Editors Note


Volume 5, Week 22

Editors Note

Brilliant!      Test rugby is back on home soil and inevitably as proven over the past decade, a returning Springbok team from foreign shores are under the kind of pressure that makes certain players soil themselves. Why? They usually return defeated and supporters go into a frenzy, the media goes ballistic and the demands for victory increase faster than Lance Armstrong up the Pyrenees. Relax guys, don’t worry, Saturday will be no different!!

The [insert any expletive you like here] Australians are visiting SA for back-to-back tests and with typical foresight they have been scheduled to play in two of not only this country’s most menacing stadiums but also the world’s. There are a few places in world rugby where visiting teams just do not want to go; Carisbrook or the House of Pain, Twickenham or ‘the fortress’ has become a very well defended stronghold of late, Marseilles is the French ace and for us South Africans - Ellis Park and Loftus. And any test in Russia or Georgia…

Saturday is the second leg of the Nelson Mandela Plate challenge and with the Springboks 1 zip down, they have a lot of work to do to square the series. The first test was a poor reflection of a team with a lot more potential than what they displayed. Hopefully it was just a bad day at the office and that impressionable players actually believed their own coaching staff’s bullsh*t before the game and forgot to play to their ability. The basics of any test match are pressure and defence and if successfully implemented then creativity and that 1% extra will make the difference between win and lose. This can be obtained by drinking caffeine tablets or selecting Jean De Villiers at inside centre or by playing in the rarefied atmosphere of the Highveld.

Jake White has made some liberal use of his squad for this test and with the Tri Nations starting next week, the ‘experiment’ may just become the de facto side to defend their title. The backline is certainly more attacking although this selector would always include Fourie Du Preez at scrumhalf for his brilliant tactical kicking and superior defence. Andre Pretorius is an interesting selection… does this mean, Jaco van der Westhuyzen is resting or is he not quite the answer Jake is seeking in a position the Springboks have been pining to find a successor to Naas, Joel and Honiball for years. Pretorius has definitely been presented with probably the best opportunity of his career and as they say in the classics – the ball is in your court son, play it!

The centre combination has changed and for the first time in a long, long while there will be no Barry or Joubert as part of the 12/13 pairing. Both struggled in the Super 12 and against Australia last week copped a lot of criticism for their defence and bland attack. Barry is a unique player; on song he is predictable but also unstoppable with his brilliant defence and straight, strong running. Slightly off form he is predictable and a liability that will be exposed for his lack of flair and suspect distribution. Marius Joubert, is a class player and one this writer will always favour and back, and this high opinion has not changed but maybe the ‘rest’ will do him good. It opens an opportunity for Jaque Fourie to shine and history has proved that he has grabbed every chance in the green-and-gold with both hands and feet. He is a very, very good player indeed.

De Villiers, finally gets his opportunity to fulfill a destiny touted by every rugby pundit in the world. It is a lot of pressure to heap on one player however, he is a brilliant talent. What will be important in this match is his combination with Pretorius who will create oodles of space but is inherently a creative player in similar mould. Usually, the rapier and the broadsword (or the reverse) combines well in the 10/12 channel but Larkham and Giteau proved that two equally creative players can be doubly devastating BUT the running angles, anticipation and eye for a gap must combine or else it will flop spectacularly. De Villiers is a master at reading the game, running the correct angle and anticipating but this collaboration has zero experience in the pressure cauldron of a test. It is a gamble White is not only willing to take, but one he has to explore, after all high risk = high reward.

This writer will not be making a prediction as usual, they have all been wrong! But, this will be no easy victory for the Springboks just because they are on home soil and at Ellis Park in front of Madiba… The Aussies will be as motivated by the great man’s presence as he has inspired millions around the world and is no longer ‘ours’ alone.

Enjoy the match, it will be great entertainment and hopefully the result will be similar to the last time at Ellis Park when Werner Greeff broke Aussie hearts in the dying minutes.



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Slicker and ……… by Desmond Organ
In around 96 hours time Jake White will have completed one of the biggest “gambles” of his coaching career and we will either be praising him for his efforts or planning his demise. I say we on behalf of the fickle South African rugby supporter as opposed to the several learned individuals that write from a position of knowledge.

The Australians are going into a test match with a near full strength team and in many cases some would argue that it is their full strength team. South Africa has ten changes to the team that was routed in Sydney. On offer is an occasion to honour South Africa’s popular hero and the composition of the team is doing exactly that; a win however would present us with a view of the future and a signal to all South Africans that we are on the right path. Failure will go one of two ways, partial stagnation followed by reversal of the trend and a return to a failed method of World Cup preparation, or it will be viewed as politically worth it and results will play second fiddle to the political agenda.

Victory is important because not only will it begin the process of removing the anti transformation lobby from the equation but it will also maintain the status quo as far as playing opposition teams on home soil is concerned. It is a gamble because there are so many things working in the teams favour, the location, the VIP guest and the support of the local crowd. A loss will begin the strengthening of the belief from an Australian perspective that they can beat us anywhere in the world, including South Africa. If I was asked to trade a victory in South Africa for the opportunity to remove politicians and anti transformation lobbies from the game I would give it up. I would also trade victory for the development of a squad of 30 players capable of winning the World Cup.

History tells us that this is not the case and it feels like Jake White is doing a Harry Viljoen manoeuvre, he knows what is needed but will he be able to follow it through. Victory will present yet another challenge in that once you have succeeded you should not change the team. That is the argument that White has already used and in the context of the changes made this time there will be political pressure not to change again. I just hope and pray that not only is it a victory, but that a week later there is acceptance of the team that is selected to play in Pretoria. These are interesting times, but then again they always are from a South African perspective. White has played his cards and this time he will want to deliver the goods.

There are arguable a few minor adjustments that could have been made to the team selected, injury to Van der Linde has not helped and Burger, Du Preez and van der Westhuizen should be starting, Russell should be on the bench and that would be about it. White has opted for the likes of Januarie, Pretorius and Tybilika and therein lies part of the problem, Januarie was average in Sydney, Tybilika has not been given a run against decent opposition this year and Pretorius is being given a lifeline, not exactly the scenario that I would support or sign up for. We have to believe that the enthusiasm amongst coaches and players has more to do with belief than the aura that surrounds Jake White, there are only so many times that you can rely on personal loyalty to deliver the goods, there always comes a time when class exerts its presence.

Eddie Jones has tried just about everything to win in South African and if he gets it right he will ride the victory all the way to Pretoria and beyond. If the Australians win on Saturday and lose a week later they will have gained a second victory at Ellis Park and some ground in the psychological arena. If they win both they will be on the way to undoing the South African monopoly home wins against the same opposition. He knows this better than anybody else.

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We were always going to make changes for this test and it has nothing to do with the way we let ourselves down with our tackling and kicking in Sydney. We will obviously address those problems, which were disappointing and times unforgivable, but there was no way we could have got through a programme like the one facing us with the same team.       Jake White

You would expect the match officials to see these things. When the same team transgresses, there should be a more detailed analysis. You see players suspended for poor technique, but there are players who get away with serious misdemeanours. Something will have to be done before someone is seriously injured.     John Mitchell on Springbok foul play.

We do not believe that buying a team is the answer and we are trying to build a team from within.      Sharks coach, Dick Muir

The main thing was their defence was so soft, I mean really soft. They've been known as a very good defensive team, and I thought they'd really bustle them in defence so I was very surprised.     Tiaan Strauss on the Springboks effort in Sydney

It's a ready-made excuse if they get beaten. I mean, they're playing for a trophy named after one of the founders of their new nation. It would seem peculiar to me that they wouldn't be picking their best team.     Eddie Jones

There is no crisis. The coaching staff decided some time ago that the other players in the group should also get time on the field. Some players have, for the past few weeks, been holding up the tackle bags for those who were playing. They should now get the opportunity of playing themselves.       Jake White

He (Nelson Mandela) changed the history of the world. And if we get to meet him, we're going to be equally as excited as the South Africans.      Eddie Jones

Last year we weren't quite there and lost by a point, but we've won the Grand Slam since then and are a lot better side. The question is how much have the All Blacks improved? Wales have had the same team together for three or four years and only now are we hitting our straps. Our way of playing didn't come overnight, but we seem to be moving in the same direction as New Zealand and I can't wait to get back at them.     Wales lock, Brent Co.ckbain


Hauzit Lucas,

Great to hear that you appreciate Jack Nicklaus and now that you've played on one of his courses I hope you've learnt that his name is pronounced Nicklis.

Gawd but this rugby thing is frustrating! Your correspondent Bob still believes we have the greatest rugby players in the world yet calls for them to understand the basics. I admire and endorse his passion but his call for them to know the basics underlines just how far behind we always find ourselves each year.

Just a thought but don't the vast majority of Aussie male brats start out playing Footie - you know the game where everyone kicks the ball high, some poor sod catches it and gets punched in the guts before returning to earth before the ball is finally kicked between two uprights and an idiotic dude in white hat and coat put shis hand out showing how big his schlong is? Since all the terror of up-and-unders for Aussie rugby players is long past before becoming intermnational players why in God's name would any rational thinking coach suggest kicking on them as a game plan? Now you see just how far from understanding basics we are and to think we have 'expert' analysists to asist the 'coach' too!

Our coaching beliefs in the basics probably still remain in the Skop, scrum, donner, scrum, donner, skop and tackle, which is why the passing is abysmal too!

Now that's off my chest I feel way better and thankfully there's no rugby of significance this weekend to interfere with the golf and Tour de France!

Storm Ferguson


Hi Lucas

Difficult not to say: "I told you". A few weeks ago I said in this letter: " Why are we complaining about the Bok team. It is a good one for the opposition."

They know our backline are afraid to make contact and to tackle. They also know we only have one loose forward (Schalk) in the team. We also have no captain that can think or motivate his players under pressure.

Yes the opposition were very satisfied with the Bok team and will always be if our big headed SA coaches don't wake up and start choosing the best players in form and forget their pride and stupidity.

Thank you
T. Coetzee


Hi Lucas

Having just finished analysing the test in Sydney (watching it for the 3rd time!) I have come to some startling (and quite contrary to popular opinion) conclusions:
* The average man-in-the-street has no idea how good this current Springbok team really is;
* The Boks played poorly, yes, probably at around 40% of their potential;
* The Wallabies played very well, true, at very much 90% of their potential;
* Still the Boks were in the game 'till that unfortunate last intercept try;
* The Bokke were very unlucky with certain issues, generally classified as "the bounce of the ball", which on another day could have gone in their favour;
* Despite the score, the Boks were clearly the better team;
* And, lastly, where's the beef? (An American analogy, meaning that the importance of the game was not that significant.)

The most lucid comment came (quite ironically) from the All Blacks coach, who said that "certain teams" are keeping their powder dry. Quite clearly it would be stupid for the Boks' coaches to play all their cards before the Tri-Nations tournament starts.

So, all you Springbok supporters, don't be so upset... I'm pretty confident that Jake has a few canny (if not conniving) tricks up his sleeve once the REAL business starts!


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