Editors Note


Volume 5, Week 40

Editors Note

Brilliant!      Yet another rugby year has come and gone and with a month or so to rest up it is a good time to reflect on a very good season.

The Super 12, the last in its current format was again dominated by the Kiwis as was pretty much the rest of the year. In fact, 2005 can be rightfully dubbed, the year of the Kiwis. South African sides did no better than usual and the sole representative in the semi-finals, the Bulls played some excellent rugby at times but again lacked the all round ability and strength in depth especially in the backs to win a gruelling tournament.

The international season was a hugely anticipated affair with the British and Irish Lions visit to New Zealand. A World Cup winning coach and players with enough hangers on to make a pop star jealous did not cut the mustard. Graham Henry, himself a victim of similar circumstances plotted the demise of the ‘best prepared’ Lions team in history. If only they were… Brian O’Driscoll lasted a few minutes and Dan Carter delivered some of the games best ever performances to inflict a white-wash series defeat over the Lions.

The Springboks warmed up against the dangerous French and managed a 1-0 series win after a draw in the first test. The French, on tour are at best as consistent as a 1954 Ford in the morning but seem to keep their best away matches for South Africa, as history suggests. The victory was a good confidence booster to the Tri Nations champions before defending their crown in one of the toughest competitions on the planet.

The Australians, with their A team, annihilated an over-confident Springbok team in the opening match of the Mandela Cup in Melbourne. They played festival rugby and inflicted Jake White’s biggest defeat at the helm of his country’s finest. The return matches, proved a different story and this set Australia on the path of their worst ever season in professional rugby and led to the ultimate demise of coach Eddie Jones.

Looking back, the Aussies had some terrible luck with injuries and many of their matches were close run affairs with them just losing due to a lack of confidence and the absence of world class players. Eddie Jones is ‘hated’ by many but this interested party, always found him at press conferences, a delightful, intelligent man with a wicked sense of humour. This sense of humour was generally misinterpreted and maybe deliberately so by the fifth estate to accomplish varied agendas but he will certainly be missed in South Africa… a new coach might start winning here!

The Tri Nations proper turned into a battle of the old foes, the Springboks and the All Blacks and these two heavy weights of rugby history returned to their status quo of ‘you don’t win in my country’! And with the All Blacks playing a great brand of attacking football, they clinched the title with bonus points. The Springboks defended their home supremacy and delivered on one of the last few year’s holy grail objectives – a victory in Australasia. It was a better year in terms of victories and a most satisfying win over the All Blacks at Newlands, but no silverware to celebrate.

The Currie Cup delivered one of SA Rugby’s fairy tale results when the Free State Cheetahs won the trophy in coach Rassie Erasmus’s first year at the helm. He is rightfully a legend in Bloemfontein due to his playing prowess in both the green-and-gold and the local strip but a Currie Cup victory has raised him into the upper echelon of Free State heroes. And deservedly so. The Blue Bulls dominated everything but the final and will reflect on the season as the one that got away… badly.

The end-of-year tours are always a bit of a mixed bag with player fatigue, cold weather blah blah blah playing a role in results. The All Blacks defied all and grabbed themselves a Grand Slam in emphatic fashion. They not only humiliated 2 of the 4 sides but they also managed to play every week with almost 2 different teams. England provided excellent opposition and many pundits up north believe the world champions are back, in time for a shot at defending their title. They must now prove the upward curve in the Six Nations before the renaissance is to be believed.

The Springboks stuttered and hiccupped to two victories and a defeat in Paris. The French, revealed one of the few methods to deal with the famed rush defence – the only real counter is brilliant individual skills. The halfback pairing of Ellesade and Michalak played magnificently well against the young guns of Claassens and Bosman. Their skill around the set pieces, deft grubbers and finely judged chip kicks made all the difference as was their opening salvo. It was too much, too early for the Springboks to overcome. All credit to their fight back though; it showed character and a lot of gut spa to be in contention in the final minutes.

All in all, it was yet another brilliant rugby season, RF celebrated 200 issues and we witnessed magnificent rugby. Next year, with the extended Super 14, more Tri Nations etc etc. will be a huge rugby year and final preparations for the RWC 2007. This writer will be re-locating to Johannesburg to begin a new chapter but RF will be back, in time for the Super 14.

Many thanks for all your support and letters through the year, all feedback is welcome! A happy festive season to all and warm wishes for the New Year. Enjoy!



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