Editors Note


Volume 4, Week 37

Editors Note

Brilliant!     Isn’t great? Test rugby is back on Saturday and the international program for the next month looks more exciting than the Bush Kerry election. The results will certainly be as close as in the States but hopefully with the correct winner. 

The Southern Hemisphere is on their annual end of year ‘vacation’ to the North to take on the might of the Six Nations. The Springboks specifically are attempting a rare feat of beating the 4 home nations on one tour – exhaustively marketed here in SA as the ‘Grand Slam Tour’. The Australians take on Scotland x2, France and England while the All Blacks play Italy, Wales and France. There are of course a few other teams also playing test rugby and generally this November looks like the ‘World Cup’ pool games.

The revitalized Springboks are opening their tour against the ‘Jones Invitation XV’ in Cardiff. Amazingly there are 6 fellows with the surname Jones in Wales’ run on team and although it makes it less difficult for commentators to stuff up it certainly puts a new spin on keeping up with the Jones’! Which is what the Springboks will be aiming to do. 

The opening test is always the most daunting especially for the high hopes of achieving the Grand Slam, lose the first match and then what does M-Net do with their reels of advertising material? The Welsh are admittedly not at the peak of their powers and have not been since the Seventies but all it takes is one point more than the opposition. The Springboks will be highly motivated and supremely confident (not as much as their supporters mind you) and rightly so. As Tri Nations champions and a team that played excellent rugby throughout the year they have a point. What could ruin the party and with it some entrepreneurs thousands of ‘Bok Slam’ t-shirts is the slow adaptation to conditions on the day.

Jake White is adamant that his team will play according to their strengths – a strong pack with good ball carriers that deliver quick ball to brilliant backs running in space. A lot is said about the weather blah blah blah and yes, one can come unstuck in the rain as did WP with their vast amount of Springboks against the Cheetahs but… the pitches there are of high quality, drainage is very good and watching the Heineken Cup matches running rugby seem to be the order of the day. What is required th ough is the mastery of a PLAN B. The old heads and experienced campaigners like Percy must be very vocal as to when and how the game plan should shift on the field if required. 

The Springboks are the favourites for this match and should be the victors by a healthy margin but then only if everything goes according to script. In international rugby it seldom does and the Springboks are best warned that with all the Jones’ cousins and family in the Millennium Stadium, singing for Bread of Heaven they should not underestimate the Welsh.

Robbie Fleck is in the news again as part of the ‘Collymore affair’. For those in the dark, Stan Collymore is an ex England footballer who has made more headlines for the poor state of his personal affairs than sporting excellence. Anyway, he accused Robbie Fleck of racially abusing him and some of the Bath team players of beating him up in Dublin. Now Fleckie is no angel but he is definitely not stupid and there are few South African sportsmen, especially those of high profile who will emulate the infamous Toks van der Linde debacle in Australia. Judging from the ex-footballer’s lurid past and confessions it seems to be a very cheap opportunity at publicity and with a Queen’s grandchild, a white South African rugby player and some World Cup winners involved he is milking it.

Talking of South Africans abroad, Northampton’s SA connection performed very well over the weekend and this interested observer was mightily impressed with Wylie Human. The ex-Cheetah and Blue Bull played very well and looked an assured player in a team full of internationals. He certainly oozed class and scored two magnificent tries with good running angles. There is a wealth of South African talent in Britain of which half of them are not even wearing the green-and-gold. No news though on Bob Ski nstad.

Enjoy the weekend’s feast; this writer is very jealous of colleague Des Organ in Wales watching the game live at the park. The last time we watch a game together was the Twickenham massacre, somehow I believe that will not happen again this year! Go Des!



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  Into the Valleys of Wales by Desmond Organ

On Monday morning I finally made contact with the Welsh Rugby Union official responsible for Press Accreditation and so far so good, that is if a confirmation to collect my pass at Gate 5 at the entrance to the South Stand is anything to go by. This was on top of having received my accreditation for Dublin the day before as I made my way back to London from a week in Madrid.

By chance I am working in Swansea in the South of Wales for the next 2 week and it is tremendous to be in the heart of a rugby region and the cab driver who picked me up from Swansea station sounded really excited about having a Saffie in his cab the week of the game. I went past the Millennium Stadium in the train this morning and it is very impressive. What a way to build up to the match. A week in Wales for work and Cardiff is only 45 minutes away. 

At this stage, the locals that I have run into seem more concerned about the state of the Welsh game than the Springboks themselves. Yesterdays Sun newspaper had details of the alleged racial spat between Robbie Fleck and Stan Collymore and today’s version of the tabloid that few people value other than for page 3 and the sports section highlighted a so-called confession from the footballer. Club management have strongly defended Fleck and have laid the blame for an altercation between Bath players a nd Collymore squarely at the door of the former football star.

It certainly isn’t the same mood as the Rugby World Cup, but I am hoping that by the end of the week it will be a lot more exciting. In the papers over the weekend Stephen Jones “rubbished” the quality of the Currie Cup final, specifically referring to Ettiene Botha’s great try as overrated and in fact nothing special. He added that if the Springboks play like that against the Home Unions they will get hammered and he might just have a point. 

He did end by saying that he thought that Jake White was cleverer than that and maybe those of you back home that have been offended by the touring teams composition should perhaps see it in the eyes of people on the other side of the world. For one thing Jones does not rate Botha and in the context of the international version of the game he might just have got it right. He certainly is not one of the top three in South Africa in the centre position and if we are going to get transformation off the ground then taking him instead of Julies and Bobo would be incorrect. If he wants to get into the side he has got to be the best in his position in South Africa and that is the simple reality of life in South Africa.

Only time will tell.

There was a great deal of excitement over here last night as Cardiff beat West Ham by four goals to one in the Coca Cola Football championship. I have been asking bartenders, waiters and the like what their expectations for the game on Saturday are, and generally they are surprised that the event is even taking place. I might just be asking the wrong folk but it is quite amazing that the newspapers talk of a sell-out stadium and the local people are not that interested. The Swansea Ospreys’ results i n the Heineken Cup might just have a bit to do with the lack of enthusiasm here in the South of Wales.

In terms of supporters, it looks like the game is supported by members of the middle class as opposed to the general workforce. There is a lot of interest in tickets for the South African games which are all sold out. The only opportunity for tickets to the Scotland game is to buy a three way ticket to the other matches that will be played (including a test against Japan). The Springboks are certainly the draw card as far as the winter tour is concerned.

There are so many Jones’s in the Welsh side, six in all that I am not sure what to say about them. Rhys Williams and Gareth Thomas look like the only attacking options in the backs but beware of Sonny Parker. The forwards look like a heavy pack of wet weather specialists and bet money on the fact that Stephen Jones will kick for the corners. It will be a real surprise of they opt for a running game. They are banking on wet weather and a kicking stand off.

A quick thing - the sun has begun to shine in Swansea and that bodes well for the Springboks, the field will be wet but there are no downpours expected.

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Deep down in my stomach, I feel an All Blacks jersey is earned and not given. To earn it you have to put in the performances and earn the right to play rather than just be given it and seeing whether or not you can do it. Justin Marshall

It's amazing to play for the All Blacks for 10 years but I have never known what it was like to play against them. It's a professional sport and these sorts of things don't come up very often.     Justin Marshall on playing for the Barbarians

Transformation is an integral part of South African life. Let's get on with it. And I wouldn't be much of a coach if I didn't back myself to make these guys better players by the end of a six-week tour.      Jake White

We have decided beforehand that we are going to pick the strongest team for all the games. If we can field some new players we will, but if not they will understand.      Jake White

South African rugby does not always welcome opinions. I see life as a big learning curve. If you are not open for other opinions, you won't experience growth as a person.     Brendan Venter

We play 80 per cent of our rugby on hard, fast tracks. We play 20 per cent on tracks of different conditions. I don't think there's any comfort in that. It's about executing your technique better, about performing skills better and being adaptable and flexible.      Eddie Jones

I regard transformation as the process which will enable an unlimited number of black players to get exposure at the highest level. But they should be players who can play at the highest level.      Andre Markgraaff

People make a lot about the weather and the conditions, but it's no different to playing on the Platteland at 7.30am with no shoes. A lot of these kids have done that so they'll be fine.     Jake White

South African rugby followers are never slow to recover their decades-old assumption of Springbok omnipotence. Usually, it takes only two consecutive victories to persuade them that their team is again dominating the world.      Stephen Jones from The Times

He's a quiet man off the field, but on it, he's our talisman. He sparks us. He doesn't wear white boots any more, but he's still got a lot of hair. He can get away with it because he produces every week.     Dragon and Wales lock Michael Owen on Percy Montgomery

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Letters to the Editor
Hi Lucas

Team to Tour the UK

I for one am very happy with the tour team and think that all the moaning about it is exactly what I expected . If the guys not picked continue playing a high standard of rugby they will force there way in if not then it’s a bit like real life you don’t always Get what you want and you certainly don’t always get it when you want it ! Get over it ! I hope I am not getting my hopes up to high but I expect us to win 3 out of 4 any more would be a bonus. I also feel we will do well against Argentina beca use we have the forwards to at least match there forwards. Its great to see so many talented young players stepping up to the plate it bodes well for the future . Now where can we get a world class Fly half ?.


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