Editors Note


Volume 5, Week 29

Editors Note

Brilliant!      Round about this time of the year all rugby supporters focus return to provincial rugby and in our case the centuries old, Currie Cup. The trophy’s donor may have been a Scotsman, knighted as a captain of industry but the Currie Cup competition is as South African as biltong and saying ‘ja’.

The 2005 edition is in full flow and the return of the Springboks, against their coach’s wishes and hopes, have sparked the interest despite a most confusing competition format. The less said about the format the better, just now somebody asks for an explanation and then this supporter will be quite stuck. Put it this way, logic has been in practice since the sloth understood the smilodon’s scrumptious smile back in the ice age but it clearly did not evolve fast enough for SARU circa 2004/5.

The top teams are still very much the same contenders since the year dot and even though the odd upset occurs, the same monoliths tend to fight it out in the semi-finals and finals. Of the favoured teams the one ‘sure thing’ is the Bulls, they have monopolised the competition like no other the last few years with three titles in a row and very few will bet against them for making it four. Especially after Saturday’s demolition job on perennial favourites, Western Province.

The annual north south match up is a wonderful occasion pitting two contrasting styles in rugby and culture against each other and forces the entire country into taking sides. There are no neutral observers when these two teams meet. In the past, the likes of Transvaal (now Lions) and Natal (now Sharks) won their fare share of finals but over the centuries these two teams have been consistently the best and attracts tremendous support.

Each has had their golden eras and currently it just happens to be the Bulls where coach, Heyneke Meyer has created a formidable empire at Loftus Versfeld. The Bulls’ squad, structures and success is the benchmark and envy of all other South African sides and many are trying everything in their power to emulate it. The key to their accomplishments are dedication to a vision and enormous amount of hard work in attaining it. It did not happen overnight but their planning of four to five years ago are now bearing rich fruit. And they are not sitting on their laurels, the country’s best young talent is lured across the Jukskei and they will continue to be the dominating force until the others eventually catch up.

No, dear reader, this is not a Bulls sponsored edition – it is credit where credit is due. After Saturday’s match against WP, it was clear that when they (Bulls) bring out the big guns and play to their strengths they are damn near invincible. They do not need to culturally indoctrinate and intimidate visiting teams with Afrikaans music icons like Steve Hoffmeyer and Ge Korsten.

The Currie Cup will get even better over the next few weeks that will be for certain but for the moment, this avid amateur golfer is preparing for a highly anticipated, yearly golf tour. Regular readers will know by know that roundabout this time of the season this writer embarks on a few days away where rugby discussions play second fiddle to birdies on the 3rd, lost balls on the 11th and too many at the 19th. So it will be again and needless to say, next week RF will take a break from duty while we stride the fairways (hopefully) of Sun City.

We have 2 more sets of tickets to give away for the Sharks versus Western Province clash next weekend at ABSA Stadium. It promises to be a very important match to the Sharks chances in reaching the semi-finals. The first readers to mail me the names and cell numbers of all the Flasher Girls will secure. Only joking… first readers to provide the name of the Sharks clothing sponsor will secure.




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 Brilliant by Desmond Organ
There can be few complaints after one of the most exciting Tri-Nations since the competitions inception, for the second year in a row the outcome was determined in the last 15 minutes with bonus points the final determinant.

South African fans will woe the loss in Dunedin, but reality tells us that we won the tournament in similar circumstances a year ago. The only difference is that this year the Aussies were as dismal as their cricketing counterparts and there are many around the globe that is sharing a collective handshake at their fall from grace. Eddie Moans is a one trick pony that has finally come to the end of his reign; what a challenge to follow his predecessor but that is the name of the game. Australians should be asking for his departure not because he has a bad track record but because he has failed to deliver.

Jake White, despite his media limitations has done a fantastic job, compared to Graham Henry he had a far higher mountain to climb and having spoken to a few learned fans from Wales there is less to Henry than meets the eye. Many believe that the real success story in the All Blacks coaching establishment is Hansen. Ruddock’s mentor has been the difference this year and he deserves the credit for turning their forward pack into a very competitive unit. Gert Smal has been blessed with fantastic talent and if you take this away, you have the Stormers Super 12 record to account for. Smal does the basics and that is what White has asked for. Meyer would be my choice but he has got ambitions of his own which go beyond waiting for Jake to move aside.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the tournament was the ability of the Springboks to win matches despite having less possession than their opponents, scoring from turnovers is great as long as you have an alternative when the opposition works out what your limitations are. South Africa is blessed with three quarters who have the ability to deliver an attacking approach and yet we have yet to see the complete performance. The biggest challenge for White and his coaches is to nurture the talent at their disposal, wining matches with a defensive approach is one thing, turning this into a complete package must be the goal for the next two years.

Several years ago you could argue that the Springboks were playing a numbers game as far as representation is concerned; now we are truly becoming representative and if the process is taken to its logical conclusions we could be in for some great rewards. Januarie, Habana and Steenkamp are possibly just the beginning of a steady stream of quality players to come from the broader South African community, what a pity that our own Minister of Sport has failed to recognise the contribution that these players have made by his unpatriotic comments. The Minister should apologise to the South African public for failing to recognise the advances that have been made in the midst of Kamp Staaldraad and Andre Markgraaf.

Selecting a team of the tournament is always going to be a controversial exercise, but there can be little doubt that there are players who have stood up and delivered and that is the barometer by which I have selected this years team of the tournament.

15. Monty – From Purse Strings to Super Hero
14. Tuqiri – League players can make it in Union
13. Umaga – Team player but will he make it in to France
12. De Villiers – Playing him at wing in Dunedin cost the Springboks the Tri-Nations
11. Habana – Thank you for being a true South African
10. Van der Westhuizen – Carter failed to deliver
9. Januarie – Passion is the name of the game AKA George Gregan
8. Van Niekerk – Please stay clear of the Skinstad glamour syndrome
7. McCaw – Step aside George Smith and Phil Waugh
6. Burger – Step aside McCaw, Smith and Waugh
5. Matfield – Kevin Putt you know nothing
4. Botha – The enforcer
3. Hayman – CJ is just behind you
2. Smit – Shimange is going to have splinters for a long time
1. Steenkamp – The future

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I bring a touch of the unknown to myself, let alone what I bring to them (All Blacks). I might play [badly] and get hooked after 10 minutes, but we might go out and win the game. There's nothing to lose.      Matt Rogers

You can't afford to not be in the contest. If one team is diving in and securing ball, or killing ball, and you're not and they're not getting penalised for it then you can't stand back and let it happen and that's when it becomes a bit of a dog fight.       Wayne Smith

The trick for us to go forward now is finding players who are going to be better than what we've got at the moment because clearly the players we've got aren't good enough.        Eddie Jones

Like all the other players we've got two weeks off. I'll use that for a mental break, I can control what happens over the next fortnight, but I can't control what happens after that.        George Gregan

Joe (van Niekerk) has not yet played the type of rugby for either Province or the Stormers he plays when wearing the Bok jersey. He realises he will get the opportunity on Saturday to silence his critics in the Western Cape.       Kobus van der Merwe

Hell man, the Sharks are playing much better 'Free State rugby' that we are. If we had played them at our usual game they would have sorted us out. They have some very dangerous young backs and we felt that keeping the game tight was the way to go.       Rassie Erasmus

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