|Volume 3, Week 35|
In less than 48 hours, the Argies will be doing their damnest to inflict a defeat on the home nation, Australia in the very first match of RWC 2003! And thank goodness it has finally arrived, it is stressful work, all this waiting and speculating, dreaming and praying - especially if you are a Springbok supporter!
The intensity has stepped up a notch or two and one could only imagine the atmosphere in Australia – lucky for RF, Desmond Organ will be writing and reporting on what it is like to be there, in the thick of the action. He is leaving for Australia on Monday, and I would like to wish him on behalf of all the readers a bon voyage! May this trip prove more successful than the ill-fated Scottish and English quagmire of a year ago.
OK, down to the real stuff, there are 8 tests scheduled for this weekend and of the lot, one can be classified as a serious test match and not so much a mismatch - Argentina vs Australia. Now the Argies cannot be described as mugs in anyone’s book but rather as a serious threat to the defending champions aspirations this year. They play, a very distinctive style of brilliant scrummaging, hard running and the occasional intimidation tactics, but then opposing team’s forwards who have their noses ben t the wrong direction all day in the scrum would feel rather aggrieved at being bullied in the loose as well. The key player is captain Agustín Pichot at scrumhalf, one of the best in the world, and with a good season so far in 2003 the Pumas have the confidence and ability to cause what will be a major upset.
The Ausies are at home and after an indifferent 2003 they will look to step up a gear, their forwards need to acquire parity in the set phases and if they can do so they should have the better game breakers to score more tries. Matthew Burke is a prolific points scorer and his experience combined with the Larkham/Gregan axis is the key to the Australian effort. As usual, George Smith’s influence on the game will be immense and he has the potential to become one of the stars of the tournament. Eddie Jones has opted for three fetcher type players with the selection of Phil Waugh and arguably David Lyons so expect the game to be fast and with enough phase play to wear the Pumas down.
RF prediction? Australia to win a close fought battle.
New Zealand will take on the might of Italy, the Askaris may be a Six Nations team however, their coach and one time All Black legend, John Kirwan has opted to settle for a defeat in order to qualify in the pool. In a game where winning is everything? Who knows, retreat to a better attacking position has won many wars even though the battles were lost.
RF prediction? All Blacks at a canter
The Springboks take on the second South American qualifying team, Uruguay and this should be seen as another match practice outing, with all due respect to the opposition. South Africa need to field their first choice as very few of the backline players have played together, the forwards are pretty tight knit and settled but from scrumhalf out, there is less direction and cohesion than in the Italian parliament.
RF Prediction? Springboks to frustrate their supporters but win the match easily.
The rest of the matches will provide some good entertainment and some Georgian might become the proud owner of a largish farm in the Free State, should Jonny Wilkinson be carried off after a tackle in the showers.
Enjoy what will be a wonderful month of rugby; there will be upsets, twist and tales rumours and scandals, good and bad. Forget, if you can, your own team’s plight and also dare to watch the guys, who are not staying in five star accommodation, who will not play in jerseys that cost more than their countries average household’s daily income – they are there as a large part of the rugby family and will treasure the moment even more than their professional counterparts. Most of all enjoy the game of RUGBY we all love so much.
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|Management 101 Springbok Style by Desmond Organ|
What a pleasant surprise when in the process of reading my daily rugby correspondence I should stumble across what appeared to be a complete transcript of the Mark Keohane “dossier”. Several hours later I had been informed by a third party that it was legitimate. Despite my attempts to contact the author, I have not been successful and so have assumed that it is indeed valid. What follows is a combination of personal opinion and statements of key personnel in the Springbok establishment.
I for one was tempted to call the producers of Spitting Image to render another version of why nobody had ever met a nice South African. I resisted in the belief that many readers would find sympathy for a national brand that is being consumed by ineffective leadership and management.
In the Space of 5 days from August 22 to Tuesday 26 it appears as if the Springbok coach decided to re-engineer Springbok rugby and leave his own impressionable mark, one of absolutism. If the claims made by Mark Keohane are to be believed then one has to assume that the more thorough investigation into the state of South African rugby will not only reveal prejudice but also that there is a cancer that extends from top to bottom.
What is most concerning though is the fact that the executive levels are not reprimanded for their lack of ownership of the problem, this is not surprising though as you can hardly expect a leadership group to own up for what is their own mismanagement of the game.
The alleged racial problems in the pre World Cup training camp and the subsequent cover up through an inconclusive hearing is but a pitiful example of the state of South African rugby. It all went wrong right from the start when the Logistics Manager defined rooming requirements.
“The most important address in terms of logistics is made by Logistics Manager Mac Hendricks. He gives the players the relevant times and it is explained that there will be no room swapping and that no player can stay at home.”
That this was violated with almost immediate effect should have been enough reason to remove the players concerned from the camp. The fact that another player was late for practice should also have seen him removed from the camp or at least suspended for several weeks. What followed was a politically insensitive exercise in trying to cover up the fact that prejudice exists. With hindsight one could suggest a Management 101 course in inter cultural communications for every member of management, not just those that apparently made mistakes.
The most damning information in the Keohane statements are reserved for several members of Springbok management most notably Rudolf Straeuli and Gideon Sam. Others come in for slightly less exposure but none the less the list is extensive. The most concerning allegation is the fact that the coach was not happy with the number of black players in the team and also the fact that he was involved in a cover up of absolutist proportions.
“Rudolf told me after the session that he would address the issue at the afternoon practise. He was going to physically make them realise that they should have a respect for each other and team protocol.” "When I am finished with them they will be kissing one another open mouth"
It appears as if the racial incident involving Geo Cronje and Quinton Davids was handled with such inefficiency that it is laughable. How is it possible that a person in charge of the Springbok team can display such appalling judgment and poor management skills, worse still were his apparent attempts to cloud the issue by claiming that not all the players of colour were good enough? Worse still the silly comments made to a member of his management over such a sensitive issue.
“Rudolf was very concerned about the black player make-up in the squad and needed finality on whether he could get away with only four black players in the squad or if he was going to have to take six.”
Who’s fooling who would be a great music topper for Springbok rugby if you consider the alleged interaction between the Springbok coach and the Managing Director of SA Rugby? Enough misguided comments to sink a battleship and yet this is what we have running the executive and the national team in the age of professional rugby. Small wonder then that the worst two jobs in rugby is compounded by incompetence and insensitivity.
“Just before Rian was about to leave, I asked if the issue of Geo and Quinton had been sorted out. Rian asked: “what issue?” Rudolf said there had been an incident but he had dealt with it. Rian responded: “what incident?”
This would tend to indicate that there is a distinct break down in communication between Executive and Management and that there is a lack of communication at the team level.
“Rian said his action implied he was a racist and he could not believe that the player was a racist one minute but 10 minutes later after being ordered to room with a black player or miss out on the World Cup; he was no longer a racist.”
The question that needs to be asked is who appointed the coach in the first place and what was the purpose of the “lengthy” interviewing process that occurred before the appointment, surely this was the place to determine weather or not the applicant had the necessary management prerogative to deal with issues of race and transformation. Far from absolving the Managing Director from any role in the fracas the allegations are surely confirming the fact that there is a distinct lack of executive lead ership in South African rugby, as I have often said it is rotten to the core.
One can hardly believe that this was the best time for Keohane to make such allegations, surely a person employed for the better half of 3 years would have been able to raise these issues at an earlier stage, there is no doubt that losing the confidence of the management in enough reason to resign; the question is why was this allowed to go on for so long and why was nothing done at executive level in the past to deal with it.
It is also not the first incident of controversy around team management that the Chief Executive has had to deal with. The controversy before the inaugural game at the Millennium Stadium and the ticket price controversy under Nick Mallet are perhaps exemplary indicators of mismanagement. If Mark Keohane’s transcript is to be believed then the following statement apparently made by the MD is hardly indicative of professionalism.
"I have to make a rugby decision." "Don't come with that f….ing (Nick) Mallett bulls..t to me.”
To believe that the racial controversy could be managed in an exemplary fashion after it has been confirmed by a member of the Press and of Western Province Management is about as believable as thinking a cow jumped over the moon. The career of Geo Cronje at a National level all but ended when he apparently made a racist decision not to share toilet facilities with a person of colour. There are no bets out there in the wider world backing Andre Markgraaf as a future coach of the national team, apol ogies or no apologies.
Once the decision was made to ask Rian weather he was aware of the room swapping incident it is highly unlikely that Keohane would have any future under the current coach. Like it or not the statement undermined the decision by the coach to sweep things under the carpet. Taking further information to the coach could be seen as trying to win back favour with useful information, hardly the thing to do when dealing with an absolutist type leader, he will in all likelihood thank you and use the informa tion against you.
The subsequent decision by SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd not to involve the Communications Manager in the hearings when he was a critical part of the initial discussions with the Managing Director indicate only one of two possible scenarios: Firstly that the coach and his inner circle wanted to ostracise him or secondly they believed that he was in some way involved in the media getting hold of the story.
It is also increasingly arguable that there are several counter mechanisms in place to deal with supposed lack of trust, if the so- called calls by Mac Maharaj to the Sports Editor of the Argus are to be believed. The claims by Keohane that this call was proof enough for them to run the story is not waterproof because another reporter had witnessed the koppie training and had been told that there was an issue between two players. This and the alleged phone call to Bolla Conradie would have been enough to run a story.
Another sad element about the whole saga is that Joost van der Westhuizen, the most capped and highest try scoring Springbok of all time has been implicated in several areas. Firstly in allegedly promising to chase Quinton David’s away and secondly for supposedly denying any knowledge of the incident at a meeting between coach and several key personnel prior to the story being published in the Cape Argus. The most damning allegation Keohane makes is to indicate that van der Westhuizen was actively involved in dealing with Quinton Davids.
“During what is an intense session Joost (in his capacity as a senior player) took on Quinton and told him if he was ever late again he personally would chase him away.”
Fortunately or not the allegations of racism and counter racism are not limited to the black/white discussion, but also to the coloured/balck discussion. There are severe allegations made by Keohane that when he informed management that there was a coloured element that was aware of the story and dissatisfied by the lack of representation in the team; the team manager stated that the coloured’s were not anti the Springboks they were anti black and did not believe that blacks could administer rugby. What else is one to assume if the following words apparently issued by Gideon Sam are true?
“F..k the coloureds in Cape Town. We will f..k them up.”
The apparent desire by several leadership figures in the squad to manage the issue through a public apology by Cronje and subsequent counseling illustrates perhaps a lack of awareness as to the gravity of such a scenario in the broader South African scheme of things. It is alleged by Keohane that there was a desire to do exactly this. I can just see the rampant Trade Unionists and political propaganda machine of the ANC having an absolute field day had such a course of action even been considered.& nbsp;
What appears to have been the final straw for Keohane was the apparent shift of emphasis towards SA
Rugby (Pty) Ltd. The fact that he was not involved in the hearings that were hastily arranged by the executive also irked him.
“Not one of the three talked of racism, of prejudice or of team protocol being abused. I was amazed that this incident was not used to reinforce to the squad that nothing of this sort would be tolerated. In my opinion, both players' departure was glorified.”
“On arriving back that evening I asked to see Rudolf as I was disturbed that I had not been informed about the hearings and that I got the feeling I was not being trusted with information in my capacity as the communications manager.”
The apparent belief by the Managing Director that the first set of hearings smacked of a cover up is anything but consoling, it is perhaps indicative of a management structure out of control, no accountability, no clear lines of communication. All of these things were supposedly dealt with by the Accenture recommendations on governance and yet there appears to be little or no evidence of appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure it.
The position of the captain is often the most prized piece of information for journalists to get their hands on and in this regard it is most definitely so. Keohane alleges that Krige’s story was the most believable at the initial hearings but that it did not have as much punch as expected.
“Rian said to me that from what he had seen the person whose account closest resembled what he had been told earlier was Corne's, but it was not as hard-hitting as was the initial story he had been told.”
Against the background of the dirty play allegations following the test against England and the subsequent apology, this does not make pretty reading. Who would possibly want the job of Springbok other than a committed South African? You have to be diplomat, race relations expert and scapegoat for the foul play advocates. Why then make the comments to the press about Martin Johnson so soon after having experienced the effects of the bloodthirsty media.
Keohane’s position became untenable once the findings of the initial hearing were inconclusive. It is hardly surprising that he subsequently decided to quit once this happened. It is clearly a case of his word against another and the hearing had not vindicated this.
“That's great because the coach has f…ed them both up physically for an incident and the logistics manager has admitted there was an incident to the media. Now your investigation team cannot even find evidence of an incident.”
I for one was stunned by some of the comments that came from several South Africans who were comfortable in wishing away the event as another example of the blacks wanting to take away everything. Yet it also reminded me of the several times that I had told die-hards that winning is not everything and that it is better to compete internationally and have a respected team than one that is not.
The allegations by Keohane that players from the Bulls are a focal point of prejudice is not something that will surprise many South Africans and yet at the same time it is indicative of the challenges that post apartheid South Africa has yet to deal with. Quite frankly I think it will take decades and several more incidents before we are finally cleansed of it, cleansed being the operative word because it is unlikely that it will ever disappear permanently.
“Corne confirmed an incident when Bulls players were walking from the gym and a group of black supporters wearing Bulls jerseys were approaching for autographs. The Bulls players walked in another direction and Corne spoke to the supporters and signed their jersey. He says he took up the issue with the Bulls players, explaining how the Boks and every province needed black support. He was upset at their attitude towards the black supporters.”
Perhaps the most chilling reminder of the challenges that still face us lie in the following comments made by Keohane towards the end of his statement, an ever present reminder of what many of us have been saying for some time. I for one hold the executive responsible for allowing this practice to go on in the first place.
“However, despite all the wonderful phrases used and words spoken in the past 18 months by the team leadership when they were confronted with their first real test case, they avoided the issue and sought to victimize the messengers.”
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The World Cup is not about good rugby – it is about winning. You have to go out and win seven successive games and if you do that you win the World Cup – there is no other way.
Joost van der Westhuizen
What we've got to do is build momentum and that's not to say that everyone won't play a game but it's not to say that everyone will. Eddie Jones
I don't believe it's good for the tournament to play a weakened side so I'll just balance it out. John Kirwan
I think we will win all the matches. Georgia captain Ilia Zedginidze
The Lord gave me the talent and the forwards gave me the ball. Jannie De Beer
You have to go through something like that in order to learn the difference between what's important and what's not. Fernando Parrado, Montevidio Old Christians Rugby Club
You don't value what you have until you lose it. With just a place to sleep and eat you are really very well off. Roberto Canessa, Montevidio Old Christians Rugby Club
Martin Johnson is one of the dirtiest captains in world rugby. Corne Krige
He is a good player and he gets his team behind him. For that you have to respect him. Corne Krige
I've no doubt it will be the best-ever World Cup. Clive Woodward
Just like in 1995 with our first game against Australia, meeting England in the pools represents a high road, low road scenario and there are no magic formulas - you just have to go out and do it. Joost
Turn them over. Smash 'em. Simple as that. Relish this game. Relish it. Shut their crowd up, shut their players up. Win the match. Martin Johnson, before the Grand Slam decider against Ireland in Dublin
England is the big one. That is what we have been focusing on a lot for the last two or three weeks. Not a single tackle will be slipped. We're going to throw everything at it. We are super fit. There will be no weak links on the day. Breyton Paulse
You might see some pommies running around in sandshoes rather than studded boots. John Muggleton, Australia's defensive coach
He made it clear that no matter what I did he would not select me. Initially it was tough for me to come to terms with, it took some time, but I've since dealt with and I've come to terms with it. Robbie Fleck on Straeuli
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|Letters to the Editor|
Colin van Rensburg's words in the last edition make me feel like Peter once the coc.k had crowed three times: a traitor. I am one of many supporters who has tried to remain positive over the last year but have all but thrown in the towel. Colin's words rekindled my love for the Springboks and reminded me why the sight of the Green & Gold warms me to the core.
The "BOKKE" will always have millions of supporters. They would have even more if they supported each other, very closely, on the field. They have not done so for some time now. Finally this ceremony of dropping the ball at crucial moments should stop. We will all get Hypertension problems.
All the best,
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