Editors Note


Volume 5, Week 30 - Special 200th Edition

Editors Note

Brilliant!      Welcome to a rather special edition of Rugby Forum as we celebrate our 200th edition! The occasion may not be as memorable as England’s victory in the Ashes and there will certainly be no open bus parade down Adderley Street but at least our hair is streaked (with grey!) and we can certainly attempt to drink as much as Flintoff… you know what? Maybe not!

The last five years has been an emotional rollercoaster trying to share some weekly ‘thoughts’ on the game we all love. Let’s face it, the dark years of 2001-2-3 with Harry Viljoen and then Rudolf Straeuli at the helm of Springbok rugby did not help this supporter’s health one bit! Especially if one decided from the start to always look for the positive and try and encourage as much as the situation demands. After all it is easier to merely condemn than to analyse and provide positive praise or creative constructive criticism!

The recent renaissance of the Springbok game has changed the scene dramatically. The success of Jake White, in not only restoring pride but discarding prejudice in the National team is to be commended, international rugby rivalry needs, no demands a competitive Springbok team. It is now.

This edition is a rather special one because a few brilliant rugby writers were kind enough to contribute a column for the bicentennial edition. Thank you all, it is highly appreciated and the readers will no doubt take as much pleasure from it as I did.

To all the subscribers and readers, thank you for your support, letters and opinions over the years. A special thanks to the RF contributors, Tom Marcellus who was the first columnist, Vinesh Naicker, Dingo Marshall and singular praise to Desmond Organ who has been with RF from Week 21 and ever since, memorably bringing us coverage from the World Cup 2003 downunder and weekly columns despite demanding work pressure. Thanks Des!
Also a big thanks to Dean who spends many a late night sending RF to the myriad of subscribers.

Enjoy the bumper issue!



Visit www.rugbyforum.co.za

Coming of Age by Desmond Organ

Week 1, February 28th 2001 was a milestone and now 199 issues later Rugby Forum has reached a double century and as you will see from the other contributions to this edition has truly come of age. What began as the brainchild of two South African rugby supporters has grown into what I like to call one of the last truly independent voices on the game that is played in heaven.

From humble beginnings and a less than structured approach Rugby Forum is now a weekly staple in the diet of independent fans of the game around the globe. They say that the proof in the pudding is in the eating and without claiming unnecessary fame and fortune we can claim to have been to the World Cup and followed the Springboks on the Grand Slam tour of 2004. Perhaps it is the contributions that come from all corners of the world that have made this a unique publication. At the outset the coverage was very much based on the South African based team of two, but this rapidly changed to the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The real owners of the success are the subscribers and without them Rugby Forum would be a mere forum for the ideas of the people that put together the articles week in and week out. Independence means that we fund all of it ourselves and this is one of the fundamental principles of the publication; we answer to the subscribers and our passion for the game of rugby. On many occasions Lucas and I have spoken about relationships with other internet sites and publications and about ways to turn it into a revenue generating mechanism; throughout one principle has always been maintained, it will never happen if the outcome is an inability to remain independent of corporate governance structures. We belong to the people that have as much passion for the game as we do.

Rugby Forum is mostly based on the belief that if you are passionate about something there is always a way to find a means to express it, controversy and independent opinion are for me the hallmarks of the publication. Perhaps we do have a South African slant, but this is offset by the fact that we are linked to independent sites and contributions from like minded writers around the globe. The most compelling thing for me as a part time writer is that I have been able to meet people all over the world and it is truly amazing to find that wherever you go there is always a place to meet people who love the game, watch the game or derive their income from it. I have spoken to several people who have expressed a desire to do something similar but most have not taken the step to just start the process and let the rest take care of itself.

At the World Cup in Australia I was surrounded by professional writers from around the world and there was something quite unique in the experience, there I was, a novice and yet I was welcomed as if I had been part of the establishment from the outset. The people who write on a weekly basis and others who contribute less frequently all have a unique perspective to offer and the mails that Lucas receives as Editor are testimony to the fact that there are supporters out there who believe in and continue to support this medium. The weekly quotes are something unique that has perhaps been taken up by other sites as a means to generate interest; Rugby Forum was one of the first to offer this view of the game and it is still one of my favourite aspects of the publication.

Special thanks go to Marta for supporting me to fulfil a dream, to Lucas for starting the Forum, to the professional journalists who have made us feel welcome in their midst and lastly and most importantly to our subscribers.

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“Sheeshintheair” by Tom Marcellus

The telephone squawked savagely. It was long after midnight, and the good doctor had been resting uneasily under a haystack of blankets. His dog, also startled, barked at the sudden, intrusive sound. After a sharp intake of breath, a short, thickset figure emerged from the shrouded warmth of the blankets. His foot touched the floorboards, his heel crushing the little dog’s tail. It yelped, and dashed off in terror. “Bliksem!” he roared, as his senses began to restore themselves.

He staggered down the dark passageway, to put an end to the shrill, infernal noise, which had continued to pierce the stillness of the cool Stellenbosch night. He was tired, and in no mood for these blerrie crank callers, who – no doubt filled with fermented grapes procured from some local drinking establishment – often bothered him towards the end of the varsity term.

He smiled wryly as he reached for the ‘phone in the darkness of his study. He thought of the framed photograph – now merely a faded sepia – that was hanging just above his shoulder in the darkness. It showed him in his glorious prime, aged only 27, unleashing one of the most feared passes in all of rugby. The cold night had shaken off his drowsiness – but then his mental facilities were legendary. It’s not easy to get 4 PhDs, you know.

“Craven”. His voice was deep and rich; one used to issuing instructions.

There was a feint click at the end of the line, and then a pause. “Sheeshintheair”.

The man sounded like he had imbibed a truckload of brown Fantas. Perhaps he was one of those hippies – like those unwashed Commies from that Woodstock place from last year, the doctor thought to himself.

He paused. The caller’s accent had sounded wild and wooly, but nevertheless familiar. It was a twang! that he had first heard a long time ago, and it always reminded him of someone speaking down an iron pipe. The doctor’s eyes narrowed. Was it one of those savage behemoths from across the seas?

“Say again”, he replied.

“Danie, sheeshintheair”.

It was not a long conversation, and after a few seconds the doctor replaced the handset, and retraced his steps back to the comforts of his bed. But this time there was a lightness to his step.

He tugged the blankets up to his chin. As the coarse fabric brushed against his lips, he couldn’t help letting off a little smile of self-congratulation. The ‘plane bringing the 1970 All Blacks to South Africa had taken off, and was now in the air. The great tour was on.

Memories of rugger matches on distant fields came flooding back. He thought of ou Boy, Gerry and Phil, and those fierce, mud-splattered men in black. And of the grand tradition of savagery and chivalry between the two great teams over so many years.

Long may it last, he thought, as he gave Bliksem a last, loving pat.

(The above is a modest little story that is based on an actual telephone conversation between the great Dr Danie Craven and an unknown Kiwi journalist in early 1970. It is a humble celebration of the recent rejuvenation of one of the greatest rivalries in sport.)

* Tom Marcellus, RF's first columnist

In the front row by Andy Colquhoun

The first rugby story I ever wrote was tapped out on a type writer and the “black” was stabbed on a spike, while the top copy went to a sub-editor with a blue pencil and a wicked glint in his eye. The “black” was the name we used in the now prehistoric language of print journalism for the carbon copy that was kept so that when a cock-up occurred everyone knew just exactly whose balls were going to be squeezed in the Editor’s vice.

This stumble down memory lane is a clumsy way of marvelling at the transformation in journalism in the last 25 years – actually in the last half dozen really. We even used to have a copy runner – a jolly women in her middle years – who would stump down to the composing room with the subbed top copy which she would place in a tray for a fourth set of hands to key it in for a fifth set to glue it onto a form.

Those who had access to the media were limited to those who were paid to write about it, those who were paid to talk about it and those who felt uncommonly motivated to pen a letter to the editor and then go down to the local post office to send it off.

But now everyone can have their opinion published in silent and seamless world of the electronic media and Rugby Forum was in the front row at tighthead before the idea of Joe Blog had even been invented.

Still, some things don’t change and, Lucas, if I had started every story with the same word for five years you’d be able to pave Table Mountain with a set of gonads squeezed paper thin.

* Andy Colquhoun is the Editor of the SA Rugby Annual, columnist for The Argus, radio commentator and co-author of the The Chosen

Die beste job in die wêreld deur De Jongh Borchardt

"Jis, jy het seker die beste job ter wêreld. Wie sal nou nie daarvan hou om betaal te word om rugby te kyk nie?"

As ek R10 gehad het vir elke keer wat ek dít gehoor het, was my bankbalans groter as dié van my lugmyle. En terwyl my Voyager en Executive Club-state glad nie sleg lyk nie, is ek ook die laaste ou om te kla omdat ek salarisgewys nie kan kompeteer met my pelle wat ouditeure, dokters of advokate is nie.

Dis egter nie waaroor dié skrywe gaan nie. Met Rugby Forum wat die groot 200 slaan, het die redakteur my gevra om te vertel wat dit als behels om 'n rugbyjoernalis in Suid-Afrika te wees.

Durban is die meeste naweke die eindpunt van my reise, en 'n tipiese wedstryddag in die Haaitenk begin reeds vroegerig op 'n Saterdagoggend vir my wanneer ek lughawe toe jaag om my vlug te vang.

In die Hawestad aangekom, is dit gou hotel toe vir iets te ete, en dan suiker ek/ons (afhangende van watter ander koerantmanne saam afgereis het Durbs toe) af stadion toe. Die meeste van ons is nogal goeie pelle, so waarom nie saamry nie?

Met die Sondagkoerante wat altyd voor die dagblaaie die verslag van 'n Saterdag-wedstryd het, is dit belangrik om "iets anders" as hulle te probeer raaksien.

My taak, behalwe om die wedstryd dop te hou en te probeer uitwerk waar wie geslaag of misluk het, is die kommentaar van afrigters, spelers en ander belanghebbendes die belangrikste om ná 'n wedstryd te kry.

Dit is makliker gesê as gedaan, verál wanneer jou span nie speel soos hulle moet nie, en die skeidsregter aanjaag en watookal nog. Afrigters mag nie direkte kritiek teenoor blasers uitspreek nie, en as sy span boonop nog gesukkel het, is dit somtyds makliker om die Blou Bulle se lynstaantekens uit te werk as om iets sinvols uit die afrigter te kry.

Sondae, oftewel die eerste werksdag van die week, begin dan gewoonlik deur terug te vlieg huis toe (vir my is dit Pretoria) en te sien wat die Sondagkoerante aanraak/uitlos. Ek soek dan my eie hoek vir Maandag, met kommentaar oor die wedstryd en ontleding, terwyl dit altyd help as een speler uitblink, dan kan 'n mens addisionele fokus op dié kêrel plaas.

Dan skryf ek. Eenvoudig, né.

Vir 'n Vrydagwedstryd is dit natuurlik anders - dan is vinnig skryf en stuur die belangrikste, met die koerant se eerste saktyd hier skuins na 21:00. Die wedstryd maak gewoonlik so 20:50 klaar, wat beteken ek het 10 minute om my interpreterende verslag agter mekaar te kry en op my laptop deur te stuur met my selfoon.

Tegnologie het dinge baie verander, want feitlik elke wedstryd word deesdae op TV uitgesaai en teen die tyd dat mense die koerant lees, het hulle die game en die hoogtepunte reeds gesien. My taak is om hulle dan iets anders te gee.

Baie mense wil ook weet waarom dit belangrik is om wedstryde by te woon. 'n Mens kan tog beter sien op televisie. Die antwoord is eintlik heel eenvoudig: TV volg die bal, nie die spel nie. Jy kan dalk sien hoe die oopkantflank die bal vir sy span wen, maar jy kan nie sien hoe die losskakel regmaak vir 'n drop nie, of hoe hy sy agterlyn organiseer vir 'n sekere aanval nie. As 'n beweging slaag of misluk, is dit dan makliker om die span te oordeel.

Hierdie job is myns insiens beslis een van die lekkerstes. Ek moet bysê dat ek geen ondervinding van ander werk het nie (uitgesluit 'n kelner en 'n bystandingenieur by Nissan se aanlegplant in Rosslyn), so ek is seker maar redelik eenoogig as dit my dagtaak kom.

In elk geval, dis een moerse job en iets wat ek baie geniet, al raak my vrou redelik fed-up wanneer ek oor enige iets rugby praat.

* De Jongh Borchardt skryf vir Beeld

Empty Promises by Duane Heath

Exactly a year ago, I met with former Sarfu CEO Mveleli Ncula to discuss the ongoing problem of club rugby violence in the Western Cape, after the Sunday Times published my investigation into the thuggish underbelly of the sport in Cape Town.

In the first half of the 2004 season, referees handed out 62 red cards, mostly for violent acts. Players were kicked and eye-gouged, refs punched and head-butted, a club president arrested for beating up a young player, and at least two players were threatened by gun-carrying spectators.

As a journalist and as a player, I have experienced the dark side of the sport first hand: a so-called game, played against a backdrop of barely-concealed bigotry, poor facilities, drunkenness, abusive fans, relegation battles, unregistered players and petty jealousy.

I asked Ncula whether there would be a concrete anti-violence plan by the start of the 2005 season. “Definitely,” he said. “We will sit down so that by the time next season comes, the troublemakers are hit with a plan.”

This was a day after WP banned Kuils River president Eddie Gurah from rugby for life, after he “repeatedly punched and kicked” an under-21 player from Hamiltons-Sea Point, Angus McKenzie, on August 14 last year.

McKenzie, in trying to find “a way forward”, suggested merging traditional “white” and “coloured” clubs based in the same area, saying it could help end violence. “White and coloured players will be mixing and they’ll see they have lots in common,” he said, showing me the stitches in his head.

Now fast forward to a fortnight ago. Having not watched much club rugby this year, I visited Hamiltons once again, this time to see whether they could win a long-awaited return to the top leagues – provided they beat Pniel Villagers.

I arrived midway through the 2nd team match and, when I left two hours later, I had witnessed at least five red cards being handed out, some for thuggery that should have made the sport’s bosses squirm but for the fact that they couldn’t care less about club rugby.

The players apart, the behaviour of some sections of the crowd left me disgusted. Fuelled by beer and fermented bitterness, every word that frothed from their mouths was laced with blind hate, and one has to wonder whether they even enjoy this game.

Two of Hamiltons’ black players, their lightning wing Wilfred Pieterse and tough flyhalf Kevin Williams, endured 80 minutes of venomous taunts from bigots masquerading as fans. These committed players’ crimes? They were “traitors” for playing alongside “the boere” in a so-called “white” club.

Maybe Western Province’s Herman Abrahams was right when he told me that “society at heart is so evil but rugby stays on the front page”. But the fact remains: there are no excuses for what I saw at Hamiltons – and a year later, the empty promises of rugby bosses are piling up as high as the red cards and hospital bills.

*Duane Heath is a Cape Town based rugby writer who has written about the game for the World of Rugby, Sunday Times, Rugby World, SA Rugby and News24.

Reffing Problems by Patrick Innes

I think that not since the time that South Africa insisted on Home Referees have we had so much trouble with refereeing. In this last Tri-Nations period I can only remember one Ref, Chris White of England who has won the approval of both sides and their fans.

It is not completely the fault of Refs when things go bad, but I think it mostly is. Our first major problem is the tackle ball rule which totally defies credibility. It may well work on the blackboard in the IRB Referees room, but it completely denies logic when transferred to the playing fields of reality.

And for a third reason we have the problem of Refs who are very conscious of the ‘home’ crowds, who decide to put their own spin on the infractions, often with a view to currying favour with the locals. In my view, it is a serious error of judgment giving any Ref the right of a personal interpretation. One can quite correctly say this game of ours is completely neutered by our idiotic rule-book.

With this in mind I took a great deal of interest in a comment made by Laurie Mains a week or so ago, about a discussion he had with Andre Watson several years ago about the matter. Laurie went on to say that he was discussing the Reffing problems with Ref Watson on the day of the game, and then the two of them retired to a place where they could have a full and frank discussion on the rules of the game, with particular interest on how the Laws are applied by the Refs.

Andre Watson went on to say that the rules are extremely difficult to apply for a variety of reasons. The major one was of course, the Rulebook itself, the whole 179 pages of the official version. Andre then went on to say that one pair of eyes was not now sufficient because all they could pick up was what was immediately in front of his vision. His view was that he fully believed that the number of Refs on the International panel should be culled considerably, and that future appointments should consist of a fully credentialed International Reffs plus two fully credentialed Linesmen. The Linesmen would also be qualified Refs in their own right, but made up a threesome team. When appointments were made it would be the threesome, ie, the Ref and his two personal Linesmen.

Andre’s thoughts went a little further than that, inasmuch as before each game his threesome would get together, and go over the current patterns of how each of the teams played. They would then decide that the Ref proper would Ref the visual game as he saw it in his usual way, and each Lineman would also be given specific duties on what to police in back-play. By so doing, a much larger part of the game could be policed more fairly, and more culprits would be caught doing their own naughty deeds behind the play. With this enlarged picture, serial back-play offenders would be brought to book, and the game would be much better for it, and in my view the games Reffing would be much fairer to all concerned.

* Patrick Innes is a New Zealand rugby columnist who writes and distributes, Patrick on RUGBY.

Rugby Forum 200th Edition by Vinesh Naicker

Rugby Forum has reached its 200th edition with this posting and I must congratulate Lucas for the enthusiasm and perseverance he has shown with this publication. There can be no question that he is a real fan of the game with his unwavering commitment to the game.

The first publication came out in February of 2001 when the Super 12 competition had just kicked off for the sixth time. The Crusaders had proven themselves as the best team of the competition by completing the three-peat after the Blues had won the first two tournaments.

Things were on the slide in New Zealand though with only the magnificent defence of the Crusaders shutting out the Brumbies who had started to perfect the multi phase play that they and the Wallabies have continued to use to this day.

After having rid themselves of the dead wood from 1999, with a new coach and a new captain, the All Blacks had continued to look shaky through 2000, having won only 7 out of 10 games in the previous year, with an abysmal 50% record against the top tier teams. The Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup trophies were still absent from the NZRFU cupboard.

The Springboks had had a pretty ordinary 2000 year too, winning only 6 out of 12 games and only 2 from 8 against top tier nations. Once again it had been time to change coaches.

2000 had continued the renaissance of Australian rugby when following on from their World Cup victory they won the Tri-Nations and retained the Bledisloe Cup confirming their status as the rightful World Cup holders.

Now it is five years later and we seem to be on the opposite side of the cycle. The All Blacks and the Springboks are in ascension (with not a change of coach in sight for either team) and the Wallabies definitely on the slide. The Crusaders have even defeated the leading Australian team (the Waratahs) in the final Super 12 competition.

We are seeing the end of an era with the Super 12 disappearing and the format of the Tri-Nations changing. The strength of the Springboks in the last two years has added a fresh energy to a competition which had grown stale and repetitive.

We can look forward now to seeing whether the addition of two new teams will do more than keep the Cats and the Reds off the bottom of the table. A three game competition could add suspense or monotony to the new Tri Nations. Here’s hoping the new competitions will continue to earn the remark… Brilliant!!!

* Vinesh Naicker is a New Zealand contributor to Rugby Forum

Australian Rugby - where is it headed? by Dingo Marshall

After Australia’s sub standard performance during this year’s Tri-Nations and their wooden spoon, after losing every game, there are plenty of questions being asked by all and sundry. Will Eddie Jones make it to the 2007 World Cup? Has George Gregan played his last game? Is this the end of the road for Australian rugby, as we know it? Will Australia ever bounce back?

Interesting times for the game they play in heaven in the land of Wallabies, Kangaroos and Koala bears. My view on the above is as follows. Eddie Jones will survive this minor speed bump. He is a sharp guy with an astute rugby brain but his hands were tied to a large degree by the 17 players that were lost during the course of the Tri-Nations campaign. Many of my friends thought I was making excuses when I mentioned our heavy injury toll. Take 17 players out of any team and the impact would be major. Australia was still hard to beat even with so many players missing.

A number of new players were introduced into the Australian set up and acclimatised well. Most notable of these were Drew Mitchell at full back. He was a revelation and at times single handedly took on defences on his own making incisive inroads. Mat Rogers also showed that he is more than capable of filling at fly half should he be needed there in the future. So now Larkham has cover from either Giteau or Rogers.

George Gregan still has a great deal to offer Australian rugby so I believe it would be a mistake if his lengthy stint as Australia’s premier number 9 were discarded so flippantly. His leadership skills are still a force and should help keep him in the game a while longer.

Australian rugby has the added advantage of its 4th Super 14 side, Western Force, being added to mix. This will help identify new and exciting rugby talent by expanding the playing base. There is also talk of a National Club Provincial championship that will help provide playing time between the Super 14 and the Domestic competitions.

Is it the end of the road? Definitely not. Will Australia bounce back? Absolutely and I would bet my house on it for good measure. Australia has been provided an unexpected window, 2 years from the next World Cup, to rebuild and stake its claim for Rugby glory in France 2007. Bring it on!

* Dingo Marshall is an Australian contributor to Rugby Forum

Congrats RF! by Dave Wessels
Whew! 200! What an achievement. Congrats to Lucas and his team for a treasured artefact. The best things in life are free…yet make the game so much richer.

And you shouldn’t be scared of reaching two hundred. Unlike the rest of us, Rugby Forum isn’t suffering the waistline tightening on his pants, or the streaks of grey hair that emerge from time to time.

Two hundred for Rugby Forum doesn’t mean old fashioned tastes in music, or stiffness in undesired places, or muddled thoughts, or a whiskey a day to keep the doctor away – though one shouldn’t be shy!

Two hundred is an opportunity to celebrate unbiased rugby judgement – not censored by associations or politics – which spoils us with insightful opinion.

Raise a glass…I know I will!

* Dave Wessels is the Editor of www.sarugby.com

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.