Editors Note


Volume 5, Week 28

Editors Note

Brilliant!     The Springboks left Dunedin, not with the desperate victory they sought but with something almost as valuable, respect. The two countries with the richest history in rugby delivered yet another nail biting affair to finally cast all doubts on the Springboks’ resurrection. They are back.

Jake White has performed miracles with his team over the last two years and the magnitude of their accomplishments cannot be praised highly enough. Remember, who they work for? An organisation, infested with internal and external politicking where wide spread corruption seem to be the norm and managed by people who given the insurmountable evidence against their commitment to rugby – cling to power in the inimitable style of Robert Mugabe.

The All Blacks, for the first time in a couple of years decided to play win rugby against the Springboks. In the past they inexplicably insisted to ‘force’ their pattern on a team who have taken defence and pressure to a different level. In short, the All Blacks so-called ‘flat attack’ were sitting ducks to the Springbok midfield missiles and when they decided to use width and depth, the propensity for intercepts increased and Jake White again countered with his ‘umbrella’ cross defence. Phew, wonder what the old timers have to say about all these names?

Now, this writer is a great admirer of the New Zealand All Blacks but why did it take them that long to figure out you play to your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses? That is what the difference was on Saturday. Far out as it may seem, but the All Blacks paid the Springboks the ultimate compliment by changing a playing style they thought would be good enough to beat anybody any day, to play a specific game plan and win the match against this ‘new’ Springbok team. The phenomenon is called test rugby.

Could it have been arrogance and complacency that lost the All Blacks two matches in a row? Probably. Will they have it next time they meet the Springboks? No ways. And that is the magnitude of Jake White, John Smit and their team’s growth and stature in the game at this point in time.

The match itself was again as exciting as any massive test should be. Conditions were cold and dewy but players coped remarkably well. The All Blacks, with a new Haka were fearsome in the first quarter and their lead of 21-10 had many a Springbok supporter reeling in his living room. Smit's boys are made of sterner stuff though and with their usual pressure game, reduced the deficit just before half time.

In the second half, the Springboks played much better, they realised the All Blacks changed their tactics and that they were not going to take it wide off first and second phase. A penalty and a try later and the Springboks were leading with a mere 15 minutes to go. In this final stanza, the All Blacks produced some of their best forward play in years, they mauled and scrummed and generally dominated the Springbok pack. All their pressure finally culminated in the ‘perfect’ maul from a lineout and that old scourge of the past, Mealamu drove over for the heart breaker. The Springboks were finally beaten.

In hindsight, it was a magnificent test and the All Blacks pack deserves tremendous credit for their performance. Leon MacDonald, did everything needed and he was subbed at the correct moment. In all fairness, this was not the Springboks greatest performance in terms of rugby played. Psychologically, it was a tremendous effort to come back where previous teams and other countries would have faltered. The one area where Jake White will spend more time on is their attacking prowess, but it can only be developed when the basics are in place, the team ethos established and defence non-negotiable.

Both teams have room for improvement. The next few years will be one of great rivalry and the chances that Australia will have another horrible year is slim. In the new format of the Tri Nations the teams will play three matches against each other and this will undoubtedly crown the best team and not just the best bonus pointer.

Saturday, an injury ravaged Australia will hope to salvage something from their 2005 campaign. On paper, it is their ‘third bests’ against the No1 team in the world. They have very little to lose as nobody in their right mind will expect a victory. The Aussies are living in lean times, with their national pride, the cricketers being whipped against a resurgent England team in the Ashes. But, if there is a country who have displayed a lot of character and sporting excellence over the past couple of centuries, it is Australia. Write them off at your own peril. As a Springbok supporter… go you good things go!

Enjoy the final Tri Nations test.



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I I think out of the original 35 players we had, we have 12 injured and a few in the extended squad who are injured as well, so it's a real test of Australia's depth.       Eddie Jones

With front rankers you can never really tell. The one week you are up the second you are down, it's just a matter of how well you concentrate and how much better you concentrate than your opposition.    Os Du Randt

South Africa now are as powerful as any team in the world and I think they're like us. Each may have an occasional lean spell but we soon bounce back because of the fervour the game creates in our countries. Matches between us are always big and national pride will always be there. South Africa used to have Doc Craven to come out and wave to the crowd, now it is Nelson Mandela!     Colin Meads

When you border on the offside line you also border on the onside line. We just border on the onside line.     Jake White

We built ourselves an opportunity of going to No 1 in the world, but we wasted that opportunity on Saturday. The loss was way too similar to Christchurch in that we let ourselves down in key areas of composure. We were not cut-throat enough once we were ahead and maybe should have been more aggressive. We need to use the ball better and put the opposition under more pressure when we're in front.       John Smit

I think it is a cheap shot at Smittie and at the Boks, but it does not surprise me that it has come in the Australian media. I mean, there's a lot of the squad out, everyone's enjoying themselves, but these guys point out the captain and accuse him of racist comments.      Jake White on the alleged racial slur from John Smit

Television is changing so much in the game. Little men are not around too much in rugby now and that's a worrying trend because it was always stated that rugby was for everyone; big, small, fast, slow, fat and thin. There was a position for everyone.       Colin Meads

Rugby is in a really negative spiral at the moment where the game is rewarding negativity at the tackle contest. There is no reward at all for trying to play rugby. We're a side that actually tries to play rugby and we're not being encouraged to play. We're firm in our conviction that we want to play rugby. We can always go back and play a negative style of rugby. That's easy. I could coach a side in 12 days to play that sort of rugby.      Eddie Jones

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