Editors Note


Volume 6, Week 20

Editors Note

Brilliant!      It’s been a while. With test rugby well forgotten, the local rugby scene is awash with this coming weekend’s Currie Cup final between the Blue Bulls and the Cheetahs. Undoubtedly the best two teams of the last few years - it is their third final against each other in a row – it promises to be a grand affair in the true old tradition of the Curie Cup. And long may it continue.

With so much focus on the international season and their pampered stars the 2006 edition of the Currie Cup did not receive the recognition it deserved until almost semi final time. The frantic jockeying for positions in the last few pool matches was nerve racking for coaches, players and supporters alike. It captured the imagination because 5 teams were playing very good, exciting, running rugby. The standard of the teams were excellent and the new talent on display were quite contrary to what many believed is available in this country, judged by overseas Springbok form.

Anyway, its not about the Springboks here… as said, the race for the semi-finals was a tense affair between the superpowers of SA rugby, no reference intended to the Presidential Council, and rather unlucky for the Lions their chase came too late. Coach Loffie Eloff turned a horrible start to the campaign around, at suspiciously the same time Andre Pretorius returned from injury… but with a combination of youth and seasoned professionals played arguably the most exciting rugby. But then, so did the Sharks, WP and the Bulls however ultimately, the defending champions the Cheetahs did enough to secure the top spot on the log and a guaranteed home semi-final.

The semi-finals were interesting matches; it was two match ups of equal proportions. Both saw the established experienced team beat the show of youth. WP made too many mistakes at crucial moments and ultimately the Bulls played better as a team and with a lot more structure, required to win the tight ones. Ditto, the Cheetahs, their defence was phenomenal and they punished every loose pass from Dick Muir’s crop of youngsters.

For this old seasoned Currie Cup watcher, there were some notable performances in the two matches. For the Bulls, Pierre Spies again showed why he is the most exciting loose forward in the country at present. Imagine him and Schalkie as part of a green and gold trio but then, it’s not about the Springboks. He is a phenomenal player. Another that impressed was the ‘veteran’ Derick Hougaard who is playing excellent rugby at the moment with his particular brand of match control. In semi’s and finals – he is the Bulls’ superman.

For the Sharks, Francois Steyn holds a lot of promise, he’s reading of the game and commitment to work was a revelation, unfortunately, the stage was slightly too large and his mistakes cost the team some precious points. However, definitely a player to watch for the future. For the Cheetahs, the workmanlike Ryno van der Merwe is a menace, always 110% involved and with Kabamba Floors probably the most effective loose forwards around and with 15 tries between them excellent contributors to the scoreboard – apparently that is where you win matches… At the back, Bevan Fortuin is another excellent player with plenty of contribution factor.

So, it is building up to be an exciting match at a sold out Vodacom Park, where both Vodacom sponsored teams will play in front of Vodacom subscribers – neat hey! Anyway, without the cell phone millions, there will hardly be a game left! This subscriber is a bit at a loss as to who to back for the spoils. Both teams are playing wonderfully attractive rugby with the correct amount of structure and attack.

One has a superstar ex-player as coach who was an extravagantly gifted player, acutely aware of tactics but yet believed in the hard yakka first. The other coach was a workmanlike ‘hard man’ on eightman - the type you go to war with. Do their teams reflect their personal style? The Cheetahs - yes, Rassie Erasmus almost personified. Pote Human has not been in charge long enough for his personality to shine through in the Bulls but there is a serious legacy in place at Loftus and the structures were borne from great success.

Home ground is always a factor but nullified last year by the Cheetahs, it all comes down to who can handle the pressure moments the best, who can convert mistakes into points and the Bulls have a slight edge here especially if Willem De Waal is not available. Derick Hougaard is key to the Bulls success and the Cheetahs will need a no 10 who can dominate. As Naas always says, 1 point more wins the game, 4 tries are irrelevant.

Talking about the famous flyhalf… he made a famous quote in the previous century that the Natal Sharks will not win another Currie Cup trophy for another 100 years when they beat his Northern Transvaal team at Loftus Versfeld nogal. The Free-State Cheetahs surprised last year to win for the first time in 30 years… Nobody said there will be another 30 year wait but this writer thinks it will be at least another year’s wait. Bulls to win the final. Enjoy the game!



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The Circus by Desmond Organ

The past few weeks the contracted Springboks were part of the Jake White/SARU conditioning circus that will cost rugby in South Africa around 2 million rand. The purpose of the event is the equivalent of a banana republic holding an investors conference for foreign dignitaries; nobody is taking it seriously. Sadly another 2 million rand goes down the toilet instead of being invested in the long term development off the game in South Africa.

A year ago the fledging Spears franchise was being hailed as the way forward for the equalisation of the game amongst the rugby public in South Africa, players and supporters alike were duped into believing the Brain van Rooyen show. A year later and there are allegations of illegal minutes being written and company law being broken; 6 million has already been wasted on the Spears franchise and their CEO seems to operate in exactly the same way as all the other stakeholders on the gravy train.

In all likelihood another 9 million will be paid in addition to the existing 6 million, add the Jake White circus and we have close to 20 million being spent on initiatives that have no long term benefit for South African rugby. It is no wonder that Oregon Hoskins has told Newscorp that we will not be withdrawing our top players from the Super 14, that would be equivalent to shutting off the supply of money that the rugby bosses love to spend irrespective of the lack of return on investment or investment in the well being of the game as a whole. It would not surprise me if SARU then proceeded to buy out the Spears franchise that they have just been pouring money into, a conservative estimate would be 75% of what has been poured in already; so let’s say another 10 million.

Well, that is around 30 million rand spent without a single thought of how it will fast track previously disadvantaged communities or how it will spread the game to football mad communities that have no desire to understand why it is that rugby cannot get it’s act together. Brain van Rooyen at least was creative in his tenure, albeit it “illegally”, in Hoskins we have a bureaucrat that would rather stay the course than risk fundamental changes to the way the game is administered. I am looking forward to the further deterioration in the market value of SARU as an organisation; the fact that they are not market valued is irrelevant, the coffers are getting emptier all the time which reduces the overall value of the entity if it did in fact consider becoming a publicly listed company that would be accountable to shareholders.

Taking the game to the broader public through a combination of youth development schemes and supporter awareness would be the way forward, just imagine if we had that 30 million to be spent on providing subsidised tickets to supporters who cannot afford the lofty prices paid by the established group of middle aged lily white beer drinking hordes who are not the future of the game. Imagine if the money could be spent on improving the facilities in communities where there is a mass based appeal and investing in new facilities in communities where the game has up till now been dwarfed by the popular appeal of football.

Political involvement has had very little to do with the belief that a balanced portfolio of academic and tertiary activity is in the best interests of the community, the government cares little for the development of the game other than to ensure a certain percentage of player representation to gain political leverage. Imagine a situation where the Minister of Sport could engage with professional administrators of the game to advance the well being of rugby players and supporters in South Africa; I might as well imagine SARU accepting responsibility for continuing to run the game into the ground. Failure to nurture the reserves of talent in existing communities and failure to spread the appeal even further means that no real change is being planned and that it is spend, spend and spend that continues to be the preferred route to mediocrity.

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