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Rugby Forum - Vol 2, Week 5
Rugby Forum - Vol 2, Week 5
(The week that was, a South African perspective)
06 Mar 2002
[SARF]
Rugby Forum is a weekly newsletter produced by rugbyforum.co.za, it is reposted here with their permission.
Be sure to check out the full Rugby Forum archive at www.rugbyforum.co.za

 
Volume 2, Week 5                                             Rugby Forum

Editors Note

Brilliant!   The wonderful world of rugby produced such conflicting results over the weekend its difficult to decide whether to laugh or cry! South African sides were dealt a collective “klap” by their Australian and New Zealand opposition in the Super 12 while France staged a magnificent performance to dispose of a rampant in-form England side. Don’t you just love this game?

The big news of course is the appointment of Rudolph Straeuli as the new Springbok coach. The man is in for a tough time but he is a tough man who has the respect of his players and opposition and this is one aspect we need to gain back at international level, respect from our opposition.

For South African rugby supporters the weekend was an agonising affair, the performances of the Bulls, Cats and Sharks quickly erased any feelings of comfort regarding the quality of the local game after round one. Local derbies are always described as hard, close and uncompromising affairs, and they were last week, so what does the abysmal capitulation at the hands of the Ausies and Kiwis spell out for the state of the local game? 

One team we all know is laughable - my apologies to those die hard Bulls supporters, all three of them, but it is impossible for professional players who are supposed to live eat and breath rugby to lose as often and in similar vein as these guys do, apparently not. Wylie Human was a shu in for the Springbok side barely 6 months ago; he is now reduced to a fumbling wreck and what happened to Vic Matfield?

The Cats, “skande” the way one of the most consistent sides over the last two years folded in front of admittedly a brilliant Brumbies display, how stupid must you be not to figure out the ref is intent on a power trip? The Sharks are looking listless and the uncertainty of the identity of their future coach may be playing a big role in their performances. Excuses, loads of them but one team is showing tremendous character taken the amount of players missing and that is the Stormers. A fine display against the Waratahs was almost rewarded with a win, once again the old dictum applies, kicking penalties wins matches.

South African rugby theorists must by now be as confused as the national cricket selectors - does a bad Super 12 showing predict a good Springbok year a la, 1998 or is it the other way around, a good Super 12 performance produce a weak Springbok year as in two of the weakest 1996 and 2001? It is a bit like being given the choice of a free holiday in Pofadder, you want a free holiday but not in Pofadder!

The French, ah the mercurial masters of the big moment – adept at upsetting many an apple cart their grand performance against England proved their resurgence as real contenders for a World Crown. Arguably the most successful Northern Hemisphere side in RWC history they now possess an embarrassing abundance of young talent all able to produce the goods at the highest level. 

England, well they have now completed one of the more dubious “slams” by losing the Grand Slam in each of the last four years to a different side – sort of a Grand Slam losing slam! They are a very good side and we all know nothing lasts forever especially away from Twickenham and here lays Clive Woodward’s biggest challenge, to win away from home consistently.

This weekend is a massive sporting weekend and with the exception of our golfers (well done Ernie!) all the South African teams need to display some of the grit and character so prominent of our teams in the past to overcome a worrying losing trend. The new South African Rugby Annual edited by Andy Colquhoun is on the shelves, it is an excellent read and a must for all rugby fanatics. As difficult as it may be, go out and support our teams live at the park.

Good luck!

Lucas
 

www.rugbyforum.co.za

"You can call me Mister Straeuli" by Tom Marcellus
These are desperate, trying times, if you're a supporter of South African sporting teams. Having witnessed the slaughter of the innocents at the Wanderers 10 days ago, I have not been looking forward to the second instalment, which is to be played at Newlands at the weekend, with my customary fervour. The omens, she is not good.

Of course, of greater relevance to this august publication are the performances of the local Super 12 sides, and, to spare you any further agonies, noble reader, I shall keep it brief.

As with their cricketing colleagues, the country's rugger players appear to be rudderless on the high seas, caught in the eye of a hurricane, with no land in sight. The news from the front is bad, and our armies – much trumpeted at the start of the campaign – are on the retreat. That valiant Gaul, Marshal Foch, who commanded the long-suffering Allied armies during the First World War, offered the following bold advice when confronted with a similar scenario: "My left flank retreats; my right flank crumbles; my centre gives way. Situation excellent. I shall attack!"

Although it would be wonderful to be able to share the good Marshal's optimism under adversity, the Super 12 results of the last 2 weeks seem to indicate that, despite whatever bluff bravado we can dredge up, the Antipodean stranglehold on the trophy will continue for at least another 15 months. A Saturday afternoon of rugby watching used to be a quality time to be eagerly anticipated. These days, not even a cool beverage and a sizzling steak can revive my flagging spirits after each loss, as, week by week, our rugby honour is gradually eroded. That favourite saying, "It's hellish in Africa", pronounced (beer in hand) with the greatest of irony under sunny skies, is getting short thrift these days.

Enter Mister Straeuli.

I suspect that, despite only 2 rounds of the competition having been played, many SA fans will have written-off the chances of any of the local teams in this year's Super 12 and will already be looking to the international season for redemption. Of the 8 Bok coaches that he has succeeded since readmission, none was appointed amidst such hopeful expectation as Straeuli was. To the sun-baked surfers from Durbs, the miraculous recovery of last season's Sharks team is proof enough that Straeuli is a man who can instil self-belief and fire in any downtrodden XV.

It is not difficult to imagine why so many grizzled Springbok supporters, desperate for a sign that salvation is at hand, greeted Straeuli's appointment with such enthusiasm. A few weeks ago I said (tongue firmly in cheek) that it would be handy if Viljoen's replacement was a man of the soil, with gnarled fingers and a face like a "slab of lazy-aged steak". After all, the traditional South African supporter, reared on the woolly giants of yore, does not expect flash and dash, with dummies, side-steps and flowing backline moves, from his players. Our rugby heritage is one of man-eating, monster forwards and gritty three's, coupled with a flyhalf with a thunderous boot. Although there are obvious exceptions (like the great 1980's backline that never was), we need not be ashamed that, quite frankly, our players are not especially suited to the expansive game that is in vogue these days. We have relied on a succession of mongrel-infested packs for over 100 years – how can such a reliance be cast aside in a mere handful of years?

Having once again offered my argument in favour of the mongrel forward, let us get back to the New Man in Charge, and the reasons why he seems to inspire confidence in many supporters. Grim-faced, taciturn, fleshy, but noble, our new supremo ain't no red-nosed reindeer, for sure. In fact, in the hard-nosed, brooding, disciplined, proud outlook that Straeuli portrays, we have (I propose) the manifestation of our own view of what our rugby is about. For sure, Mallett's appointment was greeted with similar optimism. But then he had truckloads of charisma, and Springbok rugby is not about charisma.

With Straeuli at the helm, no longer will we have to endure endless, wishy-washy PR press conferences, peppered with references to such clear-as-mud concepts as "the method", "the master plan" and "an expansive game". The Boks will not have to suffer the indignity of having to parade about in poncey astronaut gear, and leather outer garments will be strictly verboten, although the coach will be entitled to carry a sjambok to ensure that players don't slacken off during their Bleep tests.

As a man whose ideal form of government is despotism tempered by assassination, I am perhaps not the person best suited to offer suggestions to the new coach on the training methods that he should adopt. However, I sense in Straeuli's menacing scowl that he is a kindred spirit, so hope springs eternal that he shares my, ahem, robust views on player management. These are some of my suggestions.

Frills and pom-pom girls must be tossed aside forthwith. The Bok squad must be placed on a war footing, and all unnecessary communication with meddling outsiders like wives, girlfriends and mothers must be limited to a "need to know" basis. Training shall commence each day at 04h30 with a warm-up stint of pole PT, followed by a brisk 8km jog on the beach. And not Plett either. The old Recce training camp deep in the Dukuduku forest will be more than suitable for our purposes.

Prospective Bok loose forwards will be required to share a kennel with a mangy old dog, and the resultant sleep deprivation will ensure that each player is in the right frame of mind for Saturday's big game. Tight forwards will be fed raw meat at every meal, and superfluous items like toothbrushes, mattresses, razors, cooking utensils and deodorant will be banned from the training camp. So too will toilet paper. Instead, each player will be supplied with a re-usable mealie cob, like in the old days.

Strict attention to detail will be required, and gentle doses of physical harm will be applied to those players who do not concentrate hard enough during training sessions. Bouts of violence during the warm-up will be common. The pre-match pep talk and half-time team discussion down in the change-room will be filled with fire and brimstone, threats of torture and retribution, and tales of impending doom. All for the glory of het Springbokken.

But then that's enough hyperbole and over-exaggeration from me – I think you get the point.

The performances of Straeuli's Sharks outfit in the remainder of the Super 12 will provide some indication of his ability to rekindle some fire in the bellies of his troops. The Sharks sure need it. In fact, we all do.

tom@rugbyforum.co.za


For the Love of the Game by Desmond Organ

What a grim weekend for South Africa. The Super 12 teams on the receiving end of comprehensive hidings and the all too familiar outbursts from players and administrators alike. It is a good thing that there is at least some consistency to the manner in which these events take place. That at least gives us some hope of identifying the root causes of the problems and preventing them from happening again in the future.

Without sounding like a perennial whiner, it is clear that the issues facing the South African administrators are all too familiar. The regional and provincial powers are all too happy to advance their cause to the detriment of the national set up. I am not saying that we are in need of some type of Machiavellian approach to the control of the game, god forbid that we end up with a bunch of bureaucrats at the national level intent on driving their agenda at the expense of the development of the game at the regional level.

Some sanity prevails in the statements made by several key personnel. The recently appointed Springbok coach, Rudolf Straeuli has already gone on record as saying that he wishes to restore discipline and pride to the national team; in order to ensure that we make full utilisation of the abundance of talent that clearly exists in the country.

Brave words indeed, especially when you consider that a player of the caliber of Andre Vos has decided that he has had enough of laying his body on the line. I think that it is a tragedy that he has decided to retire from the international arena and I can only hope that he will be able to serve the game as well at the provincial level.

I have no doubt that Vos really loved playing rugby and that the opportunity to represent his country was an honour for him. I wonder if the rest of the players with contracts are as dedicated to the game as he was. The national administrators are indeed in a “Catch 22” situation, do they allow Straeuli to define what his strategy is, or do they tie him down with a load of bureaucratic red tape in order to prevent another journey into the mystical world created by Harry Viljoen.

I think that there needs to be a clear division of power between administrators and coaches, much like the separation of power between the legislature and the judiciary at the political level. Perhaps it is less surprising to people when you look at it in these terms. How sure can we be, that the agenda driven by Harry Viljoen was not the agenda of the SARFU bureaucrats? The same thing appears to be happening in South African cricket, pardon me for digressing from rugby for a second, but the inability of the administrators to separate administration from game preparation and selections is absurd. No wonder that somebody like Kepler Wessels is not prepared to go anywhere near the management role that so many people want him to consider.

Why then has Rudolf Straeuli accepted the job of Springbok coach? Is it ambition, the desire to collect a group of hangers on that parade around the world at every opportunity, or is it because he really loves the game and in that sense his ambition to succeed is a little different from many others. The national bureaucrats need not fear that there transformation program is at risk. I have absolutely no doubt that this will never happen. They have enough power and political influence to ensure that this does not happen. 

I wonder if their transformation is more about power and the desire to control, rather than for their love of the game. If that is the case it is not surprising that the followers, including players are just as obsessed with the need for power and control, the comments of one Ettienne Botha about Heynecke Meyer are not as absurd if viewed in this regard, those of Daryl Cullinan are somewhat similar. 

The truth of the matter is that the administration of the game is becoming like the good old fashioned South African gravy train, hang on for as long as you can because the mechanics are not repairing the locomotive and the passengers are going to run out of money sooner or later.

What South Africa needs is administrators that love the game and who are prepared to further their ambitions with this in mind. The good news is that there are people out there who are like this. Let’s just hope that the rugby team does not reach the levels of desperation that the cricket team has; before they realize just how important it is.

des@rugbyforum.co.za


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Just Not Good Enough by Mark Foster

After an enterprising and record-breaking opening weekend, round two of this excellent competition downsized a lot of the teams and created a pecking order of can do, maybe can do and hell no can do! 

It is abundantly clear the Australians and Kiwis are streets ahead of the South Africans at this premature stage of the tournament after the utter annihilation of the Cats, Bulls and the Sharks. Defeat is never acceptable in this fashion, the blatant disregard for pattern, guts and determination and good old basics is just not good enough and makes a mockery of a proud rugby heritage.

The Cats were poor, they seemed intent on losing this match and stopped trying soon after running foul of an over zealous Paul Honiss. Mr Honiss, in a shocking display of “who’s in charge”, awarded free kick after free kick against two front rows (each with about half a ton of pressure behind them) who did not wait for his protracted crouch – hold – engage command. The battle of wills was a no contest and very juvenile from an international referee. The Brumbies played magnificent, total rugby in scoring ten tries to one conciliatory effort from Bobo. Two years ago the score was 64-0 but somehow the Cats will find it very difficult to return from this hiding with a semi-final position, especially with their existing attitude.

The Sharks played some reasonable rugby for a while in the first half but a lack of numbers and speed to the breakdown allowed the Highlanders to capitalize and run out convincing winners. The Sharks do not look like the same team that performed so well and with so much confidence a year ago, injuries to Butch James and Trevor Halstead has weakened both attack and defence considerably. The knowledge that their coach is departing soon is not the best tonic for the team yet should inspire those with aspirations of national honours. 

The Bulls, ag shame are a joke, the team selection and performances are highly questionable – unfortunately this is nothing new. The Hurricanes regrouped after a poor showing a week ago and with a committed display from their pack of forwards provided enough ball to easily conquer the Bulls at altitude.

The only ray of sunshine was the Stormers who lost in the dying seconds to a drop goal from Nathan Gray. The Waratahs performed very well and with a good game plan, solid defence and the great skills of Burke, Waugh and Rogers will be a difficult team to beat this year. The Stormers struggled with Marius Goosen at flyhalf despite a good drop goal and some touches of class, his inexperience in clearing was shown up as early as five minutes into the game when Gray charged down for Burke to score and in the dying minutes of the match allowing for Gray to drop a goal. The men in black played well with many of the positives being the performance of Johannes Conradie, again and Hottie Louw, again. 

Week three might yet produce another “black weekend” for South African sides as the in-form Highlanders take on the Cats in Dunedin where most visiting teams find it impossible to win. Frans Ludeke’s men or rather boys should start acting and playing like men but against their old mentor’s team the odds are stacked against them.

The Sharks venture to Brumbies country and if they thought it was difficult to win at the “House of Pain”, here it is damn near impossible. Gregan’s champion side will want to avenge a defeat during last years round robin stages and the repeat of last years final may yet produce the same result. If ever there was a game the Sharks need to win to bolster confidence and gain momentum for the competition it is this one. How? Tame the Brumbies pack, tackle the daylights out of Larkham, niggle the sense out of Gregan and provoke the short fuse that is Finnegan and maybe an upset can be produced, in between play positive ball retention football with more confidence than they feel.

The Bulls, ag shame are up against the Waratahs who were heading to the “bush” somewhere to prepare, there is no hope of them winning this match and any positive result will be a huge surprise.

The Stormers face a difficult battle against the Hurricanes who left Loftus confident and hardly tested enough, one of the things the Bulls omit to do is really knock the stuffing out of visiting teams to at least help their fellow South African sides. The defeat against the Waratahs exposed the areas that needs work and attention, notably the goal kicking. The tight five must present a solid foundation and dominate the forward exchanges otherwise Lomu, Cullen and Umaga will cause some havoc.

An interesting weekend lay ahead and hopefully there will be more surprises than certainties but then hope springs eternal and has nothing to do with Super 12 rugby, where you have to play for it not pray for it!

mark@rugbyforum.co.za


Super 12 Log

Team

Played Won Lost Bonus Points Points
Brumbies 2 2 0 1 9
Waratahs 2 2 0 1 9
Crusaders 2 2 0 0 8
Highlanders 2 1 1 2 6
Blues 2 1 1 1 5
Stormers 2 1 1 1 5
Reds 2 1 1 1 5
Hurricanes 2 1 1 1 5
Cats 2 1 1 1 5
Chiefs 2 0 2 1 1
Sharks 2 0 2 1 1
Bulls 2 0 2 0 0

Rugby Forum Super 12 XXII

The Brumbies quite predictably dominate the proceedings and there are very few South Africans who have stepped up and produced brilliant performances. The selection is restricted to available players only.

1. Bill Young (Brumbies)
2. Jeremy Paul (Brumbies)
3. Dave Hewitt (Crusaders)
4. Justin Harrison (Brumbies)
5. Hottie Louw (Stormers)
6. Corne Krige (Stormers)
7. Owen Finnegan (Brumbies)
8. Toutai Kefu  (Reds)
9. George Gregan (Brumbies)
10. Stephen Larkham
11. Graeme Bond (Brumbies)
12. Aaron Mauger (Crusaders)
13. Stirling Mortlock (Brumbies)
14. Jeff Wilson (Highlanders)
15. Matt Rogers (Waratahs)

16. Willie Meyer (Cats)
17. Anton Oliver (Highlanders)
18. Daniel Vickerman (Brumbies)
19. Craig Newby (Highlanders)
20. Johannes Conradie (Stormers)
21. Tana Umaga (Hurricanes)
22. Chris Latham (Reds)


Quotes
“If rugby players focus on the game as much as they do on getting their golf handicap down, all the teams would be doing much better.”      Uli Schmidt

"I pick first my best team, and my captain from that team and I only pick players that are on form."          Rudolph Straeuli

Then it was Bruce Reihana, stepping through the Crusaders defence like a ballet dancer on Viagra.    Mike Amm

"These England forwards put the fear of God into me. You see it in their eyes when you walk across for training. They are hungry, they know how much pressure they're under. They want to perform. It's tough and hard out there."       Henry Paul, before the match against France. 

"I want to play rugby because I want to enjoy it. I don't want to be part of someone's plans only when things backfire"      Ettienne Botha on not being selected for the Bulls.


Letters to the Editor (letters@rugbyforum.co.za)
Dear Ed.

The game is becoming a tad ludicrous. Bringing artificial aids like plastic traffic bollards onto the field to use as kicking tees makes a mockery of the game. The individual skill level that enabled players like Bennie Osler, etc. to kick the ball high enough for their forwards to get under is no longer necessary as kicking the ball of a 30 cm high tee allows any palooka to get the job done. Its time for common sense to prevail and to return to the small bucket of sand.

Adding to the change in the game are the amount of forward passes Refs and their linesmen sidekicks are allowing. Perhaps everyone has forgotten that the original reason for mowing rugby fields in contrasting bands at ninety degrees to the touchlines was to assist the Ref, and now his linesmen, in fairly ruling on forward passes. The rule hasn't changed but the Brumbie
Shuffle (flip pass around a defender) is always forward and the level pass is also forward but both are being allowed. Makes a mockery of defending!

Storm Ferguson

PS. Is there any room in the 'past sell by date' bin for Mark Andrews and in the 'Enormous Potential' bin for Gaffie (nog 'n kans) Du Toit?


Dear Ed

I would very much like to know who '' Lucas'' is? (as you sign your comments on Rugby Forum).

What are your credentials and experience ..... 

I need to know if your comments are worthy of response before I find out your depth of experience and knowledge.

Please excuse my question but this is the first time I have read the Forum so I would like to get some sort of feeling on which the articles are based.

Kind Regards
Dave

Dave, you don't always need credentials or experience to play or write about the game. You judge for yourself, is it good? Is it making some sense? Do I (Dave) have an input to make? If so I would love to hear from you. To sort of answer your question, I played rugby for 17 years, on two continents and for a variety of representative teams. That does not make me an expert neither does it qualify me as a fountain of knowledge, RF is about stating an opinion.  - Ed


Geagte Redakteur

Graag wens ek Rudolph Straeuli geluk met sy aanstelling as afrigter van die Bokke. Ek was ook n ondersteuner van wyle Oom Kitch en het skriftelik en telefonies raad by hom gevra oor rugby en afrigting. My bede is dat Rudolph sal herstel waar hy opgehou het, maar ook sy eie stempel met sukses sal afdruk.

Ek het egter kommer oor die volgende aspekte in ons rugby: 

Sharks: Die voorspelers doen goed, maar verkeerde keuses in die agterlyn laat hulle swak vertoon. Ricardo Loubscher, Andre Snyman en Gaffie du Toit is ongelukkig nie meer wat hulle was nie en moet plek maak vir ander wat kan en wil.

Dit is die een afdeling in Straeuli se afrigting wat my bekommerd maak. Ek hoop hy gebruik Gysie Pienaar om hom met die agterspelers te help.

Stormers: Ek is oortuig daarvan dat daar plaasvervangers vir Marius Joubert, Pieter Rossouw en Jeffrey Stevens is. Dit help nie n speler speel een uit drie wedstryde uitstekend, maar die res soos n skoolseun wat begin rugby speel het nie.

Cats: Daar is een groot probleem in die span- Hulle het te min Vrystaters in die span. Enige losvoorspeler van die Vrystaat is beter as die drie wat nou speel vir die Cats. Conrad Jantjes lyk nie meer soos n springbok nie en Eugene Meyer is te stadig op die aanval en verdediging.

Bulls: Een groot probleem is die balle wat hulle so verloor. n Probleem by menige S.A. spelers. Hulle moet kragoefeninge doen en nie liggaamsbou alleen nie. Wylie Human moes in die Vrystaat gebly het. Gelukkig lyk dit of Jaco vd Westhuizen nou speel waar hy hoort. Hoop hy bly nou op heelagter en dat hy sal word wat ons nodig het - n Heelagter wat kan verdedig, skop, planne maak, aanval en pale toe skop.

Ek wonder hoekom spelers soos J.P. du Toit, Ettienne Botha en Kennedy Tsimba nie Super 12 speel nie ? Om n paar te noem.

Dit is waar ons probleem le. Te veel spelers speel oor wat hulle was en nie oor wat hulle nou vermag nie. Verder verdedig ons spelers swak en soen hul opponente te veel. Mag Rudolph se woorde waar word; Net die beste en fiks spelers sal speel in sy Bokspan.

Sterkte en geniet dit.
Tjaart Coetzee

Geagte Red

Ek kan nie glo dat jy nie die Stormers n redelike kans gee om in die top 4 te eindig nie. Gegrond op wat in die Haai tenk gebeur het, met n "3de span", moet hulle n realistiese kans staan om wel die uitklopfase te haal. n Span wat soos Job uit die ashoop kan opstaan,en terugveg, het die nodige eienskappe wat n kampioen maak.

Net nog n ding om te onthou, Gert en Carel het daardie vermoe om die beste uit spelers te haal. Ons kan seker nou maar net wag en sien...

En wie is die ou wat gepraat het van hoe die Bulle die WP in die jare tagtig sogenaamd verniel het??? As ek reg kan onthou, is die jare tagtig bekend as die goue jare vir WP rugby - u hoekom? - want ons het die Currie Beker 5 keer in n ry gewen ou!!!

Wentzel


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Let us know what you think!

A terrible weekend for South African rugby indeed, let's hope the rest of the competition is like that for those 3 teams that our Aussie friends support!
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