Editors Note


Volume 4, Week 34

Editors Note

Brilliant!     One of the most worn out clichés bandied about in South Africa rugby at the moment is ‘what a difference a year makes’. This time last year, the World Cup was suppose to be a shining testament to all that is good in the game but for the Springboks and their supporters it was a time of serious ignominy and the confirmation of a deathly spiral in to rugby obscurity. That has miraculously changed.

The past weekend’s clash between longtime rivals the Blue Bulls and WP signified the re-emergence of quality rugby in this country. Yes, the Tri Nations trophy is in the rather dusty cabinet but many could argue that a very good coach inspired professionalism, planning and confidence into eager players to produce a miracle. Also, the changing of the guard at the All Blacks was a rather fortuitous break accompanied with uncharacteristic error prone performances from the Wallabies and not to mention a few good bounces with some help from historically unrelenting officials of the game. Regardless, the game of the Currie Cup so far changed this armchair critique’s mind for certain.

All said and done, the Springboks might struggle on the end of year tour to waylay this Lazarus theory but who will blame them when witnessing the intensity of the game on Saturday? The first 15 minutes was as brutal as a Steven Seagal movie and it was quite surprising players were not lying around with arms and legs twisted in opposite directions. Getting stuck in was given a totally new meaning and to be honest? It was great to watch! The players will be affected come the internationals and it will be Jake White’s biggest management challenge to pick a squad of players fresh enough to face 5 tests of similar intensity.

Springbok rugby traditions dictate that a strong northern pack with southern wizards in the backline has got what it takes to be a dominant world force. Saturdays’ clash certainly showcased the best of both worlds when the Bulls forwards, even their so-called 'second stringers' produced a performance to rival anything in the history of a great forward power bastion. As for the Province backs – there are not enough superlatives to describe their play. The handling, admittedly shaky in the beginning was as slick as Arsenal’s passing and their finishing better than a Swiss school. The tries were all out of the top draw and scored mostly by the Springbok incumbents. Jake White will relish these contact ‘training runs’ for his run on backline.

The coming two weekends will be an interesting foray into player depth in South Africa, the 4 best teams have made it through to the semi-finals and it will be an extended Springbok trial. Players and coaches will do well to concentrate on the job at hand – Mr Currie’s gift but the selection of 30 players to the British Isles will be fresh in everyone's mind. 

The match ups are the Blue Bulls, reigning champions, against the Lions and WP against the Cheetahs. The Bulls, all and sundry acknowledge, is the best team in the country by five – that is their tight five. With an indomitable attitude, two premier Springbok locks, arguably the best hooker and extraordinary drilled driving skills this is Heyneke Meyer and Pretoria’s pride and joy. Steve Hoffmeyer CD sales play second fiddle to this unit and mothers keep pictures of them on the mantelpiece to scare naughty children. They will dominate as long as Oom Paul is in Church Square, ably backed up by hard working loosies, a brilliant scrumhalf in Fourie du Preez and the boot of Derrick Hougaard. Their backline is a factor, maybe not against a superb WP combination but against any other team, Ettienne Botha et al can be dangerous and teams will underestimate them at own peril.

The Lions are quite the dark horses, slipping in under the radar like a Stealth bomber they possess as big a firepower in a good tight five, a wonderful hooker in Schalk Britz and an inspiring captain in Wikus van Heerden. Out wide, Andre Pretorius, Doppies Le Grange, Jaque Fourie and Bryan Habana are lethal weapons that upstaged the WP glitterati a fortnight ago and have the ability to score points quickly.

For the Lions to win, they need to achieve some kind of parity in the forwards and rely on the deadly boot of Pretorius and the sublime magic of their fast and hard running backs. A weakness, funny enough is their scrumhalf who is being touted for higher honours – Enrico Januarie. The young man is an individualist who will do some amazing things but on the Fredscale, where players are judged not by their good deeds but by the amount of mistakes they make, he is poor. The primary task of a scrumhalf is a link and Januarie’s passing and kicking is unfortunately a bit December, July and October – not consistent at all. 

A winner? The Bulls but the big upset is yet to come…. The Lions actually beat the Bulls earlier in the season but it is highly unlikely to happen again and the chances are much better of finding WMD in Iraq.

Down in Cape Town the two ‘running’ provinces will fight it out and the Cheetahs will be very confident in coming to Newlands, it has been a good hunting ground over the past few years. Traditionally the teams have similar styles but the Cheetahs changed their spots a bit this year with Willem de Waal presenting a better kicking game to go with a big and powerful scrum. Remember, that Os du Randt is in the team and the talismanic captain Johan Erasmus was regarded as the best player in the world no t so long ago. They are a dangerous team with a lot of youth but will that be enough to stop the blue bloods from the Cape?

WP displayed some remarkable character in their draw with the Bulls. Reduced to 13 men for the final minutes they defended like Russians in Stalingrad and after the umpteenth phase eventually cracked but retained enough composure to secure the draw and a home semi final. Bet Schalk Burger was relieved that Koos Basson was not going to deduct the ‘millions’ from his wages… 

Province should have the measure based on their performances over the last couple of weeks but have strangely struggled at Newlands against good teams. Although the historical ground will be packed enough to erase the Primi Piati orange, the players are not that comfortable at home in front of the most demanding supporters of all. This will be a very close contest and the referee might just play the biggest part as has happened in the past when these teams met over the matter of the Currie Cup. WP to win a close one.

There we go, enjoy another phenomenal weekend of ‘local is lekker’ and support your team live at the park!



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Change of Heart by Desmond Organ

Several days ago as I was ambling towards a typical English Railway Station I chanced upon an opportunity to talk about the state of South African rugby with a colleague of mine. The subject arose as we walked past a shop window with a picture of Martin Johnson emblazoned across its entire surface area. It was a cheap shot based on fact and it was quite amazing that after two years have elapsed people are still talking about the “Battle of Twickenham.”

Try as I may I could not convince him that we were not a dirty rugby playing nation, instead I found myself backtracking and defending the Springboks as a team that had been dirty but were no longer so. The real point I was trying to make was that things have changed and in a remarkably rapid manner. Gone are the Neanderthal approaches to training and preparation and in it’s place we have the marvels of statistical analysis and preparation and a great deal of good old fashioned leadership. I refer to the current leadership approach as good and old fashioned because the coach is making tremendous strides whilst also making common mistakes and hence proving that he has not chanced upon something that did not exist in the halls of learned establishments.

From a media layman’s perspective it is also quite a different landscape to that which existed a year ago. I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to go to the World Cup and sit amongst the great rugby writers of our era and I was able to extract pieces of information about the state of the game and the logistical aspects of the Springboks move through Australia. I had tried in vain to get information re press gatherings during the course of 2003 from SA Rugby and it was most frustrating t o only get a media schedule a day before the match in Perth. Today the picture is quite different and I get replies to e mails requesting generic information about tour dates and the official press gatherings that have been organised. 

It is thus not a small miracle but a great change of approach in the way rugby appears to be working in South Africa. Yes mistakes were made and key stakeholders like Morne Du Plessis were left in the cold but then we have also had a lot more structure than in the past. Credit for this must go to both the leadership that brought us SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd and those that have dismantled it again. The Tri Nations continues and the Super 12 has been extended, we have a semblance of a Director of coaching sys tem in the selection structure and slowly but surely it looks like there is a plan out there. It is of course also true that the current strength of the game in South Africa is due to the strength vs. strength system which is in the process of being moved to the scrap heap. 

If the new Currie Cup system does erode the strength of the game then it will hopefully be after the World Cup in 2007. We will have at least two years to potentially erode the excess talent that we have. I personally think that rugby fortunes are cyclical and I have said many times before that nations go up and down, this appears to once again be the case and lets face it we were due for some good news after two years of “dirty rugby”. The replacement of the strength vs. strength structure is an act ion that will not fundamentally change the reality of cyclical success; it will be one of many contributory factors. 

I personally hope that we win and win well at Twickenham and that people who witnessed the previous battle will relish talking about the next one in an upbeat manner and without resorting to the stereotypes that we South Africans have equipped them with. Well that is if we exclude the major publicity campaign that Sky Television relished in producing and which clearly had one purpose and that was to portray us as big, bad and dirty.

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Our season in the northern hemisphere is a real dog's dinner - we simply don't have the right structure.    WRU chief executive David Moffett 

Whatever team we send out, it will definitely be good enough to beat Province.      Heyneke Meyer

I think accountability, for your own performance and for the team, is a massive thing.     Jonny Wilkinson

Every rugby player in South Africa dreams of the green-and-gold, that's what kept me here, there's so much pride and so much that's special in that green-and-gold jersey. It was tempting (offers from Aus), especially when you see what they did for Clyde Rathbone, but I wanted to go for Springbok.       Bryan Habana

You can't underestimate them - they (Eagles) gave the Pumas a pump on the weekend. They're what might be termed a 'disruptively productive team'.      Kevin Putt

Cracks are emerging on and off the field. Local rugby politics has again become an uncontrollable octopus. It is up to the Wallabies to at least get the flagship floating and sailing properly.     Greg Gowden

We are not capable of hosting a World Cup any longer. Losing part-ownership of the last World Cup postponed the harsh reality. We don't have the infra-structure to handle it in terms of hotels or transport. This country can't cope and even the Lions tour next year looks haphazard with some visitors staying on boats. I don't think the World Cup will ever come back to New Zealand.       Andy Haden

Now that I'm not linked to a single team I'm able to take an even broader view, but it's also true that there hasn't been a massive amount of movement in the game lately. Ironically, the changes are happening here, with the SA team catching up under Jake after two years of stagnation.       Nick Mallett

I'm thinking long term. I'm not getting any younger and it's all about No 1 at the moment and that's myself. Carlos Spencer on his withdrawal from the end of year tour.

Ballroom dancing is a contact sport, rugby not. Rugby is a collision sport.       Heyneke Meyer

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Currie Cup Log NPC Log
Team P W D L BPts Pts
Blue Bulls 14 11 2 1 8 56
WP 14 8 1 5 12 46
Cheetahs 14 8 1 5 11 45
Lions 14 9 0 5 9 45
Sharks 14 6 0 8 9 33
Griquas 14 5 0 9 8 28
Pumas 14 5 0 9 3 23
Eagles 14 2 0 12 5 13
Team P W D L BPts Pts
Wellington 9 7 1 1 5 35
Canterbury 9 6 1 2 6 32
B o Plenty 9 7 0 2 4 32
Waikato 9 6   3 6 30
Taranaki 9 6 0 3 4 29
Harbour 9 4 1 4 9 27
Auckland 9 5 0 5 8 24
Otago 9 2 1 7 2 12
Southland 9 1 0 8 1 5
Northland 9     9 1 1

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Letters to the Editor
Hi Lucas

Krag teen Krag Rugby

Ek wil graag vir Herman Kotze van Pretoria ondersteun wat die 5 PRO ("Big 5") spanne voorstel. Die Super 12 (14) het gekom om te bly - daar is te veel geld daarin dat ons dit kan weg wens. Ons sal moet aanpas en Herman het 'n goeie idee.

Daar word gesê dat 'n speler nie meer as sowat 26 wedstryde per jaar moet speel nie. Neem 'n Springbokspeler: ongeveer 12 toetse en 13 Super 14 wedstryde is reeds 25 wedstryde, plus nog 'n aantal Curriebeker wedstryde. 'n Plan sal bedink moet word om hulle nie te veel te laat speel nie.

As ek Herman se idee 'n bietjie kan varieer (nie 'n teenvoorstel nie): Laat die 5 PRO spanne alleen in die Curriebeker kompetisie teen mekaar meeding wanneer daar nie toetse gespeel word nie. Dit is ongeveer 150 spelers wat miskien almal 'n kontrak by SA Rugby kan kry en dan gaan hekgelde aan SA Rugby. Dit gee hulle 13 Super 14 wedstryde, 8 Curriebeker wedstryde en sowat 12 toetse = 33 - wat eintlik te veel is. (Miskien kan die rondte wat hulle teen mekaar speel gedurende die Super 14 as die eer ste rondte tel en na die toetse die geveg voortsit. Dan speel hulle 4 wedstryde minder. Ek wonder wat sal Gaffie du Toit dan sê as die Super 14 en Curriebeker dieselfde wedstryde is?) SA Rugby moet daaraan dink om A en B nasionale spanne ook te laat speel/toer terwyl die Drie Nasie wedstryde en ander toetse gespeel word. Noem hulle die Duikers en die Steenbokke. Die Springbokke behoort slegs teen die 8 bestes van die wêreld mee te ding, die Duikers teen die lande wat tot 16de op die ranglys is, en die Steenbokke teen die res. (Wat van 'n A en B liga Drie Nasie kampioenskappe?) Afrigters van die 5 Grotes? SA Rugby moet adverteer, aanstel en betaal. Hulle moet ook betrokke wees by die afrigting van die Springbokke, Duikers, Steenbokke en/of onder 21's, die vroue span (Melkbokke?) ens.

Die AMA (Amateur) spanne. Herman, dis nou 'n goeie gedagte dat die Shimlas teen byvoorbeeld die Bulldogs moet kompeteer. (Maar ek glo hulle kan maar betaal word.) Hoekom maak ons nie al die oorblywende unies klubs nie? (5 grotes uitgesluit). Hulle kan dan mos in 'n uitgebreide klub kampioenskap speel - soos die Engelse sokker - sowat 14 spanne per liga. Dit gee jou dan 26 liga wedstryde per jaar. Die drie wat onder eindig speel die volgende jaar in die tweede liga en die drie wat in die tweede liga bo eindig, speel die volgende jaar in die eerste liga - sonder 'n promosie-relegasie wedstryd. Miskien moet elke dorp (byvoorbeeld Upington) net een klub hê en 'n stad soos Pretoria nie meer as sowat vyf nie. Die idee is dat daar nie 'n te groot gaping tussen die 5de plek van die 5 grotes en die kampioen klub is nie.

Iets wat nie uit die oog verloor moet word nie is dat toeskouers vir Super 12 wedstryde in baie groter getalle opdaag as vir Curriebeker wedstryde. Wat sê dit? Die publiek wil die grotes teen mekaar sien speel.

Krag teen krag rugby - niks anders nie! Wat sê julle?

Bertie Liebenberg

Ns. Lucas, kry die President, Boots&All, ens. ook die Forum?

Dag Bertie, Boots&All is op die distribusie lys maar ek glo nie die President kry dit nie alhoewel ek al van sy 'verteenwoordiger' gehoor het oor 'n vorige berig wat ek geskryf het (Hy't gedink dit was 'snert'). RF word wyd versprei en ongelukkig het ek geen idee wie dit almal lees nie. Dankie vir jou voorstelle.   Groete Lucas

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