|Volume 1 - Week 1|
Welcome to the new, ultra cool Rugby Forum (RF) delivered straight to your inbox!! This is the very first issue so don't even think of deleting it, it is already a collector's item!
The ABBA song churns "I have a dream..." well it's not nearly as dramatic but I do have a fair amount of hope that this will be a fruitful and successful medium where we as rugby friends can dare to share opinions (alright, alright... colleagues, this is an international publication and some nations may be friendly but hardly ever friends on the rugby field!) . Please don't worry about being evicted or banned for sharing your views and I hardly think blowing up my PC will help so let's enjoy the publication and importantly respect each other more than the players do on the park!
The format of RF will be kept very simple and streamlined, no banner ads, extra websites opening and 14 page surveys prohibiting your read, only articles referenced per topic. The editor's column will be there every week, yeaahhh, and the topics mainly as per the various submissions but please, this is your forum so all advice will be welcome, though not necessarily adhered to! I would love to introduce columnists with weekly offerings to add to our current duo so please indicate if you want to send a regular weekly offering. Last but not least a rugby quiz for all the boffins out there.
I bid you happy reading and please send this to all your friends in rugby, if you want to add names to the RF mailing list feel free to drop me a mail and I will gladly do so.
This being the first issue it is my unfortunate duty to conduct some admin so we can keep things tidy for future issues, I would like to implore the following "rules"; use it, don't use it but don't be pissed if your letter does not make the next issue.
“Queensberry rules OK ” by Mannetjies Vosloo
As demonstrated by the various responses to this weekend’s Super 12 openers, the slight shift in emphasis these days from scrums and tries to citings and whistles can be exasperating for an old-fashioned rugger fan like me. Post match deliberations are filled these days with accusations and snide little remarks, and coaches, especially, often seem to come across like the pigtailed schoolgirl whose pencil was pinched. “Clementine isn’t fit to captain the girls’ swimming team”; “Goldilocks should be expelled for eating with her mouth open” etc. Also, the barrage of new laws aimed to prevent thuggery have merely made the reff’s lot more thankless, and the plethora of laws means that there will always be some infringement that he misses outright or a clump of infringements that he will handle differently. Isn’t it a pity that, despite the game’s new TV laws, each match now rests more and more upon the interpretation of one fallible person?
It makes me hanker for the good old days when the laws of the jungle seemed to prevail and both the match and the fight was settled on the field. The reff’s were mainly there to keep time and to ensure that neither side resorted openly to machine-guns and gas warfare. Who will ever forget Ian Jones taking on Free State and the infamous Bester Brothers during the 1996 All Blacks tour, receiving a good few klaps for his efforts, and then chuckling about it manfully afterwards to the commentators? After all, Pinetree Meads would have been but half the legendary figure he became had bothersome TV cameras probed the rucks and mauls during his glory years of the 60’s, as he tried to scalp Gareth Edwards with his size 15 stewels and twist Dawie de Villiers’ bollocks off.
I mean, really. First, we have Alan Solomons bleating about Japie Mulder’s minor obstruction of De Wet Barry’s cheekbone, and then we have Laurie Mains squealing about Corne Krige’s abilities as a skipper. These two fellows sound like they should be coaching the perfumed lasses from Highbury and Old Trafford, rather than teams of XV meat-eating Springboks. But then that’s the problem when you have namby-pamby soutie lawyers and meddling foreigners involved in a man’s game. I wonder what recent old timers like Gert “Bang-Bang” Smal and Uli Schmidt, who both had the right amount of mongrel in them to make it in the ring, not to mention the oom Boy Louws and Salty du Randts of yesteryear, think about all this fuss? Not much, I suspect.
"I fear for the day the bookies get hold of these little dictators..." by Mark Foster
A rugby column? I was asked to do a rugby column? I don't play rugby, have never played rugby! Why then am I writing this? Simple, a good friend begged and to stop the git from whining I agreed! The request was for something humorous, slightly sophisticated and not too intellectual – doesn’t think much about his readership does he? Ok, you sort of sophisticated, not too intellectual rugbiosi, let’s talk rugby!
The winner of this year’s Super 12? after perusing a few articles scrutinizing sport sites and looking at the dubious odds from the bookies, by the way why are they allowed to taint sport’s image? Can judge King as he once was not ban the conniving bastards or at least confine them to donkey, horse and dog races? I tell you, wave the juicy carrot and somebody will grab it with a leather jacket! Look at the pitiable Bulls, match throwing I say, nobody is consistently that bad, 4 wins out of the last 34 Super 12 matches, come on! As for the Sharks last year… heard they had to pay Mac a lot of retirement money… rhubarb, rhubarb!
I digress; the winner of the Super 12 based on performances after week 1 will come from the incredible land of Oz. Damn, how the blazes do they do it with less player resources and less teams than any other country bar Malta!? I know the competition is fought over 12 weeks and it’s been proven that home advantage is crucial however great organization, efficient multi-phase play and intelligent use of the “new” rules by the men down under will prove hard to beat.
A prominent factor this year is the amount of yellow cards a team receives. Judging the weekend’s rugby it's clear a team suffers for the indiscipline and/or frequent transgression of the laws by naughty players. I agree wholeheartedly with the issuing however we need far more consistency in the application and policing there of.
The beauty of this competition is great running rugby and unpredictability although this year we might see the referees as the most influential figures on the field as they can adversely affect results in any game. The touch judges have the power yet they are blinder than Stevie Wonder in some instances as they are quick to lift their batons horizontal. Wrong players were sent off, horrible off the ball incidents were missed; all that could of changed the outcome of matches. I fear for the day the bookies get hold of these little dictators... maybe they have already.
1. Who scored the first try of the 2001 Super 12 competition?
2. Where was the final of the inaugural Rugby World Cup?
3. Who won the last test series between the British Lions and Australia in 1989?
4. What country has the best win/loss ratio in test matches?
5. Who scored the first 5 point try in international rugby?
6. Which player scored the most tries in Rugby World Cup history?
7. When was France admitted as full members of the IRB?
8. Who captained the 1987 Oxford side in the varsity match?
9. Which legendary Irish and British Lions wing was recently knighted although not nor rugby?
10. Who was South Africa’s player of the century?
(answers at the end)
Highlanders 23 Blues 8
The first match of Super 12 2001 was an all Kiwi affair and as with all the matches of week 1 it was marred by "strict" refereeing.
One got the feeling that the Highlanders were always going to win the game and the forwards laid a sufficient platform for the backs to attack. I thought the eight man Samiu Vahafolau had an excellent game and Geoff Wilson can be more than satisfied with his comeback match. A lot was expected from Carlos Spencer however it seems like there is a bit of the Gaffie Du Toit syndrome there, great talent but doesn't know how best to use it.
Ron Cribb's playing style fits the Crusaders more, he was a bit tide up but showed off some impressive attacking skills. Tony Brown is one of the most valuable players in the competition, his all round performance was flawless and with the vaunted All Black front row dominating, expect the Highlanders to be more than also-rans this year.
Brumbies 51 Crusaders 16
The performance of the weekend, Dan Retief has already apologized and one must agree that the men from Canberra were superb. Owen Finnegan got a hat trick and the loss of Larkham was hardly felt.
The Brumbies have strength in all departments, from Justin Harrison at lock to Walker at the back they have players ranging from more than competent to world class but together as a team they are brilliant. There is a lot other teams can learn from these guys notably the speed at which decisions are made but more importantly, the speed of execution.
Eddie Jones has created a production of supreme quality and directed by the best in the business in Gregan these men will be hard beaten for the title! Oh yes the Crusaders, no lack of trying as they are the most successful team in the competition but they never had enough quality ball to string as the stats indicated "more than 7 phases". I guess this statistic will be useless in a game with two South African sides! Their best player was Scott Robertson, he played his heart out but was upstaged by a towering performance from George Smith.
The loss of a great (Wilson) always creates new talent and this man can step in Wilson's boots on the merit of the day's play.
Sharks 30 Bulls 17
A drab affair between the bottom two teams of last years competition, the Sharks can take heart out of this win, the Bulls are a much improved side from last year but only one test Springbok signifies a lack of experience when it matters.
The Sharks have a beefy pack and they played very well in an expected physical confrontation. Loose forward Van Rensburg had an excellent game and his telling runs set up two Shark tries and he was a deserved recipient of the man of the match award. A point that struck me was that the experienced campaigners, except AJ Venter, stuck to rugby and the young blood's were all involved in off the ball incidents. Does experience mean you learn to control your temper or that you learn to play the game and choose your opportunities better!
Mark Andrews is a colossus and he and Joost showed that you can enjoy the game yet also play hard and uncompromising rugby. Young wing Friederich Lombard is a talent and with his size and speed should be involved in a lot more of the Bulls moves. Boeta Wessels was poor and the moves broke down at no 10 and that is way to early in the same sense Justin Swart is more of a liability than an asset! Hats off to Casper, who said he couldn't tackle?
Sorry Bulls but it takes more than psychology to win! Can somebody in Durban please organize decent boots and laces for Deon Kaiser!
Waratahs 42 Chiefs 23
The Waratahs played some entertaining rugby and the commentary from the ex Wallaby greats were almost as good, typical Ausie banter!
The backline is very slick and Nathan Grey looks the part after an out of sorts season last year, add Burke's intelligent play and phenomenal goal kicking abilities and this team will be better than the bottom half. Isn't strange what an experienced coach who's done the business and knows what is required to perform on a different level can do for a team? The competition has proved over the years that there is no substitute for experience and continuity in coaching staff and players.
The Chiefs were also a much improved team and once again the coach has made a difference, the problem is personnel, with only one All Black in the side the necessary experience is lacking and although they will improve during the season they will remain the weakest Kiwi side in the competition.
Reds 27 Hurricanes 18
"Nobody's" (John Eales) team dominated the match and at one stage had more than 70% possession yet found themselves behind on the scoreboard!
Typically the Hurricanes utilized the scraps to better effect and one of the season's best tries was scored in the first round, Umaga's line of running was extraordinary. Although the Reds managed to make it a clean sweep for the Australian teams they will be concerned with the lack of converting possesion into tries. Latham is devastating and Herbert is a strong runner but the experience and organizational abilities of Horan was sorely missed.
Cullen is not 100% yet and he was quiet on the park however the most lethal attacking player on the planet (apologies Lomu!) won't take long to unleash and oh boy does he love shining against South African opposition!
Stormers 24 Cats 29
The South African flagship teams dished up a soufflé of robust intimidation and the 45 000 crowd saw their team lose to the experience of world class loose forwards and a mean tight five.
In the only home defeat Laurie Mains cooked up a few surprises by changing the announced line ups and the choices were inspiring, Alcock was solid and Eugene Meyer enterprising. The Stormers pack never gained ascendancy and the pressure filtered through to the classy backs that looked dangerous but alas a lack of recycled multiphase ball restricted their effectiveness. Breyten did not receive the ball often enough, Rossouw unfortunately did, he was bad, the much vaunted "creativity" was gone. Skinstad was tied up and missed two crucial tackles although admittedly not his previous self-but on his way in getting there. Brink was a presence on lock and Chris Rossouw was very good at fly-half.
The try of the match was Van Straaten's effort in the second half and the result could have been different if Monty, who had a good game, didn't venture a quick throw in and lost possession 5 meters from the Cats line with minutes to go. The turning point or in this case lowest ebb of the match was when Mulder in a fit of rage after being dumped by opposite Barry, charged up the field, opened a gap for Fleck and collided quite intentionally with an unsighted Barry, fracturing his cheekbone. Much will be said of this incident but it definitely epitomized the worst in local rivalry, there was no need to lose two of the countries best centres all in the name of "playing for Springbok places" we need all the players we've got. Mulder deserves the punishment he'll get.
The Cats were competent on the day and remembering their final flurry last season they will be motivated and confident to reach the remaining four.
The log after week 1:
Brumbies 5 Waratahs 5 Cats 4 Highlanders 4 Reds 4 Sharks 4 Stormers 1 Blues 0 Bulls 0 Chiefs 0 Crusaders 0 Hurricanes 0
Opinions and Views
Watching the games on television compare differently to the exhilarating, live at the park stuff. The atmosphere at Newlands before a match is fantastic and although the match was not as good as we hoped for being a Stormers supporter it is a special place to be on match day. I would like to brag and say that Newlands must be the best stadium to watch a live match from and also one of the few in the world where there is standing room available, the origin of the "gees" amongst the crowd. Bad luck Stormers, we'll be there in the last four though!! - Johan from Cape Town
You've got to get your first tackle in early, even if it's late. - Ray Gravell
Following Scotland's accusations of French foulplay - if you can't take a punch, you should play table tennis. - Pierre Berbizier
In my time, I've had my knee out, broken my collarbone, had my nose smashed, a rib broken, lost a few teeth, and ricked my back; but as soon as I get a bit of bad luck I'm going to quit the game. - J.W. Robinson
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