Editors Note


Volume 6, Week 11

Editors Note

Brilliant!      As the Super season draws to a close, the South African teams again live in hope of some mathematical miracle that even Nash, Neumann et al could not achieve. However, the statisticians and every eternal optimist will say there is a chance. Well. The Sharks and the Bulls have a chance then… statistics + optimism > mathematics.

The weekend’s rugby was again a very entertaining affair with some excellent matches played on both sides of the Indian Ocean. The quality was high and it looks like finally the players have been properly introduced, coaches have at least 5 moves ironed out and the catching and passing was not Teflon assisted. Heck, had to be since even the Force and the Cats registered victories!

The Force was one of the more interesting additions in the Super competition over the years. Blue blue jerseys, a Kiwi world cup coach in West Australia. And you know what? After this victory it will be better going for a team whose roots resembles an Oxfam shop, all the discards in one place… but congratulations to John Mitchell, players and supporters – excellent achievement and things can only get better! Well, that’s what we’ve been saying over the years her in SA!

The Force’ maiden victory came at the expense of the Cheetahs, a brave and probably second favourite side of every South African supporter outside of the Free State. These guys in their Currie Cup guise beat the Bulls last year in the final to commandeer a special place in every Shark, WP and Lion supporter’s heart. They are brave, entertaining and unlike the Force, are the region in SA which loses most of its talent to the big money from the other provinces. This should all change and long may the Force and Cheetahs compete.

The Cats, bless their good souls, showed what they can do by beating the Blues. How the mighty has fallen. The Blues of the 90’s and even a few years ago would have taken the Cats to the cleaners, alas times change but for one of the Super 12 legends to fall quite so far is a little bit embarrassing. But then the Cats, did well and Jaque Fourie, one of their standout players all season and a flower in manure, it was capped with 3 excellent tries. The team contributed to them but he has been showing the class expected of a Springbok starting player.

The Crusaders bit back and emphatically so. Point taken Robbie. The Brumbies came agonizingly short but the Highlanders played well enough and probably their best match of the season to pip them at the post. The Hurricanes did enough and even though the Waratahs had a little hiccup against a fired up Chiefs outfit, the return of Rogers was scintillating. Running in open space, this player has very few equals.

This weekend is the final round and miracles aside, it is Aussie against Kiwi next week in the play-offs. Enjoy the weekend’s rugby!



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 Super Sharks by Desmond Organ
If there was an expectation that part timers like me were somehow more objective and less party to the rumour mill, then the first half of 2006 has been a disaster. At the beginning of the year the Sharks appointed Rudolf aka “Staaldraad” Straeuli as Commercial Manager and with it the general belief that the Sharks were doomed started to develop.

I joined the hordes that voiced their objection through internet blogs and threatened to end an established relationship with the Sharks website which had provided me the opportunity to expand the internet presence of Rugby Forum. Now six months into the year the Sharks have signed Kees Lensing, unleashed a large group of young talent and established a successful coaching team that could well set the standard for the coming years. The objections of poaching from the fans around the country are irrelevant and almost as absurd as the calls that from Bulls fans to television studios following their mauling at the hands of the Crusaders.

The performance of the Wildebeeste is quite a revelation and the fact that the second stringers do not play in the colours of the Currie Cup team or use the same name is a clear indication that the strength of the Sharks brand is indeed a lot stronger than some of the fools in Cape Town think it is.

The Bulls are riding on the back of Currie Cup success and whilst this may full Loftus for the Super 14 games it does not give a presence outside of Pretoria. Living and working in London there are three South African Jerseys to be seen in order of popularity, the Springboks, the Stormers and the Sharks. The Stormers brand strength is testimony to the foresight of people like Mark Keohane, Bob Skinstad and Alan Solomons and it is a real pity that the popularity of the jersey has not produced the overall performance that would have been expected by a team with such talent at their disposal. The Sharks have by far the best record in the Super 12 and Super 14 and it was the years that they spent in the Doldrums that saw fickle fans remove their support.

One has to credit the work of the Sharks Academy and the leadership team of current SARU President Oregon Hoskins, whilst lacking the visibility of the team that resides in Cape Town they have done something that Nick Mallett and company are now striving to emulate. Yes the Sharks have made very good use of imports over the years, but the use of overseas players has been limited to critical needs of the team. The luring of Tom Lawton was a masterstroke and so was the Tony Brown signing, who knows what level of influence Campese had as far as Ton y Brown is concerned, perhaps it was actually Dick Muir. At the end of the day the management team appears to have got its act back together once again. The Bulls have also established an awesome level of depth, the only problem is that their Academy and strategy is forward orientated and the lack of variation to their game will make them also runs in the Super 14.

At the beginning of the season my colleague predicted that the Bulls were the only team that had the depth to perform consistently at this level. Other pundits predicted that the Sharks would finish alongside the Cheetahs and that in all likelihood would not make the top half of the table. Well with a week to go the Sharks could end up as the leading South African team in terms of log position and overall performance. The only real beating came at the hands of the Waratahs away from home; a focus on consistently performing is a desired outcome. In fairness all teams have slip ups in this competition. The losses to the Cheetahs and the Brumbies were the ones that will really count at the end of the day, the bashing in the first half against the Bulls was unexpected but a good wake up call in terms of what is required at this level of competition. The Bulls were unable to sustain that form two weeks in a row, the Sharks recovered to beat the Stormers and that says a lot about the long term potential of the Sharks versus the Bulls.

If the Sharks can continue to iron out weaknesses in their defence and perform for 80 minutes I firmly believe that they will have the better of the Bulls in the future. The Stormers have to build their pack and a front row that can compete consistently, the Bulls are losing the edge in the front row and their inability to vary their three quarter play is their biggest weakness.

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