Editors Note


Volume 3, Week 18

Editors Note

Brilliant!     For once this intro can truly reflect the rugby we saw over the weekend in the Super 12 final between the Blues and Crusaders. This was one of the best rugby matches seen this year, played at tremendous pace and it was as tense as the rope between Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa’s before the final step onto the summit of Mt. Everest 50 years ago! 

Congratulations must go to the excellent Blues team who consistently played the best rugby all season, there can be few complaints that the best team won. A bigger winner on the day was All Black rugby; the national coach and all their supporters can be heartened by this display. 

The big news over the last few days was the selection of the various squads for the mid-year internationals. The bigger news was the relative passivity with which the announcements were met. The Wallabies with their small pool of players are always an “easier” selection than SA and NZ yet there were interesting omissions, Harrison from the Brumbies and Heenan from the Reds. Looking at the selections though, one realise they are blessed with some excellent second-rowers in Giffin, Vickerman and Sharpe. The ex-South African Vickerman, was well rewarded for an excellent Super 12 season.

The New Zealand squad also presented a good indicator of Super 12 form however you leave the likes of Hammett, Mehrtens and Cullen out of the squad at your own peril! One of the obvious names missing was that of the big man Lomu, has the curtain closed over an illustrious career or can he careen himself back into contention come RWC time? Momentarily the rumoured Adidas clause is declared null and void!

The Springbok squad of Rudolf Straeuli was met with a varying degree of optimism and this armchair critic certainly feels that the correct choices were made with the players available. Super 12 form, a hint of a gameplan and adaptability was submitted by the coach as selection criteria and baring in mind a grotesque injury list, it was certainly a job well done. Naas Botha had a valid point and that is the boys must now go out and play, in order to justify their selections and the confidence shown in their abilities. 

A few punters mentioned the name of Luke Watson as a contender, the young Shark is an interesting case, very young and obviously talented, Straeuli & Co chose to overlook his obvious claims and with good reason, the boy can jol but his time will come! Other unlucky players are Geo Cronje, Quintin Davids and AJ Venter – all lock forwards! and some backs like Pitout, De Kock, Conradie and Ashwin Willemse. Keep on knocking on that door, the selectors have shown faith in good form and for SA rugby players and supporters that is the correct message.

The new management is also a relief, finally the Springbok team is again coached by ex-Springboks and this is not some outsider or alien phobia sticking its head out. Realistically it seems that SA players are not able to successfully deal with foreigners, their ideas, interpretations and work ethic. Great, its been identified and addressed, if they need to be physically reminded of their professional duties as Springbok players, the likes of Mordt and Smal will pack no punches in doing the reminding. I expect a far more disciplined team than was seen in the previous seasons and neither Joubert, Smal or Mordt was ever shy of coaching a running game when required. 

Last but not least, the England squad was announced for their Australasian sojourn and Woodward certainly selected his A-team as every Southern Hemisphere supporter requested. The English, as the world’s best ranked home side will find this one of their most difficult tours of recent years as they have become the benchmark and we all know how others love to knock the stuffing out of the top of the pile! 

With a dreary South African Super 12 now long forgotten but hardly erased, supporters expect a superlative international season, however a word of caution – remain realistic and remember a team is only as good as its last performance and in this respect the Springboks are starting off a very low base. Confidence and support is what they require, they will be out to earn it next weekend.

Enjoy the weekend off for next week - it is test rugby!!!



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Sweet revenge, Angus? by Tom Marcellus
On the eve of the 1995 World Cup Final against the Boks, "Pine Tree" Meads, who was the All Blacks' much-revered manager at the time, was asked about his thoughts on All Black/Springbok clashes. Having toured the country twice (losing both series), and having beaten the Boks in 1965 at home, the grizzled old war-horse was well qualified to utter the odd stifled grunt on the subject. Although the sheep-farmers had shown sublime form in all the earlier Cup matches, old Piney was his usual gruff sel f.

"It's about revenge, mate", he replied through gritted teeth, as, no doubt, he recalled uncomfortable encounters with Messrs Pelser, Du Preez, Jansen & Co.

Revenge, and the sweeter the better, will definitely be on this arm-chair correspondent's mind, as the Boks take on those caber-tossing devils from north of Hadrian's Wall on 7 and 14 June. After the humiliation of last year's end-of-season European Vacation, including that 6-21 loss to the villainous Jocks, let us hope that Joost & Co will be at their fire-eating best when they burst onto the Kings Park turf for the first test of this World Cup year.

Luckily the signs so far are fairly promising.

After the hallelujahs that echoed around Afrika-Borwa when he was first appointed Bok supremo last year, to follow on from the Blonde Bombshell, coach Straeuli has not had an easy time of it. Perhaps lulled into a false sense of security after the valiant showing by Marius Joubert and his fellow stormtroopers against the Wallabies in Oz and then the lucky win against the same side at Ellis Park, it seems likely that the Bok coach took it a bit for granted that his charges would show up well agains t their European opponents. Well, that's how it appeared to me – and I can't even blame him.

But, once bitten, Big Rudi seems to have regained a much-needed element of hard-headedness in his job, even if his temperament is as sunny and open as ever. After all, he can hardly be faulted for believing that the expansive game that the Boks had shown, albeit in spasms, last year, would be suitable for the Frencheys and the Scots (taming oom Lourens Dallaglio en Kie was always going to be a tad problematic). But he must be commended for recognising that the traditional blunt-instrument approach is what Bok rugby now seems to be demanding.

And, as I listened to him read out the names of the pack – the Visagies, Gerbers and Van Heerdens – I couldn't help but think that if these guys can't dispatch those dastardly red-headed haggis-gobblers to a Single Malt Valhalla, then no-one can.

Sure, there will always be gripes and complaints about the odd selection, but Straeuli seems to have got it about as right as can be, given the diminished well of players from which he can presently draw. With one or 2 notable exceptions, like the deftly-skilled Joubert at centre, all the players are from the physical stock from which Bok selectors have gratefully drawn for generations: big, mean and ugly.

And that's about everything a good Bok should be, methinks.

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Proof is in the Pudding by Desmond Organ
Now that the glamour of the Super 12 has finally come to a close; armchair critics across the globe can now engage in hours of debate as to the selection genius of the various selectors. One thing is quite clear, the All Blacks could name at least three sides that would do any nation proud and could quite possibly come close to beating most of the first choice teams across the globe. 

The undoubted highlight of the competition was the ease with which younger players have come to the fore. A clear indication that rugby is not a game for the faint hearted and that injuries at this level can deal a cruel blow to international aspirations. The most scintillating of players have once again come from the land of the Kiwi, some from more distant shores but nonetheless exercising their prowess in the same neighbourhood. The muscle of Blue Bull rugby has come to the fore once again and this may bode well for the aspirations of an anxious South African public. 

The biggest disappointment was the manner in which the South African sides went about constructing effective three quarter play. The only South Africans to make any kind of influence in this regard were Joost and Andre Snyman. A trip into the archives will remind enthusiasts that they were members of the all conquering Springbok team under the leadership of Gary Teichman. It was quite clear that forward domination and resolute defence was about the only way that South African teams were going to make an impact, god forbid that South Africa is becoming an equivalent of the English team of the 1990´s. It may win matches but it is not pretty. 

From an Australian perspective, the biggest concern should be the number of injuries suffered by key players. Whilst the depth may be there to compete at the Super 12 level; the rigours of international rugby could stretch them to the limit, something that South Africa has been experiencing since the turn of the century. The form of some of the bigger names was simply not in existence and it is going to be quite interesting to see how some of the journeyman execute on the international level.

The South African selections are once again somewhat predictable and the inclusion of several players wiil undoubtedly be questioned. Full marks to the selectors for rewarding form, but it is quite a sad day when their is a comprehensive justification for certain selection through the use of isolated statistics and full page descriptions, on the point of long windedness, the South African Management team is once again beginning to look somewhat large. 

I am sure that John Mitchell had a very difficult task selecting some of his players, but one thing is quite clear, he has a truckload of able replacements to call upon. The game against England is going to be a great pre-World Cup challenge and could go a long way to determining degrees of self confidence. I for one am mightily relieved that Scotland are coming to South Africa and that several players have time to recover before the challenges of the Tri Nations.

The next several weeks will be an interesting time with most eyes and ears focused on the tours to the land of the Kiwi and Wallaby. There may well be a few surprises dished up in South Africa and I for one am looking forward to the well orchestrated forward momentum that has been sorely lacking in recent years. One thing is for certain, Messers Straeuli and Jones will not be sleeping quite as easily as Mr Mitchell in the next two to three weeks.

Tournament Super  15

New Zealand Super 15

15 Joe Roff Christain Cullen Christian Cullen Leon McDonald
14 Doug Howlett Joe Rokocoko Doug Howlett Caleb Ralph
13 Stirling Mortlock Andre Snyman Ma,a Nonu
12 Tana Umaga Nathan Grey Tana Umaga Aarón Mauger
11 Rupeni Caucaunibuca Mark Gerrard Rupeni Caucaunibuca Joe Rokocoko
10 Carlos Spencer Elton Flatley Carlos Spencer Daniel Carter
9 Joost vd Westhuizen Chris Whitaker Justin Marshall Jason Spice
8 Scott Fava Pedrie Wannenberg Xavier Rush Rodney So'oialo
7 Wikus van Heerden Jerry Collins Jerry Collins Richard McCaw
6 George Smith Reuben Thorne Reuben Thorne
5 Victor Matfield Jono West Chris Jack Daniel Carter
4 Geo Cronje Bakkies Botha Ali Williams
3 Richard Bands Kees Meeuws Kees Meuws
2 Anton Oliver Brendan Cannon Anton Oliver Kevin Mealamu
1 Matt Dunning Carl Hoeft Carl Hoeft Greg Somerville

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The end of the Super 12 by Vinesh Naicker
The Super 12 final was a great game. I’m pretty sure I got more emotional about it than I will about any of the test matches except the Bledisloe Cup games.

The two reasons for this are firstly, that it is great to see your team go up against great opposition. Any team facing the Crusaders cannot take victory for granted. Secondly, Carlos Spencer. King Carlos, as he is now being called, has such an aura of unpredictably, which has justifiably developed over the years. Throughout the game there was always the fear he would do something which would leave his team off balance, and allow the Crusaders to pounce and thereby change the complexion of the game.

This almost happened when he knocked the ball on, 3 metres from the line. Hammett pounced on it to allow the Crusaders to go into the sheds ahead at half time. However, King Carlos earned his crown in the second half, when he came out and marshalled the attack for eventual victory. In that second half Spencer demonstrated the gulf that lies between himself and other players that have worn the label of erratic or brilliant. Spencer makes mistakes but he doesn’t beat himself up about it, and he d oesn’t go to pieces. He’s always had the confidence, but now he also has the control. I suggest to you if either Gregor Townsend or Gaffie du Toit had been in Spencer's shoes at the end of the first half the Crusaders would have gone on to win the game by 14 points.

Another reason that it was a great game was that both teams played well. Hard, committed, but fair rugby. Referee Andre Watson had an outstanding game and the fact that there were no penalties until 20 minutes into the game is a testament to both him and the players. Watson did the sensible thing and let the scrums work themselves out. Instead of continually giving penalties and free kicks, he allowed the scrum to evolve into a contest. A lot of referees could learn from his example.

As I said in last weeks column, a lot of people were suggesting that it would be a contest between the Crusaders defence and the Blues attack. However the Blues had the best defensive record in this years tournament and they did well to hold out the committed Crusaders attack in the last 20 minutes. Mehrtens and Carter may have missed four out of five shots at goal but the Crusaders were gifted Hammett's second try, so it evened up in the end. At the end of the day both teams played well but the team that ventured more gained more. The Super 12 crown. 

The All Black squad announcement was a pleasant surprise. For the first time in a number of years I have no major problems with Mitchell's squad. If this squad of players makes it to the World Cup I think they will play some exciting rugby.

It would have been nice to have seen Tana Umaga named as captain with Reuben Thorne as the forwards leader. Most Kiwis believe the captain needs to be a forward. I think this is only true if he leads by example and frankly neither Thorne or Randell have done that. Choosing Umaga would have allowed Mitchell the luxury of replacing Thorne with Jerry Collins if he wasn’t performing on the field. Tana gets my vote because of his comment to referee Marshall in the semi-final after he was penalised f or a hard but fair tackle “We’re not playing tiddlywinks here, Peter. It’s a contact sport.” Could you ever see Thorne or Randell saying something like that?

Choosing Umaga would be too bold a move for the national coach though, and despite his reticence Thorne hasn’t done much wrong as captain. He’s picked up his game in the last few weeks and I guess deserves another shot.

It will be interesting to see how So’oialo goes at number 8 since he is the only specialist picked in that position. This guy has all the skills of a young Zinzan Brooke, but he needs to have the maturity of the older Zinny if he is to keep his spot. For the Tri Nations and World Cup.

Hopefully Mealamu should get the number 1 hooking spot, because frankly if Oliver hasn’t learned to throw straight in the last four years he is not going to learn in the next four months. I would hate to see the Blacks lose the World Cup because he gifted the opposition the ball on the 5 metre line again.

The last question that arises is whether either Mauger of Carter will be able to mesh with Spencer well enough to play off him the way Tuitupou has this season? If they can’t then the Blacks are in trouble and Mehrtens could be back sooner rather than later.

The English are coming next week and this time they will face a full All Black team rather than a training squad. It will be great to see the clash of the form flyhalf of the northern hemisphere against the form flyhalf of the southern hemisphere. Their meeting was curtailed by Spencer's injury last year.

The Super 12 is over and now the business end of the season is starting. Let the games begin.

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No doubt more will be revealed this weekend in Rapport, Pravda to the SA Rugby Soviet.     Andy Colquhoun commenting in the Weekend Argus on the sacking of Tim Lane

The most powerful athlete in the world is the bobsleigh athlete, because he's powerful, heavy and fast for 60m. That's what you want your rugby player to be like.     Thibault Giroud in SA Rugby

Rudolf believes he and Tim have contrasting coaching philosophies which impact on player selection and playing style.     Rian Oberholzer

The feeling is incredible. I was in front of the TV. When I saw my name, I jumped up, my knees went weak and my heart closed up. It was one of the best feelings in my life.    Hendrik Gerber

We must just work on defence and discipline. If those things are right, the thing is won.   Pieter Rossouw

It is like the first day at school, or any other institution. They get their new school bags, and uniforms, and meet their new teachers and learn a few of the rules.     Eddie Jones

It seems like 7.8% of sports media is about women, 8% is about dogs and horses - and the rest is about men. Billie Jean King

Letters to the Editor
Hi Lucas

Re: Desmond Organ's team selection...

I mean really....Stefany "chip & chase" Terblanche...surely you cannot be serious ?!?!?
No pace, no vision, no defence, poor decision making, predictable,....he should have stayed at Boland...granted he was good during the Mallet era, but post this...what has he ever done for either the Sharks or the Boks...? Besides being directly responsible for the Sharks losing a number of games last year (vs Reds stands out particulary well),...not much I'd say...

Robbie Kempson....heaven only knows why Straeuli brought him back to SA....surely we have better props ?!?!!? 
Not mobile, dirty player, gives away penalties, hot headed, poor ball carrier, average scrummer.... the only thing he's got going for him is experience....which in his case is experience at being about average....


Geagte Red.

Ek wil nie vandag swartgallig wees nie maar ek vra myself net af, hoe lyk ons rugby se vooruitsigte vir die res van die jaar. Nie een van ons spanne het hond haaraf in die Super12 (of is dit Super8) gemaak nie. Waar is die probleem? Is dit die afrigters, die administrateurs, die mister van sport, die bagasiemeester, die bestuur, die hotel waar ons spelers tuisgaan of is die fout nie by die spelers self te soek nie. 

Ek verwonder my net aan die verskonings wat elke Maandag in die koerante staan. 'n Afrigter wat homself nou regtig as die hoofnar laat uitsonder is die Dapper Muis van die Haaie. Ek is 'n groot Natal/Haaie ondersteuner, maar hy het sy naam nou regtig weggegooi toe hy na een Saterdag skielik in die pers sekere spelers kritiseer en of wil faks. Roelfie en sy maters moet ook asseblief nie kop verloor met spankeuses nie. Daar is genoeg talent beskikbaar, hetsy binnelands of in die buiteland. Hy moet hom ook n ie blindstaar teen "bekende name" nie. Ek het slegs 'n paar bekende name hierdie jaar tydens die Super12 op standaard sien speel. 

Wat die kapteinskap betref is daar ook 'n groot polemiek aan die kom. Die huidige manne wat hy oorweeg, het in die verlede nie die mas opgekom as wen kapteins nie maar hy noem hul name nog steeds. Reputasie wen nie wedstryde nie. My siening van wenrugby is, kry voorspelers wat die opponent in die grond inskrum, die balle by die teenstander afneem, hom duik dat hy hik en hom oordonder dat hy nie weer aan die bal wil vat nie. 'n Skrumskakel wat by die loskrums die bal kan uitgee en nie vir die skeidsregter wil uitwys wie is onkant is of oortree nie. Wat ook nie sy arms rondswaai soos 'n "karwagter" nie. 'n Losskakel wat die spel kan lees en manupileer. Twee senters wat die teenstanders van hul voete af duik en nie hulle wil omhels nie. Vleuels wat nie doodgevat word met die bal nie. 'n Heelagter wat onder druk die bal uit die lug kan vat en by die agterlyn kan aansluit. Die ander belangsrike eienskappe van elke speler moet wees om wedstrydfiks te wees, vreesloos te verdedig, gemotiveerd te wees en om eerste ns 'n rugbyspeler te wees as 'n model of 'n sirkusnar. 

O ja, laat elke speler eksamen skryf oor die reels. Ons spelers is gedurende die Super12 tussen 50% en 70% meer kere gestraf oor voor die hand liggende oortredings, as die teenstanders. As jy korrekte gedisiplineerde rugby speel kan die skeidsregter jou onmoontlik die hele tyd wil straf. Ek het gespeel onder die volgende leuse" die skeidsregter is altyd reg al is hy hoe verkeerd" 

As daar nie 'n dramatiese verandering of oplewing gaan plaasvind nie sien ek nog ons sing nie meer N'Kosi Sikelela voor 'n rugbywedstryd nie maar eerder skriflesing en gebed word gedoen.

Sterkte vir Roelf en sy maters.
Chrisjan X

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