Editors Note


Volume 5, Week 31

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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  Currie Cup Chaos by Desmond Organ
Reading all the headlines in the media about the burn out of the Springboks has got me thinking that the perennial chaos that is SARU is here to stay. Not only can the Presidents Council not make up its mind about who runs the game, it cannot define a systematic mechanism for ensuring that the best four teams make it to the final four.

In the chaos of supposed administrative efficiency we have the national coach and his horde of administrative support executing random tests that do not fall within what I would call effective player management. Until such time as national players are contracted centrally and their respective Provinces remunerated in their absence there will never be consensus on what represents good player management. How difficult is it for the Provinces and the national body to be joined up when it comes to the conditioning of players, not difficult at all if the players and the governing bodies were working off the same modus operandi.

The biggest challenge form the Unions is that in a scenario where the Currie Cup is not played amongst the top six teams there is always going to be a loser. This year it looks like it could be the Sharks who despite a strong start to the season might be disadvantaged by being on the wrong pool. There is no doubt that one of the groups is more difficult than the other, the Cheetahs and Province are almost a shoo in for the final four and the Sharks, Lions and Bulls will have to fight it out for the remaining two spots.

The other problem is the quality of play associated with the Provinces in the absence of their Springbok players, without them some of the pretenders to the bigger scene of Super 12 are not exposed to the rigours of top flight rugby that is required to compete in the expanded Super 14. With them the likes of the Sharks youngsters are exposed for what they are; youngsters with heaps of talent and a lot to learn. A fitting start would be a national body that contracts players and develops a comprehensive fitness and strength training programme to ensure progress towards and hopefully success at the next World Cup.

Jake White has a plan, but the Provinces simply cannot financially afford to comply; that is they do not believe that they can make the final four in the absence of their Springboks. This may not be the case for the likes of the Bulls and the Lions, but it is certainly the case for the Sharks and the Cheetahs. The Sharks have relied heavily on imports in the past and despite the growth of local talent will continue to do so in the future. They are forced to pay huge sums for their Springboks and absolutely have a right to expect them to play, until they have the option of charging out these services elsewhere they will continue to argue the point.

Nationally the tests that were conducted this past week served very little purpose other than to expose the fact that the players are being expected to play two trumpets at the same time. Andy Marinos for all his verbage in the press has done nothing to resolve the problems that exist as far as player management is concerned. The issues are always the same and the resolution is always played out through the press and that accounts for the mismanagement that is the name of the game as far as South African rugby is concerned.

We cannot expect to compete effectively in all the tournaments that are planned for in the next two years until such time as there is an effective strategy and plan for player management. The Provinces should be working towards a common goal which is the World Cup in 2007; they should be competing in the Currie Cup and the Super 12 with squads of players that meet the national interest. Until such time as the national interest is defined, managed and financially appealing it will not happen and we will continue to rely on the individual brilliance of a few coaches and the players that they select.

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Every single day there are issues. There is not a week that goes by without the organization being plagued by in-fighting and it tears you apart. And, as much as the staff try to keep independent of the politics and backstabbing, you are forced to chose sides.     Johan Prinsloo, chief executive of the South African Rugby Union (SARU)

We have applied to host the Rugby World Cup in 2011, and we must be able to reassure the international rugby community that South Africa is capable of doing things right.         Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile

There is huge emotion and pressure with the Springboks. It's nice to be back, to be able to make coffee, have breakfast and crack eggs - even if they don't come out that nicely - in your own home.     Schalk Burger

Any team would have lost against the Bulls on Saturday. We were totally outmuscled, very poor in the lineouts and under pressure at the breakdowns.      Kobus van der Merwe, WP coach

There have been comparisons in the rugby media between Brian van Rooyen, the embattled president of SA Rugby, and Mugabe. Such comparisons are baseless: one is an autocratic dictator, ruling with no accountability and complete disregard for due process, and the other is the president of Zimbabwe.      Dan Nicholl

I'll just say what comes to me, I'm not going to suddenly turn into Winston Churchill now that I'm the captain. Schalk Burger on captaining WP

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