Editors Note


Volume 5, Week 9

Editors Note

Brilliant!     These mid-season breaks do more for the psyche than a full off-season on some tropical paradise, sipping Pina Coladas after playing eighteen holes under par… OK - I lie… but a week off during a short rugby season of calamitous proportions is a luxury indeed!

Fortunately, the main reason why this column returns every week like a Readers Digest competition winning notice is that there is always something brilliant happening in a game of rugby. Hence the intro. The day that ‘something special’ goes missing from a game, will be the day this keyboard quietens forever.

One of the game’s most special and nowadays highly anticipated events on the rugby calendar is a British Lions tour to the Southern Hemisphere. Of the big three, the toughest country for the red shirted Lions to pick a bone with is New Zealand as it provides the ultimate test for any travelling tour party. Coach, Clive Woodward announced his squad earlier this week and unsurprisingly stuck with a lot of his World Cup winning players, even the retired ones or yesterday’s heroes. The squad represents the cream of British rugby resurgence, and while England may have gone off the boil of late, the starting XV will include world-class players led by one of the best players this writer has ever seen live – Brian O’Driscoll.

The competitive test series will be the start to a huge year for the All Blacks as they will attempt a Grand Slam at the end of the season (note to NZ Sky Sports – don’t overdue the Grand Slam tour thing in adverts… it can get embarrassing) which if they accomplish with a series victory over the Lions will put them in an unique position as the only team ever to accomplish this feat. The odds on that happening? Pretty thin but well worth a few hard earned rands at the local William Hill if the All Blacks can reproduce the form that swept France away last year.

The New Zealand teams are certainly the favourites to win the Super 12, after dismal South African performances so far and two weekends of Aussie defeats. There is of course an exception every now and then and it came in the form of a Blue Bull humbling of many’s champions elect, the Crusaders. The Bulls deserved a victory after a stellar forward performance and some great running in the backs where Bryan Habana again displayed his uncanny knack for scoring tries. The young Springbok is proving to be one of the best or according to Patrick Innes' stats, the second best finisher in the competition so far. The criterion being individual tries as a percentage of the team’s tries. No 1? Nobody else but Jean De Villiers from the Stormers – both touted as potential Springbok centres but currently “banished” on the wing. Leave them be, they are doing just fine.

Talking of the Stormers, their second victory in six starts came in a pretty poor match at Newlands on Saturday. The amount of handling errors or ‘unforced errors’ they call them nowadays made a dentist appointment seem far more attractive. In fact the crowd lost all interest at one stage and the resultant wave would still be going had Newlands’ favourite son not got injured. Yes, Schalkie is fallible – it is hard to believe but the young superstar got injured and left the field to a huge ovation and his participation this coming weekend is in doubt.

As for the Cats and Sharks, more of the same and the Sharks returned to earth with a thump or rather a splash in as seriously wet game against the Chiefs but janowellfine, AJ Venter was very happy to report that they spent every day during the week on the beach in preparation… pity the games was played on (wet) grass. The Cats have good forwards, not great forwards but very good forwards and led by the untiring Wikus van Heerden one feel they deserve to do better. That they are not performing is a mystery and coach Chester Williams has acknowledged as much. This interested observer can only mention that from TV footage, it looks like Rassie Erasmus is spending a huge amount of time talking to the players during every water break – this is a totally innocent question, are they (players) not getting confused with all this on field coaching? Ever tried reading a newspaper or writing exam with somebody standing behind and leaning over your shoulder? Easy isn’t? Not!

This coming weekend the Stormers will be in the way of a Crusade from a different century as the champion outfit will look to steady their campaign and earn some points on the road – especially after their mauling of last weekend. Gert Smal’s biggest challenge is selecting a fit, competitive team as injuries caused havoc this week. The Bulls need only to reproduce their performance of the past weekend and the Reds will be duly dispatched back to Brisbane with only 1 point for their efforts. But it is a strange old game and consistency has proved to be as elusive to the Bulls as Jonny Wilkinson appearances since the World Cup.

South Africa’s under 19’s are through to the finals of the World Championship and after watching a few of the matches in the Easter Schools festivals it came as no surprise. As many ask when watching teams like Paarl Gym and Grey College play, what happens to these players? A good question indeed and traditionally, many a good schoolboy player was lost due to a lack of ambition and determination after school. A lot took rugby further through certain structures like the defence force and universities where they were able to further develop their skills – these are no longer as prominent and clubs are no longer seeing the new talent mixing with established club players where a lot of experience is gained. This is where Europe is getting it right and specifically England with their academies attached to each of the 12 Premier clubs and many others in the country where players are groomed to take that step up to national and international level.

Enjoy a full weekend of rugby, this writer will be heading down to Newlands to watch one of modern rugby’s greatest ever teams, the Crusaders play. A final thought, after hearing there were 39,000 people at Newlands last week will it not be possible to charge each supporter R 10 extra and buy the Stormers a decent kicker for next season? Just a thought…



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 The Super 12 rolls on... by Dingo Marshall
Round 7 of the Super 12 saw victories by all teams playing on home soil. A rare sight this year but in years gone by it was more the norm than the exception. South African sides won 50% of their games while the Aussie sides lost all 3 of their games for the second week in a row.

The Highlanders held off a late charge by the Brumbies at the House of Pain to win 19-18. George Smith kicked for the corner after the siren had sounded but the ball crossed the sideline over the dead ball line before the flying Brumby winger could touch down for the try. It has been one of those seasons for the Brumbies and for Smith; there has been a small margin of error between success and failure. The Brumbies are on a slide with this being their third loss in a row.

The Chiefs destroyed the Sharks to the tune of 40-5 in very wet conditions in NZ. The Chief’s captain referred to the field as a swimming pool. Regardless of the conditions, the Chiefs adapted better and were never going to be headed after leading 28-0 at half time. The Sharks are sweating on the fitness of Ruan Pienaar for this weeks game against the Blues after he was stretchered off the ground last week after a nasty head clash.

The Blues had too much in reserve for the Cats and ran out victors 23-6 in Auckland. The Cats showed glimpses of what they are capable of but couldn’t sustain these patches for long periods of time. No wonder Chester has shaven his head; he would have pulled all his hair out by this stage as the Cats have consistently played well in fits and spurts. The Blues continue to march along without too much fanfare and are doing just enough to win each week without setting the competition alight.

Newlands hosted the clash between the Stormers and the Reds in front of 39,000 expectant fans. It would be fair to say that most of the spectators walked away on Saturday afternoon after the game very disappointed that they had watched a very scrappy game of rugby and certainly wouldn’t have thought that they had been given their monies worth. The Stormers edged the Reds 15-13 but both sides were very poor and the Stormers have enormous injury problems with the main focus being on how serious the injury is to Schalk Burger’s achilles. The Stormers have a massive job on their hands to repel the Crusaders this week as they look to bounce back after their loss at Loftus.

The Bulls returned to their rampaging best at Loftus when they defeated the Crusaders 35-20. After this performance we are left to scratch our heads and wonder why the Bulls can play like world-beaters at Loftus and look so ordinary away from home. I am sure this is a question Heyneke Meyer asks himself on a daily basis. If the Bulls can maintain this form over the weeks to come as they play all their remaining games at home they could seriously press for a semi final berth. They take on the dour Reds this week.

The final game of week 7 centred on the top of the table clash between the Hurricanes and Waratahs at the Cake Tin that is Westpac Stadium. The Waratahs lost 26-24 but picked up 2 crucial bonus points to stay on top of the log by scoring their fourth try as the hooter sounded. Mat Rogers had a conversion to level the scores but pulled it right. The Waratahs will be looking to end their 2 game losing streak when they head down to Canberra to take on the Brumbies in a massive game. Australian derbies are always a HUGE grudge match and this one will be no exception.

Enjoy this week’s fixtures. Be safe.

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Establishing a Super 14 team in Western Australia is one of the most exciting developments in Australian Rugby since the game went professional in 1996, so it is great to be a part of it.      Brendan Cannon

We've got a pretty strong resolve within this year's squad and I'm confident we can see off Perth's recruitment side show during this important period.      Waratah's coach, Ewen McKenzie

Sometimes the best way to learn scrummaging is to have your head shoved up your backside a couple of times. Phil Kearns

You are not Anglo American, you are not [Raymond] Ackerman, transformation is your core duty. Not a social aspect of your activities.      Dan Moyo, Super 14 franchise bid committee member on the Stormers, lack of transformation.

We are nice guys and they (the referees) go for us.     De Wet Barry

We all thought the r@pe and pillaging was over when rugby went professional and rugby league stopped raiding the ranks.        Chris Handy, on the signing of Nathan Sharpe to the new WA franchise

As far as I am concerned, an unfortunate combination of circumstances was the biggest cause for four defeats in our away matches.       Blue Bulls rugby boss, Dolf van Huyssteen

I thought my head was going to burst when our heads collided.       Richard Bands after accidentally knocking Richie McCaw unconscious

People say the easiest thing is being picked (for the squad), but now it is about getting a Test place. With Brian O'Driscoll as captain, there is only one centre spot up for grabs, which makes it even more difficult.      Gavin Henson, on the Lions selection.

Players have been picked on merit, it wasn't about divvying up from each country, that would be a recipe for disaster.       Clive Woodward on his Lion's selections

It was a superb semi-final that had everything, except the right result for us.       England u/19 coach Tosh Askew after their defeat to the SA u/19's

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