Editors Note


Volume 5, Week 18

Editors Note

Brilliant!       What an eventful week! And no, it is not a reference to Saturday’s wholesale slaughter of the test minnows. The 100m world record was broken in blistering time – let’s hope Asafa Powell’s urine wont burn through the bottom of the test tube… Thabo Mbeki fired his deputy for a ‘corrupt relationship’ – showing more cojones in 15 minutes than in the previous 6 years and Michael Jackson’s ‘corrupt relationships’ is not innocent but also not guilty… work that one out!

On the rugby front, this is after all a rugby publication, the top Southern Hemisphere test teams were in action for the first time this season. The Aussies topped Samoa and the All Blacks easily disposed of the Fijians and the Springboks absolutely drilled Uruguay. For Jake White it is mission accomplished and the manner in which the poor amateurs were ripped apart is a good testimony of a growing professionalism in the Springbok ranks. The team was ruthless to the 80th minute and even though this obviously will not happen again, this year or many more to come, the players deserve a plaudit for their hardened performance.

This coming weekend, the French await the Springboks and Bernard Laporte has settled on a ‘weakened’ combination for the first test. Do not be fooled, the players contesting in the French club finals may be rested but this group is largely made up of the Heineken Cup champions… The French game has enormous depth and the excellent performances of newcomers to the test team are testimony of the high standard of their local competition. New players find that the step up to test rugby is not that massive when they are flanked by enough experienced internationals from all over the globe week in and out. A lesson there for our Currie Cup… import a few international 'has beens' and the standards improve noticeably.

What is required of the Springboks to win this match? The noted guru of French rugby, monsieur Mallett is of the opinion that the French scrum must be tamed for the Springboks to have a chance. He knows what he’s talking about, 52-10 in 1997 was the score in his last outing against the Tricolores, in France nogal. So, can Eddie Andrews, John Smit and Os dominate? Short answer is no. Eddie has not played tighthead all year and was decidedly vulnerable in last year’s internationals. Since a scrum is built on the strength of the tighthead, there is a problem waiting. Behind the front row, there are two ‘lightweight’ locks in Matfield and van den Bergh, another worrying factor in the scrum department.

The other area of French expertise and where Les Bleus can be devastating is the line outs, from where their always dangerous backs can launch attacks. This facet should be quite even since Jake has selected superior lineout options, compared to scrumming. The Springboks must attack this phase of play and hope to turn over sufficient ball to deprive the genius of Michalak. In the backs the game can become very exciting; the French have inveterate flair and adventurism, De Wet Barry will cure any centre’s love of gap taking and the likes of Joubert, De Villiers and Habana are as exciting as their opposition on attack. Habana and De Villiers also have the nack to score tries, it is an important skill which for most cannot be coached, what they will need is opportunities. It was good to see Joubert take every opportunity against the Uruguayans to distribute rather than go himself.

The match will be a rather close one, it is a tough assignment make no mistake and a lot will depend on Monty’s kicking, which was well below par against Uruguay. Penalties will matter and in a tough kicking stadium it could just be the difference between the teams on Saturday. The Springboks to slip past the French by a whisker.

The Lions were given a klap by the Maori on Saturday and despite early dominance in the tight phases, were given an object lesson in how to use possession. The speed of the Maori was impressive and with Carlos Spencer dictating, the Lions were defending for dear life. In fact, they can take a huge amount of heart from their excellent defensive effort. Phil Larder, Woodward’s long time defensive coach is obviously at the forefront of this skill and at the top of his game. Modern test matches are won on defence and with maestro Jonny Wilkinson in the test side, he will kick the penalties that matter and maybe a drop goal to win... All Blacks, do not rest too easy… the tests will provide a different Lions team altogether and it is the tests that matter most.

Enjoy a wonderful weekend of sport, good luck to the Springboks as well as Ernie and Retief at the US Open hopefully the weekend will be a lucrative one! This writer will be out of mail contact for a while, so no RF next week and we will discuss the two French tests in two weeks time. Welcome back Vinesh!



Subscribe to Sharkmail, weekly E-Zine sent to you from the heart of Natal Sharks Rugby. Get the latest news and competitions. Subscribe at sharksrugby@mweb.co.za

Consistency by Desmond Organ
If consistency breeds excellence then Jake White has got it right and Clive Woodward has got it wrong; that is the most that you can take from the Springbok and Lions performances last weekend. Sir Clive, such a protagonist of the consistency in selection approach during his tenure as England coach has taken too many players and being drawn into a situation where combinations are not being given the time to gel.

One of the advantages that Jake White has is that the majority of his victorious side from a year ago has remained intact. The obvious objective for this Saturday is to get the team off to a winning start against one of the better teams in world rugby and then progress from there. Clive Woodward knew that the Maoris were the unofficial fourth test and he also knew that a loss in this game would not provide him with the momentum that is required for the series in New Zealand. There appeared to be very little continuity in the key axis of scrumhalf and flyhalf and despite writers best efforts to downplay the efforts of Richard Hill, he appeared to be the one Lion who was prepared to fight fire with fire.

As badly as Wilkinson’s tactical kicking in the games against Argentina and Wellington, there is little doubt in my mind that he offers every bit as much as Stephen Jones and even more, he has won on the biggest stage in rugby. The same can be said for De Wet Barry and Marius Joubert in the context of the Southern Hemisphere’s Tri Nations. There is a saying that form is temporary and class is permanent, Joubert has the chance to prove that in the coming weeks or else he will become one of those that promised so much only to deliver way less. The Lions forwards in the game against the Maori looked to be out of their depth as far as experience on the world stage is concerned. What a pity that Delaglio is injured because I could see Woodward selecting him, Hill and Back as his preferred option.

Jake White has rewarded potential in retaining Joe Van Niekerk in the mix, but has also realized that confidence is crucial ahead of big games and the Stormers had a poor season in that regard. You never knew which team would pitch up during the Super 12 and quite frankly the best one never did and that could have done very little for the confidence of a player like Eddie Andrews. Barry and Joubert have been criticized, but they have a strong reputation and that is what Andrews lacks. Add Albert van den Bergh into the mix, combined with the absence of Bakkies Botha and AJ Venter and it looks like the Springboks may lack the same physical presence that the Lions did last Saturday.

Several writers, Paul Ackford among them have criticized Woodward’s squad size and he is on an overseas tour, what then does one make of the size of the South African squad and the decision to release several players for Currie Cup duty. The only reason can be the need to develop a core group of players ahead of the grueling Mandela Cup and Tri Nations tournaments. White has the entire group together for an internal tour and will have a lesser group for the two trips across the Indian Ocean. The reason for this is simply cost and the games against Uruguay and France offer him the only opportunity to assess the caliber and developmental needs of the players at his disposal.

White can defend his decision not to release players on the basis that he had insufficient access to the Super 12 teams’ player conditioning statistics, quite bizarre when you consider that the coaches were contracted by the national body and two of the coaches were currently or recently coaches at the national level.

Will the real Lions please stand up? by Vinesh Naicker
It's Well the Super 12 season is over and I’m glad, the whole competition had started to wear pretty thin. The Super 14 starts next year and I don’t know a single person who thinks that the competition will be any better.

On several occasions, during the Super 12 season this year, I started to write articles but I never got around to finishing them. The best way to explain why would be to use an analogy. In my view Super 12 rugby is like a one night stand. When you have nothing better to do you go on the prowl for some entertainment, the anticipation is usually much greater than the event itself and several days later despite your best intentions the exact sequence of events is blurred and you are struggling to remember any names and faces.

The only things I will remember about the Super 12 competition is that the Crusaders won it half the time, the Aussies won it once or twice and the South Africans never did.

Moving on though, the Lions are here in New Zealand and the best thing about it is that it is not some on-off test match, they are here on tour.

Now a tour is to Super 12 what dating is to a one night stand. A lot of the value lies in the way that the tour builds, the flirtations and assignations with the provincial sides, from which you struggle to interpret the true character and personality of the touring team. The delicious anticipation of the test matches when at last both sides will lay their cards on the table and finally the lasting memories that the whole experience will bring.

So far the Lions have been disappointing, emerging with very little credit in the four games played to date. Bay of Plenty should have been crushed out of hand; they are one of the battlers of the NPC and rarely finish in the top half of the competition. Openside flanker Nili Latu caused the Lions no end of problems and the guy was only a benchwarmer in the Super 12.

Despite all expectations to the contrary, the Lions have achieved no significant scrum or set piece dominance in any of their games. They struggled to put away Taranaki, only managing to pull away because the Naki’s left winger virtually gifted them with 14 points. Taranaki’s openside flanker Chris Masoe had a blinder against them and although very talented the guy is not a specialist opensider.

The Maori beat the Lions in almost every facet of the game and once again the openside flanker, Marty Holah in this instance, was a standout player. Although the Maori only beat the Lions by six points it was a much bigger margin than the 2 points they beat Fiji by the previous week. Admittedly the Maori did have a much better team in their second outing but I have to note that only three of their players have made it into the All Black squad.

The game against Wellington was supposed to be a near test strength Lions team (not to be confused with the supposedly near test strength team that played the Maori) and although the Lions won they struggled to dominate once again. With Collins, So’oialo, Umaga and Smith not allowed to play the Wellington team lacked any real venom. Both Wellington wingers were appalling, dropping the ball more often than not and the forwards quite frequently did the same when they were in good position. The one good thing you can say about the Lions to date is they seem to have a very solid defence. Neil Back had a good game against Wellington but with Ben Herring injured or invalided out for most of it he would have struggled not to.

Jonny Wilkinson was solid without being spectacular and, despite that look of “concentrated constipation” he favours when lining up the ball, his goal kicking was nothing to brag about.

I can hardly wait to see what spin Woodward and the British journos puts on this game, but fears that Woodward has been holding something in reserve for the test matches are fading fast.

I’m leaning towards the view that it is highly unlikely that all the good bits from their performances to date will click together to form a winning game plan on June 25th. However, it must be said that there are two more games before the first test for the Lions to get it right and all is not lost if they do lose the first test. So the anticipation, the conspiracy theories and the excitement will continue to build. Tours, don’t you just love them.

The nice thing about all this is that we have got a bit of competitive tension for selection. In some positions, it's red hot. In other positions, it's warm. But that's good.       Eddie Jones.

South Africans have forgotten what it is like to win. When I was a young boy, winning was the norm.   Jake White

We've got to use the hurt from this game and make sure we don't feel it again.     Brian O'Driscoll after the Maori defeat.

I know pretty clearly now where we are heading and who the players are I need to see come in now.      Clive Woodward

We are going to adopt the same philosophy as we did in 2001 and that is to develop some young talent.  Bernard Laporte

He got the surprise of his life.        Jake White when contacting Auckland Blues lock Greg Rawlinson to join the Springbok squad

Hi Lucas

This past weekends three tests by the All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks all against minnow sides, proves absolutely nothing and in fact tarnishes the game. 299 points where scored by the three power sides against 10 points for the minnows.

The argument that the minnow sides are part of the global game and therefore should be exposed to playing the rugby world heavy weights does not hold water. All it does is humiliate the minnow side which ultimately ends in a total embarrassment. And then some sides use this opportunity to establish records in the amount of tries scored or number of tries scored by an individual. It all smacks of arrogance of the highest order.

One thing that the Springbok/Uruguay game did prove was how gullible Springbok supporters are. Watching the game in a local pub, most supporters where of the strong opinion that the Springboks where going to crucify the
French next week and that the Tri-Nations title was already in the bag.

If these minnow sides are to be exposed to the rugby heavy weights then they should play the second rate sides in these countries such as the Springbok A side.

Having come off a high watching the NZ Maori against the British Lions which was a great spectacle for the game and then watching the Wallaby game and Springbok game, illustrates how short sighted the IRB's thinking is in
trying to build the game when they are actually destroying it.

Atleast SA Rugby got it right for East London (Slummies) to host the Springbok game so that they could claim it was a full house. If South Africa decided to give itself an enema, you will now know where the pipe will be


It's Hi Lucas

Wat is Jake besig om te doen ? Willemse het vir hierdie jaar byna geen rugby gespeel nie, maar word vir die
sogenaamde Springbokke gekies...... net om weer te onttrek weens 'n besering
Jake se verskoning dat die spelers 42 weke van die jaar rugby speel ? Is dit net weer 'n verskoning vir ingeval sy uitverkorenes nie die mas gaan opkom nie ?

Onlangs het Jake genoem dat daar gesprek gaan wees met Suid-Afrikaanse spelers wat tans in Frankryk speel, sodat hy weet hoe om voor te berei vir die komende twee toetse. Miskien moet Jake vir ons vertel hoekom hy nou daardie inligting van ander spelers wil bekom ?

Ek is van mening dat mnr. White moontlik mag twyfel in eie vaardighede om die spelers af te rig en voor te berei vir die Franse. In die wandelgange van SARU is die nuwe Boswell Wilkie Sirkus gestig.


Copyright 2005 Rugby Forum. All rights reserved. This e-mail may be freely distributed, provided that the document is left in its original form. Submissions are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of the editor or owner.