Editors Note


Volume 3, Week 29

Editors Note

Brilliant!     The 2003 Tri Nations is over and the winner was as predictable as a meeting between Kylie Minogue and Justin Timberlake – the New Zealand All Blacks. The Wallabies retained their now familiar 2nd spot (and one defeat against SA) and the Springboks felt as comfortable as ever to capture the distinguished wooden spoon. Distinguished? Well one can see with the way they refuse to relinquish it, the title holds dear.

In an excellent, enjoyable rugby match the All Blacks beat Australia at Eden Park in front of a capacity crowd and also recaptured the long-lost Bledisloe Cup. This writer questioned their BMT last week but the outcome was never in doubt even though the Wallabies manfully fought back at every opportunity and only lost by 4 points. Like the Springboks the previous week it was a massive turnaround and a much better performance.

The illuminating factor for me in this match was three specific lineouts. They were near the end of 80 minutes, and taken while the Australians were on attack. All three times, Reuben Thorne stepped up to the plate and gathered the ball safely in his big hands at number two in the lineout. The consequence of this decisive act, hopefully did not escape the average Kiwi fan. With no disrespect to the fine people of the two islands that understand rugby better than most, this was the most subtle, noble and courageous two-finger salute ever given. And to those who doubted his playing and captaincy skills - think again. Big Reuben took the responsibility. Not once did he falter like a previous captain who famously lost the Cup a couple of times during the very same facet of play but irrevocably erased all hopes of a Wallaby poach and match winning try and thereby established himself, THE leader.

The Southern Hemisphere teams are in recess for the big showpiece and training squads are being nominated while provincial rugby continues. The Six Nations teams are playing a mini round of the famous competition as they are finalizing squads so all focus is on the World Cup and rightly so. The event is less than two months away and this armchair fanatic can hardly wait!

The local Currie Cup, somewhat revamped to pit strength vs. strength has been very interesting, the two teams to emerge top of the league at this early stage is the Natal Sharks and the Blue Bulls, both are unbeaten. The Sharks were good value for money against a game WP side at Newlands over the weekend. The “men in black” possessed too much power and a lot more structured play than their coastal rivals and with some fine finishing skills scored superb tries. WP, not shy in the skills department s truggled however to finish off movements and a few tries went a begging and were it not for their 80 minutes effort could have been on the wrong side of another historical hiding. 

Sitting in the press box, which is in the open part of the grand stand, it was clear that a new Newlands hero has arrived, the young Schalk Burger. The flaxen haired flanker produced another excellent display at this level, and as a 20 year old showed that he is destined to play in the Springbok side like his lock father before him. The partisan crowd certainly found a soft spot for the man who was here there and everywhere and although not possessed with the playboy looks of a Skinstad he is more a traditional grafter, the Jean Pierre Reeves type. And like the two loose forwards m entioned, he can play the game.

Next week RF will be taking another break and when back in the first week of September the big news will be the World Cup squads. Send us your views and reviews, the letter section is most readers favourite so thank you all for your magnificent support!

Until a fortnight enjoy the game.



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 Rugby's Mount Olympus? by Tom Marcellus
I was helluva pleased to read recently that "The Voice of Rugby", the great Bill McLaren, was the first broadcaster to be inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. Now this was not a beast that I had ever heard of until a month or 2 ago, but further investigations a la David Attenborough proved most illuminating to this frustrated historian.

Many of the old die-hards out there will no doubt be spluttering into their Pimms, not overly impressed that our noble oval game has now also succumbed to such an all too American tradition, but I must confess that my first impressions of this (fairly) new-fangled idea are not entirely jaundiced.

My sources reveal that the process of election into the Hall of Fame begins (much like that to the hallowed halls of the Broederbond, I guess) with a 30-strong screening committee that provides a short-list of worthy names to be honoured. This list is then sent up on up high to the ever-powerful Trustees, one from each major rugby nation, which is presided over by Cliff Morgan, the Wales and Lions wizard of the 50's (who is himself an original Hall of Fame-er), who then vote on the short-listed candidates. It takes a minimum 75% of these votes to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

My initial feeling was that the whole process would in time surely descend into farce, as favouritism or jingoism sullied the selection process, or as "connected" ex-players who were lacking in merit succumbed to the temptation of promoting their own causes. But thus far the process seems to have gone off rather well, and it would appear, to this arm-chair correspondent anyway, that this rather modest (publicity wise) Mount Olympus remains fairly representative of the elite of the game – the Brave st of the Brave.

Have a look at the "First XV" of inductees, who were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1997, and tell me that none of them deserve to be there –

  • Doc Craven & Frik du Preez from Afrika-Borwa; Colin "Pine Tree" Meads & George Nepia from New Zealand; from the valleys, Gareth Edwards, "King" Barry John, Cliff Morgan & JPR Williams; those Fightin' Irish, Willie John McBride, Mike Gibson & Tony O'Reilly, Serge Blanco & Jean-Pierre Rives from France, and Mark Ella and Hugo Porta from Australia and Argentina respectively.
What really cheered my old ticker was to find that the Trustees have not succumbed to the irksome temptation of rewarding only recent players. The inclusion as an original Hall of Fame-er of Nepia, whom many regard to be the greatest player of all time and who donned the Silver Fern of the All Blacks from 1924 to 1930, is a case in point, as was that of Wavell Wakefield (later Lord Wakefield), who captained England in the 20's, and the peerless Windhond, the great Hennie Muller, in the 2 subsequent inductions.

Of course, it is a source of not mild irritation that there are now 9 Kiwis in the Hall of Fame, 7 Welshmen, and only 4 Boks (Morne is the fourth member of our quartet).

But then the great "Wakers" is the only Englishmen, and that, at least, brings some solace in these times of need.

For the record, the current inductees are:

1997: Serge Blanco, Danie Craven, Frik du Preez, Gareth Edwards, Mark Ella, Mike Gibson, Barry John, Willie John McBride, Cliff Morgan, George Nepia, Tony O'Reilly, Hugo Porta, Jean-Pierre Rives & JPR Williams;

1999: Gerald Davies, Nick Farr-Jones, Andy Irvine, Carwyn James, Jack Kyle, Brian Lochore, Morne du Plessis, Phillipe Sella, Lord Wavell Wakefield & Sir Wilson Whineray;

2001: Gordon Brown, David Campese, Ken Catchpole, Don Clarke, Mervyn Davies, Patrick Fitzsean, Michael Lynagh, Bill McLaren, Hennie Muller & Jean Prat.

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Once Upon A Pantomime by Desmond Organ
“ Once upon a time there was a man from Pretoria who became a coach amidst much euphoria… and so on and so on ”.

Following the announcement of the extended World Cup training squad, this scribe was very tempted to write a pantomime about the exploits of the current national coach. However, in the midst of the fact that just about everybody else is jumping on the “ Judge me on the World Cup bandwagon”, I decided that I too should take advantage of this opportunity as well. In the event that the Springboks write the greatest short story of all time at the end of the year; I will then also be allowed to claim a part of the euphoria save myself from a verbal bashing at the hands of the broader public.

If anything the players selected and those omitted should not have come as a surprise to anybody that has enmeshed themselves in the details of the national team over the last year or so. It is indeed very ironic that the two most common themes to emerge are those of hapless experimentation and over robust play. No wonder then that it appears to be quite simple to launch a broadside on the national team with consummate ease, so simple in fact that two hardened adversaries in the form of Woodward an d Jones have identified a common adversary, Springbok rugby.

What then are we to make of the omission of players like Davidson and van Heerden and the inclusion of Du Preez, Hougaard and van der Westhuizen? Gus Theron goes all the way to New Zealand and back only to be omitted from the training squad. Anybody remember the bogus that was fed to the press when he was originally selected. The same could be said for several other experiments if you consider form in the Super 12, but then again this is not a barometer according to the national coach. 

Last year it was the so-called from in the Currie Cup that led to the demise of several proud Springbok records and now once again this is the theme for the inclusion of several of the new recruits. Far from turning this into a ranting column, lets consider the fact that the All Blacks won the Tri Nations in a convincing fashion and it was with the help of several form players from the Super 12. The reality is quite simply the fact that the national strategy is either one of the most brilliant con jobs in the history of Springbok rugby; or we are in for a hiding come World Cup time.

No World Cup is without it’s surprises and it may well be the Springboks that perform one of the Houdini acts at the World Cup. This is not a little ironic; it is quite tragic that one of the foremost rugby nations has become the ugly duckling amongst other great rugby nations. Woodward can hardly be respectful of the current Springbok team when he launches scathing attacks on players and other individuals. Eddie Jones has never been the best in front of the media and even he has started to conside r the Boks as a free target. 

The failure of the management team to isolate the players from unnecessary skepticism regarding selection policies and the appalling image the Boks currently have is going to undermine the confidence of the players even further. This might appear appealing to those with a laager mentality, but the reality is that this can only work for a short period of time and is hardly the strategy to create a winning team during and after the World Cup. The coach can only believe that the South African public h ave a short memory and that may well be the case.

The inconsistent record of the Springboks is not something that has suddenly presented itself during the tenure of Rudolf Straeuli. This is a trend that dates back to the 1990’s and some may argue that it was even earlier than that. What is true however is that in the space of ten months the Springboks have lost by a record margin to several traditional foes and have become the focal point of dirty play. The strategy of calling rugby a hard game that is not played by sissies might prove effective in dealing with a badly behaved adolescent but it is hardly going to convince the thousands of rugby professionals that are involved with the game at an international level.

I hardly have any confidence left in the head coach other than to say that he is apparently following a strategy similar to the one employed by Kitch Christie, but then again Christie was a brilliant coach with a great record and I might just be tarnishing his reputation. If the coaches of the Provincial teams do not know what is to be done with players on the recovery programme, then how can their be any confidence in the coaching strategy. It is indeed a sad story when a national coach heralds his recovery programme as a major achievement when he has also turned in one of the worst set of performances by a Springbok team in the history of the Tri Nations.

Perhaps the fitness of the players should be sidelined in favour of a team of sports psychologists who have specialised in getting people to believe the impossible. I am afraid that there is not much to shout about at the moment and one can only hope that Houdini acts are possible and that I will eat a slice of humble pie come October time in Perth.

Currie Cup Team of the Week: 





Conrad Jantjes



John Daniels



Jaque Fourie



Ettienne Botha

Blue Bulls


Pieter Rossouw



Butch James



Dave van Hosselin



Nico Breedt



Schalk Burger



Gerhard Vosloo



AJ Venter



Philip Smit 



Brendan Botha



Gary Botha

Blue Bulls


Wessel Roux

Blue Bulls

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Other coaches say that we are predictable, that they know how we are going to play, good for them, because even I don't know how we are going to play as yet. We will go into every game with different things up our sleeves, different ways to try to win the match.    Clive Woodward

We don't play like [South Africa] and we're not equipped to play like that. For us to copy that sort of style would be quite foolhardy.    Eddie Jones

And, in fact, had South Africa kicked their goals, they could have won. But then if my aunty had balls, she'd be my uncle.     Phil Kearns

For me French rugby is full of inspiration, movement and natural feel. It is attractive to me because it's not what we practise in South Africa, and it will allow me to discover a whole new world of rugby, which is a new challenge for me.     Louis Koen on his move to Narbonne

Georgie, he's always talking.      Jerry Collins

From ecstasy to agony.     El Giornalista's take on Pieter De Villiers missing out on the RWC2003 due to a shoulder injury.

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Letters to the Editor
Hi Lucas

Thanks for the newsletter, it is always welcome and I specifically enjoy the quotes section. A quick whinge - I know we are starting to sound like the English and the Australians - but what is going on with the selection of the Springbok training squad?

The coach wastes all that money to send over Craig Davidson, Gus Theron and now they are not part of his squad and to cop it all, Derick Hougaard and the Du Preez fellow was more important for SA at the U/21 world cup??? How must these poor guys now play in a test matches let alone world cup without any experience? What is the story with Joost being used as a leader? For F^%* sake is he good enough as a player, yes or no? Or is he maybe the backline coach? Just checking...

Us supporters are fedup with the clowns in charge of Springbok rugby, both in a managerial capacity and a coach, they have run a great team's name in  the ground over the last 5 years and the same old story tends to repeat itself year after year and will no doubt happen again after world cup. The coach will say goodbye and the rest of the clowns will stay, pat themselves on the back for dismissing the "useless" so and so and continue to appoint another useless so and so.

I'm not even contemplating supporting the team downunder as I understand it is week games and I'm not wasting valuable holiday time on those clowns to see them humiliate our country on television in front of billions of people, as the 3rd biggest sporting event in the world!

I live in hope to be proven wrong and trust me there are many people who feel exactly like me! And it is up to writers like you and the newspapers and websites with the public ear to be the watchdog over our ex-national sport. Share your blame in the shambles we find ourselves.

Thanks, feel better now
Lester Braithwaite

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