Editors Note


Volume 3, Week 21

Editors Note

Brilliant!     As I drove up the N1 out of the beautiful city of Cape Town early Saturday morning I realized with chilling certainty (it was 3 degrees Celsius) that the very weekend spent away from the luxury of satellite television, cell phones and hot water will probably result in a historic occasion. An England victory may have been recorded a short few hours later, but trekking through some gottsverlaten veldt, they only won the game on Monday at 15:07 – the first time my cell phone reception returned! Fancy that, the editor of a rugby publication missed one of the most salivating rugby weekends pre World Cup! Skande!

VHS luckily saved the day and with the results known, watching the two recorded matches, All Blacks/England and the Springboks/Scotland was a lot different than the usual live viewing. England finally proved to a doubting world that they are indeed contenders for the William Web Ellis trophy by beating the All Blacks in New Zealand. Victories do not come easy yet one have to congratulate their bulldog defence and shrewd tactical play especially when down to 13 men. The Kiwis will obviously rue lost opportunities at goal, something Jonny W never misses and decision making in the red zone however your scribe must share the general feeling that the All Blacks can improve immeasurably. England? Well, they are certainly riding the crest of the wave and Mr Woodward is finally plucking the plaudits he so ardently yearns after.

The Springboks turned in a much-improved display, they played with a lot more fire in their bellies than last week and they tried to create opportunities. Yes, the basic mistakes re-occurred and the excellent Chris Paterson punished them on every occasion somebody stuck his nose over the off sideline. The discipline was not up to scratch and a lot of the penalties conceded were just plain stupid. But, there was a lot more attacking, first time tackling was better, the scrums were good as well as th e lineouts and with Bobo on board the backline looked far more dangerous and every bit as industrious as a teenage boy on his first date. Bobo/Joubert can develop into an ace combination if given enough space and time by their halfbacks.

Joost, was busy but the man’s biggest weaknesses came back to haunt him, his pass is too slow and he is too slow to the vital breakdown point to ensure continuity of attack. Rudy Joubert was at pains to point this out before the Super 12 and in the competition, Joost looked sharp however test rugby is quite a different kettle of fish as we have discovered. Louis Koen played well and many may lament his attributes but one thing is for certain he is a 100% committed player and his kicking boot is dea dly, remind anyone of one Braam van Straaten? What did the media and supporters do to him? Louis deserves the opportunity to play with a Neil De Kock or even (gulp!) Craig Davidson, as they are better distributors than the captain.

The Scots apparently lefty the country with a fair amount of optimism and who can blame them, they came close to causing a historical upset in the first test, regardless of the Springboks' current state of affairs, winning in South Africa is not easy. A few players raised their hands and Glenn Metcalfe is a bright rising star. The only problem is though they did not record a victory and coming close is nothing like the real thing, ask England.

The coming weekend, the Australians have to account for the Southern Hemisphere and take on the might of Dad’s Army in Melbourne, the Ausies have the kind of game to unlock any defence however the omission of a recognized flyhalf will cost them. Eddie Jones must be admired for his disciplinary actions; obviously it is not something he learnt from his national union. 

Finally, the Argies beat the French in Buenos Aires, a magnificent victory and this will make their Springbok match all the more appetizing as this will be a real test for the green-and-gold. The Pumas are one of the countries who have never beaten the South Africans and if they succeed in a second victory over Les Bleus this weekend, the Springboks are in serious danger of losing a very proud record.

Enjoy the weekend and rest assured, this weekend, all attention will be on the screen for first hand live rugby action!



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Time Stands Still by Desmond Organ
Another week of press conferences and still the performances that we expect from the Springboks appear to elude the supporters. The only reality is the fact that the opposition appears to have lost any fear of facing up to what was once one of the worlds greatest teams. How ironic that there were comments in 2000 relating to the ease with which the English team dealt with the psychological pressure of playing against South Africa. Now it seems it has spread to the Welsh and the Scottish and if resu lts are anything to go by, by the Irish and the French and so on and so on.

The reality is that in the several years since the English came and for all intensive purposes conquered, the Springboks have not produced anything but inconsistent performances. These are not acceptable if you consider the depth of talent that is playing rugby in this country. One is tempted to blame the coaching staff, but there has not been any consistency there either. It is indeed ironic that we have attempted to copy the English and the Australians in their professional approach to the admini stration of the game and yet we have not really progressed. Nothing short of a miracle will save South Africa from further losing ground to the other countries that make up the top four.

The decline of the status of Welsh rugby is well documented and the rise and fall of Irish prospects is something that most rugby lovers are familiar with. The Welsh have restructured their domestic competition in the hope that it will bring similar fortunes. Why then is it that from a South African perspective that time appears to stand still. I have been at pains to realise that the only real change from a South African perspective has been the number of players from all backgrounds that have ste adily made their way into the game. Apart from that the results and the consistency with which the game is managed has continued on its wayward path.

There were in the past cries of outrage from several quarters that the increased demographic representation in the game was the reason for the declining performance. Well the opposite is true, the performances have not improved and clearly the main reason is the inconsistent selection process. The same fifteen players seldom if ever get the opportunity to play in several consecutive tests and the results are there for all to see. Anybody doubting the reality of the outcome should leisurely read the match reports from this time a year ago. It will make interesting reading to unearth that the first ten minutes of the games against Wales and Scotland are almost identical. In fact the opposition in almost identical fashion scored tries.

The reports also highlight the appalling body positioning of the South African forwards and the ease with which the opposition managed to secure loose ball through dominance at the point of breakdown. The same criticisms are there again this year and we are duped into believing that the statistics of player performance are solving the performance problems. The reality is that the selectors and the head coach remain entrenched in their positions. Collective fear of further failure has resulted in li ttle progress being made where it really counts, skills and decision-making ability. 

The game that awaits us in Perth against the English cannot and will not be won by increasing the size of the forward pack, it is in the performance of the loose forwards and the three quarters that a positive result can be achieved, add to that the ball handling skills, decision making ability, defensive patterns and support play and then you might just be within a mile or two of success. The All Blacks were snuffed out of a game that they could quite easily have won if they had been able to play their own game. The facts are there for all to see and the question is do we have the collective brains trust to develop these capabilities in several months.

If the selection circus continues the worst possible outcome should be expected. Perhaps the statisticians in the employ of SA Rugby should look at the number of occasions that combinations are maintained. Familiarity is a key component of being able to mange the game plan. The American football teams practice the same routines again, again and again. The English coach spent quite some time in the presence of the Denver Bronco’s, anybody stopped to think why? The answer is simple. The English team has a complete game plan before they even set foot on the field. In Rugby Union consistency of selection is about the only thing that can provide you with a chance against such a well-drilled outfit.

The Springboks need consistency and that is the simple starting point, be aware though that as with American football consistency of selection also provides the opposition with strategies to organize their defensive patterns. The shopping list is long and there is precious little time left to pontificate and plan, results are needed and perhaps the Springboks should spend as much time in planning and executing on the field activities as they do with press conferences. 

Match Day 22 Survivors from the Welsh Tests of 2002 – 31 %

Victor Matfield
Marius Joubert
Andre Snyman 
Stefan Terblanche
Ricardo Loubscher – dropped after 1 match
Brent Russell
Craig Davidson

Survivors for the Test against Argentina based on Tests against Wales in 2002 – 23 %

Victor Matfield
Marius Joubert
Stefan Terblanche
Brent Russell – no game time against Scotland
Craig Davison – no game time against Scotland

Only Craig Davidson and Stefan Terblanche were in the match day 22 for both tests against Wales a year ago, which is an appalling 9 %

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England march on, All Blacks (13) England (15) by Vinesh Naicker
I can’t say I was too disappointed with the result of the weekend. I think England deserved to win. 

Frankly, I think England can get 10% better by World Cup time and the Blacks can get 50% better. Having said that I will be surprised if England and NZ meet in the final too many things tend to happen along the way in the World Cup and that is one of the things that makes that tournament so good.

In analysing the game I came up with the following observations on the day:

The tight five did OK. Their main aim going into the game was to not get pushed around by the England team and to maintain parity in the set pieces. They managed to do this, unfortunately when England were down to 6 forwards they still couldn’t do more than maintain parity. The two props did well in the game holding their own, the fact that they were not apparent in the loose is testimony to how hard the battle was up front.

Oliver did well in the lineouts only really throwing badly into one. It is pretty ironic how Mealamu showed him up though when he came on. Apparently the reason Oliver has been constantly selected over the years is that despite his generally shoddy work in the lineouts he is very good at taking the ball up and in the loose. On Saturday he took the ball up around a total of two metres in his 60 minutes on the field. Mealamu would have made 40 plus metres in the 20 minutes he was on the park. Th e excuses about Mealamu coming on when the England pack was tired are just that excuses. With Vickery on at prop the English pack which finished the game was stronger than the pack that started.

Ali Williams had a good day in the lineouts but his decision, late in the game, to pick the ball up from the base of the ruck and then dive through the middle must have been one of the more moronic ways to give away possession. He gave away possession by driving away from his support a few times late in the game, hopefully this is just an inexperience thing. So’oialo did not have a good day at the office, his shoddy work at the base of the scrum repeatedly cost his team time and advantage. The En glish halfback was all over him. Dallaglio showed him up as a number 8 as well, it was really a case of man against boy with Dallaglio dominating So’oialo in every facet of the game.

Marshall generally had a bad game; his service to Spencer was slow and sloppy and he butchered a try when he tore his hamstring. Devine was much better at clearing the ball when he came on and it was obvious that Spencer had so much time and space after he came on. Spencer's game really blossomed after that.

Spencer had a mixed day at the office playing well in the second half but still making a number of mistakes that Mehrtens wouldn’t have. Bottom line, Spencer's goal kicking cost the All Blacks the game. His opposite number Wilkinson kicked everything on offer but wasn't really able to run effectively. He did an enormous amount of work in defence and at the end of the day won the flyhalf battle.

Greenwood and Tindall totally shut down Umaga and Nonu. Umaga's hands really let him down, I think he dropped the ball four times. Greenwood and Tindall gave everyone in the Super 12 a lesson in how to tackle. In stead of going for the big hug in an attempt to turn the tackle into a maul they just grabbed Umaga and Nonu around the legs and dropped them to the deck. As a result the Black centres were unable to break any tackles, make any yardage or really make any contribution to the game.

In my view Ralph had a bad first half but a good second half on the wing. The first half saw some bad handling from him and once again confirmed his inability to beat international opposition in a one on one situation. In the second half he showed good hands to take a couple of passes and if Howlett hadn’t scored the one try of the game Ralph would have. Video replays also show that although Howlett was off side from that kick Ralph wasn’t and he would have beaten the English defence for the tr y.

Rokocoko showed his inexperience in the first half by not hammering home the one try scoring opportunity he was given. He did very well in defence throughout the game though. Howlett did a pretty good job at fullback but the consensus is that he is much better on the wing. I don’t understand why Cullen is not playing there. He is not the player he was in 1996 but he is still better than most fullbacks in the world. 

My initial thoughts about Stuart Dickinson was that he did his best to ruin the game as a spectacle, the time when he warned both captains that he would send a player off a the next incident seemed to indicate that he had lost the plot. However at the end of the day, there was a reasonable amount of negative play in the game and the stop start nature of it did suit England.

In conclusion England did well to score 3 points to the AB's nil with 2 men off the field. That was the turning point of the game. With 60 minutes gone it looked as if England had strangled the All Blacks who were looking frustrated and clueless at 15-6 down. Howlett's try from Spencer's up and under breathed life back into the All Blacks but England had the savvy to shut the game down again. This one talent is what distinguishes them as probably the best team in the world at the moment and is the difference between them and the All Black pretenders.

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I think the invincibility of the Boks may have gone.     Kenny Logan

You never beat the All Blacks, you just score more points than them.     Clive Woodward

If you want to stay in the starting line-up, you have to produce the goods. And the way we played last week, we do not have a foot to stand on. The only way to stay in the frame is to perform well on Saturday.     Louis Koen

They have this impression of English rugby that we all play in Wellington boots and we play in grass that is two foot long.      Clive Woodward

The Wallabies have a strict disciplinary code, failure to comply with that code can lead to the type of action we have taken with Elton.      Eddie Jones

Good on you pasty-faced, transparent legged geriatric Poms. Your bunch of doddery old geezers showed us how test matches are won, and we showed you how test matches are lost.     Patrick Innes

England were not the only side to disappoint me. One try in the France-Argentina match, two in the South Africa-Scotland game. Are we going to witness a World Cup kickfest?      David Campese

The second Test against was slightly better. But there is still quite a bit of work to be done for the Boks. The guys must just stop being so edgy and just play, and then they will perform better.     Jake Boer

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Letters to the Editor
Good morning Lucas,

Still a Springbok supporter

I have left writing this note as long as possible. Last Saturdays game I watched until the first 10 minutes of the second half and then went to do some gardening. This so-called one dimensional "game plan" that any under 13 team would have done better at was to say the least embarrassing. I have read this whole week the press releases made by the Springbok camp on April 29 and June 5. These are even more embarrassing, to think that this is going to the international press. Of all the combinations they are talking about the only one I recognise is the 8, 9 & 10. When last has the Halstead/Snyman combination played together for 80 minutes and been effective? The list goes on.

In the release of the April 29 this has to go down as a classic, and I quote "Firstly, we wanted improvements in total wins and all four teams have achieved this. In the 2002 competition we managed only 10 wins. So far we have 12 wins with two rounds still to play. It may seem like a very small victory but you have to crawl before you can walk, let alone run." If this is the type of c@$p they are going to issue as statements then no wonder we are in the mess we are. The press release of June 5 i s even worse. Messrs Nel and Greenaway etc., in the Cape press have been very kind to these misfits, the international press are sniggering up their sleeves at us, this faithful supporters' prediction for the RWC is we will not make the semi-finals or progress any further, let alone feature in the Tri-nations - please may I be proven wrong!!.

Still a Springbok supporter with an extremely heavy heart.


Dear Editor.

I would like to reply to the letter written by Herman Kotze. I don't know if he was watching the recent games against Scotland, but unfortunately the team he want's to represent South Africa were lucky to win the first test against the Scots. I would like to point to the fact that it was only a question of inches to enable the Scots to win. I think the fact that we were playing in South Africa should also be taken into consideration. The team last year were a bunch of young players without any experi ence and maybe I should also point out the fact that the forwards who were struggling last year included the likes of Richard Bands. 

In the first test it was obvious that the players on the field didn't know what to do. With the introduction of players like Kempson, Visagie and Boome one could sense a bit of direction in the play as well as improved defense. I think a player like Joost should be left out of the squad. The main priority and job of a scrumhalf is to pass the ball after a ruck / maul has been formed. On more than one occasion in the first test he seemed to be engaged in other activities, I don't know what. Straeuli should opt for Neil de Kock, he has proved himself time and again and on our losing tour to Scotland he was one of the players who kept his own. This also happened in the second test. In both tests his absence at critical attacking times cost us tries. Louis Koen did well so I don't have a problem with his inclusion. Luckily Trevor Hallstead has been dropped since he didn't really make an impression. Maruis Joubert and Ashwin Willemse also did well. 

Stefan Terblance should be banned from playing rugby or just be put down. He is fast and that is all I can say about his capabilities, to run over an open line should not be a criteria to be included into the SA squad. I would try Snyman on wing or even Delport just as long as it's not Stefan. Jaco vd Westhuizen had an excellent game so I hope he keeps this form since I don't have any trust in his abilities.

After reading the paper today I am delighted by the new squad announced. Players like Fleck, De Villiers, Rossouw, Greeff and maybe if he's not injured Paulse will already make a huge difference to our squad. Our forwards did well but with Krige, Van Niekerk, Skinstadt and the likes included they will also improve immensely. I'm also eagerly awaiting the return of John Smith. 

It's easy to win against Scotland, but I don't think we should be worried about them. 


Gerhard de Kock

Hi Lucas,

Herman Kotze's, observations (Pretoria)

I have to agree with Herman in his comments regarding the team.

Choose the good team now! And work with them now! Don't wait for combinations and future game plans. Perth is almost yesterday.

By the time you post this e-mail on your news latter, the test will be long gone so I say now that the Boks will come out way on TOP this time round. Mark my words! They will make the Scots look like a typical S/H test side, BAD!! This is a team with huge potential. It only needs the attention and guidance and all will be well.

Bok mal in New Zeland
So by the way, the AB's already won the RWC? Did you know that? Well, that's what they say! 

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