Editors Note


Volume 3, Week 37

Editors Note

Brilliant!          Readers will have to excuse any typos this week, as the fingertips are still a bit sensitive after chewing the nails during Saturday’s crunch test match in Perth. Not to mention the hair loss particularly during the final quarter when things fell apart and the Springboks lost to England. A-bloody-gain!

The match was played at a frenetic pace and it was clear that this was going to be an Ali/Fraser bout and not a quick Tyson first round let off. The two heavyweight packs engaged in some bone shattering exchanges and it was not surprising that the new age jerseys could not deal with the intensity of the battle. How many jerseys does each player have? No small wonder each team employs a baggage master, soon it will be a seamstress and before we know it, make up artist and coiffeur.

In a rare moment of genius (?) this couch reporter decided to make some notes of this all-important match but any attempt was thwarted by a steady stream of Windhoek Lights delivered by concerned friends who was watching a bout of nerves worse than a novice base jumper and a face wrought with more concern than the Democratic voters in California. So in hindsight (a true and exact science – to complete the cliché) a few observations in muddled order:

-  The Springbok pack was magnificent.
-  The Springbok lineout was very good as long as we kept things TTBAM - throw the ball at Matfield.
-  Talking of which, my player of the match was Victor, gargantuan at the kick offs and lineouts he produced an all-round display worthy of and better than his predecessor, Mark Andrews.
-  Juan Smith, after all the smoke blowing last week, was poor in one of his main duties, control of the ball at the back of the scrum. Crucial ball was lost in this fashion and main reason for this reporter sporting a Beckhamesque Mohican with tufts of hair ripped out in frustration.
-  J9 is good with the quotes and if only his service was as quick and glib – and old, old problem and let me be the first to say, thanks for the memories geezer but its time to hang them boots or there is always a bullet.
-  Louis Koen will bear the brunt of supporters frustrations, he did not kick well and displayed poor responsibility by accepting his captain’s question to kick the long ones. Also, let me be the umpteenth to say thanks for helping out but its time to move on…
-  Corne Krige displayed some poor on-field strategic captaincy by letting Louis kick the obvious out-of-range attempts and also for not changing the game plan on the fly.
-  The game plan was never to score tries, it was more kick it, charge it, tackle it, scrum it and do so with all the gees and passion you can muster. Sorry ouboet Straeuli, like that no games will be won against quality opposition.
-  What was the motivation to play Jaco van der Westhuizen? Third choice centre, and fourth choice fullback suddenly gets the nod ahead of all the others?
-  Jonny was rattled but even so managed to contribute 20 points and sink the Springboks with two excellent drop goals. 
-  Peter Marshall was alright but after dissection appeared to miss a few things, on the day, no worries mate.
-  England was vastly experienced and it showed, they made all the right decisions when it counted and they kept cool under immense pressure.
-  Matt Dawson was sorely missed and was it not for Bracken’s scavenging qualities to catch Smith at each important scrum he did very little to help little Jonny at the back with his Graig Jamieson passing style.
-  Ashwin and Ben Cohen was a very good match up – these two will certainly meet again and currently, it’s a tie.

As disappointing as it was for Springbok supporters, it was clear that the players gave their all but unlike a Chinamen in Tiananmen Square it is very difficult to stop a well oiled machine with courage alone. England is now the favourites to win this tournament, they crossed arguably their biggest hurdle and with considerable ease in the end. SA needs to beat Samoa, and since there have been very few surprises in terms of shock defeats; they need to beware in becoming the first one. 

This coming weekend against Georgia is an opportunity for the young guns to stake some claims. As they will in all likelihood be playing for a new coach it is time to shine and impress. Cheers big ears!

Enjoy the big clashes of the weekend, Italy v Wales, France v Scotland and the vital, Argentina v Ireland Pool A clash.



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Council of Elders by Desmond Organ
Saturday night’s South African installment of the post match press conference was akin to the very worst version of a council of elders. Seated from left to right were Gideon Sam, Victor Matfield, Rudolf Straeuli, Corne Krige, Joost van der Westhuizen and John Smit. How ironic then that several of those seated could be directly linked to the failure of the gallant effort of the Boks on the field about 30 minutes earlier.

Had the management decided to throw in Louis Koen, they would have had a precise of the poorer South African contributions to the game. Perhaps the singling out of individuals is inappropriate and should be replaced by focusing on the fact that the professionalism of the English was the real reason for the final score. However, when all the dust had settled and I focused on the specific details of the statistical data that was provided by the match day statisticians it was pretty clear that my init ial assumptions were correct.

The body language of the group present was not extremely positive and perhaps it was the words of Corne Krige that no loss should be considered acceptable by a Springbok team that summed up the evening. There can be no doubting of the commitment of the Boks on the day; but that is something that we have become accustomed to. As predicted by the many journalists at the tournament the Boks lifted their game on the day, so much so that it exposed the English in several areas that are quite likely to b e exploited by some of the other favoured teams in the competition. If one is to find a collective responsibility them it surely only is the lack of repetitive consistency in selection and the inability to acknowledge mistakes made in the past.

It has been highlighted time and again that the halfback combination is not getting the ball away to the backs on a quick enough basis. Louis Koen is so deep in the pocket that his customary drifting only accentuates the inability of the backs to repeatedly break the advantage line. Throw in Joost’s wayward passing and there is absolutely no way that you are going to break down a well organized defensive structure. It is no surprise then that the only times that the Boks threatened was when they co unter attacked from deep and there was less involvement from the likes of Joost and Koen. The few occasions when the ball was passed directly to the outside backs we were given a glimpse of the pace that is indeed present out wide.

There were several other occasions when the scrumhalf was not up in support and so wasted well won loose ball, when Joost was in attendance he made more than his customary number of errors by running into isolated positions, knocking the ball on and throwing passes directly into touch. There was poor decision making at a time when the forward pressure had the English at sixes and sevens. Several of the angled long distance penalty attempts would have produced more results if they had been replaced with kicks to the corner. So when the second half onslaught from the English came there was no lead to be chipped away, only a lead to be significantly built on. There was no surprise for this scribe when the Boks wilted in the final 15 minutes because they had surely produced enough ball and opportunities to wrap this one up and yet there was no lead to speak of.

There were several critical errors that perhaps helped the English confirm their position as the most professional side in the world. They went in at half time knowledgeable they had absorbed everything that the Boks had thrown at them, or more correctly salivating at the missed opportunities of their opponents. England scored whenever South Africa made errors and at critical times. It was just after Jaco van der Westhuizens knock on in his 22 that we saw a Wilkinson penalty and a score of nine poi nts to six in favour of the English. Van der Westhuizen was off the boil in this match and this has everything to do with the inability of the coach to consistently select the form players and make consistent decisions. 

It is not surprising that Wilkinson miss kicked on several occasions, the loose forwards were all over him and the forwards were winning the up front encounters, so instead of going in at the interval with a fairly good lead it was six points all. What had persuaded Straeuli to choose van der Westhuizen as his first choice at fullback is still unanswered, one can only assume that he is at sixes and sevens as to his preferred combinations and has brought this upon himself. His only certainty is the ability of Louis Koen to kick goals, now that that is in question who knows what the next step will be. One should perhaps feel a little sympathy for Koen as he is under incredible pressure, combine this with his tactical limitations and one can only assume the worst for his confidence when his kicking game is slightly off.

The coach was well aware of all of these things by the mid point of the Tri Nations and yet he failed to take any directive actions. He was also well aware of the criticisms leveled at the inability of the backs to break the advantage line and yet he has continued to select the wrong combinations. He has worked himself into this position of inaction and with it he has probably taken the collective squad confidence necessary to win critical matches at World Cups. England are extremely good at maximi zing their opportunities and they drove this home in the second half so much so that I was thinking of an article title of “ Paris Revisited”, but I simply do not believe that the English dominated as the Boks had done in Paris in 1999. 

The penalties that South Africa did concede can be directly linked to the lack of consistency in selection and the poor support play of several of the Council of Elders. Matfield and Botha were brilliant on the night and yet they conceded line out possession and were penalised for holding on when they received poor throws or they were isolated as a result of a lack of support from the scrumhalf. There was a critical passage of play just after the English try where van der Westhuizen chose to run aw ay from his forwards and isolate himself. He conceded a penalty which put England back on attack and was followed by a drop goal. The English took the opportunities with clinical precision.

The final analysis must simply be one of lost opportunities brought about by known weaknesses and also by the inability of the coach to install confidence in the team. That is why the English spent little time focusing on pressurizing Louis Koen. They did not have to alter their defensive pattern when they were guaranteed a consistent form of attack against them. The South African tight five and loose forwards were outstanding and they simply cannot be expected to toil for 65 minutes and only have six points as reward for their efforts. England won the game when the Boks were spent and their forwards simply did the basics and put their trump card in a position to seal the victory in a very professional fashion.

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World Cup highlights from the first two weeks by Vinesh Naicker
The Rugby World Cup has begun and as feared most of the games have been mismatches. Out of all the games that have been played so far the only ones of interest have been:

Australia v Argentina. Rumour had it that this Argentinean team was their best team ever, and that if they were ever going to break into the top tier of rugby then this was the team that was going to do it. However, against a Wallaby team that was not firing on all cylinders Argentina were tentative if not down right inept. Their inability to win their own line out ball or to effectively drive the ball meant that the World Cup opener was a fizzer.

France v Fiji. This match had interest for me because in the 1999 World Cup Fiji could have beaten France, if it had not been for the shocking performance of referee Paddy O’Brien, who would have better served the world that day if he had not gotten out of bed in the morning. This time, however, the signs of the gap that professionalism has widened were there for all to see. Fiji attacked furiously for 20 minutes while France soaked up the pressure. Once the Fijians had run out of steam the French struck back with lethal effect. The only reason the Fijians were ever in the game was due to the mad antics of the French winger Rougerie.

Wales v Canada. This game had a certain appeal because Canada have always been battlers, and the Welsh team in recent times have hit rock bottom and started digging. Once again, however, the game was not much of a contest with Canada struggling to breach the Welsh defence while in turn their own defence seemed quite porous.

Many people have suggested that the 1999 World Cup was won by the team with the best defence. They have further suggested that the 2003 World Cup will be won by the team with the best attack, the ability to unlock the opposition defence after just one or two phases. That theory has yet to be put to the test, but what we have seen is that the professional teams have all improved their defensive screens so much that it is unlikely that any of the third or fourth tier teams will find a way through m ore than once a game. The professional teams are now so used to combating multi-phase attacks that they can handle 13 or 14 phases of attack. In contrast it is unusual for the third and fourth tier teams to be able to withstand more than 4 or 5 phases of play without conceding a great deal of ground.

In other games South Africa v Uruguay and England v Georgia were typical of the results, with both minor teams being crushed by the Boks and the English. Despite all the nice things they said in public the Boks and the English really couldn’t have regarded the games as more than opposed training runs. I really question the value of these games to the fourth tier nations. Apparently they all said they want to play the big boys and that is why England's proposal for a two tier competition in 2007 was shot down. I struggle to see how much value these players get out of seeing their team-mates get turned to chutney by the opposition. I know, from sports I have played, that I improved the most by playing against players who were a level or two better than me, not when I played against guys who were an order of magnitude better.

The fact that there is no bowl or plate competition in the World Cup, like there is in Sevens means that teams like Uruguay will only play three matches at the tournament. You and I will forever be left wondering if Romania is better than Uruguay or not.

The first game of significance was the South Africa v England clash. This game has been brewing since England kicked the stuffing out of the Boks at Twickenham. Despite the poor build up and form the Boks have had this year I put down a significant amount of money on the Boks to lose by less than 12 points. My reasoning being that pride in the jersey would see the Boks produce superhuman efforts to not shame themselves again. At the end of the day neither team showed any traces of super powers, and in fact the English showed their traditional World Cup stage fright. South Africa contested very well in the first half, keeping penalties to a minimum. The forward battle seemed pretty even, although Juan Smiths loss of the ball when the Boks were scrumming on the English 5 metre line was an absolute clanger. The only thing that could be said in his defence was that everyone was looking a bit bemused by the fact that Greenwood had failed to force the ball in the in-goal before passing it forward to Wilkinson.

Krige made a tactical blunder in asking Koen to take a fourth shot at goal when it was obvious from his third attempt that it was out of his range. The Boks would have been better off kicking for the corner and keeping the pressure on. Instead Koen's one from five kicks, at that stage, gave the English great heart.

Lewsey could have been yellow carded for his early tackle on Muller, but got away with it, as England so often do. Koen couldn't help but get that penalty kick over. Half time ended with the game locked at 6-6 and the game still anyone's.

For the first 9 minutes of the second half England were able to hold off a spirited Springbok attack, by the judicious use of hands in the ruck. The pressure was relieved when new fullback Jaco vd Westhuyzen, under absolutely no pressure himself, knocked the ball on in his own 22. Due to such things are world cups lost. From the subsequent play England gained a penalty for offside and Wilkinson goaled it. 6-12.

The Boks fell apart a bit after that, pointlessly kicking away possession when hot on attack. vd Westhuyzen and Koen were the main culprits. vd Westhuyzen may be a player for the future but he is not a player for the now, his schoolboy antics may be charming in the Currie Cup but just didn’t cut it against the English. Unless he was injured Greeff would have been a vastly superior choice at fullback, in defence he would have provided solidity and in attack would have been more threatening.

It would be unfair to blame Koen for always standing too deep in attack, thereby giving his back line no chance of making the gain line, and thus, breaching the defence. It has been a longstanding problem with his game and he has been chosen despite this. However, what was almost a criminal failure on his part was, despite standing so deep, he had his kick charged down, for Greenwood to score a try and end the game in the 63rd minute.
The tournament is not over for the Boks by a long way, they still have hopes of beating NZ in the quarter finals. In their last game NZ looked pretty off colour against a second string Canadian team.

You know in Bloemfontein Os (du Randt) is just below the mayor so people have really rubbed it in, but we'll meet again.     Richard Bands

He's (Straeuli) trying to coach the way he was coached. Subdue and penetrate rugby - rape rugby. You're not going to beat the rest of the world like that. You have to use your head and we're not thinking. It's blunderbuss and Ox-Wagon stuff.     Basil Bey, former coach of Diocesan College (Bishops)

While I certainly don't want to be picked on reputation, I think I have done enough to earn respect.     Christian Cullen

To Cullen, I'd say: get over it.     Stu Wilson

We kicked too much possession away.    Rudolf Straeuli

Well, I don't think that the All Blacks are setting this tournament alight at the moment and the Springboks have got to go down to Melbourne and believe that they can win ...which they can.    Clive Woodward

He (Delport) had his hand in my face. So I gave him a bit of a slap.    Lawrence Dallaglio

The tragedy is that if you're a referee and you want the big appointments, you have to lick the backsides of the top nations.     Dave Waterston

If your wife gets into bed wearing a Springbok jersey, what is she trying to tell you? You are not scoring tonight!

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Letters to the Editor
Hi Lucas

Build on that team!

What an absolutely heroic performance by the young Bokkies against the vastly experienced England! At the end of the day the difference was that England were just too streetwise for the still naive youngsters, and of course the difference in class between the opposing No.10's. Still, if we can for once stick to the majority of these players and coaches for a lengthy period of time, we can all look forward to a truly awesome Springbok side in just a few years.

Let's get the criticism out of the way:

* I would have picked Brent Russell as an impact player even if he would have only come out of injury in time for the knock-out phases;

* When Louis Koen was still playing at Western Province it was generally acknowledged that he did not have Big Match Temperament. W.P. let him go because there was always the belief that he would let the side down when it mattered most. Unfortunately this proved to be true and should have been predicted by team management.

The great performance against England despite the defeat should stand the young Boks in good stead. This may just prove to be the experience they needed to go on to win the Webb Ellis trophy. It's not impossible... they have shown that they've got what it takes to beat the likes of Australia and New Zealand on their day. But even if they don't, at least we can look forward to a Springbok superpower like we have last seen in 1998.

Now, keep the old blood trickling green-and-gold... our time will come!


Hi Lucas

Well our Rudi did tell us to 'Watch us in the World Cup,' so I did and am still awaiting the miracle. Some questions did arise and hopefully one of the rugby media 'geniuses' will ask Straeuli sometime:

1. If Jaco Van Der Westhuiysen offers so many options (and I agree), why wasn't he selected in the initial squad?
2. Since Joost's slow and indifferent service plus generally poor play didn't allow us to move the ball wide quickly, why didn't you replace him with Neil De Kock?
3. Was Louis Koen's charge down due to his using the wrong foot (Naas' observation) or was it because he'd been so delayed not knocking on the pass he'd received below his knees?
4. What must we watch for now?

Storm Ferguson

Hi Lucas

Nog 'n paar faktore...

Ek is nou al moeg gekla oor skeidsregters... nou kla ek maar oor die lynregters!

Alle grappies op 'n stokkie, ons ou vriend Dave McHugh het beide kere se strafskoppe wat die Engelse van 6 punte tot 12 punte geneem het, vir Peter Marshall in die oor gefluister dat die Bok-agterlyn onkant was. Vir my het dit nie so gelyk op TV nie, maar kom ons gee hom die voordeel van die twyfel dat sy gesigshoek beter was. Maar dan wil ek steeds weet:
* Waarom het hy nie gerapporteer toe Engeland die Bokke se losgemaal 'n meter of twee van die Engelse doellyn laat val het nie? Dit het immers 5 meter voor sy tone gebeur! En die Bokke 'n seker drie gekos!!! [Beslis 'n strafdrie waardig!]
* Waarom het hy ook nie gerapporteer dat Lewis Moody met sy hande 'n bal uit 'n Springbok-losskrum gepluk het nie? Dit moes 'n strafskop vir die Bokke gewees het, maar het uitgeloop op omgekeerde besit en uiteindelik die aanslaan van Jaco van der Westhuyzen, wat op sy beurt in 'n strafskop vir Engeland geëindig het.

Verder: Gaan kyk ook hier in die 2de helfte toe Mike Tindall van agter sy doellyn onder druk 'n bal nie uitgeskop het nie. Jaco het pragtig die bal met een hand bemeester naby die kantlyn en 'n lang aangee na binne geslinger, wat Louis Koen doellyn toe gesool het en Neil Back net-net voor Joe van Niekerk toegeval het. Maar kyk mooi... as Koen die bal laat loop het, was dit 'n seker drie. Daar was minstens 4 Springbokke in lyn gereed om aan te val, met nie 'n enkele Engelse verdediger voor nie!!! Ja, Back en nog 'n Engelsman was besig om op die kruisverdediging te kom, maar dit was steeds minstens 4 teen 2 met die hardloophoeke in die Bokke se guns.

Ons almal huil en weeklaag dat Koen nie sy skoen aangehad het nie, maar bogemelde gebeurtenisse het eweseer tot die Bokke se nederlaag bygedra.

In elk geval, ons kan met vertroue uitsien na die res van die toernooi. En lekkerkry in die wete dat ons 'n GROOT Springbokspan hier aan die ontwikkel sien...


Hi Lucas

Die onwaarskynlike het toe nie gebeur nie, maar die moontlikheid bestaan en kan nog heel waarskynlik gebeur. Die Bokke het verloor en ja hulle het met eer, al was dit ook al, uit die stryd getree. Vir heelwat van ons gee dit hoop en sommige mag selfs daarmee tevrede wees, maar, dit bly 'n verloor en dis nie lekker nie en dit sal so opgeteken staan, daaraan kan ons nie verander nie. Die prognose voor die stryd was nie maklik nie, die wedstryd self is wyd en in diepte bespreek, omgekeer, bekyk, ge-anal iseer, gedissekteer, probleme en foute gediagnoseer, en helaas moet ons erken en bely, ons poging op die veld was nie goed genoeg nie. Hoekom nie? Mens, solank ons gaan voortploeter met spelers wat wil maar nie KAN nie, gaan ons nie wen nie! Gooi nog 'n goeie dosis dubbel standaarde in skeidsregterbeslissings, sovêr dit die Bokke betref, daarby en siedaar, verloor, verloor, verloor.

Die Engelse, as hulle eerlik wil wees, behoort die eerstes te wees om te erken dat die Bokke hulle met lang rukke laat steier het en selfs ou Jonny taamlik ordinêr laat lyk het, maar, en dit wat jy nodig het om 'n wenner te wees, die magic (Russell en spelers soos hy) het ontbreek. Wat verlede Saterdag gebeur het, het presies net so vroeër in die jaar in die stryd teen die Oz (drienasies) gebeur. Leer ons dan nooit? Ons het gehoor en sien hoe Naas en kie en die hele boksendais kerm oor hoe verkeerd d ie opsie van die skop wat afgestorm is nou eintlik was. Ek sê, "blame" eers die ref, "blame" dan vir Jaco en blame slegte kommunikasie en oordeel tussen Koen en Jaco, en dan "blame" jy vir Koen vir swak, patetiese eendimesionele oordeel en 'n gagga skoppie wat hy wou uitvoer. Ja, die ref was in die pad toe die Bokke 'n lynstaanbal wou laat loop, die beweging is net daar in die kiem gesmoor en 'n losskrum het gevolg waarna die bal na Koen gevoer is met Jaco in die agterlyn en die meerderheid aanvallers (ge leentheid) regs van hom en die meerderheid Engelse verdedigers links van hom, en met niemand op heelagter, besluit hy om te skop. Dwaas, sê ek, onnosel. Dis hoekom ons verloor, en sal bly verloor. Verder het die Bokke plek, plek nie te vrot gevaar nie en Hougaard kon kwalik swakker as Koen gevaar het. Ons loop die verkeerde risiko, keer op keer.

Ek het geseg.

Koos Carelse

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