Editors Note


Volume 5, Week 14

Editors Note

Brilliant!      Ouch!! In a week where more secrets were revealed than in an episode of Desperate Housewives this writer was left to contemplate, how wrong can one be?

The Stormers’ ignominious end to the Super 12 season proved just how wrong! VERY wrong. It was downright embarrassing and this writer was made to eat a healthy dollop of humble pie every day after a disastrous call last week! So, let's don a horned, blue miner’s helmet, get as much of a moustachioed complexion one can garner in a week and a Steve Hofmeyer CD to support the 3rd placed Bulls against the Waratahs in the semi-finals.

The Bulls were absolutely magnificent in their demolishment of the pampered, useless Cape team. In fact the last time in Pretoria a team rolled over and played dead in such emphatic fashion was Wales’ disastrous visit in 1998. Garth Wright summed it up perfectly with his chirp, “There is only two things once can see from the moon, the Great Wall of China and the gaps in the Stormers defence!”. The forward displayed plenty of power and purpose and Morne Steyn produced one of the competitions most outstanding displays with his accurate boot. 13 out of 13 kicks sailed through the uprights to the delight of a capacity crowd. It was a great afternoon's entertainment, not only because of the wonderful Bulls dancing girls, but the unbelievable atmosphere at the Loftus citadel that reminded everyone - a winning team is a well supported team.

This coming weekend, the Waratahs will be an entire different kettle of fish for the ‘manne’ from Pretoria. The top Aussie side will be sure to pop an extra caffeine tablet or two in order to perk up before for the game… Daniel Vickerman will be revising his Afrikaans 101 study guide to decipher lineout calls and Peter Howat will be licking his chops at another opportunity to rake up the points like he did in their first meeting.

Can the Bulls win? The travel is obviously a negative factor but it is a once off game and there is no need to ‘pace’ for a 4-week tour. Heyneke Meyer’s team is a settled combination/squad with no obvious injuries. They have well documented ‘final’ experience after winning 3 Currie Cups in a row. History has proved that home ground advantage is a tremendous factor however they only need to take a leaf out of the Highlanders book who travelled to Cape Town a few years ago to hand a highly fancied Stormers outfit a hiding. It is probably a hurdle too far for the Bulls but they are going into this game with a better than normal chance than any South African team before them.

The other semi-final should be a simple formality for the Crusaders who have never lost in a semi in their Super 12 history. Remarkable isn’t? Their record in this phase of the competition is phenomenal and they possess simply too much firepower and world stars for the Hurricanes to overcome. An upset will be welcome though and it may just influence the final composition of Graham Henry’s squad for the Lions tour. All in all, two very interesting match ups.

Last week, we had a look at the backs for the Springboks – this week a few thoughts on the forwards and since this amateur selector’s experience of the murky depths of the rucks and mauls are isolated to being trampled by psychotic flankers, punched by donkey props and thumped by rangy locks it is based purely on conjecture. The selections are easier and there are less pretenders to keep away from needless Springbok caps.

Os Du Randt: The big man gets around as quick as a roadrunner, has more experience than a brothel madam and he can scrum. Good enough for me! (Definite starter)

CJ van der Linde: Somewhat a ‘junior’ Os, but bigger! He can run, executes a fair amount of tackles and he can scrum. (Bench for the meantime but soon a firestarter)

Faan Rautenbach: A very good prop a few seasons ago but after growing bigger chops than JPR Williams, his all-round play suggest that it was only Samson who’s strength was in his hair. (Sorry, go get a Mach 3 from Gillette)

Lawrence Sephaka: Lorrie or Kabila is an enigma; he’s played more than a few tests yet there is always some excuse not picking him except when it comes to Springbok selection. Always does the job for the green-and-gold though. (Deserve an opportunity)

Eddie Andrews: Much better since moving to loosehead but where will Jake play him? Not an international tight head. (As tight head – not good enough and there are enough videos to prove it)

John Smit: Jake says he stays so he stays. (In by default)

Gary Botha: Very mobile, does the hard graft, good thrower of the ball, great understanding with Matfield and Bakkies also a very fun guy to have on tour. (Continued good performance gets rewarded, congrats, your part of the club now!)

Hanyani Shimange: Splinters or anthems received a lot more game time and actually proved that playing is the best way of improving your game. On last season’s record, no way but good performances over the past few weeks changed the tune. (In as a bencher)

Schalk Brits: Great runner, good tackler but not as solid throwing in and not yet convincing as a scrummager. Brilliant prospect but needs to prove it over a couple of seasons at least. (Waiting in the wings - literally and figuratively)

Victor Matfield: Easiest decision in the team. World class and can even solve the Stormers centre woes if he really wants to. (Superb performer – as solid as Gibraltar)

Bakkies Botha: Mean, hard and the grafter, needs a kick up the backside but perfect broadsword for Vic’s rapier. (Need a huge season but a definite starter)

Albert van den Bergh: Quickest lock in world rugby, prone to stupid mistakes but a necessary backup for Vic. (Bench warmer)

Schalk Burger: As frustrated as he was on Saturday, he accounted for the score being less than a hundred. Player of the year blah blah blah… still the best player in the squad after big Vic. (Go you good thing go!)

Jacques Cronje: Mean SOB, been playing brilliant rugby this year and for a youngster has phenomenal potential. Perfect partner for Schalkie. (Take that form into test rugby big man!)

Luke Watson: A bit too small and struggled this year with the Stormers. Hardly made an impact. Jake White was again vindicated with his non-selection. Needs to go a long way to prove international class. (Will only be a good Super 12 player)

Juan Smith: Brilliant latter season, definitely some performances worthy of Springbok selection. Previous performances under Straeuli might stigmatise him but has improved tremendously, great ball carrier and creator (In – get him experienced)

Anton Leonard: Sorry grandpa, a hard honest grafter but too one dimensional and slow for the international arena. (A very, very good Super 12 performer only)

Joe van Niekerk: Worst season ever. This player is going downhill faster than Alberto Tomba and on current form just good enough for a club side. Only forward to have garnered negative yards in the Super 12… (Sorry pal, join the modelling circuit while you still have the looks)

Pedrie Wannenburg: One of the few players to perform in a record losing side at Twickenham a few years ago. For that he will always have this writers respect. Had an excellent season on the side of the scrum but a more natural no 8. (A star performer if selected continuously)

That’s it, good luck to the Bulls downunder and hopefully a South African side can make a final in the last edition of a wonderful competition. Not that we deserve it but purely for sentimental reasons!



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Demolition Day by Desmond Organ
From a South African perspective, the demolition job handed out by the Bulls was not necessarily the best thing; but to many long serving Bulls, Cats and Sharks fans it was the day that the overrated Stormers and all the pomp and glitz that has been associated with them was brought down to earth with a mighty thump.

Professional sport takes no prisoners and one remembers the days when the Stormers played in ridiculous outfits only to embark on a marketing campaign that saw them “steal” the colours of the Sharks and outperform all but the Sharks in terms of overall attendance at games. The Sharks have made more finals and come last on more occasions and yet their fans have remained loyal. The Stormers can thank the rugby gods that they have a Director of rugby who has the ability to turn things around.

If the whipping that the Sharks got from the Crusaders was an embarrassment, then the demolition job handed out to the Stormers should have seen their pay withheld. I can almost see the Bulls fans digging into their pockets just to witness another performance like the one from this past Saturday. Sure it was against a South African side, sure the Stormers had nothing but a record and pride to play for and sure it would have been better if it was the Waratahs; ask any fan outside of the Cape and they will tell you that it was a moment to savour.

Such comments may appear harsh in the context of the consistency in selection that Jake White has been calling for, but in reality there are too many players in this country who are overpaid in terms of the performances that they deliver. They play too many games and none more so than several of the players that failed to deliver this year, but then again if they were amateurs they would really have a reason to gripe. The hammering that they received has little or nothing to do with the fact that there was an intercept try in the first ten minutes of the game, it also has nothing to do with the fact that they were playing away from home, yet it does have everything to do with a side simply capitulating in the face of one of the best forward performances in years.

The Sharks did not cry when they lost Gaffie Du Toit and despite their dismal record I am not sure that they would take him back; the same may not be true of Luke Watson, but then again the so-called dream back row never materialized. The only player in the Stormers loose trio that has earned his Springbok selection on merit in the Super 12 is Schalk Burger. Van Niekerk has been pathetic and he will never be the player that a Gary Teichmann was simply because he is more flash than permanent ability more reliant on the performance of those around him. He is as gifted as Skinstad and yet he is dependant on many of the same things. Watson has had a mediocre season for all the hype about how it was so much better playing for the Stormers, perhaps if he spent less time talking he would be better of for it.

The person who deserves a lot of credit is Heyneke Meyer; despite his atrocious record in the Super 12, he has stuck to his guns and produced a team that has got to the semi-finals. This achievement has a lot to do with the structures that were put in place by the Bulls management team and I am happy for him. For too long we have listened to the media rambling on about how Rudy Joubert was just as good and how Rudy Joubert this and Rudy Joubert that, well he had his chance and somebody else has delivered. Who knows whether or not Joubert was limited by his lack of support by many in the region, who cares, the Bulls are in the semi-finals.

The one major concern is the achievements of Gert Smal as coach, whilst he cannot perform for the players he is responsible for ensuring that the right players are identified and brought into the team; thank goodness he is deputy to Jake White and not the man in the hot seat. If Rudolf Straeuli was unable to make decisions then Gert Smal was stubborn and risk averse and has ended his Stormers Super 12 career in much the same way as Rudolf ended his Springbok career; on the back of a hiding.

I thought we got our selection spot on last year and nine wins from 13 matches tends to vindicate this. I said last year that the core of the 2007 World Cup squad has been identified and they will over the next two seasons hopefully continue to achieve success and grow as a squad.        Jake White

It was a fantastic victory, but we all know the party is over. The Waratahs will be much more demanding than the Stormers, who were especially vulnerable on defence.      Heyneke Meyer

All I can say is that I think we've been outplayed by most probably the best Bulls team that I've seen in my career. This is one of the best, if not the best, Bulls sides in history and you could see the experience, especially in the pack.       Gert Smal

I think they've already stated we were their preferred option and I guess travel-wise it makes sense. I don't think we're unhappy and I don't think they are unhappy so it is probably the best situation.      Ewen McKenzie

Even allowing for the fact the Stormers were all at sea on the weekend, what the Bulls did to them in Pretoria was downright scary. Small wonder the television director kept interrupting the live action to cut to the bare midriffs of the Bulls' cheerleaders as they pranced and danced on the sideline because there is only so much footage of butt-ugly front-rowers on the rampage that the average viewer can stomach.     Wayne Smith in The Australian

Please tell me - who is the strongest - Bands or Hurter? I want to compare apples with apples. I have data - about fitness, body fat and weight, stamina etc - about virtually every player in my squad, but not for other players. I just do not get that information from the Super 12 teams.       Jake White

I want to change the way hookers play, I believe a hooker is a multi-dimensional player. He's not just there to throw in the ball, scrum and hit the rucks. I believe the hooker can hit the blind more often. He's got so much more space - there are so many dimensions.       Schalk Brits

You can get seven per cent extra work output from taking these tablets, so that's a big increase at this end of sport.       George Gregan on Australian players taking caffeine tablets

I told them (WP contracted players) individually what I thought of their performances in the Super 12 series, and believe me, I did not dish out a lot of compliments.      Nick Mallett, WP Director of rugby

Son, in this world there are scrums, and those scrums have to be manned by men called props.

Who's gonna do it? You? As a prop, I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. We use words like 'loose-head', 'blind side' and 'scrum pox'; we use those words as the backbone of a life spent defending something - you use them as a punchline.

You weep for your wingers and centres, and you curse the prop. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that the front row, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, wins these games you play. Truth? You can't handle the truth, because deep down in places you don't talk about in your wingers ballet classes, you want me in that scrum; you need me in that scrum.

I neither have the time nor inclination to explain myself to a sissy back who manages to score on and off the field under the very blanket of ball retention that I provide, and then QUESTIONS the manner in which I provide it.

I would rather you just bought me a beer and a pie with sauce and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you crawl into that scrum and get dirty. Either way, I don't give a damn!!!!         Unknown author

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Hi Lucas

Pieter Brits is right about Free State rugby `their record is largely a good one though as to poaching I have to disagree as no players is forced to leave` he goes where the professional game will reward him the most in terms of opportunity and money etc I haven't seen a decline in FS Rugby as a result and at the end of the day if none of them left there bench would be full of frustrated players nevertheless I lift my hat to their great contribution to SA Rugby as a whole. Lucas I missed the context of the Schalk Brits comment and find it hard to believe it was directed at Jake White .As we all know and players have found out at great cost it sure wont make Jake blink and nor should it ! In closing do you not think you should have a letter of the week for which the writer is awarded the Cement Naartjie which he is then allowed to throw at Stuart Dickinson or some Ref ( sorry refs nothing personel ) coach or administrator . In word only !

George Fanning

Hi Lucas

There is an old saying... "United we stand, divided we fall".

Lets look at SA Rugby...everyone is at everyone's throat accusing, blaming, counter-blaming etc. In the meantime our sides consistently prop up the bottom of the S12 table, why?

Well it is simple, we do not have a blueprint in place to where we want to be and too many people are pulling in every other direction. Why do you think Australia has 2 world cups, 2 Tri-nations series wins and 2 Super 12 wins plus countless semi-final and finals representation?? are no 2 in the world and have been for some time... cos they have a blueprint and they are all working together!!!! it really is not rocket science!!

There are far too many chiefs in SA rugby!! Why has Clive Woodward, Rod Macqueen, Eddie Jones, Ewen Mackenzie been so successful, as they are all part of successful blueprints that start at the top and finish at the bottom and are part of well functioning parts, supported by cohesion amongst members and strong, purposeful leadership.

You look at the change in personnel in SA rugby over the last 10 years:

CEO, Management, Stake holders
Coaches etc.

Do I need to say more??

My tip is if we carry on the way we are going in 10-15 years from now we will be so far behind in the global game we will struggle to even beat the likes of Argentina and Italy. Yes, that is right.

At the end of the day, once all is said and done, you reap what you sow. Lets get some purpose!! otherwise we will loose more Rathbones, Vickermans etc to other countries!!!


Andrew Hall

Hi Lucas

It strongly appears that the Springbok squad is selected on the basis of keeping SA Rugby and the government happy and to hell with the rest, including the knowledgeable rugby supporter. The entire selection procedure smacks of arrogance, how well you get on with his lordship a particular Mr. Jake White and to obey the transformation demands by the government.

Jake White has to be the most arrogant coach in the history of Springbok rugby and is a law unto himself, yet at the same time plays the role of a puppet extremely well to the tune of the ANC or another way on putting it "to be seen to be politically correct". His reasoning in selecting John Smit as captain is laughable and then places John Smit in the same mould as the great Sean Fitzpatrick and John Eales (no disrespect to John Smit intended).

Let's face facts, the Springboks did not have a great season last year as Jake makes it out to be and winning the Tri Nations was only just. The year end tour was yet another disappointment and the Springboks would not have been selected team of the year if their results and performance in the year end tour where taken into account. Based on player performances during the year end tour, this years Super 12 performances and certain players having played very little rugby this year through injury, 14 of the selected players do not warrant to be in the Springbok squad which includes John Smit. In my book he ranks as the 5th best hooker in SA and does not have the leadership ability to lift the team mates when the chips are down. He needs to become a more of an "in your face" type of leader that questions decisions and fights for his troops.

I humble pay tribute to the Bulls for making third place in the Super 12 as previously I stated they did not deserve a semi-final berth. Pity they could not meet with the Proteas before they leave for Sydney so they can get some pointers on how to win away from home.


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