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Rugby Forum - Vol 2, Week 14
Rugby Forum - Vol 2, Week 14
(The week that was, a South African perspective)
15 May 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 14 Rugby Forum

Editors Note

Brilliant!     Since my early days of watching rugby there were only three teams that mattered, in no particular order of preference, the Springboks, the Springboks and the Springboks - the same I would gather for any patriotic Ausie, Kiwi, Englishman, Frog - you get the picture. The current state of affairs in the Super 12 and indeed in world rugby renders me nostalgic to the good old laager mentality, us against all of them. Hey, whom am I kidding? It is us against all of them – our attitude however is not Laager but “Light” and this may just be the problem. 

The Springbok trials and the international season has already become the focus sans any contention in the Super 12 semi finals. The focus of Rudolf Straeuli to return to good old Springbok values must not in my opinion be interpreted as a return to the archaic rugby of the previous decades where massive packs with the likes of Rudi Visagie, Kobus Wiese et al were scrumming, scrumming and murdering opposition packs with brute strength. No sir, for one we do not have these specimen any longer and two the heavy packs in the Super 12 were turned into clay. Mr Straeuli, will look to rekindle the dogged determination and will so much evident of our soiled past. 

There may not be any political point left to prove to the rest of the world with a laager mentality but in order to focus on winning tests beginning with Wales it is imperative that the Springboks adopt the Ostrich philosophy to combine with the laagerism. Be damned the Brumbies style, be damned the English efficiency, be damned the French élan, be damned the Kiwi intimidation factor – we must put our heads in the ground, South African ground and play South African rugby. 

Rudolf I dare say is not a fool and he is well aware of South African strengths and shortcomings, one of the biggest deficiencies in the last three years was a loss of identity. The Springbok camaraderie and “gees” existed and heaven knows how far we would have lost without it but by returning back to traditional Springbok values he will aim to take that “gees” and build a game plan to the strengths of the current crop of players. With the horse in front of the cart, the fundamentals will be; values including discipline, a game plan including basics all of this based on the fit personnel available.

One of the most welcoming announcements was to replace the annual training camp at the millionaire’s playground with the Police College in Pretoria, since we are returning to war and it is war the pampered millionaires will be out of their comfort zone ready for some graft. Straeuli has a lot of graft to do; he is not the kind to shirk his responsibility as a few RAU students found out to their detriment during an intervarsity weekend at Tukkies many years ago but that is a story for another time. 

To accomplish his mission of restoring SA pride, yes restoring because its lost he needs the right personnel, some may be just back from injury but within a squad the likes of Corne Krige, Mark Andrews, AJ Venter and Bullet Dalton amongst the forwards will instill enough mongrel and discipline to the young ones forgetful of the reason why they are paid huge sums of money. The backs or “girls” need to rediscover the reason why men like Andre Vos bleed every match to win the ball and utilize possession effectively and more importantly not give it away.

In short that is how I hope a return to the original values as advocated by the lawyer, Mr. Straeuli should be interpreted.

Lucas

lucas@rugbyforum.co.za


Visit www.rugbyforum.co.za for statistics, all the quotes and an archive of previous issues

"Time to Bite the Bullet?" by Tom Marcellus
Being a runt of the litter, I often had to endure torment at the hands of the grizzled matric boys at high school; fellows who were invariably unwashed farmers' sons from such exotic places as Kokstad, Underberg and Umbogintwini. Not having the misfortune of being in the hostel, I and my other day-boy mates, dribbling mommy's boys without exception, were special targets for these hulking greybeards, and despite our best endeavours to skulk away from their heavy trod, many a lunch-break was spent enduring the wrath of these goggle-eyed fellows.

As we survey the international scene with but days to go before the Bok trials, it is quite apparent that a number of spots in the starting XV remain open to determined late-comers. The position of flyhalf is, as always, the source of eager debate, as amateur aficionados around the country offer their 10 cents worth of advice to Rudolf and his beleaguered assistants.

But a replacement for Butch James, Braam van Straaten & Co will be but one part of the brain-numbing jigsaw puzzle that Straeuli will have to assemble, and having more than a passing interest in the shenanigans that go on at the bottom of loose racks, I have one question: Who will replace Lukas van Biljon, that Bullocking Juggernaut?

As is evident from the opening paragraph of this article, it sometimes physically pains me to sing the praises of those rugby players who, surely, behaved in much the same brutal fashion as the tormentors of my youth. Muller, Louw, Pelser, and, in more recent times, Krige, all seem to display the hallmarks of the proverbial hardman of the playground, but despite this occasionally anti-social/homicidal streak, these luminaries have never been short of admirers, including this humble correspondent.

The selection of the replacement of Van Biljon, however, gives rise to a moral dilemma of some magnitude, for, having at length pondered the possible replacements, I have reached the melancholic conclusion that only one fellow will do. Rough, tough and selfish, he has spent much of the last 10 years in the public eye, charging into loose malls, rucking prostrate opponents, and generally sewing misery and mayhem wherever he goes. Having learnt valuable life skills down amidst the murky depths of the loose ruck, not to mention behind the change-rooms at the erstwhile Jeppestown Grammar School, he is the perfect specimen to once again don the Bok number 2 jersey and charge headlong into battle. With his shaved head, bulging torso, demonic smile, and larger-than-life persona, James "Bullet" Dalton certainly has added lustre to the long line of rugged Springbok hookers. 

Now aged 29, a mere umfaan in frontrow terms, Dalton appears ready to once again wear the Green 'n Gold in anger on distant fields. Once infamous throughout the rugby world for his often "unconventional" methods, the Bullet, by his own admission, is in his dotage playing the game with the zest that he often displayed during his occasionally misspent youth, all those years ago. One wonders whether the passage of time has caused this former much-feared rabble-rouser to re-examine his rugger legacy and, perhaps, to mellow with age.

With enemy hordes filling the horizon, the answer is "Hell, I hope not".

Super What? by Desmond Organ

As we approach the final weekend of South African participation in the Super 12, many people will realise that this is the first year that South African teams have no role to play in the final four. The protagonists of doom will latch onto the words of Ella and Connelly. The optimists will say that the injuries and schedule are to blame.

The reality is that it is a lot more complex than that and unraveling the root causes will have many sports enthusiasts scratching for answers. Most of the media has focused on the lack of individual skills amongst players and the lack of continuity in coaching and playing staff. The perennial challenges of injury and schedule only serve to compound the effects of a lack of continuity and skills.

To focus on these causes however, is stating the obvious, the removal of one of these ailments will not solve the problems of South African rugby. There must be a deeper seated problem which is giving the obvious problems greater limelight. I believe that the demise of the club game in South Africa and the regional structure of the Super 12 are the root causes of the South Africa’s problems.

South African rugby has always stood proud in three regards, the strength of the game at schoolboy level, club level and the strength of the Currie Cup system. The natural feeders for the national game are the club and provincial competitions. In the absence of the professional game, these structures operated effectively. Competition at the club and Provincial level was intense and the result was a schedule which focused on the local game. There were sufficient players and a reasonable schedule to maximize the available skills and resources.

With the emergence of the professional game came the inevitable internationalization of the sport and the demands placed on individual countries in terms of players and resources increased. The Super 10 and initially the Super 12 were opportunities for the South African teams to excel. Analysis of the Super 10 will show that South African teams dominated this competition. The regionalization of the game in New Zealand and Australia saw South Africa following suit. The only problem was that the structures of the local game did not evolve to efficiently operate in such a structure. 

The only South African teams that emerged as contenders were the Sharks and to a lesser extent the Stormers, simply because they had evolved into professional operations and were able to offset the limitations of the regional structures as the dominant unions in their region. The Cats were destined to fail simply because the regions in this area were all equally determined to control the make up of the players. What happened with the Bulls is quite clearly a major disaster. Perhaps it is the continuous in-fighting amongst administrators or the lack of continuity in the make up of the players.

The provincial divide in South Africa widened as the regionalization approach failed to make available the necessary contracted resources to meet the demands of a more complex and demanding schedule. The lack of continuity in players and coaches in several regions saw a direct fall off in the level of skills being developed. To simply argue that the Australians and New Zealanders are better skilled is missing the point. South African school boys are more than able to hold their own against the opposition in these countries. The reality is that the resources in New Zealand and Australia are constantly working with a core group of players and coaches and eventually the results are obtained. 

South Africa has further complicated their situation with the trigger happy approach to the solutions being thought up on an annual basis. The introduction of competitions like the Vodacom Cup have not generated additional players, coaches and skills, rather they have exhausted the available resources. There is simply no means to channel skilled players from schoolboy to Club level. The club rugby structure must provide a natural progression from the school level to the Provincial level.

The injuries and lack of continuity that have bedeviled several of the South African teams found a way to act in unison this year, little surprise that it has revealed itself on the final points table.

des@rugbyforum.co.za


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The Final Weekend by Mark Foster

The standings on the log after 11 matches of the Super 12 emphasized once again what a brilliant competition it is. Two teams have qualified with home semi-finals and six are completely out of the running. The remaining two semi-finalists could be any of four teams; incidentally those four teams are involved in matches against each other! The final weekend promises to be one of the most exciting in years and for the Blues, Reds, Brumbies and Highlanders the stakes are enormous.

The weekend that was saw only one home team victorious, the Reds against interstate rivals the Waratahs. The Reds’ now infamous late charge in the competition once again came to the fore, inspired by Dan Herbert, the wizardry of Latham and a good performance from Wendell Sailor they got the better of a game Waratahs side in a very good match in Brisbane. The ‘Tahs secured the one bonus point necessary for a second place finish and their first semi-final ever in the competition. They now face the Crusaders in a possible rehearsal of the final, expect both teams to make liberal use of their reserve bench in a “dead” rubber.

The Reds have everything to play for, a trip to the House of Pain is on the cards and a more intimidating venue does not exist in rugby. Needless to say, they have never recorded a victory at Dunedin and on two occasions 50 points were put past them. The Highlanders won a drab contest against the Blues in Auckland, a previous boogie ground and Laurie Mains will have his troops geared up for the Ausies, not only is it about semi-finals but national pride is at stake – there could be a potential three Australian sides in the semi-finals! Shock, horror!

The other match of great consequence is the Brumbies’ hosting of the Blues, talking about intimidating venues; Canberra’s been a very, very safe bet for George Gregan and company. On a lighter note, nobody there will even attempt tackling the “Guv’nor” like in Roturua, he will be lynched in a town where the Brumbies rule supreme. The Blues can only take a leaf from their colleagues, the Hurricanes and Highlanders and attempt a similar feat by out muscling the men from ACT.

Predictions? The home ground advantage, especially the two in question weighs too heavy in favour of the home teams – the Highlanders and the defending champions will go through to the play-offs. 

An interesting scenario might develop where the two semi-finals will be between the same countries. Australians and Kiwis with the amount of strife in recent months will obviously be eager to see 2 mini Bledisloe battles. South Africans? One suspect they don’t give a toss.

The local derbies did not amount to much, the Stormers were value for money in the victory over the Cats and the Sharks recorded a win at Loftus but once again the poor standard of basics underlined Straeuli’s difficult task ahead. 

The Stormers managed to win a fixture hitherto unattained and there were some very good performances from individuals notably Johannes Conradie - the best scrumhalf in SA, Adri Badenhorst – who had a magnificent match with the added pressure of national captain Bob Skinstad on the bench, Marius Joubert and De Wet Barry shone individually and as a combo while Andre Vos and Corne Krige underscored their class and work ethic. The Cats was always playing catch up after a first half blitzkrieg but was it not for a stupid concession of 10 meters after a penalty and Monty’s ensuing three points the score may have differed – but the Cats lost it again.

The Sharks won at Loftus for the first time since 1996 and with it breaking their away win duck. The match saw the return of Mark Andrews, Andre Snyman and Trevor Halstead to the rigours of Super 12 rugby; do not expect too much after long injury lay-offs, the important thing was to see international class players back on the field. The Bulls were more competitive but alas an Afrikaans saying best describes, “probeer poep teen donderweer!”

The weekend’s matches see the Bulls, 11/11 traveling to Newlands, it will be a very difficult proposition to break the losing habit but an interesting tussle in the midfield will make this an enticing match to watch. The battle in Durban between last year’s semi-finalists (yip, remember those days?) will see the leading flyhalf contenders mix it up, Andre Pretorius against Gaffie or Herkie.

The extended trials continue and Mr. Straeuli must have a fair idea by now who the players at the trials will be, here is a list of "must" invitees:

15. Percy Montgomery/ Ricardo Laubscher/ Conrad Jantjies 
14. Breyten Paulse/Stefan Terblanche/Wylie Human
13. Marius Joubert/Andre Snyman
12. De Wet Barry/Ettienne Botha/Adi Jacobs/Trevor Halstead
11. Pieter Rossouw/Tinus Delport
10. Andre Pretorius/Gaffie Du Toit/Werner Greeff
9. Johannes Conradie/Craig Davidson
8. Andre Vos/Sean Sowerby/Bob Skinstad
7. AJ Venter/Hendrik Gerber/Joe van Niekerk
6. Corne Krige/ arren Britz
5. Victor Matfield/Albert van den Berg/Quintin Davids
4. Hottie Louw/ /Mark Andrews/
3. Cobus Visagie/Faan Rautenbach/Willie Meyer/Ettienne Fynn
2. James Dalton/Tjoepie van den Heever
1. Daan Human/Ollie Le Roux/ Lawrence Sephaka

mark@rugbyforum.co.za


Super 12 Log

Team

Played Won Won
Home
Won
Away
Lost Lost
Home
Lost 
Away
Points
For
Points
Against
Tries
For
Tries
Against
Bonus
Points
Points
Crusaders 10 10 5 5 0 0 0 373 245 41 26 6 46
Waratahs 10 8 5 3 2 0 2 318 188 38 19 7 39
Reds 10 7 5 2 3 1 2 310 247 34 25 6 34
Brumbies 10 6 3 3 4 2 2 328 205 40 19 9 33
                           
Highlanders 10 7 3 4 3 1 2 289 181 30 18 5 33
Blues 10 6 4 2 4 1 3 293 203 34 21 5 29
Stormers 10 4 1 3 6 3 3 279 287  31 29 7 23
Hurricanes 10 5 3 2 5 2 3 212 273 21 32 3 23
Chiefs 10 3 1 2 7 4 3 279 321 33 39 7 19
Sharks 10 3 2 1 7 3 4 183 298 20 32 3 15
Cats 10 1 0 1 9 5 4 217  369 22 47 2 6
Bulls 10 0 0 0 10 6 4 205 469 27 64 2 2

Rugby Forum Super 12 XV

Rugby Forum Springbok XV

1. Bill Young (Brumbies)
2. Jeremy Paul (Brumbies)
3. Kees Meeuws (Blues)
4. Justin Harrison (Brumbies)
5. Chris Jack (Crusaders)
6. Corne Krige (Stormers)
7. Owen Finnegan (Brumbies)
8. Andre Vos (Cats)
9. Johannes Conradie (Stormers)
10. Stephen Larkham (Brumbies)
11. Pieter Rossouw (Stormers)
12. Paul Steinmetz (Highlanders)
13. Stirling Mortlock (Brumbies)
14. Jeff Wilson (Highlanders)
15. Chris Latham (Reds)

1. Daan Human (Stormers)
2. James Dalton (Bulls)
3. Faan Rautenbach (Stormers)
4. Victor Matfield (Bulls)
5. Hottie Louw (Stormers)
6. Corné Krige (Stormers)
7. A.J. Venter (Sharks)
8. Andre Vos (Cats)
9. Johannes Conradie (Stormers)
10. Andre Pretorius (Cats)
11. Pieter Rossouw (Stormers)
12. De Wet Barry (Stormers)
13. Marius Joubert (Stormers)
14. Breyten Paulse (Stormers)
15. Percy Montgomery (Stormers)

Quotes
When you live in England you do not pay for things in rands, you pay for everything in pounds.     Songezo Nayo (SARFU spokesperson)

There is frequent changing of coaches at national level. Nothing seems to change.       Robbie Kempson

If the making of bags of money is the sole driver of decision makers at international level then I, for one, feel disillusioned.      Nick Farr-Jones

After being tackled by a schoolboy spectator in a match against the Chiefs - Ah, it’s all right mate – he got a good hit on me.      George Gregan

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So Springbok rugby is Rugby "lite" eh? I'm glad I didn't say that!
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(Although it could have just been on the Reload button doing some serious ego padding!)