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Rugby Forum - Vol 2, Week 26
Rugby Forum - Vol 2, Week 26
(The week that was, a South African perspective)
07 Aug 2002
[SARF]
Rugby Forum is a weekly newsletter produced by rugbyforum.co.za, it is reposted here with their permission.
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Volume 2, Week 26 Rugby Forum

Editors Note

Brilliant!       Also the ultimate word to describe the recent Tri-Nations match between Australia and New Zealand in Sydney. The match resembled trench warfare at its fiercest (with respect to those brave heroes of the Great Wars) and the defence would have made Sir Winston Churchill proud! To paraphrase the great man, never have so few defended so much for a victory so little!

I thoroughly enjoyed the latest edition of the Aus/NZ rivalry; it was one of the best matches seen in a long time. The quality of the play was phenomenal and time after time with one phase following another, through advantage and turnover the marvel of the player’s skills were astounding. Yes, there were mistakes - from referee Watson down to MacDonald’s fateful hand but it only served as a reminder that the 31 people on the field were actually human and not an X-box game!

The Australian victory has opened a small slit in the door for the Springboks in the charge for championship spoils, there are a few permutations involved but basically Rudolf Straeuli’s men need to win both games and score 4 tries in the process. Easy stuff? Afraid not, judging by Saturday’s display it will be less complicated to break into Fort Knox than penetrate the Aus/NZ tryline, four times! What would make South African supporters happy though is the attempt to do so, in Paulse, Joubert, Hall, Greeff and Russell there is enough talent to scoff at any defence.

The latest in the referee saga involves Andre Watson, arguably the best referee in the business. The no-nonsense World Cup final official was publicly criticized by a player, in doing so Andrew Mehrtens crossed what is known as the game's code of conduct. Justified or not, the player’s attack stem from a host of frustrated players who are, selected or dropped and remembered or forgot by the way they play the game. The officials seem to stay around year in and year out, in many cases with very little or any progress in their abilities. 

The game, in its professional guise involves big bucks and understandably a decision can make a huge difference to livelihoods hence the huge outcry against perceived poor performances. 

Criticism will never go away (except if you are on the winning side, Mr Jones?) however players cannot be allowed to cross the line, as employees of their respective unions who have to abide by the rules they should be charged for the flagrant dis regard. Rules are in place to avoid anarchy. By the same token, action must be taken by the appropriate authorities tasked to do so against sub par officials. The players deserve as much.

A story that died a quick death is the Ben Tune drug scandal, the result of his disciplinary hearing apparently held on the 4th of August is what?

The coming weekend will be a huge test for the Springboks and All Blacks alike, away from all the controversies it is down to the age-old business or playing test rugby for your country and winning. The Springboks in Durban can make a name for themselves with a victory that will do wonders for their long-term World Cup ambitions. Winning is a habit, the sooner acquired and sustained the better.

Enjoy the match, hopefully its another spectacle of rugby and for those readers in South Africa support the Chris Burger/Petro Jackson fund raising for disabled rugby players.

Lucas

lucas@rugbyforum.co.za


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

Get a fix, Bruce by Tom Marcellus
That noble fellow, the grizzled rugger b*gger, has always had a special charm. Although I cannot claim to have been admitted to the ranks of his hallowed brotherhood, despite my deeds as the swashbuckling flyhalf of the under 15F's (who were unbeaten, I might add), I have often admired from afar the spirit of robust affection that prevails whenever these wooly creatures get together, and the devil-may-care attitude that reigns after they have forced down a few jars of their mysterious amber liquids.

As a young 'un, I often looked on with awe, as my dad (who, in his prime, was the epitome of the bearded, beer-guzzling brute) and his bush-diving Rhodesian partners-in-crime embarked on yet another nefarious adventure, which invariably involved generous doses of brawling and nudity.

Despite these much-regretted lapses into public violence and indecency, the antics of the average rugger b*gger are invariably good-hearted and harmless. Females of the opposite sex (especially fat ones) are their natural prey, and, with the passage of time, many a comely virgin has received a good-natured ribbing from these fellows. But, in between stumbles, 'chunders and the occasional, dribbled chat-up line like "Get your coat, girl, you've scored", these keen-eyed young chaps have enlivened many a social gathering, whether it be a digs party or a varsity lecture, with their merrily lewd and lascivious behaviour.

After all, and as they told the vice-chancellor afterwards, it was all just good, clean fun.

It was thus with some concern that I have read over the last fortnight of the recent shenanigans of various good ol' boys (or so I thought).

Firstly, and most obviously, is the Ben Tune saga. My impression of rugby men has always been that, generally, they are a sporting lot: prepared for a dust-up if need be, but also ready to take it fairly on the chin. This, methinks, is probably a throwback from the not-so-distant days of shamateurism, when rugby was viewed by everyone, except a few crazed South Africans and Kiwis, as being nothing more than an opportunity to work off the frustrations of a boarding school upbringing.

Mischief in the ranks has always been encouraged, certainly, but not to the extent that the rights of other members of the fraternity are infringed. Indeed, to this armchair correspondent, the oafish explanations of the persons responsible for the Tune debacle are a stain on the glorious history of the ARU. All 11 years of them.

Next up, we return Down Under for the shambles involving the streakers who interrupted Andrew Mehrtens' concentration, as the Kiwi flyhalf was preparing for a crucial shot at goal during last week's game. It is now a matter of history that his kick went wide and that the All Blacks were deprived of the 3 points that may well have proved decisive. What is even more memorable, however, is that the chairman of Vodafone Australia actually gave the go-ahead for this pre-arranged lark and agreed to pay whatever fines the culprits were slapped with by the authorities: "If it's good for us, we're in", he is reported to have said when the scheme was first mooted (or words to that effect).

Shees, what is with the Aussies these days?

The coup de grace took place on Tuesday, when I read in The Times (of London) that my old hero, Ray Gravell, the bearded Welsh centre who kept Willie du Plessis & Co on their toes during the 1980 Lions tour, had, on the day before, been admitted as a dinkum broom-riding, parsley-snipping druid!

The article told how the ex-rugger b*gger had, with Obelix-like strength, brandished the 6" 6' sword that was used during the ceremony, which, in fairness, was described in the article as being "the Welsh equivalent of a knighthood". I half expected to read about a gourd of magic potion and a Roman encampment called Totorum, but sanity, thank goodness, prevailed.

Forget about those dope-peddling fiends from Wagga Wagga, I say – let's keep a close eye on those fellows from the Rhondda Valley. After all, who knows what you might find bubbling away in a cauldron these days.

Join the SARUGBY news and discussion group for the fastest sarugby news and the most intense debates around the South African game. Send a blank email to sarugby-subscribe@yahoogroups.com


A Cut above the Rest by Desmond Organ
The first three weekends of Currie Cup Rugby are over and the strength versus strength strategy appears to be the road to follow. Despite the odd hiccup or two there are no real threats to the traditional strong houses of South African rugby. If anything the current Springbok squad is playing into the hands of the Sharks. Their minor presence at the national level may have as much to do with Straeuli's knowledge of the talent available there as it does with injury to several key players.

Now I can just see the Province supporters getting all worked up about potential bias in my argument but the statistics reveal the truth. The Sharks would be well advised to take full advantage of the remaining rounds without the national players, the more points they get now could well determine the venue of the final. A somewhat bold prediction at this stage, but unless the Bulls produce a few miracles and the Lions beat all the opposition outside the traditional five, then it is going to be Province versus the Sharks in Durban. 

The threats posed by the Falcons and Pumas and somewhat by the Eagles appear to be dwindling, the real surprise package so far are the Leopards and they are my favourites to give the other Unions a real go for their money, especially in Potchefstroom. It is not an easy place to play and the winter months are not my favourite. Too many months singing lullabies to prospective dates for the Corporals taught me that it is best to stay indoors.

Now there have been some minor upsets in the early rounds, the Lions loss in round 1 could well leave them with some work to do in the final stages, that they lost is not an indication that they are no longer in possession of what it takes, there is too much money to be anxious about losses to neighbouring Unions at the U21 level or the odd mishap in the Eastern Cape.

The Sharks continue to impress in Durban and the hiding they gave the Eagles talks to their depth and their home record. Week 3 against the Elephants was less pleasing, but any team that can travel their and play in demanding conditions and still win by 14 points has got what it takes. Province is the same prospect for the minor Unions. They have erased the pre season friendly scares with two convincing displays. The Griffons have long since discarded their former “purple people eater days”. Province will be dishing out a few more hidings before the year is over 

The Falcons and the Pumas were the toast of the town a year ago, the fact that so few of their players featured in the Bulls Super 12 campaign may have a lot to do with the results we witnessed. It certainly did very little for the careers of up and coming stars and it has potentially ended Heyneke Meyer's Super 12 coaching career. The Falcons canned the Cavaliers only to come unstuck a week later in diamond country. The Pumas have lost at home and now they really have to deliver against the big guns.

The Cheetahs impress, disappoint and then struggle to victory, clearly the brilliance Grey Bloem produces is not resulting in a better Provincial team, money and the desire to play in a winning outfit deprive this region of many of its stars. They will make the final stages of the competition and the reduced Currie Cup system, but expect a few more people to leave before new stars arrive.

It is quite clear that the traditional strongholds of South African rugby are going to continue to deliver the goods, the Sharks may not be the best at schoolboy or the U21 level, but the professional outfit at the senior level and the bucks that keep on rolling in will keep them in the top three. More concerning is the performance of their Super 12 regional counterparts. The Elephants may not even make the new version of the Currie Cup next year and the same can be said for the Bulldogs. This is not necessarily a disaster for the transformation process because any new talent will be snapped up by the Sharks. It may in fact be better to have one really strong Union in each area. This certainly makes selection and in fighting less of a problem. 

Province are in the same boat as the Sharks in that they have far more national players and sevens players away than any other team, their return will increase the size of the larder for a clearly excited coaching staff. The Cavaliers and the Eagles will provide a lot of quality to be snapped up by “Big Brother”

The Lions and the Bulls are clearly the strongest teams in the Northern part of the country, the fact that their neighbouring unions are not as far behind as those on the East and West Coasts is good for the depth of talent available, but sadly seems to undermine the strength of their Super 12 teams. The new coaches that are being lined up for the Northern Super 12 franchises may ease the stress. The Bulls simply have far more depth at this level and spit out their “so-called” rejects to their neighbours. They really do need to realise that the Currie Cup does not equal Super 12 success and they may need to use more of their neighbour’s players at that level or clean up the in house politics that denies the best talent the opportunity to play.

There are several positives that have emerged at this early stage. The depth of talent and the up and coming youngsters are there for all to see, transformation is producing according to expectations and the centres of Super 12 strength are gearing up for a far better 2003. There are several players that I would highlight after three weeks. My selection is based on performance, transformation and the managing of young talent as these are key pillars of the strategy for success.

15. Ricardo Loubscher and Jaques Fourie
14. John Daniels and Deon Kayser
13. Deon Kayser, Stefan Jacobs and Grant Esterhuizen
12. Rudi Keil, Wayne Julies and Ettiene Botha
11. Darryl Goeries and Jeffrey Stevens
10. Herkie Kruger, Butch James and Chris Roussouw
9. Neil De Kock and Joost van der Westhuizen
8. Adri Badenhorst and Brad Macleod Henderson
7. Pedro Wannenberg and Hendrik Gerber
6. Wikus van Heerden and Gerrie Britz
5. Hottie Louw and Heino Senekal
4. Albert van den Bergh and Quinton Davids
3. Patrick Barnard and Eduard Coetzee
2. Hanyani Shimange
1. Daan Human

DON'T FORGET: The September issue of SA Rugby magazine (with James Dalton on the cover) is on sale now. 
To subscribe to SA Rugby phone 021-418-0141 or e-mail monarchc@mweb.co.za


The Best Defence, Ever by Mark Foster
The mighty Wallabies from Australia retained the Bledisloe Cup (16-14) in a pulsating fixture in Sydney over the weekend. Much to the chagrin of the All Blacks, and their supporters they were pipped to the post by a final minute penalty in what has become a customary finish for a match between the two Southern Hemisphere giants.

Make no mistake, this was a heavyweight championship duel between two superb teams and the result was in doubt for 80 minutes. The hand in the ruck from MacDonald and Burke’s high-pressure kick is already absorbed in folklore, although it should not be the main reason for which this match is remembered. The game was incredibly physical and the defence probably the best seen in a rugby match ever while the tactical approach resembled a Kasparov/Karpov chess battle. For once a lack of tries embodied the incredible commitment shown by the two sides.

The All Blacks ensconced in boardroom battles after the World Cup hosting saga wanted desperately to regain what they have come to regard as their “rugby birth right“, the Bledisloe Cup. In John Mitchell they have a well and softly spoken individual who produced the goods in his playing days as a midweek All Black captain and as an astute coach with the Chiefs. The success of the Crusaders further underlined their ambitions to end the Australian vice grip, and a win in the rain of Christchurch fueled the belief that this will be their year. Where did it all go wrong?

Many believe the single most important factor of the All Black success in recent years can be attributed to Andrew Mehrtens, true – the man is beyond any doubt a match winner par excellence. Unfortunately a little off day at the office intensifies his importance to the team and their winning ways, the flyhalf was not at his mercurial best and the tactics adopted on the day played very much into the hands of the Wallabies. 

The kicking away of possession seemed to have the desired effect when it forced the Wallabies to turn and play from their own quarter however a Wallaby pack with the ball in hand recycling countless phases interwoven with magnificent backline handling will edge out any team in the dying minutes of a match. Enormous self-belief, inherent with every gold and green player, was well broken down by the good work of Jack and McCaw but eventually enough possession sparked some of the best attacking play seen on a rugby field. The All Blacks tackled their hearts out but ultimately were the architects of their own downfall.

The Tri-Nations is technically an open competition and the Springboks will decide where the crown resides, it is a simple equation; they (Springboks) need to win each of their two home matches with a 4 try bonus point and deny their opposition a less than 7 point losing margin. Simple to calculate infinitely more difficult to achieve! What is the plan?

The Springboks need to match the incredible standard set over the weekend; currently they are prone to err at the vital breakdown point and Mehrtens will not miss as many opportunities again, somehow he reserves his best kicking displays for SA soil. More than that, Richie McCaw must be contained and Chris Jack neutralized to have a glimmer and the forwards must provide ball for one of the most exciting backlines to do their stuff. Possession is vital and the laws favour the attacking team so phases as seen in the last 20 minutes of the Brisbane test will be the axis around which a victory is built. 

The Springboks can do it, backed by a fanatical Durban crowd they can emulate the famous 1998 victory, their supporters expect no less.

Quotes
People forget your good games, but the minute you have a bad game everyone remembers.    Faan Rautenbach

I'm not sure if Australia deserved to win, we probably lost the game more, but we were helped to lose it obviously. He (Andre Watson) should be more ashamed than some of us should be.        Andrew Mehrtens

I can't be bothered pussyfooting around. You get sick of sitting on the fence.        Andrew Mehrtens in defence of his statement.

The ruck is born of a desire to get the ball for the backs.       Colin Meads

It was about par for a rugby dinner... from what I can remember.       Colin Smart

You have to respect the opposition. Even if you win by 100 points it's not their fault they're on the field. I still want to drink with them afterwards.      Barry John

Currie Cup Results
Date Home For Against Away Where
02/08/2002 Cavaliers 10 24 Cheetahs Boland Stadium
02/08/2002 Bulldogs 8 42 Western Province Absa Stadium
03/08/2002 Blue Bulls 37 10 Pumas Loftus
03/08/2002 Elephants 16 30 Natal Sharks Telkom Park
03/08/2002 Leopards 24 31 Lions Olën Park
03/08/2002 Griquas 29 28 Falcons Absa Park

Letters to the Editor (letters@rugbyforum.co.za)
Hi RF

First of all well done to Vinesh on an excellent letter. His writing skills are special and he is obviously very articulate. I also like the fact that he and Schultzy are All Black supporters. I concur with Vinesh in the feeling that the standard of Mr Dickinson's (blowing) was not completely poor, I mean have you people seen Tappe in action yet?

Last year during the Super 12 when SA teams were doing well, they called the All Blacks "Whinghers". My suggestion; start being positive about your exciting new team. They look to be a mix of grit, talent, and gas and the the words of Toyota "Are you ready for exhilaration".

I agree with Vinesh (again... gees this guy should be writing for RF) on his back three of Paulse, Russel and Greef. I also believe that Stefan is not World Class, but being a very close friend of Breyton's I must tell you Stefan is quicker over 100 yards. Breyton is suffering a loss in confidence at the moment, and like one of my other favourites Cullen doesn't have the ability to run on his knee right now.

I am looking forward to a great game tomorrow although I think that after seeing 15 tries in the last two matches and the Bledisloe Cup on display, this will probably be a more closed up game. Expect the All Blacks to try and dominate from the front and also look to see Byron Kelleher come on in the second half as he knows how to look after Gregan thereby taking Larkham out of the game. See the last two Super 12 matches between the Highlanders and the Brumbies. He also knows how to stick it to Gregan with a good old "hows your mutha".

My prediction is for an All Black victory 19-16. However my predictions are not always right but come tomorrow I will 
be shouting for Chris Jack, Scott Robertson, Richie McCaw and C'mon All Blacks Kick their fooking heads in. One things for sure, we won't lose the fights.

Kind regards to all at RF and all the readers, have a safe but fun sporting weekend.

Bryan Torien

Hi Ed

I think I am not alone in my opinion that our rugby side is heading in the right direction. Like most of the comments made , defence continues to puzzle me because that used to be our major strength , in fact I don't think we would have won the world cup without that particular facet of "our " game intact. Straeuli must be more aware of this fact then any of us "couch coaches"! I guess it will take time to rebuild what the rollercoaster of coaches before him have done good and bad. 

I also feel that although the fly half / scum half positions have improved they are not in the top 3 in the world yet and that along with defence will get us past Aus, NZ , England and France which means that we are probably no 5 in the world at present. Hard to admit but I believe it a fair assessment.

George Fanning

Hi Ed

Having commented on the refereeing last week, I thought I would throw in my two cents worth.

Just a couple of thoughts about the game.

Despite being an All Black supporter I didn't think Andre Watson had a totally bad game. His decision not to award Jeremy Paul the try was an absolute shocker, but other than that his decisions were not unreasonable.

Andrew Mehrtens complaints are unjustified. He played a bad game and his kicks in the first half and in the last 20 were gifts to the Wallabies. I saw an interview with John Mitchell afterwards and he said it had been their plan to not kick the ball out as they didn't want to give the Wallabies opportunities at set play from lineouts. If he was endorsing the way they played then I'm seriously worried.

Fact: the All Blacks think they have an edge over the Wallabies in the forwards.
Fact: the Wallaby backs are bigger than the All Black backs.

Plan: Let's therefore kick the ball to their backs and let them run it back to us.

A winning game plan if ever I saw one.

With 20 minutes to go it was obvious the All Blacks were going to try and sit on their lead rather than try and attack and improve their position. The Mat Rogers try should have been a wake up call that that wasn't going to work. The Matt Burke conversion failure was a get out of jail free card which the All Blacks wasted by continuing to try and sit on a one point lead.

There is a lot of rubbish on talk back radio over here about how close the Wallabies and All Blacks are. If we look at it in the cold light of day. Jeremy Paul was robbed of 5 points. Richie McCaws try was a total fluke. The Wallabies were 12 points better i.e. twice as good as the All Blacks. End of story.

As a side note, I'm glad Jonah wasn't playing in that test match, or all the Canterbury supporters would have found a way to blame him and the big guy doesn't deserve to be associated with that loss.

Salutations
Vinesh Naicker

Geagte Redakteur

Springbokrugby

Graag wil ek hiermee ons jong, maar beslis talenvolle span gelukwens. Persoonlik glo ek die beserings het ons rugby gehelp deurdat dit nou bewys is, niemand is te jonk nie. Ruimte vir verbetering is daar en daarom dink ek ons volgende span sal so lyk:

15. Jaco vd Westhuisen
14. Dean Hall
13. Marius Joubert
12. Adriaan Jacobs
11. Wylie Human
10. Andre Pretorius
9. Joost vd Westhuizen
8. Joe v Niekerk
7. Corne Krige
6. Hendro Scholtz
5. Willem Stoltz
4. Victor Matfield
3. Willie Meyer
2. James Dalton
1. Ollie le Roux

Redes: Dit pla my wanneer Andre Pretorius so alleen alles moet doen en nie deur sy nommer 6, 9 en 12 ondersteun word nie. Verder kry ons te min balle in die lynstane.

Spelers wat moet gesond word is: Rassie Erasmus, Andre Venter en Mark Andrews as Kaptein.

Ek dank u
T. Coetzee

Geagte Red.

Ai tog. Ek het met soveel verwagtinge na die 3 Nasie reeks uitgesien maar is effens ontnugter. Ek is egter nie teleurgesteld nie. So hier en daar kan Roelfie 'n paar veranderings aanbring en skuiwe maak. Ek is vol vertroue dat die span ontsaglik baie potensiaal het en oor die moontlikhede beskik om 'n groot span te word. Oor die skeidsregter wil ek my nie uitlaat nie maar ek dink hy het probeer om die "man of the match" te wees. Hy het ook lyk dit vir my deur die fluitjie asem gehaal, want 'n mens kan regtig nie so baie strafskoppe afstaan nie. Wat is die tekens in die lynstane? Gebruik hulle rekenkundige kodes of plekname of wat? Ek dink vir die haker moet hulle "flipcharts" kry sodat hy weet op wie hy die bal moet gooi, want somme kan hy wragtig nie maak nie. Ek sal graag vir Albert vd Berg, Sowerby, Frederich Lombard, Butch James en miskien Mark Andrews in die span wil sien. Die "ouer" manne bied net daardie rustigheid en stabiliteit aan die jonger spelers. Baby Jake hoort na Saterdag ook in die span, sodat hy 'n paar parmantige spelers kan piets.

Ek hoop dit gaan vorentoe net beter.

Groete
Chris Erasmus

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by jules

Let us know what you think!

You crossed the Wallaby try-line four times in Brisbane, I'm sure you can do it again!

Of course you may do it against NZ too but hopefully we will cross yours 5 times!

Supposedly this article has been viewed 2494 times since we bothered to start counting*.
(Although it could have just been jules on the Reload button doing some serious ego padding!)