Editors Note


Volume 5, Week 37

Editors Note

Brilliant!      The first weekend of the international rugby season produced the kind of results that make bookies wealthy. There was certainly a potpourri of performances; some exceptional, others acceptable and a number downright bad, sounds a bit like the MTV Music Awards.

Wales' defeat to the All Blacks was always going to be as secure a bet as a Volvo’s performance in a safety standard test. The manner in which Umaga's men inflicted a record defeat on the Welsh was more the performance of a Lamborghini and the Tri Nation champs looked very much the part of a high performance super car. The Welsh, soldiered valiantly for 40 minutes with their blend of attacking football that won them a Six Nations championship but they did not have enough firepower to match the world’s unquestionable no 1 team in the second half.

There were some sparkling performances from Rico Gear, Daniel Carter and Chris Jack, but as a team performance they were sublime. In retrospect, one can almost forgive Byron Kelleher his moment of madness, as it did not impact on the final score, but then maybe not. He is a wonderful player and the All Blacks are better off with his blend of competitiveness and speed than with old Marshall but he needs a good boll*cking for that selfish deed. One thing he did do was get the ball to Carter quickly and he fed the backs with quality possession in space and they punished the poor Welsh. It was a very, very good All Black performance.

The Springboks defeated Argentina to remain unbeaten against the Pumas in all time matches however conspired to lose their honourable record for at least 50 minutes of the match. It was a very ordinary performance from a Springbok team that set themselves high standards in the last two years. They hardly ever controlled the ball and spent most of the match trying to imitate the opposition forwards. A few times when the point of contact was moved away from the ruck and maul and quick ball was generated, they scored. Tactically it was a poor match from John Smit’s men.

It is funny that when you put all your eggs in one basket, that basket tends to fall and they break. Jake White was adamant about flyhalf cover being unnecessary and obviously that jinxed Andre Pretorius no end and his injury embarrassed the very good coach who despite every expert and his dog warning him about the pitfalls decided to go ahead anyway. Fair enough Jake, you tried but let’s face it, no 10 is somewhat important to the team and the pattern… get back up and proper backup. Use the same theory for getting Solly up to speed and select another specialist flyhalf. Its really simple in hindsight but then, there was plenty of ignored foresight.

All in all, the Springboks cannot feel happy about their performance. The lineouts were messy and the Argentinean ‘giants’, all as tall as Jacque Fourie made the world’s best pairing look ordinary. Juan Smith was a colossus and he is fast shaping into the mould of his early career mentor, Andre Venter. On that form, he will play plenty of tests for his country in a jersey he has made his own. Ditto, Schalk Burger. His intro made all the difference and the Springboks probably won the game thanks to that substitution from Jake.

The stadium in which the match was played in has definitely seen some serious issues between spectators and the players on the pitch. How else can one explain the ‘sudden’ appearance of a moat around the field? It even unsettled the flappable, hopeless Tony Spreadbury even more than one would thought possible. The referee decided to hand Jean De Villiers a card for saving an Argie from serious damage when he caught the players leg and prevented him from falling in the moat. De Villiers pushed him in there admittedly but who in their right mind digs a hole around a sport field? Probably the same type of person who decided to ‘go to his pocket’.

The French beat the Aussies and now its real worries time for Eddie Jones. There is talk of reviews, grumbling in the press and statements from officials. Let’s face it, he is facing an almost impossible task and it is not getting easier with a game against England on Saturday. What is concerning, was the level of Australian performance, in the Tri Nations they never conceded, this was a poor effort and they paid the price.

What is it with players writing books while still playing the game? One can understand legends who have finished their career and chronicle World Cup glory or share and explain turbulent times but what did Gavin Henson achieve? The wet-behind-the-ear, legend in his own mind has done very little to endear himself to team mates and officials in what was obviously some money hungry agent’s idea of a quick buck because his utterances suggest a sincere lack of grey matter and tact so he could hardly be the architect of this foolhardy scheme.

This coming weekend, more international rugby, and a quick prediction: All Blacks over Ireland despite fielding 15 changes and England over the Wallabies although it’s like being forced to choose between having your leg or your arm broken! Enjoy!



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The Grand Slam Part 1 by Vinesh Naicker
Wales (3) vs. All Blacks (41)

The All Blacks answered the insult to the haka in two ways. Firstly, by not honouring the Welsh with the use of their new haka and secondly by contemptuously smashing a pretentious but woefully prepared Welsh team.

At the start both the Welsh and the All Blacks looked rusty, the rubbish that coach Henry has been dishing out all year about the need to rest players highlighted by the fact that Tana Umaga dropped the ball the first two times he got it. Halfback Byron Kellaher’s kicking from the base of the scrum was wayward and he butchered an early try scoring opportunity, failing to give a pass to Umaga who was in the clear 15 metres from the opposition goal line. I was surprised to not see the players standing around hip deep in blood, it was that bad.

The Welsh, however, were too inadequate to punish the All Black’s for their mistakes. They went into the game with a set of backs who were on average significantly smaller than their All Black counterparts. A tactic that is only likely to work if your team is going to dominate possession as you will otherwise only be exposing the defensive frailties of your backs who can be outmuscled by the opposition.

The Welsh were backing themselves to dominate the All Blacks in the set pieces but were beaten from an early stage in the scrums by an All Black pack who were twisting the scrum at will. Only some generous refereeing and the slowness of Masoe and So’oialo allowed the Welsh to remain in the game at scrums and in the rucks. A world class flanker the likes of McCaw or Holah would have guaranteed the All Black’s an almost unbroken stream of possession but Masoe and So’oialo were barely on a par with the aging Charvis, who was barely to be seen through the entire game. The general lack of speed to the breakdown was highlighted by the fact that locks Chris Jack and James Ryan were able to turn over so much ball at ruck time.

Even in the lineouts where the Welsh would have expected an advantage, due to the unavailability of Ali Williams and the usually inept throwing of Oliver, they failed to dominate, consistently losing even their own lineout ball to the All Blacks. Rookie lock James Ryan had an outstanding first half disrupting the Welsh lineout and Oliver only messed up a couple of throws in the entire game.

The first All Black try came from a basic movement with players just drawing in their markers and then passing from the base of a ruck deep in the Welsh 22. Gear trotted over next to the corner flag.

The second All Black try occurred in the first couple of minutes of the second half with turnover ball from a Welsh ruck. The ball was moved to the left and then spread back to the right from the ensuing ruck. Carter ran into a couple of tacklers and freeing his arms put Gear into space. A gentle step off his right foot to beat the fullback and then he dotted over the line in the despairing tackle of the Welsh right wing.

Gear got his hat-trick soon after with another basic move from an All Black lineout on the five metre line.
Wales had their second chance for a try when Oliver badly messed up a take from a kick off inside the All Black 22. The Welsh were unable to capitalise however, making no headway against the All Black defence and eventually running the ball into touch.

With the All Black’s ahead 27-3 and the game over with 25 minutes to go, the Welsh crowd got so desperate that they were cheering when their team received a penalty.

The Welsh and British press will try to make the most of the penalty given against Smith for holding onto a player, suggesting that Wales could have scored, but the fact of the matter is that they never really threatened to score. If referee White and his touch judges had been up to it, and not overwhelmed by the crowd, they would have pinged the Welsh backs for doing entirely the same thing on more than one occasion. The other incident they will note is Whitcombe upending Cockbain, but there was nothing in it and only serves to underline how truly devoid of options the Welsh (and their associated press) are. The inability of the Welsh to even score a pity try after the game was well and truly lost, ten minutes into the second half, meant that I lost a $20 bet that they would finish within 30 points.

The woefulness of this admittedly under-strength Welsh team was further underlined by the fact that Dan Carter, still recovering from a broken leg, was able to score a record 26 points against them. The Welsh renaissance still has a way to go. Final score 41-3 and the All Black’s stretch their unbeaten streak against the Welsh to 18 games.

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I made several terrible mistakes. They were not only dangerous, but dumb, because they made the English team see red and they skinned us. I either went in boots or head first into the rucks in that Test. I didn't worry about my or anyone else's safety. I think you can safely say I lost reason and lost it totally.    Corne Krige in his book

The French are going to be physical, play with the ball off the ground and we're prepared for that. They are strong at the set piece and we've already seen that they like to maul the ball as much as possible. We've got to be physical, out-muscle them and then use our skill.      Eddie Jones

We know that the South Africans are faster and stronger, therefore I believe that it will be vital for us to try to surprise them on attack.      Felipe Contepomi

Win, win, win and win again is our only goal this month, we now need to build a foundation of wins which will give us a well of confidence.        Fabien Pelous

Keep an eye on Dimitri Szarzewski - the man with a Bond villain's name and a Bond girl's mane.    Andy Jackson

I felt Jean was extremely unlucky. He managed to get hold of the player's ankle, and this prevented him
from falling on his head down a drop along the side of the advertising boarding, the ground there was very hard, like concrete, so a serious injury could have been done to him had he landed on his head. He could have
broken his neck or even died. I think he knew that too for the players tell me he was screaming like a distressed pig.      Jake White

We expect this week's team to be as strong as last week's, our goal is to have two or more players at every position who are proven at the international level. We are developing strength in numbers.      Graham Henry after making 15 changes to the All Blacks side against Ireland.

Eddie's got a contract until 2007 ... but we'll sit down and have a review when the tour comes back.      Gary Flowers, ARU chief executive

At the moment, Australia have a pair of flying second rows and a fast back row, but they are predictable. Matt Giteau and Mat Rogers attack the line but they don't have that smoothness that sets Stephen Larkham apart. Thomas Castaignede

All I want now is to forget about it, the book's out there, there's nothing more I can do about that.        Gavin Henson, on comments in his book.

Hi Lucas,

A word of praise for Madagascar, who beat the amateur Springboks side 33-31 on November 5th to advance to the final of the Confederation Cup against Morocco. Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world, the physically small Malagasy team managed to draw 40,000 (yes!) spectators to the stadium in Antanarivo, including the President of Madagascar, for this celebration of their union's centenary. The size of the crowd is astonishing for non-SA rugby and surely an African all time record outside of the republic. I hope South Africa will encourage in every possible way, including finance and coaching, such an enthusiastic nursery for the game.

Peter Giraudo
Nairobi, Kenya

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