Editors Note


Volume 5, Week 27

Editors Note

Brilliant!     In yet another remarkable edition of the 2005 Tri Nations, the Springboks conquered their seven year itch in Australia by beating the Wallabies 22-19 in Perth. The victory may not have had the allure or glamour of screen icon Marilyn Monroe in the famous scene of the movie, Seven Year Itch, but it will definitely be remembered for as long!

Let’s be honest, Springbok supporters are slightly baffled at this stage of the Tri Nations. Their team has produced three extraordinary victories with the narrowest of margins and every weekend there is this great feeling of relief after winning the match. The question and a valid one at that is; how good is Jake White’s Springbok class of 2005?

The weekly match stats (about as accurate as George Bush’s advisers on Iraqi nuclear capabilities) reveal a team that is able to win on only 40% or thereabout possession. In fact, it seems according to statistics that the less ball and more tackles the Springboks make the more successful they are. Huh? Yes, Springbok victories seem to be mini miracles every time they play or so most believe.

What the stats do not reveal though is that with their specific game plan they are bound to lose the possession race, are bound to make more tackles and win by ‘strokes of luck’ in forcing opposition mistakes. The effectiveness of their counter attack and the seizing of scoring opportunities through the usually unnerving boot of Montgomery and intercept tries are largely ignored. This is a very, very good Springbok team.

They have developed a tailor-made SPRINGBOK gameplan and a playing style that is uniquely fitted for their personnel and skill levels. Credit to Jake White to change the thinking from the namby pamby copy cat pseudo Brumbie style all SA Super 12 teams seemed to have craved in the past to one where scrum dominance is not just preached, but implemented and where lineout superiority is a fact and not just another rumour. The backs have more skill and pace with which they are actually credited - we saw a tremendous try off first phase ball from Breyten in the first test against the Aussies, numerous intercepts through pressure and brilliant length of the field counter attacks. This team is growing in stature and with every victory their belief and attitude increase. Again, they are a very good team.

But will a ‘very, very good team’ be able to clinch the deal in Dunedin come Saturday? History at this venue and in New Zealand does not favour the Springboks and the odds are certainly against them but if there is one thing this Springbok team has displayed in abundance are guts - loads of it. And the ability to prove many distracters wrong. They will need all of their phenomenal defensive prowess, all their luck and a coolness under pressure to climb the ultimate. This is not Everest, this is K2 and should they succeed, this will be known as a great team.

Back to Perth. It was an awesome game to watch as with all the Tri Nations so far, a few observations:

• How good was Schalkie’s one handed pick up at full speed after Lyons knock on to send Habana through for his first try? Many lament over the flankers perceived lack of skill – well this was straight out of the Bob Skinstad ‘brilliant-skills-for-a-backrow handbook’.
• As for Habana, the impression is there that he is a ‘lazy’ player, he is not as active as say Rokocoko or Toqiri and he hardly ever chases kicks but on attack and cross defence he is lethal and probably the most dangerous in the competition. His second try showed more gas than what is present in a South African Rugby President’s council meeting.
• The basics are very good, lineouts, scrums, set pieces like kick-offs etc have received a lot of meticulous attention and they are working well.
• Percy had an off day. It had to come as he’s been unbelievably solid for 2 seasons. Thanks goodness it happened last Saturday, against the All Blacks, 100% please Monty!
• Jaque Fourie has made quite an impact on outside centre, his physical presence have dominated most of his opposition and on attack he needs more ball and in space to display some deceptive speed. He will be very hard to unsettle.
• The referee, was not up to standard. Mistakes were made to the detriment of both sides. One wonders, when was the last match he refereed? As a northern hemisphere ref, he’s been on holiday. Like players, refs need match practice and some would argue even more so!
• Monty did knock the ball, Habana ran the length for the winning try. Look at the scoreboard and get over it.

Saturday is the big one, a final and this will be the ultimate game for most of these young Springboks. They are the underdogs for sure and most including this writer will probably see it as one hurdle too many in this landmark season. They will come close though and it will not be for a lack of trying. Enjoy the early start.

The Currie Cup is in full swing and judging from last week’s upset, Boland beat Province… the competition will be hotting up even more whilst receiving the just attention after the completion of the Tri Nations. In the mean time, RF has 4 tickets (2 sets of 2) to give away for the, Sharks vs Free State Cheetahs match on Saturday 3 Sept 17H00 at the Absa Stadium. First reader to mail me the name of the Sharks captain will be able to watch the game live, complimentary of the Sharks Media Service.



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I wouldn't want to play for England under the current management because I don't believe they are right for the team. What has happened is that Clive Woodward was so good that they all still believe that is the right way to go now. They have almost become clones of Clive in the way they approach coaching. There are just no new ideas in there.       Austin Healey

The thing that annoyed me most about playing for England is when Clive used to say this is the best coaching staff in the world. It almost became about the coaches as opposed to the players. I think they need to get away from that arrogance, take it on the chin, have a meeting and say what we were doing was good at the time but now we need to adapt and progress. It's very difficult when you've been in a winning environment like that to develop fresh ideas but they still truly believe they are right. We need to go back to 2001 and bring passion back. Austin Healey

As a rugby spectacle, the Tri Nations is the height, right now, of international rugby. The teams that are playing are the best in the world. If you asked the players to compare South Africa and Australia with the recent Lions, there'll be no comparison.       Graham Henry

I think it gets easier and easier to lead this team because of the consistency in selection, For the last 18 months we have had consistency within the squad and in the way we train. I have got to know the guys better and better and it makes by job easier because I don't have to manage so many different people all the time. Consistency is a big factor in the improvement of this team and the longer we carry on together the better things will get.   John Smit

We have restructured the contracts and made them market-related and incentive driven. If a player performs he earns. If he doesn't, we're not going to throw cash at mediocrity.      Nick Mallett, Director of Rugby at WP.

The team's confidence is up, and coach Dick Muir has made some important changes to the way we operate. He wants us to keep the ball in hand, play expansively, and only kick when we really have to. But more importantly he has been consistent with his team selection, and allowed the team to gel and get to know each other. I really think that is showing with every match we play.       Henno Mentz

Entertainment is a huge part of it. That is the reason why I play the game, I love it so much. I get excited about playing, and pulling off tricks and being cheeky is a big part of my game. It always has been and always will be until the day I give up.        Carlos Spencer

Our defensive pattern is a bit risky because we are in the face of the opponents all the time. We saw both Australia and New Zealand try to kick behind us and expose us that way in the last two tests. But that is where the second part of our defensive plan kicks in, which is the 'scrambling' defence. All the players, especially the loose trio, know that once the opposition has beaten the rush, or put the ball in behind the rush, then they have to cover, or scramble if you like. That's the secret for us because that line has held beautifully as well.     Alistair Coetzee

We'd like to believe that the game is evolving into a contest where size and strength are the key elements because those have always been our strengths and if it does go that way it will suite us. But whatever rules the lawmakers have decided for the current way the game is played we must make sure that we adapt and play according to them. Is it favouring us? I think rugby union is favouring teams that can play to the way the laws have been made.        Jake White

I have never gone to a match where South Africa have played New Zealand because I don't know what will happen... whom I will support.          SA Sports Minister, Makhenkesi Stofile

That was some sort of a test match, period. It was brutal. It was breath-taking. It was dramatic. And, even better, it ended with an Australian team losing a heart-breaker.        New Zealand rugby writer Marc Hinton

The French are a lot more relaxed and a little bit less obsessed with nutrition and diets - they're not
over-coached, they just like to play. Hopefully, one thing I can influence this year is that the players won't be over-coached or obsessed and that they can go out there and show their natural talent and enjoy themselves as much as possible in a high-pressure environment.       Richard Cockerill, new Leicester Tigers coach

Low possession is a bit of a trend for the Springboks, but it's just the way they play the game. It is different to us and Australia, which is great because it's another style of game. They kick a lot more often than we do to gain territory and then put pressure on the lineouts and therefore they don't have the same possession because they don't want to keep the ball in hand. They rely on the opposition turning the ball over and then they score tries from mistakes. It's not a bad policy as it has been working for them. Why change? They could have more possession but they make a decision not to keep the ball in hand. Stats only reflect how the game is played, not what happens with the ball.         Graham Henry

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Hello Lucas,

This is how it should be, as we grew up hearing of it and listening first on the radio, and later by television, in remote corners of Africa. Every other match was a lesser event, a smaller happening. There was never a number 1 in the world, there were always two of them, these two, eternally scapping back and forth in matches of enormous guts and commitment. Every other match was was a game for lesser gods.

I refer to the Boks and the Blacks, vying this Saturday for the top spot in world rugby. We have waited long.

Peter G
Nairobi, Kenya

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