|Volume 5, Week 11|
Brilliant! It is Freedom day in South
Africa and with this 11th anniversary of democracy it is an opportune
moment to exercise one of the basic cornerstones of this form of
government; free speech. In short we can talk about how sh*te the SA
teams are in the Super 12, how good the damned Kiwi’s are and how the
Super 14 is ripping rugby apart.
Right then, the Super 12 is in its final quarter and with 3 matches left to play the log is very interesting indeed. In fear of boring readers, this is not leading to a mathematical exposition of who may and who may not make the semi finals based on wins, draws and bonus points. In fact the scenarios are pretty infinite so let’s stick to a few observations that reflect, in this amateur analysts view, the 2005 competition.
• In a competition as difficult as this there is nowhere to hide – every week requires a supreme effort and players who are either unfit, injured or inexperienced is shown up quicker than a Mohammed Ali jab.
• The Waratahs' top billing is due to a process of almost three years, where the same team and coach with a few strengthening additions have worked to a plan and they are reaching maturity. This competition is not a quick fix, one-off show where a Johnny-come-lately team gets it right and wins the comp without doing some hard yakka. Only three teams have ever won and they were for a few years consistently there or there about before winning the title.
• The Australian and New Zealand players possess a lot more skill collectively than their SA counterparts – there is some supremely gifted rugby players in South Africa and probably with more depth than most countries it is ‘easy’ to discard players than to coach them (all) the correct skills.
• Upper body strength is now the biggest commodity in the game – rugby in all facets favour Herculean strength in the shoulders, arms and chest area. The chest is the target area for most tackles (in order to stop off-loads) but so many are slipped nowadays (because of upper body strength) that the whole reason for defending in this manner is defeated. Remember all the ‘big hits’ of a few seasons ago? Not that many anymore, and just about every player gets back up unless it’s a high shot or totally unexpected from the side.
The weekend’s matches produced a few sterling displays, none more so than the Blues at Newlands. The Stormers put 24 points on the scoreboard in the blink of an eye and every one of the beleaguered Cape team’s supporters thought this was a repeat of their epic win at Eden Park a year ago. The Blues, however kept composure and superbly led by Xavier Rush made a brilliant comeback to thrash the Stormers, not allowing them another point for 60 minutes!
The Cats almost upset the fancied Crusaders who were just back from their trip to SA. The Cats played their hearts out and there were a lot of positive things to work with and was it not for a Daniel Carter tackle of sheer bravery it could have been their second win of the season. It was not and ultimately another defeat reflects a very poor record for coach, Chester Williams who took over the hotseat, mid-season last year.
The Bulls, recorded another excellent victory at Loftus, their stronghold in Pretoria – if only their entire campaign was played at home, they will be Super 12 champions no doubt. There are a few players in this team who are performing well, notably Fourie Du Preez, one of the world’s best scrumhalves, Kees Lensing and Victor ‘Midfield’ who displayed a fine running game. It was quite interesting how he motioned to Ettienne Botha (he of the ‘must be’ Springboks of last season) to stop diddlying about and pass the ball. Botha did and the Bulls scored. There is a lesson carefully concealed here... there was only one Botha who could win a match by himself...
The Sharks, lost against old nemesis the Reds and fortunately this match was a better performance than the ‘thriller’ of last year when the Red’s 6-5 win in Durban made history as the k@kest game of rugby in the Super 12 ever. The Sharks have a long way to go but with their new coach and some new players like veteran Percy Montgomery to instill professionalism they will yet again rise to the top of the pile.
Reading through all the articles and websites this week, there was a disturbing article about a referee who was accosted after a school match in Pietermaritzburg. The match in question was between two of South Africa’s famous schoolboy rugby institutions, Maritzburg College and Grey College, Bloemfontein. College as they are generally known defeated Grey (15-13) and the headmaster and coach of the visiting Grey team had a few words to say to the referee, who happened to be a Super 12 and test referee, Michael Katzenelenbogen. The incident is apparently not an isolated one and there are more reports of referee’s being ‘taken to task’ by parents and teachers. It is a sad state of affairs that a game that preaches team work, honesty, integrity and sportsmanship is demeaned by the very people who is suppose to implant it in the psyche of the boys.
This coming weekend there is a full round of fixtures, and the top games to watch will be the Highlanders/Waratahs clash, the Bulls/Blues encounter and the important Hurricanes/Brumbies. These games will decide semi final spots, so enjoy the rugby and next week, a bit more about the burning question; is the Super 14 ripping rugby apart? Send RF your view.
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|Jake of All Trades by Desmond Organ|
A year ago people were celebrating the Stormers and hammering away at the
Bulls and everybody in the shadow of that great mountain was happily
celebrating the effects of mountain fever. How quickly things change and
it is quite ironic that a year later the situation is quite the
For years I have been listening to how great the Stormers are and how dependant the Springboks were on their performances, sadly it seems that Gert Smal will never achieve the levels of success of the Sharks and sadly the Stormers have a long way to go. The fact that the National coach has come out in support of a coach who has proved to be stubborn, devoid of ability to try new things and quite frankly unable to produce a forward outfit that can take the pace in the Super 12 is not surprising, it is part of the job of Springbok coach.
Jake White has the ability to put together a team of players and coaches that will if anything always be competitive, the success of the Springboks last year has more to do with his ability to unearth talent or provide a combination of players that provide the right mix of skills and motivation. What Jake White does not have the ability to do though is prevent opposition management teams from scrutinising the players that he has used so far. His commitment to this group is commendable but questionable of viewed in the context of this years Super 12. The players that were such heroes a year ago have not really produced the consistency in performance that one expects from the cream of the crop.
It is quite clear that the Australian and New Zealand players are on average better performers year in and year out. The same can be said for the coaching staff that are subject to the hire and fire scenario that is part and parcel of the South African game. Tim Noakes warned the South African rugby public that burn-out was going to be the standard for the Springbok players participating in the Super 12, whether Jake has a solution for this will become clearer as the International season unfolds.
Jake White’s biggest challenge is to get the regional and provincial coaches to adhere to the “Big Rules” defined by the amateurs that run the game in South Africa. The most challenging of these is the need for transformation and the development of a truly representative South African rugby team. Changing the emblem, setting quotas and bowing to the demands of the members of the ANC Youth League is not the answer; it is a recipe for disaster. The fiasco around the appointment of the regions for the expanded Super 12 has illustrated once again that the structure of the game at the national level does not meet the needs of transformation and professionalism.
One of the only positives from the first few months of the year is the decision by both Western Province and the Sharks to appoint a Director of rugby; this is the only way to go as far as meeting the requirements of the “Big Rules” is concerned. The appointment of Nick Mallett was a master stroke by the Province administrators and if the Sharks go the route of Alan Solomons it will also be a great leap forward. I personally was never a fan of Solomons as an armchair supporter but his record in New Zealand as the coach of the Stormers speaks for itself.
Jake White will also be a much happier man once the in-fighting within the executive leadership has been resolved, it will most likely include payouts and compromises but it will at least leave us with fewer people who have no desire to implement the “Big Rules”
It is naive to think that transformation equals giving (the southern and
eastern Cape) a franchise. You must look at their management,
infrastructure and financial sustainability. Both Border and Eastern
Province are interminably in disputes. They have been disappointing on
(on-field) transformation - they don't have a majority of black players
in their provincial teams. The fact that the region's bid did not have
significant black African representation was another weakness.
Norman Arendse, convened of the four-man panel that judged the
We recognise the strong views that have been expressed in recent days, particularly those of the minister of sport. Out of respect for him and his position, I believe this matter merits further debate. Brian van Rooyen
I've almost come back down to earth again and am starting to settle back into real life. But Sunday's win is still there in the back of my mind. Alistair Hargreaves, South African Under 19 captain
We've had some changes with management, but it's all been good, the guys have all accepted it. Although it was sad to lose the old coach [Kevin Putt], it's all been positive, and everything that has happened in the past stays there. We are looking forward now. Butch James
I've been involved with the team (NZ Maori) since 1994 and we've never had all our All Blacks available, although we are still close to a 90% win record in that time. Coach, Matt Te Pou
I could live with no World Cup, but I couldn't live without giving it a go. My soul is free and I can carry on with life. Jonah Lomu
I want to apologise to the South African rugby public for what happened last week. It makes South Africa the laughing stock of world rugby, and we can't afford that. Brian van Rooyen
The game plan is too robotic, too textbook. We're not able to play what's in front of us on the football field. "Anonymous" Reds player
Perth is being seen as a cure-all," he said. "There is frustration in the squad at the moment because we're losing and there's a new team in the marketplace that's selling a rosy picture. John Mitchell (the Force
coach) is selling a great story. Jeff Miller, Reds coach
We started achieving success after our return from overseas because we play good rugby. We won't deviate from what has worked against the Crusaders, Reds and Chiefs. Heyneke Meyer
I haven't seen him [Woodward] on the training field yet, but he's pretty keen on his meetings, so that's something I'll have to get used to. Gavin Henson, Lions centre
Thanks for an absolutely wonderful magazine. I have just recently returned from a magical holiday in Auckland where I got to experience the ups and downs with my favourite team the Blues.
I would like to respond to Hein's e-mail. I agree whole heartedly with you. From a business point of view, some performance contracts must be put in place. However the same way they kicked Harry Viljoen out with all of his processes will be the manner in which they treat this kind of idea, with disdain. Don't forget I am an All Blacks fan, but I believe that a strong SA is important in keeping the Southern Hemisphere as the more powerful in rugby.
The only way one can possibly, apply some pressure is too not go to the stadiums at all, but common now we are rugby supporters and will watch the game at home. For this we pay the ridiculous sum of R403 a month now for DSTV and they in turn do pump a whole lot of money into rugby. Sorry but I cannot boycott DSTV cause having been in NZ for 6 long weeks, they are by far the best sports broadcaster in the world and I can't miss my other sports bc's.
The boycotting of the stadiums though is a very good idea, and people with season tickets in particular should not renew until they can have some input into the way things are run. Now to co-ordinate such a thing could be a disaster but the best place to start would probably be with an article in the News Papers by well know rugby writers such as Dale Granger.
This type of action could hurt some, but hey you have to open the wound before you can apply the ointment.
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