Editors Note


Volume 6, Week 13

Editors Note

Brilliant!      The so-called ‘inbound’ tours to the Southern Hemisphere are now a thing of the past but events of the past three weeks will have a dramatic impact on the world game for the next important two years. The Tri Nations beckons and we look at the three contenders. This week New Zealand and Australia.

Let’s start with New Zealand. Graham Henry again did the unthinkable by playing more or less one All Black team in two tests against Ireland (with rotation of players) and on the following weekend a completely new team against Argentina in Argentina. By winning all three matches, former headmaster Henry has now gathered a squad of players that can perform (win!) at the highest level anywhere in the world. Particularly impressive was the victory in Argentina over a team that thrashed Wales in two successive test matches.

Many may claim that this is vintage All Black tactics, peak a year too early and flop in the World Cup but heck, Connolly and White will give their proverbial left you-know-what to be in the same position. More on their woes below. The All Blacks have gone back to basics the past 3 seasons and their forwards are the most powerful in the world. The only semblance of weakness in the front is their lineout prowess. Chris Jack can be forgiven for feeling a bit lonely but such are their options that they will be able to field enough players to get their fair share of the ball.

Behind the pack, Weepu and Kelleher are contrasting but effective halves to the best flyhalf in the game, Dan Carter. Wide from Dan, things get interesting, Mauger may be tactically astute but lack pace, there is no real replacement yet for Umaga and with the midfield undecided, the wings struggle for possession. The brilliance of O’Driscoll exploited the backline and if enough sorties are launched with creativity rather than brawn and bloody kicking, the All Blacks may be vulnerable at the back. It will however require smart tactical maneuvering and at this early stage of the season one team is capable of that, Australia.

So, in summary; the All Blacks have depth, confidence and Dan Carter – not quite Brazil but definitely a winning combination.

The Wallabies improved considerably over the last three test matches. Coach Connolly has made it clear that big powerful players will be preferred in his pack regardless if there may be better smaller ones out there. The notion of Smith and Waugh in the same starting pack has been dispelled and against the English, the Australian scrum did not embarrass themselves. They are not as good as New Zealand and probably slightly behind the Springboks mostly due to inexperience but where the big difference is, is numbers 9-15.

George Gregan has played in more tests than Wendell Sailor has done in grams and his experience as well as a seemingly new lease on life has re-established the Wallaby backs to the most feared unit of the competition. Larkham is fit, Mortlock is fit and if they get Giteau in the mix there is serious trouble for the other countries. Those three are world class. Least forget, Gerard – a superb footballer, Toqiri - who is big, mean and vast improved as a Union player, Latham – he may be getting on a bit but over the years of watching him his value is immense and this supporter would rather have him in his team than against, Rogers – if he could pass and create more often than not he will be utterly devastating and with reserves like Shepherd and Rathbone, wow! Get the ball out there!

The Wallabies are; resurgent, have plenty of experience, always confident and great depth in the back division. The question will always reside over their forwards but the current coach will fix it, maybe not in time to take the Tri Nations crown but look out World Cup.

Next week, the Springboks and why this reluctant scribe believes they are, despite a world ranking of 2 in a decline only a year before the World Cup.



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Walking On Thin Ice by Desmond Organ

The challenge of being the man in the head coaching job for South Africa just got a lot harder for Jake White. In the same week he has lost one of his key players and launched another badly timed attack on the coaches at the regional level. Yes we all know that South Africa’s top players are not rested sufficiently and we al know that the attempts to develop a second 15 players of near equal ability has also not taken place.

Wherein lies the accountability is just about impossible to pinpoint, changes in the administrative structure, allegations of selection interference and the lack of quality coaches and administrators at the regional level have made the task of the National coach almost untenable. Like any good leader Jake White has made sure that he covers his backside by constantly making the public aware of the limitations of the South African Super 14 structure and the lack of cooperation from the regional coaches. The SARU administrators have also covered their backside by placing a performance clause in the coach’s contract, thereby giving them a means of managing the removal of an unsuccessful coach without the excessive costs associated with former cock ups.

What we are all ignoring is the fact that the development of depth takes time, the Crusaders came second to last in the Super 12 several years ago and yet they have by far the best record in the competition, the Brumbies started off at the bottom of the pile and yet they have also got one of the better records. The same can be said of the Sharks and the Blues and the one thing that these teams all have in common is that they have had a consistent period with the same core group of players and coaches. Mistakes have been made and that is clearly evident in relation to the Sharks under Kevin Putt and the Bulls under the coaches before Heyneke Meyer came along, Meyer though has had the benefit of the Blue Bulls development plan as has Dick Muir, but there is no denying the fact that there is talent at their disposal.

In comparison to the likes of Muir and Meyer, Jake White has constantly had to make use of the existing resources at his disposal, this combined with the challenges of representation and the need to win on a regular basis has meant that he has burnt out several players. Claiming that the Super 14 coaches have not done their bit is really a bit out of order; White himself has had many opportunities to develop other players at his disposal and has spent a lot of time refusing to recognise the credentials of players that could well have solved some of his problems. Leaving the likes of Luke Watson and co without the hope of representing their country under his tenure is something that he could well regret now that Schalk Burger has been injured.

White has tried several sets of reserve players in one off games, only to return to the tried and trusted, so players that should have had more game time have been ignored, it is not that surprising that the same players that have been ignored have been singled out as potential world beaters by his Australian counterparts at National and Super 14 level. I am thinking of the likes of Russell, Brits and Watson who would clearly have had a bigger role to play if they had been born elsewhere, Russell is a game breaker and so is Watson and Brtiz and as the Kiwis and Aussies has shown us, size is not everything.

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