Editors Note


Volume 6, Week 7

Editors Note

Brilliant!      In a way, the past weekend’s results went according to plan. The French are the Six Nations champions and the Sharks fulfilled the promise of some honourable defeats by logging the first South African victory on foreign soil in the Super 14.

And what a handsome victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin. Inspired by AJ Venter, Tony Brown and an impressive display from JP Pietersen, the Sharks conquered the House of Pain. The forwards dominated, the discipline held and the scoreboard kept ticking over for a well deserved win. The young Pietersen, displayed the silky running skills of a young Campese and maybe the great Aussie attacker has had a hand in the development of the 19 year old. He is by no means the finished article and a lot of work is required on defence and especially his kicking out of hand but there is promise, loads of promise.

For the other SA sides, it was a bit of a disastrous weekend, the Bulls lost against the Hurricanes after every expert and his dog predicted the Bulls forwards are so great blah blah blah. Recent history suggests, both on Super rugby and international level that we do not dominate in the forward exchanges especially against the Kiwis. How many times did our packs go backwards over the last few years right after they’ve been talked up in the media and probably by coaches and captains as well?

Dear readers, let me make a statement here, the South African forward play is not up to scratch with world standards. The Aussies, Bill Young and mates are smarter, the Kiwis, English and French, are not only smarter but also stronger. But yet our experts insist that it is a South African strength. B*llocks! South African sides are physical, no doubt but that does not translate into domination… its more lost in translation.

The Kiwis and Aussies know and prepare for the physicality, that means tweak the bravery and be prepared to stop 115kg head on cause 8 idiots are going to lower their heads, pick and drive around the fringes at every possible opportunity, to gain one meter. Heck, one Aussie commentator summed it up perfectly the other day when an SA team had 2 minutes left on the clock, 22 meters out from the tryline and one by one the forwards attempted the meter around the fringe, ‘Only 22 more phase to go and they’ll score…’ say no more.

What do we do about it? There seems to be a dearth of technique and cohesion, something as vital in a scrum as hops in beer, is lacking. Surely, there are old practitioners out there who spent cauliflower ear after cauliflower ear in scrums for a decade who can part with knowledge. Is that part of the success of the Cheetahs? And somebody, as so-called expert preferably, must tell these guys that they are sh*te and make them work much harder at retaining the Danie Craven belief that dominating forward play is the sole domain of SA forwards. Like the great man, the theory is dead. Enough.

The Cheetahs were good value for their win over the Stormers who have more problems than the residents of Pompeii. In ashes they are not quite yet but with a tough overseas leg to come, relegation is beckoning. Talking of which… the Cats, to their credit, put in a spirited display against the Crusaders but it was always going to be tough beating the best team in the world. They tried and for 40 minutes almost gave hope to their 14 supporters but alas the Canterbury based outfit clicked into gear and sorted them out. Sorry hey.

The French were crowned Six Nations champions and hats off to them. After a disastrous start against the Scots they have dominated and beat the English into submission. The world champs were shocking and their defeat to Ireland dumped them into a crisis a year away for defending their crown. Again, they have got the players so the fault must lay with the coaching.

This coming weekend, the Sharks face the Hurricanes and again they are picking up a team travelling back from SA. As with the Highlanders, they must capitalise on this. They can win and it will be a big scalp. The Cats play the Highlanders, expect a huge backlash and pain. The Cheetahs must simply win at home against the Reds, there is no excuse. The Bulls luckily only take a short journey top Perth and should keep the winless exactly that winless.

Enjoy the weekend’s rugby and as usual, we have two sets of tickets for the Sharks home game in two weeks against the Reds. So, the first two readers to send, to the usual address, the name of the famous Aussie assistant coach at the Sharks will get to see them in action.



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  Super Saturday Desmond Organ
If rugby was only played in the Northern Hemisphere we would be talking about Saturday 18 March for a very long time. For pure viewing pleasure three matches in a row with the final result determined in the last few minutes of each game. A Welsh victory would have made the Triple Crown encounter even more compelling and what the English would press have been talking about had England won their game would be very different.

As it stands; France won the competition with a couple of clinical displays and a few stutters along the way. Bernard Laporte has used a number of players and tested a number of combinations and come out on top, the return of other key players into his arsenal will only strengthen their claims as potential World Champions in a year’s time. Ireland after appearing to be on a downward trend have bounced back to be the best of the rest and it will be interesting to see if they can unleash the true potential of there three quarters. The rest were just the rest and really did not look like they will be contenders for the semi finals in 2007.

England has certainly got the depth in playing numbers and one can never write them off a year ahead of the tournament. Several other nations have been humbled a year before a World Cup only to emerge triumphant at the end of the day. History is not on England’s side and they have seldom managed to turn things around that quickly in the past. Calls for the return of Woodward are foolhardy at best; he took several years to build the 2003 champions and we all know what a year’s planning with the British and Irish Lions produced. The current players just do not jell as a unit and perhaps it is time for the selectors to identify a few other options.

Wales have been decimated by injury and they could spring a few surprises with the return of key personnel, their depth is improving but they have flattered in the past, only to deceive at the time of reckoning. The 2003 World Cup gave us a view of what was to come from them in 2005, albeit amidst a less than convincing season from the remainder of the teams. Ireland is very well positioned and despite a slow start to the season they recovered to win the Triple Crown and record a run of three consecutive victories against the World Champions. Other aspirants to the title of World Champion have battled to record a single victory in the last several years.

Scotland and Italy have flattered at points and there development will be closely monitored by those countries in the equivalent groups at the World Cup in France. Most of the Italian players ply their trade in the French Leagues and that will give them a distinct advantage in a year’s time. Perhaps it will be the Italians that provide an upset in a year or so along with the likes of Samoa and Argentina. If the Scottish coach has learnt anything it is the fact that defence is an integral component of success at the World Cup, only the French have been well beaten finalists since the first World Cup in 1987 and this time they will be at home which means you have to favour them if they get to the final game.

Southern Hemisphere coaches like Graham Henry will be focused on ensuring that a repeat of 1999 and 2003 does not happen, the All Blacks biggest opponents will be demons of their two previous semi finals. Australia will find a way to be competitive, they always do. South Africa is a known quantity away from home and the demons of several years without victory in London and Paris will count against them.

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