|Volume 4, Week 39|
Brilliant! And so the promise of greatness disappeared in a fragile, rusty old stadium soon confined to the scrapheap. There are few things as debilitating than watching a dream crumble into emerald green grass. However as is the want with most sport, it happens more often than not.
Ask Greg Norman.
The Springboks were defeated on Saturday in Dublin by a highly motivated Irish team dead set on defending a rich rugby history and honour they felt were downplayed by the current Springbok coach. Few words can match great deeds and quite often, great deeds are inspired by words. The affronted Irish players and coach certainly accomplished one of the finer feats in their long history and bade Lansdowne Road a memorable and fond farewell.
For Jake White and his team it was another poor performance with little, if any progression from the week before. The team again lacked basic discipline and reminded of a little Jack Russell – snapping, yelping and destroying all in its wake with absolutely no adherence to order. The penalties were predictable and with one of the most pedantic referees on duty there was very little cognizance of the laws or adaptation to his refereeing style.
Against Wales, brilliant counter attacks created tries and saved the match but a try scoring philosophy will always come up short if none are scored. Obviously. That said, there were plenty of opportunities but uncharacteristic (for the class of 2004) poor execution. It looked like the Springbok teams of the past few years, fumbling their way around the pitch, headless chicken stuff.
Too harsh, dear reader? Think not. Jake White has set some lofty standards and even though the average Springbok supporter expects ten times better, this one expects growth from match to match. This was a case of regression, utterly forgettable and a few players need to re-examine their contribution on the pitch.
The forwards were again woeful and poor Schalk is the scapegoat for a lack of support and cleaning out at the breakdown point. There was no dominance of the rucks and mauls and therefore the Irish’s drift defence (more effective on the slower, thicker turf abroad) closed down that 1-meter of space the backline require to score. Poor execution and a fondness for squandering supplanted the so-called world-class backs of the Tri Nations. Please, bring back those players!
Enough about the Springbok inefficiencies. The positives were few, Monty and Victor are proving their world-class form and other players need to step up, match their professionalism and play to their full potential and justify their coach's unerring belief. White, so unlike his predecessors have announced a practically unchanged team for the 4th test in a row. Players are probably not use to this kind of confidence and expect to be dropped after an iffy performance so they can 'work' their way back - wake up guys, Jake White and your supporters deserve better!
The refereeing decision of Paul Honiss was diabolical especially after reading various expert opinions. He made a serious booboo and should be sanctioned. As the head of referee’s in SA mentioned on a program, one of the laws of rugby state that each side will have a fair opportunity to play. There was little fairness in that incident, after all, it is supposed to be a gentlemen’s game. Bygones. The Irish though deserved a hard fought victory and there is little doubt that they were the better side on the day. They did not need Honiss’ fumbling to prove it.
On to Twickenham. The HQ of English rugby is an imposing place and one where Springbok teams of the 21st century have come horribly unstuck. This writer shared the 2002 experience and do not wish a repeat on any supporter of the green-and-gold. The Springboks will enter this test as a young team with something to prove and if, big if, they win this match, the tour will have some significance in their growth to the 2007 World Cup.
This usual positive advocate of Springbok rugby is by no means convinced that the Springboks will win this match. In fact, their last two matches suggest that they will actually lose by a larger margin as expected before boarding the plane at Johannesburg International two weeks ago. England have a very powerful and disciplined side who at home understand the influence of their crowd and their ingrown superiority complex not only unnerves but unsettles other teams rhythm, forcing them to play the m an rather than the game. For this young Springbok side, that will be the biggest challenge, to concentrate on playing their own game and not be usurped by the occasion and temptation to revenge the last 5 defeats. Fortunately the absence of Johnson, Delaglio, Hill, Wilkinson and a few newcomers in the England team will help.
Australia suffered a decent beating by arguably the best team in the world at present, France. The French play a very structured and superbly organized game and their quality pack make it easier to implement a well thought out plan. The Australians, for all their mastery in the back division are not strong enough up front and one can argue this point as the scourge of Southern Hemisphere rugby at present. Neither the Springboks nor the All Blacks can match France in the forward department and until the Tri Nation countries develop their forward play to the same standard, teams like France and England will rule the roost for the next couple of world cups.
Enough. This weekend, the proof is in the pudding – fronting up against the world champions and make no mistake they will play as if they are trying to win that crown again. Good luck to the Springbokke, they will need it. Enjoy the game!
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The Day After & The Game We Lost by Desmond Organ
Despair is not the word with which to describe the mood in the Springbok supporters huddle on the Sunday after the day that wasn’t. The array of memorabilia that had been on display the day before had all but disappeared from the kiosks surrounding the stadium. The day before was probably the most colourful display of patriotism that I have witnessed since the battle of Perth over a year ago.
The conversation has moved on to chatter about the size of Schalk’s black eye and whether the coach will drop him or not. The first is open for debate the second is not. Jake White defended the blonde flanker by saying that despite being called out for slowing the ball down, he had in fact gone back in defence to make up for the defensive lapses of several of his team mates. The coach was defiant in support saying. “If I get angry at him for doing that then he might just not defend like that in the f uture.” The reality though is that it is becoming something of a habit for the blonde flanker to get carded on a regular basis, that is 20 minutes in two games that the Springboks have been down to 14 men and both occasions were critical to the game.
The majority of supporters were more dismayed by the failure of Bakkies Botha to pass to Paulse when he was in a try scoring position and there is no doubt that that was the critical turning point in the match. Jake White also reflected on the number of occasions that the Boks failed to execute and that is something that did not happen during the Tri-Nations. As an armchair critic it was clear to me form the stands that the backs were not as effective. The defensive lapses also left me wondering if t he team had left the basics for the more flamboyant antics of throwing the ball around.
Dublin airport is a hive of activity with Springbok supporters having come from all over Europe, London, Amsterdam and many other cities. This weekend was a great experience and perhaps a loss or two at this point on the development of the team is not that bad in the end. The reality though is that the euphoria around this team is so typically South African. Most of the supporters are caught up in the hype of success, but after Saturday they are already talking about whether we can beat England, lack of self-confidence is something that the fans have been filled with for the last several years and if we lose again Jake White can be sure that the night of the long knives will begin.
The absence of Jean de Villiers from the action yesterday was very surprising. He has that knack to score in almost every game and I for one was surprised that he was not introduced. Many of the media feel that he is the answer at inside centre, but then again Barry is the vice captain of the team. Personally it looked like Jaco van der Westhuizen took up the role yesterday as he was doing a lot of talking along with John Smit and Paul Honiss.
There is a lot of emotion today but also a degree of resigned acceptance, it is after all not that long since we were hiding from the eyes of the world on the back of events prior to the World Cup. Jake White has only been in charge for 10 games and he has won seven of them, 70 % is not that bad for such a new coach. Truthfully though I think that he will be a very disappointed man today especially after having watched the replay a few times.
The Game We Lost
There is something to be said for nostalgia and November 14 was such a day, the last time that South Africa would play against Ireland at Lansdowne Road. I had a strange feeling that there would not be a repeat of the Springbok performance of several years earlier when the Parc de Prances was hosting its final match before closure. That day the Springboks were awesome and blew the French team away, a week earlier it had been a matter of a few points.
There was no such repeat and in a match that in many ways resembled the semi final between the All Blacks and Australia, South Africa had the kitchen sink thrown at them. Was it the words of Jake White during the week that fired the passion of the Irish, was it the end of season fatigue of the Springboks or was it the men in green and gold themselves that simply failed to execute when they had opportunities. For two weeks in a row now the name of Victor Matfield has stood out as far as defensive effo rt is concerned, against Wales he was impressive, yesterday he was not quite as effective but one of the better Springbok forwards.
The game was lost in two key areas, failure to turn opportunities into points and failure to slow the game down at critical points. The Boks had chances in the first half that they had executed with huge success during the Tri-Nations, yesterday they failed to support at the point of breakdown in numbers and failed to pass and went inside when there was an opportunity out wide. On closer observation during a replay on television I was amazed to see just how little support there was for players like P ercy Montgomery and Breyton Paulse once they had breached the advantage line. Percy was at his sublime best and kicked beautifully when under pressure; he ripped open the Irish under belly through O Gara’s channel and ran out of support on more than one occasion.
If there was one difference between the teams on the day it was the aspect of support. Ireland seemed to have that extra commitment for long perieds and in the end when the Boks were pounding away at their line, lady luck shone on them as it had on the Springboks earlier in the year.
The Springboks constructed some wonderful moves and it more often than not fizzled into a breakdown or a knock on or a turnover through lack of support. There was far more individualism form the players and this was highlighted by Bakkies Botha’s failure to pass the ball to a wide open and flying Breyton Pausle, an event that was the difference between the two teams when the referee brought the days proceeding to a close.
Journalists’ part –time and professional are there to critically analyse the players performances and that is just what Jake White should be doing at the next team meeting. There were more than enough opportunities for the Springboks and in time they could develop into an awesome unit, but that will only happen when they learn how to clinically control a match. Their will always be losses and if that is to a better team on the day then so be it. However I am convinced that as well as Ireland played t he Springboks did not take their opportunities. Time and again they threatened at pace only to take the wrong option and it should have come as no surprise to them that Ireland were going to play the game at pace.
The style of rugby played by South Africa is fast and exciting, but there are times when forming the ruck, slowing the ball down and planning the next phase of attack is more appropriate than executing at a hundred miles an hour. Both teams seemed intent on playing the ball at pace and produced a spectacle of error ridden rugby which looked more at home on the fields of the Super 12 teams than in the Northern Hemisphere. Ireland made almost as many errors on attack, but their commitment on defence wa s incredible so much so that Jake White’s team failed to score a try for the first time since he took charge. That in itself would worry me if I was the coach, a game plan dependant on scoring several tries, kicking your goals and defending like Tigers.
15. Montgomery – 7 out of 10 (Only missed one kick and broke Irish defence on at least three occasions.
14. Paulse – 6 out of 10 (Had very little opportunity, defended well and counter attacked with good effect)
13. Joubert – 5 out of 10 (One brilliant move with Barry, but an average day at the office)
12. Barry – 5 out of 10 (One great head on tackle on O Driscoll, missed too many tackles)
11. Willemse – 5 out of 10 (One or two great angled runs, but had little opportunity, looked rusty)
10. van der Westhuizen – 4 out of 10 (His worst game so far, missed tackles and drifted across the field on attack
09. Du Preez – 4 out of 10 (Forgot he was not playing for the Blue Bulls)
08. van Niekerk – 5 out of 10 (Outplayed by his opposite number)
07. Venter – 6 out of 10 (Took the fight to the Irish but slow to the breakdown)
06. Burger – 4 out of 10 (The second yellow earned him this rating)
05. Matfield – 6 out of 10 (Lost one ball on his own throw but tackled well for the second week)
04. Botha – 4 out of 10 (You know why)
03. Andrews – 5 out of 10 (Scrummed effectively, quiet in the loose)
02. Smit – 4 out of 10 (Spent too much time debating with the referee, team lost composure at a crucial point in the game)
01. Du Randt 5 out of 10 (Brilliant first half but missed more than his fair share of tackles.
Team Performance – 5 out of 10
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The future looks better by Michael Marnewick
Are the Sharks the “laughing stock” of South African rugby (as expressed in the Cape Times ahead of the Sharks-WP clash over a month ago? Sharks-bashing has become the norm as the “Team of the 90s” had probably their worst year (in terms of results) since before their epic 1990 Currie Cup victory.
The point of this article is not to talk about a great side in the last decade, but to firstly question why they have become the object of derision recently, and secondly explain how the future has been mapped out.
Indeed the Sharks did have their worst year in recent history, finishing 5th in the Currie Cup.
But, in examining the fortunes of the various teams recently, a very interesting point has emerged. For three of the sides, a poor season preceded success the following year. Three time Currie Cup Champs (2002-4), the Bulls, finished 7th in 2001 and 10th in 2000, the Lions 8th in 1998 (winning the Currie Cup in 1999), and Western Province 11th in 1999 (but winning in 2000 and 2001).
While some might argue there are lies, damn lies, and statistics (to borrow a quote from Benjamin Disraeli), the facts speak for themselves, and while it might be a bit early to predict a phoenix like rise from the ashes for the Sharks, what must not be forgotten is that lessons have been learned, and the Sharks announcement of 13 signings is the first step in a plan that is designed to rekindle the glory of the 90s.
In the short term, 13 new players have been contracted. The loss to injury of the likes of Butch James and Craig Davidson, AJ Venter, John Smit, three first centres and various other niggles placed a huge toll on squad depth.
The loss of Butch James this year cannot be over-emphasised. He was one of the best kickers in the Super 12, he intimidates and frightens the opposition, and reads the game keenly. He is a good communicator, and even off the field brings a lot of spirit to the side. Together with a similar lion-hearted player in Craig Davidson, the Sharks missed their play-makers.
However, the 13 new players signed means the Sharks have a big squad. While some may lament the lack of big names, what the new players bring is enthusiasm, and above all, a hunger to play. This creates healthy competition for places in the side, and thus brings out the best in every player.
In the medium term, there are negotiations with some of the top names in the country, key players locked into contracts elsewhere, while the long term plan will see the realization of the Sharks Academy work, which has created a rugby institution that leads the way in South Africa. In the past, Natal suffered a drain of talented school-leavers who let for Tukkies, Maties, UCT, and so on, thriving at a good University with a decent rugby culture.
Now that rugby is a career, the Sharks Academy focuses primarily on rugby, with a tertiary education following, and is now able to retain the top local talent (14 of Natal’s 18 Craven Week squad and their two SA Schools representatives), as well as attracting players from outside the province. Two more SA Schools players are joining the Sharks Academy next year.
Within the next 3-5 years, Academy students will be playing for the Sharks, creating a situation where the best local talent has remained in the province, and talent from outside has come in.
Plenty of planning has gone into the Sharks three-pronged attack (short, medium and long term), and specific players, specific positions, and specific goals have all been examined, and will be acted upon, to revive the glory days.
The future is a lot more positive than many may think.
I think that if I had to pick from the Irish team, maybe the locks and Brian O'Driscoll would probably be the three players now.
Jake White, pre match comment on which Irish players are good enough for
if you look at the records between Ireland and South Africa, they wouldn't be considered as one of the teams that have knocked us over that many times. Same as the Welsh. You know the Welsh have got a rugby history and they're a proud nation about rugby. But they've only beaten us once in 18 Test matches. Look, if we prepare properly and play properly, we've beaten Ireland twice this year already. So, it wouldn't be seen as a fluke if we do it again on Saturday. &nb sp; Jake White, pre match comment
We've developed as a team since we first played Ireland, a lot of these guys didn't play back then - Joe [van Niekerk] didn't play, AJ [Venter] didn't play, Bakkies Botha didn't play, De Wet Barry didn't play, Ashwin Willemse didn't play. So, we've probably got a stronger team now. Jake White, pre match comment
I suppose it's one thing to say them when you're 7,000 miles away in your own homeland. But, when you're visiting a country, to say it about your hosts is very ungracious. In fact, as well as being ungracious and derogatory, it insults Irish rugby. Which is not very pleasant. Eddie O'Sullivan on Jake White's comments
Put it this way, if we're such a mediocre rugby nation, why has he picked his best Test side to start against us? Why not put out three or four of his Test side and the balance of his squad if he's that confident? Eddie O'Sullivan on Jake White's comments
My long-term goal is to put on an All Black jersey for the 2007 World Cup. Jonah Lomu
I am not obsessed about rugby and perhaps that is interpreted as not caring. But I care about the Boks and I care about my performance. Victor Matfield
Our defence was solid all day. We never leaked and although they got close to scoring a few times we never felt under serious pressure when they attacked. Malcolm O'Kelly
Bob was a legend before he became a legend, and the difficulty with being up there is that when you fall, it's a long way down. It only takes one bad injury. I've already had one, and it helps keep you humble. Joe van Niekerk
Of course I am angry, there was five points in it at the end and that try got them five points. John Smit
There were about six or seven clear chances that we wasted. At this level chances do not come that often, so to waste so many was fatal and we could not expect to win from there. Jake White
When he blew the whistle the first time for the contravention and told John to talk to his players, it was to stop play. He should have blown the whistle a second time and indicated again he had awarded the penalty to allow play to start. It is quite clear in rule 6.9(d). The rule says: "When he (the referee) stops play for a contravention under rule 1.26(3) before the player is sent off or is warned, he should blow the whistle a second time when he awards a penalty try (not applicable on Saturday), or a penalty. Tappe Henning
I read with interest your comments on the commentators during the Wales game and concur to some extent. However Kobus Wiese must take the cake and really he should rather stick to his business interests than rugby commentary. If anyone is bias, it is he. I think he is the only one that can mention the word "Bokke" five times in a sentence of ten words. Yes, he still may have the passion of the 1995 World Cup, but really it gets a bit much at times. He basically tells you everything that you can actua lly see for yourself and adds very little to the commentary outside of that. Does he think he is commentating to a blind audience? No disrespect to the blind. He would do a better job as a radio commentator where he can translate every visual happening on the field into words like the great Gerhard Viviers.
Well, the bubble has burst and may Jake White eat his words with his Sushi (his lucky meal he has before each game). If I had to pick a combined team from both sides, the only Springbok that would have made it would be Percy. Jake White I hope you have learnt a lesson not to shout the odds when you not in your own backyard. It stinks of arrogance, just like your predecessors. How could they ever think and believe they could win the Grand Slam, when you just have to look back to the previous year end tours. It does not mean that because you won the Tri-Nations your invincible. Wake up and smell the roses and remember you only as good as your last game, which was not much to write home about against the Welsh.
As for the f&*# up made by Paul Honiss after telling John Smit to go and speak to his players, how many more blunders do rugby players and spectators have to put up with by these so called world class professional refs. It proved costly at the end but let's face it the Irish deserved the win and proved a point or two.
To end, a classy performance by the All Blacks and a great performance by the French.
My tremendous respect for Jake White is rather dented after his comments about the unworthiness of Irish players. Just when the world had got good words about the Boks for once, Jake destroys goodwill with arrogant comments and now the world is laughing at the "not good enough" Irish being better on the day.
It is to me the worst pre-match words a coach could ever utter. They gave on the one hand a goading to the Irish to feel stung and play better and on the other making the Boks feel overconfident and lazy, which is exactly how they played. It would have been far better for White to have said something like " The Irish are a wonderful, world class side and the second ranked in Europe. Beating them will take every scrap of our skill, and some luck" - that might have had the reverse effect to his actu al blundering words.
Plus anyone might have told White that beating Ireland was the key to beating England as they were the better team on form and so to take the game very seriously. White should apologise forthwith.
Secondly I hope that Shalk Burger will not be fined for the false Honiss yellow-card, but that Bakkies Botha will be, for his stupidity of trying to "tractor" through a player when Paulse was outside him waiting to skip under the posts. These are the kinds of wooden head decisions that separate SA rugby from becoming great again as opposed to merely good enough.
Vir die moedswilliges van ons, ek het vir eers time-out gevat as ondersteuner, ge-abdikeer en bedank. Die ding het sy oorsprong gehad met die WP-OVS halfeindstryd om die kêrriekoppie, en die geploeter het nie einde nie. Die rede, wel, enige regdenkende, nugtere mens wat sy gesondheid, huweliksvrede en hond se lewe belangrik genoeg ag, kon tog sien wat se bollie die lot opdis en dan reken hulle ons moet dankbaar wees en bevoorreg voel om dit te aanskou. Watwou, nie meer vir my nie. Hulle vang ons arme drommels time and again vir suckers. Als lyk tog so belowend, promising. Die Bokke-Wallis was ‘n voortsetting van die gemors en helaas, die kêrsie op die koek, verlede Saterdag se dreg. Ek voel al klaar onrustig oor die onheil wat Saterdag se stryd teen die Rose kan meebring.
Ek stel sommer gou ‘n beskeie lysie saam van al die tekortkominge wat ek en baie van ons moedswilliges telkens moet aanskou en verduur. O! die pyn. Die main peanuts reken mos ons is stupid en weet boggerrol van die spel. Wel hier kom dit:
Kannie tackle nie, kannie pass nie, kannie skrum nie, kannie dryf nie, kannie ondersteun nie……ens. En ken nie die reëls nie! Kan dalk ook nie swem nie.
Sê dit nie genoeg nie. Die belangrike menere kan sommer die volgende raad volg;
1. Kies eerstens jou playmakers in die beginspan, naamlik, Russell en De Villiers.
2. Gooi die narre uit, onder andere, Van der Westhuizen en Joubert tot tyd en wyl hulle bewys hulle is ernstig oor die spel.
3. Kies ‘n flankmaat wat saam met Schalk Burger kan speel, met ander woorde, saam die man en bal kan jag. Arme Schalk voer ‘n alleenstryd en staan soos ‘n seer vinger uit teen die oormag wat hy alleen aandurf. Gee hom hulp, hy’t dit nodig, die span het dit nodig, heng, ons het dit nodig. Die refs staan tou om hom erkenning te gee, en al wat hulle het is geel en rooi kaarte (sic)
4. Kies eers jou span en stel dan die kaptein aan of maak dan daai derde beste speler jou non playing kaptein
5. ‘n Man wat hoog tackle of glad nie tackle nie, hoort nie in die span nie.
6. Kies die blerrie beste span en verdedig aanvallend, laag en met mening, soos die Iere verlede Saterdag
Ek het nou al klaar te veel kwytgeraak vir ‘n selfopgelegde, rooikaart-geskorste, oud-ondersteuner. ‘n Hele rits uitspattige en magtige vertonings mag my miskien bekeer, miskien.
And last but not least, to our friend the referee, whom shall from now on be known as Paul disHonisst. I just had to.
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