Editors Note


Volume 6, Week 1

Editors Note

Brilliant!      Welcome to RF’s 6th season in rugby! Like so many of the top players, the off season was spent on bulking up and moving province. Unfortunately, the bulking up process was more a la Matt Dunning than Earl Rose… but like the young ex-Western Province player; this old commentator traded the fair Cape for the golden streets of Johannesburg.

A new season brings new challenges and it was two weeks ago, while watching a pre-season ‘trial’ match between the Bulls and the Cats at Ellis Park, that it struck me – this was about as comfortable as a whale in the Thames. Here we are, mid January, mid thirty degrees, already watching rugby! The obvious conclusion is that the 2006 season will be the longest, toughest and most challenging year in professional rugby.

The Northern Hemisphere is off course well advanced in their various domestic competitions and the Heineken Cup is in quarter final stage producing some splendid matches along the way. The Six Nations is the big one and for this great supporter of the wonderful old competition it truly signifies the start to the rugby season.

In the ‘South’, the Super 12 has changed to the Super 14 (if you did not know that then its time to swap your RF for a ‘Crochet Weekly’ subscription) and the Blues / Hurricanes encounter on 10 February will kick off an unrelenting 16 weeks of rugby. Will +2 have any impact on the competition?

Indeed it will. The standards will inevitably drop off with the greater spread of resources amongst the weakest of the SANZAR troika, South Africa and Australia, who both gain an extra team. The Kiwis are the least affected, if any and will probably produce the winning team and no first prize for guessing the favourite.

The main South African challenge will come from the Bulls who are well prepared with impressive depth especially amongst the forwards. The great concern as always is their ability to produce an all-round performance and not solely rely on the Loftus factor and their excellent pack. Of the other 4 teams, the Currie Cup champions, Cheetahs and the Cats seem to be the better bets than the Stormers and Sharks at this early stage.

Australia, have a very good and successful coach at the helm of their new team and John Mitchell will no doubt make a difference but one must be a little hesitant in believing that they (Australia) possess the experience and depth of players for all 4 teams to perform really well. The Brumbies are a classy side, with world class players if fit and the Waratahs were in the final last year so expect them right up there in the mix.

Once cannot help but feel that the odds are heavily stacked in favour of the New Zealand sides and with the depth and talent available to the Blues, Hurricanes, Highlanders and of course champion Crusaders it is almost a foregone conclusion as to what the nationality will be of the finalist(s) in May.

Enjoy one of your last few carefree weekends and take heed of this tip from an old Super 12 hand… spoil your significant other, enjoy the great outdoors and take some photos to remind your friends what you look like for 16 weeks is a long time!



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Super, Super, Super by Desmond Organ
At the beginning of each Southern Hemisphere season when the Six Nations is yet to commence, South Africans around the world; at least those that still care are facing the annual dilemma of what it means to be a South African rugby fan. In the midst of the annual in fighting and debates around transformation we fans ask a simple question. What will our regional teams achieve in the Super 14?

Anybody with a limited knowledge of the game knows that the only team that has a realistic chance of progressing to the finals are the Blue Bulls. Depth in resources is a pre-requisite for success in this expanded format that is the Super 14 and there is only one team that has the depth of talent to provide a meaningful challenge to the leading teams from Down Under. The organisation that is the Blue Bulls in 2006 has taken almost seven years to create and is at the point of providing a similar period of dominance that was the Sharks of yester year.

Despite the jubilation around a new Currie Cup Champion and despite the rejuvenation of what were the Lions of yesteryear, there is no real chance that either of the centrally based teams is going to provide us with an alternative to the men north of the Jukskei. Rassie Erasmus is a shrewd coach with a master plan that sadly lacks the finances or resources to be anything other than a nuisance factor to the leading teams in the competition. What they will provide is a threat of derailment to the South African teams that have any chance of progressing to the final four. The Cats are a mixture of pure class and mediocrity and one just cannot imagine their Springboks having enough to pull them out of the bottom four.

The teams that squabble over the right to wear black are about as good a bet as Arsenal winning the English Premiership. A lack of resources is the major problem, the Stormers have no depth at forward and the Sharks are a bunch of youngsters with a few journeymen amongst them. I personally look forward to the weekly propaganda messages that will flow from the Sharks media team in their struggle to avoid what looks like a real chance of relegation. The only thing that will save them is the fact that both the Cheetahs and the Cats are playing in what is really their first competition in several years. The Cheetahs have been there before and were awful as were the Cats under their former name.

That brings me to the Stormers, the one team that has had the talent and never delivered. A team of wonderfully gifted three quarters with an ineffective tight five. One wonders if they will ever get the balance right, when their forwards were competitive the backs were appalling and now that they have the backs they do not have the forwards. It is unlikely that they will progress to the final four and who knows it might be the men from the Western Cape that make way for their Eastern counterparts.

Despite all the hype that surrounded the appointment of Nick Mallet, there has been precious little time to turn around a team that has had its run of success and is in the process of building for the future. Expecting anything more is unrealistic and will only lead to further disappointment. To compound matters Mallet’s role is limited to Western Province and he will only be a consultant of sorts to the Stormers.

From a South African perspective it just does not look very good and one can only hope for a miracle or two in what could prove to be a long Super 14, let’s face it the Super 12 was hard enough to endure and now the pain might be experienced for a while longer.

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Professional rugby is a result-based game - one win in nine matches is far from satisfactory.     Gary Flowers

This is a very difficult decision, but the ARU strongly believes we must give the Wallabies a fresh start with a new coach who will give us the best possible chance of future success. While the ARU Board has decided to search for a new coach, we also recognise that Eddie Jones has made an enormous contribution to the game. Gary Flowers

It's been a tough decision but I think the time is right for me, for my family, and for the team. After the achievements last year and the development that is going on within the team, it is a good time to step down. Tana Umaga

Tana's legacy is immense - he has led the All Blacks with distinction and to great success, while making a major contribution to the development of All Blacks rugby and what it means to be an All Black.        Graham Henry

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