's comments in Week 26 of Rugby Forum on the All Black performances to date versus last year under Mitchell and the obvious current problems. 

Much has been said in South Africa about Breyten Paulse's poor tackling abilities. Well, if Paulse is poor then Mehrtens should not even attempt to make a tackle as his tackling abilities are atrocious. He should rather adopt the approach of the great Nass Botha, who tried his utmost in avoiding having to make a tackle.

As for this weeks game, l support the All Blacks and any other team playing the Wallabies. It will be great to see the Wallabies propping up the Tri-Nations table for the first time, if am not mistaken. Enough said.


Hi Lucas

Brilliant Barry !

To start off, congratulations Bokke, beating the All Blacks in almost record style ! There are a few Unsung heroes in the Bok camp, but lets look at one in the backline - De Wet Barry.

His work rate is obvious to everyone, but the fact is that he is instrumental in almost every try that is scored, should be recognized.

In the last match against the All Blacks, he was THE ONE who took the gaps beating the opposition - for Marius and Kie, to round it off.

Not scoring all the tries, not selfish - But Barry, you're Brilliant !.


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.