Editors Note


Volume 4, Week 28

Editors Note

Brilliant!!!     And there we thought that last week was nirvana, it proved to be only the brink! Wow, after two of the tensest hours in years this writer now knows exactly what it feels like to be an Olympic athlete. That is, one waiting to provide the dreaded sample after winning the gold medal. Strange isn't? First thing they do when you win a medal is to take the pi.ss out of you! Do not fear though, the Tri Nations trophy is safe in South Africa and will not be taken away, not for another year at least! 

One thinks that with so much to eulogize about this week, the writing of this column would be easier than a Jerry Springer interview! Not. For once the Springboks do not require pearls of wisdom or scathing criticism to provoke better performances. There is no need for optimistic blurbs to bolster flagging supporter spirits. They won. It is like Borg retiring after McEnroe beat him at Wimbledon. 

Rugby continues though and the game is always greater than the individual and team but it is an opportune moment to congratulate and give credit where it is due. Jake White accomplished something that most pundits thought were well beyond South Africa’s grasp for at least a few years by forging a young but talented team into champions in only 10 weeks amid some of the ugliest boardroom squabbles imaginable. 

The group of players who remained mostly unchanged silenced most of their critiques including the highest office bearer in SARFU with displays of guts and character. The away leg was the learning school and at home the hard lessons were put to good use to deny the same opposition victories where in previous years, they would have faltered. 

The match itself was a difficult affair to watch. This writer’s seat was so high in the stand that Hillary himself would have struggled for oxygen. The players were angry ants on what looked like a very lush Durban turf. The wind was certainly swirling but the angle barred the witnessing of Percy’s miraculous ‘banana’ kicks – the crowd began with an oooohh and then a cacophony of noise signaled success. Since, subsequent analysis and writing completed the picture but very few writers could accurately describe what it was like to witness a great victory in the flesh. You had to be there.

The Wallabies offered an uncharacteristic, error-strewn display and even though they staged a magnificent comeback in the final 20 minutes they were very much responsible for their own undoing. The Springboks showed a lot of composure for such an inexperienced team and for once the future is looking bright rather than uncertain.

The Currie Cup continues and most Springboks will be in action for their provinces this weekend when the business end to the competition begins. They have more energy than this exhausted, traveling supporter! After crisscrossing the country by car (4300 km later) admittedly witnessing two fine test matches it is time for a well-deserved break. RF will take a rest next week and will be back rejuvenated in two weeks time.

Enjoy the winning feeling but remember though where we have been…



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Jake White, Springbok Viagra? by Vinesh Naicker
Since the start of the professional era both NZ and South African rugby have been suffering the signs of having aged badly through the amateur era. There have been so many issues with their ability to cope with the new world, both suffering from living in the glory days of their past, you know the old reminiscing akin to “…when I was a lad we had to walk to school barefoot in the snow...”

Initially NZ seemed to have coped better with the professional era but still seems to struggle with the problem of premature peaking. In numerous World Cups we have seen them “blow their try-scoring wad” well before the final and end up finishing badly and failing to satisfy their public.

In this years Tri-Nation tournament the problem seems to have gotten even worse with premature peaking occurring during the England series. The All Black team have been unable to get up again after that, having been lucky with the weather in NZ hiding their lack of form.

Springbok rugby has been the same in many ways, but rather than just getting old, they seemed to turn into dirty old men, according to Messrs Woodward and Jones in any case). Along the way there was the facelift provided by the 1995 World Cup, but things quickly began to sag again. The brief interlude provided by Nick Mallet’s stint was similar to buying a toupee and a Porsche. However, the dirty old man traits started to come through once again. 

Last years World Cup seemed to be the lowlight to date with the entire South African management, coaching and playing staff seemingly descending into senility. While once again NZ suffered from premature peaking. This year, however, Jake White looks to have started afresh. Admittedly a large number of the players are the same ones that played last year, but no one is ever going to replace all 22 players in a team it just takes the replacement of a few key personnel and a change in attitude. White seems to have found a winning formula with the series win in the Tri-Nations but now only time will tell if he is a shot of rugby Viagra or whether Springbok rugby has found the fountain of youth.

NPC round up to date

North Harbour
Despite the number of defections that Harbour has had over the off season they have once more managed to put together a very talented team for the NPC. Once again their strength lies in their backs with their forwards struggling to maintain parity with those of other teams. Early indications however are that they will finish in the lower half of the table again, somewhere between sixth and eighth. Their biggest problem seems to be that their players have the attention span of the average seven year old, unable to focus on doing the right thing for more than 10 minutes at a time.

As both the Canterbury NPC team and the Crusaders tend to do, their early season form has been pretty ordinary. With the very average Broomhall as captain and players such as Reuben Thorne not really firing Canterbury seem to sleepwalk through the early games. All Black failure Ben Blair continues to be a liability on defence with his revolving door tackling style and lack of ability to penetrate on attack, his ongoing selection over Scott Hamilton can only be attributed to his ability to place k ick. The return of their All Blacks should add some much-needed steel to their forward pack and guarantee them a top four finish.

They look to be continuing their form of recent years. They have struggled to impose themselves against Northland and Taranaki with none of their players really seeming to have game breaking qualities. The loss of Tony Brown is a huge one for them, as they have no adequate replacement for him. Luckily the abuse of their Super 12 franchise has allowed them to lure Nick Evans down from North Harbour for the next season. They will struggle if they can’t find any talent at flyhalf for this season. Luckily for them Carisbrook is a swamp at the moment and so teams are forced to play a forward oriented game, which suits Otago at the moment.

Expect the unexpected is their motto and it probably won’t change any time soon. The Hurricanes failed to fire in the Super 12 primarily due to the holes caused by the loss of Cullen and Lomu. Wellington and the Hurricanes have always relied on the brilliance of their backs to make up for the deficiencies of their forwards. Plumtree has recruited some talent for their backline and also acquired the hard working Ben Herring and Kristian Ormsby to provide the much needed steel to his forward pack, they seem to be providing a very good foil for the flashy play of new captain So’oialo.

What can you say about Waikato this season? Gifted with a Ranfurly Shield challenge by the Herculean efforts of Bay of Plenty last week, they simply weren’t up to it. Some of the guys at work, including my boss, laughed at me when I suggested that BOP would retain the Shield this weekend. It may seem a bit petty but the signs were all there: the perennially inadequate Greg Smith at hooker; the halfback sporting a goatee and whinging like an ancient Justin Marshall instead of playing the whistle; the coach talking about treating it as just another away NPC games and the quest for his players to find “clarity”. With these sorts of goings on, the only way that Waikato was going to win the Shield was if the gay gods of rugby waved their magic wands over them and sprinkled them with pixie dust.

History has shown that the only people who win the Ranfurly Shield are those who got out with the specific intention of winning the Shield and put everything on the line for it. Native stupidity and sheer naked incompetence by the WRFU rather than any sort of fair-mindedness has stopped Waikato from abusing their Super 12 franchise to lure players into the area. Last year they rather belatedly managed to acquire Byron Kelleher and Tom Willis but only because these players were being blocked in their positions at Otago. Sivivatu was a gift from second division Counties Manakau and really required no recruiting effort on their behalf.

They should have actively entered the transfer market and picked up Brent Ward for fullback and Sione Lauaki for number eight to shore up their weaknesses in those key areas. Both players are surplus to Auckland and Blues requirements and will be either on the bench or loan players this and next season. A competent recruiter should have had no difficulty in luring them to the Waikato.

A finish in the top four beckons for Waikato although on current form the championship looks to be beyond their mental abilities once again.

Bay Of Plenty
Bay of Plenty is on a high at the moment, having won the Ranfurly Shield for the first time in its hundred year history from Auckland, and then last week defending it successfully for the first time against one of the so called heavyweights of the first division Waikato. They have challenges against Canterbury and Otago and will struggle to retain the Shield through to the end of the season. Come what may though this has already been a good year for the Bay.

The fact that Julian Huxley is playing for Northland is a bit of an indictment on the depth of flyhalves in NZ, and highlights the fact that Spencer will probably retain his All Black spot due to the genuine lack of options in replacing him. Good luck to Northland, along with Southland they struggle to retain quality players. They tend to do they play well at the start of the season and against the big teams but just fail to target the right games, I suspect the same will be true and they will finish at the bottom of the table along with Southland.

Carrying on their Super 12 form the Auckland players have been what you could generously call flaky. Their coach Pat Lam seems to have a few new age ideas which sound interesting but have failed to fire thus far. The concept of multiple captains has thus far meant big arguments about what to do rather than providing leadership throughout the team. They look to be carrying on their Super 12 form but there is a wealth of talent in the region and they cannot help but finish in the top four. A couple of good games in the semi-final and final and they could once more be the NPC champions.

A long time supporter of the ‘Naki told me that they always start of well and then fall apart mid season. If that is correct then they are playing true to form at the moment with two good first up wins. Coach Kieran Crowley looks to have learned a bit from his teams’ abysmal season last year and has done some astute player recruitment in the off-season, strengthening the backline to complement the always competitive forward pack. I’m picking a finish just outside the top four for Taranaki this season.

Southland has started the season with two big losses away to an experimental Waikato line up and surprisingly at home to Taranaki where they are traditionally strong. They’ve lost a couple of inspirational players in their captain Steve Jackson to Harbour and Ben Herring to Wellington. They lost a few games last season due to the fact they didn’t have anything remotely close to a competent kicker. They don’t look to have filled this hole in the off-season and will probably fight it out with Northland for the wooden spoon.

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Physical doesn't mean dirty play. It also doesn't mean that my players will get involved in off the ball incidents. By playing physical rugby, it means you make your presence known and felt.        Jake White

Going back to when I played, you would look around the room and there would be three or four guys that, when you see them pulling on your jersey, you think - thank God they are pulling on a gold jersey and not a black one. I am sure that Gregan has that sort of influence among the team, especially the young guys.      Nick Far-Jones

I think it is fair to say Australians enjoy coming to Durban above all the other stadiums in South Africa as it is most like what they are used to back home. We won here in 2000, the last time we achieved success in South Africa, and maybe that is a good omen for us.      Eddie Jones

England won the World Cup, so they are No.1 for four years. That's what you get for winning. All we want to do is take home the Tri-Nations and announce to the rugby world that the Boks are back.       Jake White

I found and still find their banter before and after games a bit tiresome, to say the least. That sometimes makes them a pain. Yet I would also say they were one of the nice teams to play against in world rugby.   Corne Krige on the Aussies

I just don't believe the quota system here works. I don't believe it is fair for anyone. I believe in transformation, but that's another issue. The way SARFU has gone about transformation is completely wrong... You don't start at the top and say we want five black players in a team. You instead start at primary schools and get kids from disadvantaged communities into the best schools, where they are exposed to proper nutrition, coaching and that sort of thing. Then the process takes care of itself.      Clyde Rathbone

It's unfortunate he's said some negative things about South Africa, because they (South Africans) have a negative impression of him right now so there will be some comments from the side of the field, for sure.  Tiaan Strauss

We did not have an Afrikaans linguist in our coaching box contrary to belief. Most sides don't break lineout calls, it is one of the great furphies of the sport. But it's a good way of explaining your lineout hasn't gone as well as you (wanted).     Eddie Jones

No doubt, the sound of booing is offensive to many but there are others - including myself - who rather enjoyed it. If international rugby is to mean anything, trans-nations marauders seeking higher wages really should be stopped.       Stephen Jones from The Times on the Durban crowd booing Clyde Rathbone

It was certainly the worst 20 minutes we have played all season. We probably made more mistakes in those 20 minutes than in the previous three Tests. The reasons for that - I don't know.      Eddie Jones

A great rugby nation is back at the top of the sport and this morning, the heartbeat of everyone in the game will be racing as a result.     Jeremy Guscott

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Letters to the Editor
Hi Lucas

I am glad to see that the South African supporters can say something after a couple of years that passed, damn they are so excited, I hope they will enjoy this tri-nation because it will take South Africa another 6 years to be in this position. Don't get all excited the springboks have still to beat the wallabies.


All Blacks all the way


Hi Lucas

"Stand up for the Champions ,stand up" Well, what a game what an occasion! I've been an ardent supporter of Springbok rugby since I was a youngster waking up at 4am to watch the Boks take on the mighty All Blacks.
Saturday was the first time that I was fortunate to watch the Boks live take on the Aussies.

I have never seen so many Bok jerseys at ABSA (Kings) Park. There were very few gold jerseys to be seen. The only disappoint being, was a banner that read "1 Bullet , 1 Aussie" now I don't believe that kind of statement needs to be made. A true fan not only supports his team loyally, but should also show respect for the visiting team/fans. I remember that Blue Bull fans were known to be knowledgeable and fair. At the end of the day a winning result is the cherry on the cake, one should also look at the players from both sides and the skills on display. I sat next to a Kiwi and an Aussie (who both happen to be wearing Bok Jerseys - they weren't taking chances they said). The Kiwi was knowledgeable and throughout the game when a player from either side played well or poor it was acknowledged. This to me is what a true fan should be all about - not aggressive/abusive.

A special word of thanks to Vinesh Naicker, mate you are a breath of fresh air and your reports are objective and a pleasure to read. To all the rugby brothers & sisters out there, now that the Boks are back may we look North and go and plunder and show them in rugby terms watch out for the Tsunami - here comes the Boks, Kiwis &

Dean From Durbs

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