Editors Note


Volume 6, Week 21

Editors Note

Brilliant!      Yip, its November and time for test rugby again. The various teams from the South all troop up north and take on the might of the Six Nations. Obviously this year’s end-of-season tours are of even more importance with the World Cup now only 10 months away!

On the opening weekend of the ‘autumn internationals’, as our friends up there call them, the Welsh put in a spirited display to draw against the Aussies at the Millennium Stadium. Australia played with a strangely compiled backline with a few players out of position or rather out of their normal position. However the one constant in the team, a bit like Ayer’s Rock is the presence of Chris Latham at the back. In the beginning of his career he was probably more disliked outside of Australia than Shane Warne… but this writer has really come to appreciate the man’s brilliant skills, what a wonderful footballer!

As per usual the Australians struggled upfront, they have marvelous locks, loose forwards and hookers but their props are shite. The unfortunately nicknamed ‘Rodzilla’ is more a Rodzilch and it is little wonder that Daniel Vickerman is due another shoulder reconstruction… his body can only deal with that much pressure. Still, if they can get enough ball to world class players like Giteau, Larkham, Rogers, Tuqiri and Latham they are dangerous. Now all they need to do is play them in the correct order.

The All Blacks England clash was a wonderful spectacle, both teams although making mistakes ran the ball and there was plenty of cut and thrust. The England back division actually looked dangerous and Noon is a wonderful player. The young inside centre, Allen had a bit of a mare with costly mistakes but he tried things out, he straightened the line and has the potential to improve significantly with a few more matches at this level.

Look, the All Blacks are a very classy outfit and with one Daniel Carter in their midst they are on a different pane to the rest of the rugby playing nations. The young ‘best-player-in-the-world’ is a nauseatingly good rugby player… on top of it he is a humble, nice guy who speaks well in interviews, b@$^@*d! What a pleasure to watch though and oh boy are the rest of us jealous! Graham Henry must be saying a ‘please-save-Dan-from-injury’ prayer at least 30 times a day.

The Springboks though must be a bit worried, the English pack is big and it was their first match together, the backs are good and Hodgson kicked poorly, but against SA he hardly misses! The score should have been much closer had Noon’s first try been allowed and the gift tries eradicated. Add to that the traditional English mental block against the All Blacks and this supporter is worried because the Springboks have a similar mental block against England at Twickenham or rather against England anywhere but Paris. But then worry is only a dividend for disaster.

The Springboks are playing against Ireland this weekend in the umpteenth last, final, no we promise this is the absolute ultimate match at Landsdowne Road. Fans have taken to suing retired pop stars for making their absolute final tour or appearance about 15 times to attract a large crowd. But then in Ireland they are passionate about the game and need no marketing ploys to fill a stadium. The have B.O.D and in him they trust. Brian O’Driscoll is probably one of this old observers favourite players of all time and if he can fire up his brethren it will be a long day for the young squad from SA.

Jake White has selected an uncapped back three, two players out of position and an unfit, out of favour scrumhalf. Sorry to say but Enrico Januarie is a window dressing appointment. He was not even preferred at a provincial level and was nowhere near a selection by White in the Tri Nations but suddenly he has jumped the queue? Sorry Ruan Pienaar, you have been shafted. But then that is SA rugby to the tee.

What are our chances? Well, as Seffricans we believe we have a right to win against everybody every week bar New Zealand, against them every second week… but statistics and modern history is firmly against us. Under Jake White there has been some massive strides compared to the Straeuli era and the nightmare of 2002 but away from home we are poor. It will be a very tough assignment with our best but the best is not there for valid, accepted reasons. So we will not expect too much, we need a game plan, well executed and 100% effort. The victory will follow if the basics are correct and by now they should be.

A lot has been written and said or rather whinged about Luke Watson and this old timer often gets questioned about the player every man and his dog seem to rate as the biggest Springbok relief since the injury of Schalkie, and before. Well, here goes. Luke Watson is a good player who has been playing at Super 14 and provincial level for a number of years. He is not an outstanding player and has quite a few shortcomings on the field. a. He is too short, especially if you have 6 foot + guys who can do the same job at say 80% but contribute more in other departments. b. He is a lateral runner and does not often pass or put a player next to him in a better position. c. A modern coach’s biggest challenge is team management, he is a liability and with his mutterings via the press, he has not endeared himself to the people who matter most – fellow players, selectors and coaches. It has been a long long time since the press had the kind of influence to write a player in the team. It did happen in the old days when selectors and coaches could not watch every match – this is no longer the case, there are DVD’s and analysis a plenty.

So, yes admittedly he is a good provincial player and had an excellent Super 14, this armchair selector is not sufficiently impressed to hand him a Springbok jersey. And had himself and the press made less of a fuss, my honest opinion was that he would have received his opportunity long time ago. Is he good enough to make the step up? Well, will he or we ever know?

This weekend is a full rugby program, All Blacks vs France, England vs Argentina and Springboks against Ireland. The results could be interesting and not all the favoured team’s way. Enjoy!



Visit www.rugbyforum.co.za

The art of winning away from home by Desmond Organ

Winning away from home against the leading teams in the Northern Hemisphere is something that has eluded Springbok teams for the last several years; albeit amidst a great deal of controversy around pay, selection, team management and indiscretions on the field of play. The big question that all supporters are asking is what is the differentiator between this group of players and have the off field issues been resolved satisfactorily.

New Zealand and France have become synonymous with winning away from home, specifically against opposition from the other Hemisphere. Graham Henry and Bernard Laporte have established themselves as the leading coaches for campaigns of this nature. France has been extremely successful in tours to South Africa and New Zealand and often with a blend of youth and experience; depth has not been an issue for either of these sides and they are capable of producing performances that other teams simply cannot. The All Blacks record speaks for itself and last years Grand Slam tour is testimony to the fact that they have two teams capable of competing with the best 15 that any other team puts on the field. It is only in the more traditional rivalries against Australia that they more often than not go with their best 15. This is a psychological issue which dates back to the years when Australia started to compete and win on a regular basis in the late 80’s

England have a dismal away record in New Zealand and Australia and this has been compounded by the fact that they have gambled with youth without having a long term plan in the Clive Woodward style; honestly though they have been hampered by injuries and this has not allowed a great deal of continuity. The structure of the end of season tours has also not favoured South Africa to any great degree with a number of Twickenham only clashes in the last several years. Next year will possibly provide the Springboks with their best opportunity of beating England, something that has not happened at Twickenham since 1997. The last time that we had a realistic chance was in 2004 and yet even then with the likes of several forwards who are not touring this time round we could not do it. The coach will already be preparing his responses to dealing with the press on the back of possible losses to the English and I dread the thought of going back to yet another game at the home of rugby only to leave with my tail between my legs.

Selections aside, South African teams have been plagued by an inconsistency in selection over the last couple of years; injuries aside we have just not been able to consistently select a group of 25 players. Contracting of players which was the entire buzz a year or so ago seems to be inconclusive as many of those players are not in the touring squad and were deemed to be surplus to requirements during the Tri Nations. Selecting young players and failing to nurture them through to their full potential is also a problem, players deemed to be the way forward have surprisingly been omitted only to be replaced by another group of youngsters.

Personally I believe that psychological preparation is they differentiator for teams playing in the Northern Hemisphere in November; the All Blacks on the back of successful tours and Grand Slam success are embarking on an ideal preparation for the World Cup courtesy of their trip to France. Playing against England and France will give Graham Henry a good view as to who the final group of players will be that go to the World Cup next year. Australia are in dire need of a successful European tour and they will want to banish the memories of 2005 with a string of successes; losing to the Ospreys has not dome them any good at all and it is likely to be their front three that are targeted by the Welsh on Saturday. A Welsh victory will provide John Connolly with a bad first year in the job and only the belting of a poorly prepared Springbok team as any consolation. As typifies all tours to the British Isles, thousands of South Africans will turn out to support their team, an advantage that the All Blacks have been able to leverage through a succession of victories.

The touring media from South Africa will as usual be split between those that write about the game from the heart and an element of cynicism and those that report the status quo without raising a question about things that are obvious to their colleagues in the English media; I just hope to be able to walk away from Twickenham at least once with a smile on my face.

Copyright 2006 Rugby Forum. All rights reserved. This e-mail may be freely distributed, provided that the document is left in its original form. Submissions are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of the editor or owner.